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Wake up, Australia. We need to China-proof our economy

If we weren't already aware of the mistake we made hitching our economic fortunes to a communist dictatorship, the threats this week from the Chinese ambassador should dispel any complacency.

Ambassador Cheng Jingye warned that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for an inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus was "dangerous" and threatened a consumer boycott of two of our biggest export earners, tourism and education.

"The tourists may have second thoughts," he told the Australian Financial Review.

"The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send their kids here.

"It is up to the people to decide. Maybe the ordinary people will say 'Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'"

Yeah, sure it's up to the people to decide.

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye has threatened a Chinese boycott of Australia’s exports and tourism if Prime Minister Scott Morrison supports an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye has threatened a Chinese boycott of Australia’s exports and tourism if Prime Minister Scott Morrison supports an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

We know what happens to Chinese people who don't do the Communist Party bidding. They disappear, maybe to return after being tortured into recanting.

That's what happened to coronavirus whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang who first warned of the strange virus in Wuhan on December 30. He was punished for "spreading fake information", forced to recant and then in a cruel twist, died of the virus in February at the age of 34.

If his warnings had been heeded instead of covered up by the CCP, tens of thousands of lives would have been saved and the world would not be facing an economic crisis the scale of the Great Depression.

So, yes, the Chinese Communist Party is threatening Australia, which relies on China in a way no other country in the developed world does. China accounts for a quarter of all Australian exports and a staggering 12 per cent of our GDP.

We saw the growing belligerence in early February, when the CCP condemned Morrison's attempt to stem the spread of the virus by banning flights from China.

 

It was there last September, at the height of US President Donald Trump's trade war with China, CCP official Professor Wang Yiwei was sent to Australia to deliver an unmistakeable message about our allegiances.

"If there is a war between the United States and China you are the frontier, you are the first to be sacrificed".

The most alarming sign that we were asleep at the wheel was the curious sale of the Port of Darwin to the CCP-controlled Chinese company, Landbridge in 2015, shortly after the signing of the China-Australia free trade agreement.

The following year we almost sold China controlling stakes in gas and electricity utilities across Australia.

It is sickening to realise that the Australian taxpayer has been funding dangerous research into bat viruses at the very Wuhan virology lab which is under investigation by US intelligence as a possible source of the coronavirus pandemic, despite its history of reported sloppy practices.

As Sharri Markson revealed exclusively yesterday, the CSIRO and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory collaborated with the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology in jointly-funded research into bat viruses, despite evidence of inadequate safety practices.

Our collaboration in that research makes an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus even more compelling.

We need to know what China knew about the virus and when it knew.

 

China lied, people died.

In the US, there is a growing mood to make China pay reparations for the death and destruction caused by the virus, whether it accidentally leaked from the Wuhan lab or emerged from a nearby wet market. At least six lawsuits have been filed against China seeking damages for deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by the virus.

In Australia, we need to wake up and China-proof our economy.

One politician who has been sounding the alarm on China for three years is WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who chairs the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.

He says we can't go back to business as usual after the pandemic, but he says "I'm a realist, so as a middle power we conduct our statecraft differently to a superpower like the US - which means we need to pursue our interests through different means, including international institutions …

"It's impossible to disconnect from two billion people in your neighbourhood - nor do we want to - but we can make sure we don't become a client or vassal state of the Chinese Communist Party.

"I have a heart for the Chinese people. But I despise the regime …

"We have to get back to basics. Sovereignty, transparency and resilience. We will need to identify our supply chain weaknesses and mitigate them, by localising the manufacturing of critical goods."

Australia should ‘China-proof’ the economy. Picture: Terry Pontikos
Australia should ‘China-proof’ the economy. Picture: Terry Pontikos

For starters, he says we should take back Darwin.

It was "strategically naive" to give China a 99-year lease to the port. "Now China lists the port of Darwin as part of its belt and road initiative.

"That port ultimately belongs to the Australian people. We can always break the lease if we need to protect our sovereignty."

Taking back Darwin would send a message to the CCP that Australia has woken up.

Otherwise we face becoming a vassal state of the CCP, For too long we have averted our eyes from the dangers of the lucrative economic partnership, and pretended China is a country like any other.

We forgot that it was ruled by a Communist Party.

 

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THE difficulty Australia will have in escaping our dependence on the goodwill of the Chinese Communist Party was encapsulated in miniature by a skirmish in Wagga Wagga earlier this month.

In protest at the CCP cover-up of the coronavirus pandemic, Wagga Council voted to cut ties with its Chinese sister city Kunming.

Councillor Paul Funnell, former president of the Democratic Labour Party, pushed the successful motion declaring the government of Kunming to be "an extension of the totalitarian communist regime of China - nothing more, nothing less".

"We are therefore in relations with the totalitarian communist regime of the People's Republic of China, the very regime [which] has brought death and destruction across the world with COVID-19," he said.

Wagga Wagga councillor Paul Funnell (centre). Picture: Dylan Robinson
Wagga Wagga councillor Paul Funnell (centre). Picture: Dylan Robinson

But there was a storm of criticism denouncing the decision as racist, and a week later the council caved in and reversed its decision - even though a number of Chinese-Australians spoke eloquently at the meeting about the dangers of the communist regime in Beijing.

The CCP knows full well the power of calling an Australian racist.

The irony is that the most racist and repressive regime in the world has weaponised our own good nature against us.

 

Miranda Devine is in New York for 18 months to cover current affairs for The Daily Telegraph

Originally published as Wake up, Australia. We need to China-proof our economy



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