Morrison says China knows ‘where Australia is coming from’, after meeting Chinese vice-president


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison seized the opportunity of his Jakarta weekend visit for Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s inauguration to obtain a meeting with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan.

Morrison told a news conference he had come out of the discussion “pleased that there is, I think, a very clear understanding of where Australia is coming from, our commitment to the relationship”.

“It was a chat that we had very much in the spirit of the partnership that we have, and very much inoculated from all of the assessments that are made about the relationship,” he said.

The meeting comes after Morrison’s description, while in the United States, of China as a “developed” economy, which China rejects. More generally, the relationship between the two countries has been very cool, with tensions on several fronts including Australia’s strong legislative stand against Chinese interference.

The discussion with Wang did not see an invitation for Morrison to visit China. The Prime Minister said Wang was an envoy of President Xi Jinping and not in a position to issue any invitation.

Wang, speaking at the start of their discussion, made it clear Australia had sought the meeting and Xi had given his approval for it. The discussion went for almost double the half hour scheduled.




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Define the boundaries in new phase of Australia-China relationship: Wong


Morrison told reporters he’d made the point “which was well received, that Australia is an independent, sovereign nation.

“Yes, we are very much proud of our Western liberal democratic tradition, our open economy and our engagement with the rest of the world and that gives us a set of eyes that look into the world very much from our perspective.”

But he had also stressed “that we will never feel corralled into any sort of binary assessment of these relationships” – assessments that said “pro-United States or pro-China”.

Meanwhile a Lowy Institute report, released Monday, warns that without an increase in its total aid budget Australia could be increasingly at a strategic disadvantage in the Pacific.

The research, which focuses on China’s expanding role there, concludes that so far “China has not been engaged in such problematic debt practices in the Pacific as to justify accusations of debt trap diplomacy”. But the scale of its lending and recipient countries’ lack of strong mechanisms to protect their debt sustainability mean there are clear risks, the paper says.

In contrast, Australia’s infrastructure lending plans contain rules to protect the sustainability of borrowing countries.




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Vital Signs: Why can’t Australia be friends with both US and China?


Making a strong call for a rethink of the overall Australian aid budget, the paper argues: “Today, Australia’s strategic goal of doing more in the Pacific is boxed in by a limited aid budget, the desire to avoid cutting back on other important development priorities (such as health and education, or aid to countries outside the Pacific), and the need to avoid causing debt sustainability problems by relying too heavily on non-concessional lending.

“If Australia wants to do more, one of these constraints needs to be relaxed. Increasing the overall aid budget would be the most desirable option,” the paper says.

Also, “China might itself begin providing substantially more grant financing in the Pacific. In that case, a stagnant aid budget would increasingly place Australia at a geostrategic disadvantage”.

The paper, titled “Ocean of debt? Belt and Road and debt diplomacy in the Pacific”, has been prepared by Roland Rajah, the head of the Institute’s international economy program, Alexandre Dayant, and Jonathan Pryke, the head of Lowy’s Pacific Islands program.

The work draws on data from the Institute’s Pacific Aid Map, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank to examine China’s development finance in the Pacific.

It says China is the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, although only in Tonga does it account for more than half outstanding debt. “With the important exception of Tonga, China is currently not a dominant creditor in the Pacific.”

But the analysis finds: “there are significant risks of future debt sustainability problems under a business-as-usual scenario for bilateral Chinese lending”, pointing in particular to the situations of Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

“China will therefore need to reconfigure its approach significantly if it wants to disprove the debt trap accusations made by its critics,” the paper says, while noting it has taken some steps in this direction.

“Protecting debt sustainability in Pacific countries will also require Australian loans to be as concessional as possible, given elevated debt risks and the often limited economic viability of many infrastructure projects in the Pacific,” the paper says.

The competition among major powers gives Pacific countries an opportunity to press for advantageous financing and better project management, it says.

For their part external players should avoid “geopolitically-driven” assistance aimed at “short-term wins” at the expense of the reforms and improved governance the countries need.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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China’s worldwide investment project is a push for more economic and political power


<Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Rochester Institute of Technology

Inspired by the ancient Silk Road, China is investing in a massive set of international development projects that are raising concerns about how the country is expanding its power around the world.

