Australia risks backsliding into a poor country in Asia Pacific

By Yu Lei Source: Global Times Published: 2020/8/31 23:57:28

Photo: Xinhua

There are few signs that Australia intends to stop provoking China, or to attempt to ease escalating tensions. Instead, its insistence on continuing along the US' lose-lose path toward decoupling will undoubtedly cause huge damage to its already severely injured economy.

In its latest move, legislation endorsed by the Morrison government will reportedly put the state of Victoria's Belt and Road Initiative agreement at great risk. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's "not aimed at China" clarification seems more like a "nothing up my sleeve" approach.

After a noticeable downturn in China-Australia relations since 2017, bilateral ties have deteriorated even further this year. The Australian side has made several unprovoked attacks in normal economic exchanges with China, and even against Chinese students. The momentum of trade liberalization, investment facilitation, economic complementarity and normalization of cultural exchanges has come to an abrupt end.

The reason that China-Australia ties have experienced rapid development in the past few decades has not been because China intended to "control Australia," but because there are too many people that wish to do business with each other on both sides. Similarly, the rapid increase in bilateral investments is not because China wanted to "occupy" Australia, but because many businesspeople see vast potential for cooperation.

Under the dual injuries of trade protectionism and the COVID-19 pandemic, China has nevertheless taken the lead in the fight against the virus and post-pandemic economic recovery. This speaks to China's determination to deepen reform, expand opening-up and promote new technology applications such as 5G and digital currency. Especially through acceleration of the development of Hainan's free trade port and the Greater Bay Area and Yangtze River Delta.

China's approach has effectively contained the virus' impacts on China's economy, which may make China the only major economy that can achieve positive growth this year. International economic institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have predicted that China will achieve about 8 percent growth in 2021.

Facts speak louder than words. Some Australian politicians' intent to decouple from China economically - to use the Chinese market but reject all Chinese products and investments in a bid to contain China's economic development - is absurd. This will only hurt Australia's national interests and people's wellbeing. 

If decoupled from Australia, it won't be difficult for Chinese products and investments to find new markets and investment destinations. However, it won't be so easy for Australia to find a comparably large export market, or a supply of high-quality and cheap imported goods, or a strong group of investors to replace China's.

As Australia suffers soaring unemployment, an old and worn-out railway system, a network speed far slower than other Asian countries' and halted development plans, the Australian people may start to recall former Prime Minister John Howard's encouragement of Western leaders to "welcome rise of China."

Indeed, further decoupling with China will not send China back to poverty, but will only make former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's famous statement more likely to come true: that if Australia doesn't open up its economy and reduce unemployment, it risks becoming the "poor white trash of Asia."

If Canberra really wants to make its China policy in line with "Australia's national interests," it must take a long-term view, truly abandon the Cold War mentality, and conform to the spirit of world peace, co-development, and win-win.

The author is a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries, Liaocheng University, and a research fellow at the Australian Studies Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University. 


blog comments powered by Disqus