Australia’s dependence on China | China-Australia relations
The current relationship between Australia and China is not pleasant. Canberra’s attitude of seeking the answers to the source of the global pandemic angered Beijing. In the past month, Australia has issued some lethal sanctions and travel warnings. Many people urged Australia to reduce its economic dependence on China, but can this really be an option?
“I like Chinese people very much,” Chris Kelly said. He has been growing barley on his family farmland for decades.
“Love them. Everyone who grows barley in Australia likes the Chinese because they make us rich.”
- China’s restrictions on Australia
Last year, Australia produced more than 8 million tons of golden barley for brewing beer and pig feed. China bought more than half of it-or paid a high premium.
But last month, China imposed an 80% tariff on Australian barley. This happened after Canberra responded to the United States and called for the investigation of the source of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-a move labeled “politically motivated” by Beijing.
China has since suspended some important Australian beef imports and warned students and tourists not to go to this “racist” country. This week, under a secret procedure, China sentenced an Australian man to death for smuggling drugs.
This caused an uproar in Australia: Is China retaliating for its allegations of mishandling the coronavirus epidemic? Will this be the beginning of a trade war like that between China and the United States? The Chinese government has warned its citizens not to travel to Australia easily.
- Australia’s dependence on China
Just like other liberal democracies, Australia is increasingly facing challenges and needs to find a balance between its economic dependence on China and its own value audience and interests.
In recent years, Canberra has expressed concerns about human rights issues in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, prohibiting the Chinese company Huawei from building 5G networks in Australia and debating with Beijing, which accused it of interfering in its internal affairs.
This friction has not only occurred in Australia. Many countries such as Canada, Japan and South Korea have encountered situations in which China has fought back economically for so-called political reasons.
From beef ban to overseas study tourism warning, China-Australia relations entered historical low
However, Australia’s economic dependence on China is greater than many countries.
Over the past decade, China has been Australia’s largest trading partner and now accounts for 32.6% of its total exports.
The supply of iron ore, coal and natural gas in Australian deposits has helped China’s economic growth-its quality and geographical location are superior to its rival Brazil. This is a cooperation beneficial to both China and Australia.
Other aspects—education, tourism, agriculture, and winemaking—have also prospered because of the Chinese market. However, economists point out that these things, like barley, are not unique to Australia because they are more susceptible to political tensions.
- Alienate China, don’t look for partners?
All of this makes the discussion about whether Australia has become too dependent on China and should find other trading partners heated.
Dr. Lixia Chen pointed out that Australia may rely on the combination of these countries-plus Indonesia, Japan and South Korea-to reduce dependence on China.
However, some economists question the idea that the Chinese market can be easily replaced.
India is often mentioned for its potential. Australia has set a target of annual exports to India of A$45 billion (25 billion pounds; 31 billion U.S. dollars) by 2035; but last year, Australia sold A$160 billion in exports to China alone.
“There is no other option to get close to China’s numbers,” said Prof Jane Golley, a Chinese economic expert at the Australian National University.
- More opportunities for continued cooperation with China?
Professor Goley said that she believes that some security analysts who have been heavily reported by the media have called for alienating China to be “frustrating.”
“I want to know that a person sees the title on the street and thinks that we should leave China to seek more choices-I really want to know if they have thought about it, what it might mean, what kind of results they might cause, maybe Their children will have no jobs in the future.”
She and some others believe that it is better for Australia to wait and see the bigger picture.
Australia is less dependent on exports than many countries (about 20% of GDP), but exports are directly related to employment and welfare, which makes China a major driver of Australia’s prosperity.
Some people believe that the large number of Chinese people living in Australia should not be ignored. Australia lives with a population of 1.2 million people of Chinese origin, many of whom have immigrated in the past 10 years-this guarantees deep community connections. Chinese consumers still prefer education and tourism in Australia, partly because of this.
But at the political level, it is also a consensus that Canberra’s relationship with Beijing has fallen to its lowest point in decades. Despite repeated requests from Australia, the leaders of the two countries have not held bilateral meetings for three years.
“We have been anxious for years-this situation has been around for a while,” he said. “It feels like the worst has come.”