Thursday 16 July 2020

The Make-It-In-Australia Movement - Salisbury Review, Summer, 2020

Here is my article about Australia-PRC written for a mostly British audience:

Last year, in my article ‘Communist China Downunder’ (Salisbury Review, Autumn 2019), I wrote that interactions between China and Australia had become strained. While the first phase of the Beijing-Canberra relationship, 1949-72, could be described as non-existent because we insisted on recognising Taiwan as the ‘real’ China, the second period, 1972-2017, was mostly friendly and positive. Seemingly, what was good for the People’s Republic of China was good for the Commonwealth of Australia and vice-versa. All this was put in jeopardy in 2017 when Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, mildly rebuked President Xi Jinping for his regime’s militarisation of the South China Sea. Beijing’s response was unprecedentedly shrill, and Australians did a double take. Friendly Panda was suddenly sounding like Red Dragon.

Could it be that that we had been deceiving ourselves about the true nature of Communist China for almost half a century? Was that possible? Beijing’s behaviour during the current pandemic has only confirmed our worst suspicions. Today, as I write, the editor of China’s Global Times, Hu Xijin, has described Australia as ‘gum stuck to the bottom of our shoe’. This insult was the result of an official call by the Australian government for an internal inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Was it, perhaps, generated in the National Biosafety Laboratory inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology? A fair enough question, you might think, given the death and mayhem unleashed on the planet by Covid-19.

Not so, according to Beijing’s envoy to Canberra, Ching Jingye, who simultaneously called a press conference and warned the Australian government that the people of China might ‘lose their taste’ for Australian wine and beef. The development that neither Hu or Ching appears not to be aware of yet is that Australians are fast losing their taste for the People’s Republic of China and all things made in the PRC. China’s despotic regime produces the finest ‘fake news’ in the world, its Global Times taking out the prize for premium propaganda in the English language. Only a totalitarian-compliant outfit such as the Global Times could shamelessly and ceaselessly commend Communist China as a role model for the world in solving the COVID-19 pandemic without acknowledging that (a) the virus originated in China, (b) China silenced and ‘disappeared’ any local Wuhan doctor or health authority who tried to warn the people of China and the world, as early as December 2019, that the novel coronavirus was communicable, (c) it likely pressured the World Health Organisation to delay declaring the new virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern until January 30, 2020, (d) it refuses to be transparent about the genesis of the virus, and (e) it continues to provide the world with unreliable statistics. Notwithstanding all this, the Global Times was boasting, on April 24, that the world could learn a thing or two from the regime’s handling of COVID-19.

Zhi Xiuyi, a director at a Beijing hospital, was quoted as praising – as if he had a choice – China’s ‘ability to organize and shift its medical resources in a feat that other countries have found difficult to achieve.’ If only we were all ruled by a communist tyranny. Although the Party Politburo treats its own ethnic minorities, such as the Tibetans and Uyghurs, as if they were an historical mistake, it plays the racist card for all it is worth in the West. Any criticism of Communist China is often characterised as anti-Chinese bigotry, the absurdity of which is demonstrated by the fact that most Australians sympathised with the Hong Kong protesters as recently as last year. Are not Hong Kongers, and we could add here the Taiwanese, Chinese people? Still, most Australians went along with the PC diktat that we not refer to the China or Wuhan Virus as the China or Wuhan Virus.

In late March, however, the mood turned a little less sanguine when The Sydney Morning Herald, no conservative newspaper, reported that back in January, while the world remained mostly uninformed of the danger lurking on our horizon, a Chinese government-backed property giant, the Greenland Group, secretly depleted Australia of anti-coronavirus equipment. The Wuhan Virus became the CCP Virus. Today, predictably enough, Communist China is returning the favour by exporting to four continents defective medical supplies. A new report, by Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute, speaks of made-in-China ‘test kits tainted with the coronavirus’ and ‘medical garments contaminated with insects’. Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovik, to give another example of Beijing’s perfidy, revealed that ‘more than a million coronavirus tests supplied by China for a cash payment of 15 million Euros were inaccurate and unable to detect Covid-19.’ In the case of Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, reported that during January the Greenland Group had bought and stockpiled three million surgical masks, 500,000 pairs of gloves, bulk supplies of sanitisers, antibacterial wipes, thermometers, hamzat suits, and sundry other medical purchases, before shipping them off to the Socialist Motherland. Australia, still suffering from an horrific bushfire season, had no idea it was about to be out of the fire into the frying pan. President Xi Jinping knew. What’s good for Communist China, clearly, is not necessarily good for Australia.

