The Chinese can be engaging

Understanding modern China is key to rekindle the chilled Australia-China relations

15 July 2021 | CCCA (Image: Marcus Reubenstein)

An article on China that is considered scholarly and unbiased is easy to write but difficult to get accepted for publication in the western mainstream media. Surprising, one or two articles in the last three months managed to secure a place in the tabloid. 

Compared to the almost constant China bashing in the mainstream media in previous years, the last six months seems to see a slowdown of such inflammatory articles to the appearance of better-balanced articles/opinion in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) or Australian Financial Review (AFR).  The tone of Eric Bagshaw SMH about China is more circumspect softer and one might take it to represent the start of a geopolitical wind change in Australia, if SMH allows it. 

This commentary now focusses on the softer opinion on Australia-China relationships by Prof. Percy Allan who is a public policy economist and a visiting professor at the Institute of Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology, Sydney. In the early 2000s he consulted the Chinese Ministries of Finance and Personnel as part of AusAID’s capacity building program. John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations published an earlier version of this article in the SMH.

Prof. Percy highlighted that “President Xi’s speech on his party’s centenary celebration must have disappointed China hawks. No mention of conquering foreign countries. His most strident remark was that the Chinese people would cause “bloodshed” to any foreign force that tried to “oppress or enslave us”. 

Prof Perry also provocatively mentioned: “China is a totalitarian state so lacks the legitimacy of majority rule and minority rights. A long history of foreign invasions, civil war, destitution, famine and Red Guard terrorism convinced post-Mao governments to crack down on any internal dissent lest it rekindle fracturing and secession”, but counter-balanced it with the statement. 

To outsiders that may be intolerable, but to most Chinese is a different story. China has been governed that way through dynasties that a tightly policed state as preferable to a turbulent and broken one.

Post-Tiananmen the Chinese Government has learned the lessons well from the West that apart from tackling the systemic corruption is not enough, Chinese people also aspire to live in a democratic, freer society that give them more choices and spaces to excel themselves.

The changes last 30 years in China’s governance are amazing. Large number of Chinese peoples are allowed to go travel round the work not only for higher studies but for pleasure and learning the modern things that the world can offer. Also, they value being lifted out of poverty in just 30 years.

Most take pride in China’s achievements in sports, space travel and science and enjoy a secured, peaceful and comfortable lives. Any visitor knows that its people are not dispirited. In failed states, street crime is endemic. The security is so good in China nowadays, petty crimes are almost non-existent. China now is possibly one of the safest countries to live and travel even for foreigners.

So fellow Australian public, please do not be fooled by your ignorant political leaders and media including ABC and SBS not to mention Murdoch media. Go and visit China and see for yourselves in your own eyes and make your own judgement.

Prof. Perry also offered real solutions on how to deal with a rising China and his constructive criticism is very much in tune with the thoughts of our northern ASEAN leaders.  

The analysis is spot on and the last proposition of opening up is most interesting. In theory, it is impossible to link up with the outside world without allowing its people more freedom. The paradox is China rises up so fast because it is autocratic. The special economic zones were allowed to prosper while the others continued to suffer until the wealth trickled down to them. Previous Kuomintang Government had tried the Western way but it did not work for China. Having proved and learnt the hard way of communism first 30 years after 1949, new modern China has emerged a winner for her peoples by opening up to the world and learn from it. The world outside China can simultaneously learn something good from China. The West are living with lot of mistakes in the past and even now in US, UK and Australia. Please do not throw stones at other when you live in a glasshouse.

Socialism with Chinese characters provides the right governance for China even though they may be somewhat autocratic. It suits China at the present stage. The West has to learn to respect the China’s way. Whether they are right or otherwise, they have proven a point with its miraculous achievements recognised internationally. Do the West have to continue China bashing until we go completely senseless?  

We live in hope that more fellow Australians and allies will gradually returning to the concept of accommodating a rising China, trading with her and the ability to raise sensitive issues mutually and without the loud destructive rhetoric as we have done so successfully before 2016.

This commentary is supplied by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Incorporated: Founding President, Dr Anthony Pun OAM, President, Mr Kingsley Liu. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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