Initially announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative” has China planning to invest in economic development and transportation in more than 130 countries and 30 international organizations. Projects range across Asia, but also include places in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America.

With a projected cost of more than US$1 trillion, it may be the most ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in human history. The country hopes it will all be completed by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. My research in international economics with particular reference to China shows that Beijing has both economic and political plans for how these investments will pay off.

Economic effects

A rapidly growing China needs reliable access to energy. The Belt and Road Initiative includes pipeline construction and other building projects in oil- and gas-rich central Asia.

China also has an ambitious goal to dominate global production of electric cars – as well as other high-tech equipment – for which it needs reliable supplies of cobalt, a key ingredient in high-capacity batteries. More than half of the world’s supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. China’s investment there has helped secure much of that crucial element for Chinese production.

Analysts and scholars have criticized these and other moves for economic dominance, arguing that taking the country’s money is like drinking from a “poisoned chalice” – a brief refreshment leading to certain death.

Sri Lanka, for instance, defaulted on debts it owed China for development at the port of Hambantota – and was forced to give the Chinese government control of the port for 99 years.

Chinese investments in the Pakistani port of Gwadar have set Pakistan up to owe China more than $10 billion.

A diverse group of world leaders attended China’s Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April 2019.
Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP

Political payoffs

As these countries get more closely tied to the Chinese economy, they also shift into the range of its political efforts, sparking several concerns about the country’s motivations. Navy analysts have called China’s growing control of ports in Asia – including Hambantota, Sri Lanka; and Gwadar, Pakistan – an effort to assemble a “string of pearls” with which it can dominate much of Asia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that China may be turning into a new colonial power.

The U.S. sees Chinese expansion as a security concern and has urged India to serve as a strong example that a Western-style democracy and society can succeed in Asia. In addition, the U.S. has proposed working with Australia, India and Japan on a massive development effort to rival China’s power.

The European Union is also unsure about China’s political intentions. Some of its members have joined individually, but others have expressed concerns that Chinese plans often overlook environmental and social sustainability – and that its bidding process is not sufficiently open to the public. There is some general European concern that China is seeking to divide Europe politically.

Recent reports suggest that Chinese investment in the Belt and Road Initiative – and international interest in Chinese funding – is slowing. In part that may be because, predictions and analysis aside, nobody knows for certain what China is aiming for – except to boost its own side in its rivalry with the U.S.

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics, Rochester Institute of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Define the boundaries in new phase of Australia-China relationship: Wong


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong says Australia needs to “define the boundaries” of its engagement with China now the relationship between the two countries is in a new phase.

Focusing on China policy in a Monday address – released ahead of delivery – Wong acknowledges the “substantial and growing differences” in the bilateral relationship.

“It is inevitable that Australia will make more decisions that China doesn’t like. This means that the way the relationship is handled will become even more important,” she says in the speech, to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

“Although there continues to be convergence of interests, the divergences have become more apparent and acute – due to both Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and greater awareness in Australia as to the implications of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] behaviour and ambitions. We must look at how best to engage effectively with China while always standing up for our values, our sovereignty and our democratic system.”

Wong says where limitations around engagement are needed, the “boundaries should be as restricted as possible and as robust as necessary,” with opportunities and risks identified.

Boundaries and terms of engagement would differ between issues and between sectors.

Thus on research collaboration, engagement shouldn’t be ruled out across entire fields, but export controls and visa checks could be used for “a narrow set of the most sensitive defence oriented technology”.




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‘Developing’ rift points to growing divisions between Coalition and Labor on China


Wong says while the government has to provide the leadership all stakeholders, including the opposition, foreign policy community and business, “need to work together to identify those opportunities for deeper engagement where our interests coincide and to manage differences constructively”.

She puts the onus on the media “not only to hold the government of the day to account but to ensure they themselves don’t unthinkingly or inadvertently reinforce China’s tactics or narrative”, including by amplifying CCP claims.

