The Abacus

Ties at tipping point amid fears of foreign interference backlash

By: The Australian
11-12-2017

Business is signalling the relationship with Beijing is at a “tipping point” as it urges Malcolm Turnbull to ensure tensions over new measures curbing foreign interference do not trigger a damaging reduction in the numbers of ­Chinese students or tourists.

National president and chairman of the Australia China Business Council, John Brumby, told The Australian relations were “very finely balanced”, while former Australian ambassador to Beijing Geoff Raby warned that a sustained period of turbulence could reduce international demand for a university education in Australia — an export sector worth $28 billion a year.

The note of caution comes after the Prime Minister last week unveiled reforms aimed at limiting the ability of foreign powers to influence Australian political ­affairs amid uproar over Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s links to billionaire Chinese property developer and Communist Party-linked political donor Huang Xiangmo.

The range of measures to deal with foreign influence also triggered a fierce reaction from Beijing, with the Chinese embassy warning the tenor of political ­debate in Australia was working to the “detriment of political mutual trust” and rejecting “unjustifiable accusations” it was behind a Cold-War style infiltration of Australian institutions.

Mr Brumby — a former Labor premier of Victoria — said the number of Chinese people visiting Australia was expected to increase to 3.3 million by 2026, up from the 1.2 million last year who spent a total of $9.2bn. He also urged political leaders not to forget that China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse over the past 20 years had underpinned Australia’s 26 years of consecutive economic growth.

“The relationship is finely balanced. It is at a tipping point,” he said. “And for Australia, of course it’s crucial to protect national ­security. At the same time, it’s crucial to understand that by far the biggest single factor that has driven Australian prosperity over the last two decades has been the rise of China and we ignore that at our peril ... We are concerned about anything which may harm our ­bilateral relationship.”

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NameJan 15 2:23:am

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Daniel Zhang Dec 11 10:42:am

I heard the 2BG interview today of John Brumby. It was well said by John. He was talking the exact facts in relation to China. Ross Greenwood is the only one at 2GB who thinks and talks soberly. Most of the listeners are hot headed and deeply biased when it comes to this issue,which is very sad and dangerous. Chinese media reports came out today that Australia is in No way as important as they think. China has a hugely deep deficit in trade with Australia. China does not care much about stop trading with Australia while Australia can not afford losing China economically. China is now not in good shape as before and trying to stop fund Existing to other countries. It may fall into China wish just using this as an excuse to cut fund flowing to Australia and rather inject into its own economy. Unfortunately there is few people like John Brumby who has a view above the horizon. Most of so called media celebrities and top politicians are looking in the Cave!