This happens to have been the theme of much of my work since as long ago as 1979 when I was an eyewitness to the Democracy Wall Movement. I had hoped the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Massacre might serve as a wake-up call to Australia but no such luck. If Australia’s economy in the 1950s rode on the sheep’s back, as the saying went, for the past three decades or more it has ridden on the back of mining exports to the People’s Republic of China. Being a miner or mining engineer is not infrequently the profession of at least one relative or friend’s child. The mining industry in Western Australia, for instance, has transformed Perth from something of a provincial backwater into the most dynamic, go-ahead city in Australia. China’s imperialist-Leninism has proven a windfall for many Australians, but whether Australia as a whole is better-off for being included in the Communist Politburo’s plan for a ‘World of Great Harmony’ is another matter entirely.

Take education as an example. In recent years, an annual intake of 200,000 fee-paying Chinese nationals have kept Australian universities and private schools afloat, injecting some $34 billion into the education sector each year. One of the reasons Australia avoided European and American levels of Covid-19 infection in the first quarter of 2020 is that our students return to school in early February and to universities at the start of March. In other words, the proverbial horse had not bolted before Prime Minister Morrison imposed travel restrictions on Chinese nationals from February 1, 2020. These restrictions were originally presented as provisional but, as the peril of the pandemic worsened, opened restrictions were placed on travellers from China, along with every other country in the world as it happened. Communist China’s envoy in Canberra lambasted Morrison’s decision, and there was talk of young Chinese nationals going elsewhere in future to obtain a Western-standard education.

The irony of this, of course, is that two months later Beijing itself introduced tough restrictions on in-coming visits fearing that infected foreigners would cause an uptick in Covid-19 amongst China’s population. More and more Australians are going to point out to the boards of independent schools and universities alike that the educational institutions of our country exist for the edification of young Australians. I make that prediction because there has been a definite shift in public opinion since the onset of Covid-19, starting with the Greenland Group scandal. If I had to give the phenomenon a name it would be the Make-It-in Australia movement. This emergent force is neither a leftish red nor rightist blue but, rather, a populist red-white-and-blue (or the green-and-gold of our sporting colours).

One manifestation of this is a new Facebook site called Australian Made Products. It has been gaining 100,000 new subscribers with each passing week and is, as I write, more than 1.5 million strong. Australia’s skies are now empty. Except for rescuing stranded Australians from the four corners of the world, all flights into and out of Australia are prohibited. Even the borders between our states, such as between South Australia and its neighbour Victoria, are closed. Qantas has gone into hibernation and the second airline, the locally owned Virgin Australia, went into a death spiral. A Chinese government-backed investment group announced its intention to rescue the floundering airline, just as other Chinese government backed predators have previously ‘rescued’ rural properties, city arcades, Port Darwin, universities and research centres, freight businesses and so on ad infinitum. There was a time when Australia would have welcomed billions of dollars of ‘no-strings-attached’ investment from Communist China. Not anymore. If Australia cannot sustain two major domestic airlines, the consensus appears to be, then make do with one major domestic airline. Besides, going by the current mood in Australia, I am not sure a Beijing-backed Like a-Virgin Airline would attract many loyal customers, notwithstanding the aggressive pricing war strategy it would employ to destroy Qantas as Australia’s premiere domestic airline. And, yes, Huawei has no chance in Australia.

It is as if Australians have finally understood that we are on our own or, if not on our own exactly, an island of Western-style freedom wanting to extract ourselves from a Communist Chinese version of wartime Japan’s Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Progressives and internationalists (if they are not one and the same) will fear that the Covid-19 lockdowns and self-quarantining have turned us into a nation of fascist xenophobes too ready to blame our ills (pun intended) on the CCP Virus. In fact, they would not be entirely wrong, though where they see fascist xenophobia the rest of us might just settle for enlightened patriotism.