Wong says Labor wants to engage in a bipartisan way on China policy, but the government isn’t willing to do so and Scott Morrison “has no plan for dealing with this new phase in Australia’s relations with China”.

“There’s no doubt Scott Morrison is the best political tactician in Australia right now… Is it enough to be a clever political tactician, when key relationships with our nearest neighbours are at stake? Is it enough to play short term political tactics on something so profoundly important as the integrity of our political system or the assertion of our national interests?

“Australia’s Prime Minister needs to look beyond the next manoeuvre, stop undermining his foreign minister and trade minister, and develop a serious long-term plan for Australia’s engagement in the region and the world.

“A serious and long-term plan that can proactively navigate us through the strategic competition between the US and China, and manage this new phase in our relationship with a more assertive China.”




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View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison


In a series of sharp criticisms of Morrison’s handling of the government’s policy towards China and foreign policy more generally, Wong includes as examples the PM’s claim Labor was using racism in its attack on Liberal MP Gladys Liu, his labelling of China a developed economy, and his attack on globalism.

Wong’s speech follows the blunt words on China on Friday from Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, who said the government had a very important relationship with China, but it was going to “call out” instances where the wrong thing was done.

“We have a very important trading relationship with China, incredibly important, but we’re not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced. We’re not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we’re not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into,”he said.

Dutton stressed the issue was not with the Chinese people or the local Chinese community in Australia, but with the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese embassy reacted with an angry statement, saying that Dutton’s “irrational accusations” were “shocking and baseless”, and a “malicious slur on the Communist Party of China” and “outright provocation to the Chinese people”.

“Such ridiculous rhetoric severely harms the mutual trust between China and Australia and betrays the common interests of the two peoples,” the statement said.

Morrison at the weekend sought to play down the Dutton comments. “What Peter was talking about was the fact that there are differences between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Of course there are,” he said. Australia was a liberal western democracy; China was a Communist Party state. “I would warn against any sort of over-analysis or over-reaction to those comments. Because I think they just simply reflect the fact that we’re two different countries”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Students from China may defend their country but that doesn’t make them Communist Party agents



Chinese students come to Australia to study for the same reasons as other international students.
from shutterstock.com

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Monash University

Chinese students with nationalist sentiments can be seen as agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Such concerns were particularly evident during reports of clashes at Australian and New Zealand universities between pro-CCP and pro-Hong Kong students.

In similar recent clashes in Sheffield, UK, onlookers claimed Chinese students were threatening citizens’ right to protest and freedom of speech. There have been concerns the Chinese government is extending its influence into Western universities, threatening academic freedom, freedom of speech and liberal values.

Confucius Institutes are criticised as tools through which the Chinese government spreads its propaganda under the guise of teaching Chinese culture and language. Chinese students who aggressively protect their country’s reputation may be lumped into the same category.




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Explainer: what are Confucius Institutes and do they teach Chinese propaganda?


But research shows Chinese students come to Australia to study for much the same reasons as students from other countries – to gain a competitive edge over graduates in their home country by learning English and experiencing another culture.

Why students from China go overseas

Over the past 20 years, Chinese international students have become highly visible on Australian campuses. International students account for more than 50% of enrolments at some Australian universities and Chinese students make up nearly 40% of all international students.

While Chinese students study in Australia for many reasons, a recent study showed most were here for economic reasons. Having an international degree and English language skills can give job seekers an edge over their locally educated peers.

Acquiring permanent residency in Australia is also a common aim, although changes in policy are making this increasingly difficult. A 2010 study showed an American degree can also increase Chinese students’ social status in China.

A 2018 study of Chinese women studying in Australia showed studying abroad could be an opportunity to escape traditional expectations such as marrying early and having children. It also provides a chance for the students to explore their sexuality.

Does the CCP control Chinese students overseas?

Since the 1990s China has intensified its “ideological education” or “moral education” programs. These begin in the early years of school and continue throughout university. Ideological education aims to bolster support for the CCP and make liberal democracy less attractive.

Chinese international students have grown up with this education and have benefited from the economic success of the China Model. Some students from China fear political change inside China could threaten the country’s stability. But this doesn’t automatically mean they are hostile to liberal values.




