Beijing’s vindictive punishment of our universities, tourist sector, farmers, coal exporters and Karm Gilespie has shattered two widely held assumptions about China’s rise: that it will continue inexorably and is overwhelmingly to our benefit.
Legions of operators in the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department have skilfully spun the narrative that the country’s return to greatness is preordained. Best to get on the train before it leaves the station. We did in our thousands, crowding on to gleaming new locomotives to discover the mysteries and beauty of China, while trade boomed and the education and tourist sectors profited from an influx of Chinese students and free-spending tourists.
A few lone voices warned it might not be wise to put so many eggs in the China basket. Dependence on one market could expose Australians to unacceptable risk in the event of an economic shock or turn in the relationship. These warnings were largely ignored because there seemed no downside to ever strengthening ties with a country that had an insatiable appetite for all things Australian.
Well, the party is over and the true costs of the relationship are evident. Diversification away from China is an imperative. We have allowed ourselves to become overly dependent on China to our detriment. Whether measured in dollars, lost independence or fundamental human rights, the price of not diversifying China risk is too great. We can’t be held hostage to China’s whims and coercion.