At the height of the 2019 Australian Federal Election, both major parties took the tussle for Chinese-Australian voters to the social media platform WeChat – and both left crying foul. Labor Party hopeful Bill Shorten’s campaign was undermined by doctored screenshots fabricating his position on immigration. Scott Morrison’s campaign confronted inflammatory articles insisting his government was ‘kicked in the head by a Kangaroo’.
At a time when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is challenging Australia’s core values of rule of law, freedom of speech and regional peace and security, Australia must respond to the Hong Kong situation. The PRC’s reaction to the Hong Kong protests is an existential threat to international rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights – which has direct consequences on Australian values and how we interact with the PRC.
Australian universities have rapidly transformed into global environments with the boom of international education. Over 360,000 international students are enrolled in Australian higher education institutions in 2019, 38 per cent of whom come from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Despite large international student intakes there is a lack of cross-cultural interaction between international and Australian student groups. Universities have responded with programs to better integrate international students, but more work needs to be done to explain to local students the benefits of engaging with their international peers.
The new Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was passed by the National People’s Congress on the 15th of March with overwhelming support from lawmakers, following an uncharacteristically rapid bureaucratic approval process. The law is intended to “promote and protect foreign investment in the PRC by creating a stable, transparent and predictable market environment for fair competition”. Some have described it as a progressive attempt to level the playing field for foreign companies operating in the PRC, while others have criticised it as a toothless policy reform designed to appease the current United States government and lacking necessary detail for implementation. Aspects of the updated legislation could raise new concerns for Australian companies investing in or trading with the PRC.
Trade was essential to the bilateral relationship between Australia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) long before the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1972. The government-owned Wheat Board started exporting wheat to the PRC in 1960, when the young Communist regime was experiencing the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-1961. When Gough Whitlam first visited Beijing as opposition leader in 1971, he shrewdly used the decline of Australia’s wheat export to the PRC as a matter of concern, turning it into an opportunity to open the ‘door of China’s forbidden city’ for Australia. At that time, ‘the separation of politics and trade’ was seen as an artificial divide.
International students from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are important to Australia’s economy. Education is Australia’s third-largest sector for GDP growth, and PRC students alone contributed $10 billion the Australian economy in 2017. However, intense public debate in Australia about the influence of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Australian politics and a lack of effort from universities has led to some PRC students returning home unsatisfied. This cannot continue.
The successful landing of Chang’e-4 on the far side of the moon in January 2019 focussed the world’s attention on the space program of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). From the early ‘two bombs, one satellite’ policy of the Mao era, the PRC’s development in space technologies has been rapid, and the PRC is on track to be a major space power by 2030.
Careful and consistent use of language is a vital element of diplomacy. The terms that policymakers use to define regions are often sensitive. One example of such terminology is the term ‘Indo-Pacific’, which has been adopted over the past several years by a number of governments, including Australia’s, to describe what was previously known as the ‘Asia-Pacific’ region. Australia’s use of this term is problematic and should be reconsidered.
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Healthy China 2030 initiative has put health as an explicit national policy priority, and a focus of China’s policymaking apparatus. As the PRC strives towards universal access to public health, the health technology assessment (HTA) framework has been increasingly adopted as a mechanism to manage sustainable access to healthcare. While Australia has a long history of implementing the HTA framework, critical policy lessons arise for Australia from the PRC’s adoption of HTA.
The Belt Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious infrastructure investment program of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), has led to substantial debt burdens among several countries in Australia’s periphery which threatens their economic independence and sovereign decision-making autonomy. Canberra’s challenge is to find ways to counteract Beijing’s growing influence in low-income Pacific nations, which have long been considered a part of Australia’s foreign policy backyard.