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Why Chinese and Hong Kong students clash in Australia: the patriotic v the protest movement


Some students believe democracy is suited to Western nations only, or that multi-party democracies are more responsive to citizen demands. Others may be supportive of democracy, but still see criticism of China as Western bias.

The CCP recognises that international education can have a liberalising impact on students. In response, it seeks to extend its influence over students abroad, especially by providing economic and employment incentives to international students who support the CCP on their return to China.

Chinese Students and Scholars Associations maintain links between the PRC and Chinese students by holding social events and emphasising patriotism.

Some students who engage in anti-CCP activities have reported being threatened by the CCP. One Chinese student, who discussed sensitive political issues on social media in the US, claimed she was questioned for hours by state security when she returned to China.

The CCP encourages overseas students to challenge liberal values and shape China’s global image. Some Chinese students have challenged Australian lecturers who criticise China. If these challenges become hostile, students and lecturers may avoid discussing contentious topics such as human rights, the status of Taiwan, or the Tienanmen protests.

But students who reject criticism of China also demonstrate that they are expressing their right to free speech and confronting and learning about ideas contrary to their beliefs.




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When Chinese students don’t support the CCP, it is still pragmatic for them to show support for the PRC, or at least keep a low profile to avoid risk to themselves and their families. Upholding the safety of students in Australia should be a priority for universities, even if it upsets the CCP.

Australian universities’ responsibilities to students from China

Australian universities promote themselves as internationalised, culturally diverse places where students can build global friendships. However, international students’ experiences often don’t reflect this.

Studying overseas is frequently alienating, and Chinese students’ experiences in Australia are no different.

PRC students mostly live in a “parallel society” without Australian friends. Brief interactions, or group work at university, can increase negative feelings because both international and local students believe the other’s opinions are biased, while language barriers also cause frustration.

Ideally, engaging Chinese students with liberal values would involve them studying social sciences in small classes. But universities and students have not pursued this; almost 80% of Chinese international students in Australia study engineering, science, IT, commerce and architecture in large lecture-style classes.

Encouraging students to engage in politics is an effective way of exposing them to democratic political processes and values. Discouraging or denying Chinese students the right to participate in student and national politics because of suspicions about their political loyalty is the exact opposite of the approach universities should be taking.The Conversation

Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, PhD student, Monash University and Jonathan Benney, Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Myth busted: China’s status as a developing country gives it few benefits in the World Trade Organisation



President Trump and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison insist it matters whether China is classified as “developed” or “developing” in the World Trade Organisation matters. It may not.
Shutterstock

Henry Gao, Singapore Management University and Weihuan Zhou, UNSW

Whether China is a “developing” or a “developed” country for the purposes of the World Trade Organisation matters a lot to the US president.

President Donald Trump ignited a new front in the US-China trade war in July by tweeting that the world’s richest nations were masquerading as developing countries to get special treatment.

They were “cheating”, according to Trump.

He directed the US Trade Representative to “use all available means to secure changes” at the WTO.

Then Australia joined in. While in the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to China as a “newly developed economy”, and backed Trump, saying that “obviously, as nations progress and develop then the obligations and how the rules apply to them also shift”.

China is digging in. It hasn’t resiled from a statement by its commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng in April:

China’s position on WTO reform has been very clear. China is the largest developing country in the world.

But what’s at stake? In practical terms, almost nothing. Trump and Morrison are demanding something that would give them little.

What does “developing” even mean?

In the WTO, developing countries are entitled to “special and differential treatment” set out in 155 rules.

However, none of those rules define what a “developing country” is.

Instead, each member is able to “self-designate”, subject to challenges from other members.

Being recognised as a developing country was one of the three key principles China insisted on when negotiating to join the WTO in 2001.

It faced resistance. Several members cited “the significant size, rapid growth and transitional nature of the Chinese economy”.

In response the WTO took what it called a “pragmatic approach,” meaning that China got hardly any of the special treatment that would normally be accorded to a developing country.




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For example, under the Uruguay Round of tariff reductions that applied to developing countries already in the WTO, China would have only needed to cut its average industrial tariff from 42.7% to 31.4%. Instead, it agreed to cut it to 9.5%.

