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article imageOp-Ed: China’s oddly silent as Australian foreign asset laws change

By Paul Wallis     Jun 4, 2020 in World
Sydney - Where would the world be without endless geopolitical hysteria? In a very different place. A rather mild bit of foreign asset patch-up work by Australia is likely to get a sharp response from China after months of hostile negativity.
The actual legislation simply says that foreign companies can be forced to divest assets if they’re found to be a security risk. This probably would happen in any case, but it should have been in the Foreign Takeovers Act 1975 and it wasn’t. It’s basically routine business, modifying the law to fix an omission.
Of course, there’s another motive. This is another necessary patch to protect Australian companies hit hard by the pandemic from foreign takeovers at bargain bin prices. Chinese diplomacy, for want of a more effective word, has been downright hostile and some would say irrational, in relation to Australian trade. Chinese assets in Australia are a major talking point here, and new Chinese tariffs have fuelled the flames.
So what’s the response? More recycled Maoist rhetoric? Or something meaningful, for a change?
There’s something truly odd about this. China does know better. If you search Xinhua, the official news agency for China, there’s no lack of timely and accurate non-rhetorical information about Australia. There’s specifically a lot of information on economic and business issues. China is clearly well aware of our economic priorities and why they’re so critical to managing the post-pandemic environment.
Yet – China has basically reversed and muddled a practical working relationship at this critical time. This truly strange Chinese response was supposedly based entirely on the rhetorical excuse that Australia was acting as a front for American China policies by asking for an inquiry into the rise of the coronavirus COVID-19.
The fact that a coordinated global approach to the pandemic is merely common sense and sharing data is essential apparently didn’t make sense in Beijing. The Chinese retaliations went down like rotting fish in Australia.
(If anything, we object more to the idea of being an American talking head than anything else the Chinese had to say on the subject. If there’s anyone in China who doesn’t know how different Australia and the United States are in so many ways, kindly explain it to them.)
Is it so incomprehensible to Beijing that like any other nation, we protect our own assets and interests? What could possibly be wrong with global cooperation in mapping and researching the origins of this curse of a disease? Yet the brickbats keep coming.
The new foreign takeover laws could be an excuse for another round of pleasant Chinese diplomacy. So far it’s been real fun:
• Our elected representatives being called “thugs”. Not acceptable, even if these representatives make a lot of noise about being anti-Chinese.
• Our coronavirus inquiry initiative being called a “joke”. Not acceptable under any circumstances. The Chinese ambassador could and probably should have been kicked out of Australia for this rudeness. Disrespect is not an option.
• Chinese barley importers getting hit with 80% tariffs on Australian imports, effectively suffocating Chinese brewers and infuriating the Australian growers and public in a way rarely seen before. Not even sane, in this case, therefore not acceptable.
• Eternal complaints about our excluding Huawei from specific contracts. Huawei is just too ambiguous. Never mind what the Americans have to say about Huawei, we have more than enough cyberattacks without bringing in a communications company that can’t even be bothered to be truly transparent.
This caricature of normal relations with China must go. The air must be cleared. Global trade, on which both Australia and China are dependent, must not be sabotaged by passing breezes, let alone great big spanners being thrown into the trade machinery. World trade is far too vulnerable.
We can easily agree to disagree, as we’ve been doing for 50 years now. It’s now time for us to get the machinery running again, without the ill-advised verbosity.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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