Australia’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is increasingly complex and difficult to navigate. Recent media reports about PRC government influence in this country have demonstrated this complexity, touching on different segments of Australian society. This issue of PRC government influence peddling is not just a question of the reported influence on some sections of the political and educational elite in Australia. Of equal importance in its extent and immediacy is the targeting of Chinese-Australians with the same style of influence. This must be addressed, but it can only be tackled through engaging fully with the Chinese-Australian community.
When NSW Senator Sam Dastyari resigned from the opposition front bench in September 2016 he had broken no Australian electoral laws or any formal rules of the NSW Labor Party. Rather his resignation, for allowing an entity with alleged links to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to pay a $1,600 travel debt, was the result of a swift and vocal public backlash.
China is increasingly seen as both good and evil in the common narrative which prevails in Australia. This ambivalent feeling is reflected in the recent Lowy Institute poll which showed that while a majority of people think China is more of an economic partner than a security risk, almost half (46%) still worry that it remains a potential military threat.
Ships from the American, Indian and Japanese navies will gather in the Bay of Bengal for Malabar 2017 later this month. The wargames come six months after Canberra formally asked the Indian defence ministry to consider permitting observer status to a handful of Royal Australian Navy vessels, and mere weeks after that request was denied. The consolation reportedly offered by Delhi was that Australian officers could watch the maneuvers from the decks of the participating countries’ ships. That wasn’t the outcome Australia was after, but it’s still a small step in the right direction. While the expanded Malabar exercise was a one-time matter of contention in the Sino-Australian relationship, Canberra should continue to push for its resurrection.
“You can’t be what you can’t see”. These seven short words from American activist Marian Wright Edelman explain so simply, yet profoundly, the remarkable importance of diverse and fair representation in society. It’s a phrase that encapsulates one of the key problems of the “bamboo ceiling”: the idea that there exists an invisible barrier in our labour force that prevents Asian talent from breaking through into leadership positions.
Is Australian sport a community or a commodity? Whichever it may be, can you sell it to China? On 14 May 2017 the Australian Football League will host its first match in China for premiership points. In Australia, passion for sport has the ability to unite people like few other interests. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently exemplified this. He was pictured donning both teams’ scarves at an AFL match during his latest visit to Australia. The question is, however, will AFL work in China?
In May 2016, US President Barack Obama made the case for passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). “America should write the rules”, Obama said, “America should call the shots”. For if America did not write the global trade and investment rules, China would.
Chinese language education in Australia is failing and requires a complete rethink. Thankfully, a radical but simple solution exists to the current malaise – that is, using pīnyīn (Romanised Chinese) entirely in primary and secondary schooling, and only introducing characters at university-level. This would ensure the focus of teachers and students is on speaking Chinese, rather than memorising characters.
The new year often prompts us to reflect on decisions made in the past 12 months and contemplate whether to adopt a fresh approach to ongoing challenges. Tensions in the South China Sea pose an enduring challenge for the Australian government and in the first few days of 2017 there have been renewed calls to change course on this particular policy.