Similarly, it agreed to cut its agricultural tariff from 54% to 15.1%, instead of the 37.9% that would have been required had it already been in the WTO. These put its commitments on par with those of developed rather than developing countries.

On some issues, China’s commitments far exceeded those of even developed countries. For example, it agreed to eliminate all export subsidies on agricultural products, an obligation that developed countries were only able to accept 14 years later.

It also undertook to eliminate all export taxes, which are still allowed under WTO rules and still widely used by many governments.

Many of China’s WTO commitments were imposed only on it or modified the general rules to either impose heavier obligations on it or confer less rights on it.

Contrary to popular belief, China has received hardly any of the benefits that accrue to developing countries when it became a WTO Member, other than the ability to use the title “developing country”.

It’s more about identity than benefits

After its accession, China acted as a member of the developing country group and pushed hard for its interests. In 2003 it joined India and Brazil in pushing developed countries to reform their agricultural trade policies while retaining flexibility for developing countries, a push that has yet to achieve success.

In the meantime, it enjoys little preferential treatment for itself, partly because it has eschewed special benefits, partly because most of the transition benefits that were available to it have expired, partly because some of the provisions available to it are essentially voluntary on the part of the country offering them, and partly because many of the benefits available to developing countries are not available to developing countries with large export shares.




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At times it has actively forgone important benefits, such as by not invoking its right to receive technical assistance under WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement.

However, on some other issues, the sheer size of China has made it difficult to accommodate China’s claim for developing country treatment. One example is the negotiation on fisheries subsides, which would not be able to move without substantial commitments from China, which operates one of the largest subsidies in the world.

Identity matters to China

In its position paper on WTO Reform, China says it “will never agree to be deprived of its entitlement to special and differential treatment as a developing member”.

At the same time, it says it “is willing to take up commitments commensurate with its level of development and economic capability”.

It remains far less developed than traditionally developed countries. In purchasing power terms, its standard of living is about one-third of that in the United States.

Although not practically important in terms of its obligations under the WTO, its developing country status is useful to it in other ways, giving it the opportunity to gain meaningful advantages in other international organisations such as the Universal Postal Union.

It costs the rest of the world little to accommodate China’s wish to be described as a developing country. If Trump and Morrison got what they wanted, they would find little had changed.The Conversation

Henry Gao, Associate Professor of Law, Singapore Management University and Weihuan Zhou, Senior Lecturer and member of Herbert Smith Freehills CIBEL Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW Sydney, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

With no end in sight and the world losing interest, the Hong Kong protesters need a new script



Over the last 100 days, the violence between the police and students has escalated in Hong Kong.
Jerome Favre/EPA

Amanda Tattersall, University of Sydney

Today is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and protesters in Hong Kong intend to upstage Beijing’s celebrations. They will build on the global solidarity protests from the past weekend, staged in 60 cities across the world, including in Australia.

On Sunday in Hong Kong, tens of thousands took to the streets even though no protest permits were granted by the police. Riot control weapons were deployed against the protesters and those near the protests were subject to random searches.

While it might look like these are the same kind of protests that have dominated global headlines for months, Hong Kong is changing. It is moving closer towards crisis. The local government’s previous strategy of “wait them out” is failing, and advised by mainland Chinese officials, the government is exploring legal tools – like the state of emergency provisions – as a response.

Over the past 100 days, the violence between police and students has escalated. Always an asymmetric war, students initially responded in self-defence – using umbrellas, helmets and masks to hold their position on the streets.

As the police’s weapons have become more excessive – tear gas fired in train stations, rubber bullets shot into faces, sponge grenades, water cannons – the students’ responses have become increasingly indignant. They have engaged in targeted actions like street fires, petrol bombs and vandalism to public infrastructure and government sites, like the city’s mass transit system.

Two weeks ago, police representatives argued that live ammunition was justified in response to Molotov cocktails. About the same time, the protesters collectively decided to fight back against police, and not just use self-defence.

It is spiralling. So, where does this end?




