Friday 30 October 2020 – The dialogue between Michaela Browning and David Olsson, National President of the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) served as a powerful coming together of leaders in diplomacy and business to discuss the intricacies, roadblocks and mutually beneficial ways forward for our trading relationship with China.
Covering a vast array of topics from the national vision for the Foundation to the ACBC’s new ‘China Plus’ positioning, the global transition from the ‘China boom’ period into a more matured international market as well as the role of Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area in China’s future growth, and the unique and long-standing history of Chinese in Australia – both speakers proved their knowledge and passion in leading the relationship.
Michaela emphasised the valuable work done by the former Australia China Council, and the Foundations broad mandate and desire to leverage existing bilateral arrangements and collaborative opportunities presented by the long-standing bilateral relationships with organisations such as the ACBC.
A big ‘thank you’ to Holding Redlich, our long-time supporters for sponsoring this event and to Senior Partner, Lou Farrinotti, for his closing remarks.
Some key takeaways from the session:
- Michaela shared the Federal Government’s vision for the Foundation, noting its establishment demonstrated the Australian Government’s commitment to a constructive relationship with China, founded on shared interests, mutual benefit and mutual respect, consistent with Australia’s national interest and underpinned by the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
- She acknowledged the good work of the former Australia-China Council, and said the Foundation had a broad mandate and was intended as a national platform, bringing together Commonwealth agencies, state and territory governments, business, educational institutions, cultural sectors and Chinese-Australian communities, to develop and promote engagement with China.
- The Foundation would focus on areas of the relationship where it could have the largest impact, and would leverage and amplify existing institutional relationships and initiatives, such as the ACBC’s established linkages with Greater China.
- The Foundation had a capable team, and an independent, diverse and had a capable advisory board with a geographic and sectoral spread. It had has seen positive public engagement thorough grant applications, events, roundtables, partnership opportunities and more.
- The Foundation had a role to support and promote business engagement, trade and investment with China. It was committed to working with others with a leading role like Austrade, States and Territories and business peak bodies. It was committed to building capability, understanding, training and exchange, to support businesses continuing to confidently engage with China, addressing challenges but also seizing the opportunities and playing to our strengths.
- Regarding the Australia China Business Council, David spoke about ACBC’s refreshed strategies that address both the opportunities and challenges that China presents.
- ACBC is the only member-based organisation focussed solely on business relations between the two countries. Through its branch network around Australia, ACBC’s goal is to provide an independent, balanced, pro-business, pro-Australian approach to Australia’s engagement with China through three pillars – knowledge, networks and advocacy.
- The ‘China boom time’ of the opening up period peaked in 2012, but since then China’s economy has matured with domestic consumption and the services sector becoming more important.
- David reminded us of the complementarities of our markets that have underpinned Australia’s economy and emphasised the need for Australia to connect to the growth markets of the world to support our post-coronavirus recovery.
- Aged care, health care, quantum computing, big data, analytics are all areas of particular Australian strength in the partnership.
- Global shifts in international relations and foreign trade bring a broader suite of challenges.
- Rising protectionism, US-China decoupling, global pandemic, digital disruption, not just for business but also legal and regulatory challenges that must be navigated.
- Michaela and David gave insights into what it’s like on the ground in Hong Kong. There are social and political challenges that cannot be ignored, and an important recalibration and due diligence was required, but it remains “truly an international business city” with a unique connection to the Mainland.
- The Greater Bay Area (GBA) with a GDP the size of Australia’s economy and the highest per capita income in the PRC will be vitally important to the future growth of China, it was also a national level policy initiative that was still developing, and Australia and Australian business had long been connected in to this part of China. ACBC is seeking to run a series of webinars around this in future.
- Remarkably, in a post-COVID environment, Shenzhen’s annualised growth rate is a stunning 7.8%.
- We must be careful that the Australia-China relationship hiatus doesn’t go for so long that we lose our cultural connections, language and educational ties that form the groundwork of the relationship.
- There is a still a sense that we need to get politics aligned with business, so we are consistent in our approach. The ACBC will look to hold more events in this style in the future.
- Collaboration between the NFACR and ACBC for a focussed and sharper Australian output.