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Maintaining local support

The Hong Kong police have tried to turn off the tap of mass support to the young protesters, who are called the Braves. Initially they used images of property damage or acts of aggression on television and social media to try to sway public opinion against the younger members of the movement.

More recently, they’ve shut down the right to mass protest. The police have been increasingly denying permits to protest, limiting the space where people can protest, or revoking permission within hours of a march starting.

None of these tactics has worked. Most Hong Kongers continue to support the “five demands” and the protest movement, while disapproving of Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s handling of the situation. (Her approval rating now sits at just 24.9%).

Most older residents feel they have let the young generation down. They not only support the Braves, many are also part of growing support networks providing them with assistance. For example, drivers pick up stranded protesters around the city and volunteers set up makeshift underground hospitals for students afraid to use state-run services.

The perils of self-righteousness

But there is a problem. The rest of the world is turning away from the weekly battles. The thing that made the protests initially so captivating was their novelty and bravery. But what began as original is now predictable. And this brings danger.

The first danger is increasing violence. The need to hold the world’s attention brings the risk of spiralling into greater violence. There is also a dark recognition that if lethal violence was to occur during a protest – if a protester was shot by live ammunition, for instance, or a brick killed a police officer – it would utterly change the dynamics.




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New research shows vast majority of Hong Kong protesters support more radical tactics


The second, less obvious danger lies in self-righteousness. For most protest movements, there is an inherent tension between the ideals and commitment to the ambitious goals that brought people to the streets en masse and the capacity to negotiate with the powerful to achieve them.

This tension is a universal frustration. Protesters are loathe to be considered “sell outs,” but not making a deal risks not winning anything.

The social movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. in the US, for instance, didn’t achieve civil rights in a single boycott. Waves of different movements over decades, using varied protest tactics, and the art of compromise, brought change incrementally. Push, negotiate, make a deal – repeated as a pattern for victory.

Every night, Hong Kong protesters shout their motto, “Five demands, not one less”, referring to the five concessions they are demanding from the government.

The five demands include universal suffrage and an inquiry into the heavy-handed police response to protesters.
Jerome Favre/EPA

But this righteous ritual conceals a growing fear. Hong Kongers, including leaders I interviewed, worry that all they could win from this movement is the permanent withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked the unrest, which they’ve already achieved.

With the end of “one country, two systems” model in sight in 2047, the stakes are high. Locals are terrified they might not get closer to universal suffrage and that Beijing will continue to encroach on their political freedoms.

That said, this isn’t a simple battle – and winning a “deal” that doesn’t provide a pathway to democracy won’t be good enough. It’s all well and good for distant observers to casually comment that Hong Kongers need to do a deal, but the “five demands” are not an ambit. This was a “joint consensus.”




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Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Why the Hong Kong protesters feel they have nothing to lose


In contrast to the authoritarianism in China (not to mention elsewhere), Hong Kongers hope they can be a beacon for democracy and enlightenment. Taiwan, for one, is certainly seeing Hong Kong as a source of inspiration in their its battle against Beijing’s push for reunification.

The Braves see it as nothing short of a life or death battle for their identity, and unless they believe they are moving towards a more independent future, they plan to keep fighting.

Tens of thousands of people in Taiwan demonstrated in support of Hong Kongers on Sunday.
Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

What Hong Kongers can learn from the French Revolution

So how do you push and negotiate in this context?

Perhaps history can provide some inspiration. In the battle to win democracy in the French Revolution, for example, two important strategies were prosecuted simultaneously.

In Paris, the protesters fought street battles and built barricades, but the leaders also built for themselves the kind of state they envisioned living in. They constructed their own National Assembly, which advanced the idea of universal male suffrage.

This idea of crafting what is known as a “pre-figurative form” might be useful for Hong Kong. Imagine if Hong Kongers, crippled with an undemocratic Legislative Council, created their own Legislative Assembly – a model for their goal of a parliament elected by everyone. The idea has been tried in Hong Kong before; the Occupy Trio who helped lead the Umbrella movement held a people’s referendum calling for universal suffrage in 2014.

The natural inertia of any movement means that a continuation of street battles is likely, which ultimately leads to an escalation of violence. However, if the protesters can channel their energy in a more lasting, organised way, they may be able to achieve even more than the “five demands”.

As well as singing their protest anthem, “Do you hear the people sing?”, the protesters should borrow more ideas from successful democracy movements of the past. This may provide new energy to surprise Beijing and sustain the momentum of frustrated Hong Kongers.


Author Amanda Tattersall hosts the ChangeMakers podcast series which explores the long history of Hong Kong and its protests. The first episode is available here:The Conversation

Amanda Tattersall, Postdoc in Urban Geography and Research Lead at Sydney Policy Lab. Host of ChangeMakers Podcast., University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Developing’ rift points to growing divisions between Coalition and Labor on China


Tony Walker, La Trobe University

At last, a healthy divergence of views between the Coalition and Labor about how Australia might manage its relations with its cornerstone trading partner and rising power in its own region.

It is a debate that is long overdue.

We now have contrasting narratives between the Coalition government and the Labor opposition.

That contrast was given sharp expression at the weekend by deputy Labor leader Richard Marles in an interview on the ABC’s Insiders program.

Marles accused the government of mismanaging a “complex” relationship. After visiting Beijing last week for conversations with a range of Chinese opinion-leaders, he described relations as “terrible”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he said, had engaged in megaphone diplomacy on his visit to the United States, insisting China be regarded as a “developed” country for trade and other purposes. This includes its climate change obligations.

What we saw was the prime minister in the United States in the context of there being trade tensions between the US and China, and from there, taking pot shots against largest trading partner. The context in which he has engaged in this megaphone diplomacy is absolutely the issue, and it’s not the way in which this issue should be dealt with in a respectful way.

These observations might be taken with a pinch of salt from an opposition spokesman. But it is true that relations are now at a low ebb for a variety of reasons, some of the government’s making, some not.

Australia did not initiate a trade war, but fractious relations with China are collateral damage.

Significantly, what is emerging in Australian domestic politics is an erosion of what has been a bipartisan consensus on how to relate to China in what are very challenging circumstances.




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Morrison needs to take control of China policy – but leave room for dissent


This is, potentially, a watershed moment in the evolution of the Australian policy towards China. This policy has, more or less, been settled business since Gough Whitlam normalised relations in 1972 as one of his first acts as prime minister.

Morrison’s embrace of American calls for China to be declared a developed country under World Trade Organisation rules means there is now a sharp point of difference between the government and opposition.

This is the nub of what the prime minister had to say on the issue to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy… The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected, of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.

Labor does not regard China as a “developed” country under World Trade Organisation auspices, nor, for that matter, does most of the rest of the world. This is an American preoccupation, now signed onto by Canberra.

Why it should have been necessary for Morrison to take sides in this debate is not clear. On the face of it, his interventions have been unwise.

What should be understood about emerging differences over China’s “developed” country status, is that it represents, in an Australian context, a wider divergence of views between the government and opposition on how to manage China’s rise.

The government believes China should be pulled into line. Labor is more circumspect while acknowledging that Beijing’s behaviour is exerting considerable – and unwelcome – stress on an international rules-based order.

Whether he pretends otherwise or not, Morrison has aligned Australia with the Donald Trump White House view of China as a mercantilist power seeking ruthlessly to extend its power and influence in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

In its mirroring of the US position, the government is indicating it believes China needs to have its wings clipped.

Morrison’s visit to the United States may come to be regarded, therefore, as a watershed moment in Australian foreign policy in which a choice was made.

Whether the government pretends otherwise or not, Morrison’s interventions on his US visit have been interpreted in Beijing as hostile.

Enter the Labor Party into this debate in a way that represents its boldest intervention in a foreign policy question since then Labor leader Simon Crean detached his party in 2003 from supporting the ill-fated rush to war in Iraq.

The difference between then and now is that getting policy settings right in the great US versus China debate is far more important to Australia’s well-being than an ill-conceived decision two decades ago that turned the Middle East upside down and empowered Iran.




Read more:
Yang Hengjun case a pivotal moment in increasingly tense Australia-China relationship


The view promulgated by former Prime Minister John Howard that Australia did not need to choose between its historical alignment with America and its geographical proximity to China is no longer sustainable.

The question now is how Australia positions itself between the elephants in the jungle to avoid getting crushed. Conspicuously siding with one of the elephants, unless necessary, would not seem to be the wisest course.

In all of this, one might spare a thought for Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, whose role has been to try to ensure Australia’s trade in merchandise and services is not harmed by a trade war between China and the United States.

Birmingham has been doing his best. He has not been helped by his leader’s injudicious remarks to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vital Signs: Why can’t Australia be friends with both US and China?


Richard Holden, UNSW

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, had to walk a series of fine lines in his official visit to the United States this week.

He had to appear supportive of US president Donald Trump without looking like a sycophant. He had to emphasise Australia’s deep bond with the United States without aggravating China.

There are, of course, important matters of international relations and geopolitics involved in how Australia positions itself regarding the interactions between China and the United States.




Read more:
Yes, the US-Australia alliance is important, but Scott Morrison needs to take a careful approach with Donald Trump


But there’s also some pretty straightforward economics involved.

The economics of it all make it clear Australia had better find a way to stay on the good side of both the US and China.

Two years ago I wrote a report with Jared Mondschein of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney titled Indispensable economic partners: the US-Australia investment relationship.

In that report – launched, incidentally, by then treasurer Scott Morrison – we highlighted that though China is Australia’s largest trading partner, the US is our largest economic partner more broadly.

Our indispensable investment partner

Australia has always been a capital-thirsty country, and our largest provider of foreign capital now and historically is the United States.

The cumulative value of two-way investment between the US and Australia is about A$1.5 trillion. US investment in Australia, totalling more than A$900 billion, comprises more than a quarter of all foreign investment. It is close to double the investment from second-placed Britain and roughly 10 times that from China.

US ownership of companies operating in Australia is also double that any other other country. US foreign direct investment (defined as owning 10% or more of a business) is responsible for more than 330,000 high-paying jobs (US-affiliated companies pay employees an average of more than A$115,000) and more than A$1 billion a year in research and development spending.

The US has more foreign direct investment into Australia than in all of South America, Africa or the Middle East.

Australians are heavily invested in the US, too. Australian companies from CSL to Atlassian see the US as both a large market and a springboard to the world. As our report highlighted:

The United States has been the largest destination of Australian investment for many years. Making up more than 28% of all Australian overseas investment, total Australian investment in the United States is valued at A$617 billion, more than seven times the A$87 billion that Australia has invested in China.

Our indispensable trading partner

That said, China is a crucial trading partner for Australia.

One-quarter of Australia’s exports go to China, which is an important source of high-quality low-cost goods for Australian consumers. Imports and exports both represent about 20% of Gross Domestic Product, and China is a key nation for both.

Furthermore, we might have just scratched the surface in terms of export potential. As the Chinese economy grows, there are big opportunities in agricultural products like Wagyu beef and services like education (already our third-largest export market).

China’s per capita GDP has grown rapidly in the past 30 years but still stands at A$9,600, compared with A$56,000 for Australia. There is a lot more room for growth. As China does so, its middle class will become an even more attractive market. For a relatively low-growth Australian economy, it’s a bright opportunity.

Maintaining both relationships

It will take some skilled diplomacy to keep both China and the US happy – particularly at a time when they are not particularly happy with each other. Among other things, it means not taking sides in their trade and currency disputes. There are no winners from that – and kudos to trade minister Simon Birmingham for having said so.

We can also continue to avoid taking a stance on contentious issues like the status of Taiwan.

None of this is easy, but it is terribly important.




Read more:
Vital Signs: having a bob each way on US and China is Australia’s own super power


Perhaps the ultimate question, to paraphrase a classic 1975 pop song, is: “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Perhaps we can be friends with both China and the United States. It would certainly be in our national interest to do so. Perhaps both the US and China can see benefits in our respective bilateral relationships.

On the other hand, the band that had a hit with that 1975 classic was called War. Let’s hope that’s not an omen.The Conversation

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.