Opportunity in Crisis

The thawing of diplomatic relations with China is good for Australia. However it presents risks as well as opportunities.

Opportunity in Crisis
Photo by Edward He / Unsplash

It's good news that the Australian Prime Minister has met with the President of China.

It marks the return of diplomatic communications after the Chinese resisted all overtures from the previous government.

That gives us some hope that trade sanctions will be lifted which would be a boon to a number of important industries, most notably our seafood and wine exports.

I have to declare a commercial interest in the rock lobster industry which has been severely impacted by the Chinese ban. Without the largest high-value, high-volume market many fishers have been rendered unprofitable.

There are a few wineries and grape growers in the same boat. Insiders tell me that there is an ocean of Australian shiraz unable to find a buyer. A lot of that would previously have found its way into the Chinese market.

Of course there are other important industries suffering under the weight of China's $20 billion belligerence. They'll all be hoping for a breakthrough.

But any progress on trade is likely to have a heavy price attached to it. We have to trust that the government is a judicious assessor of whether the cost is worth it.

My sense is that China wants in on the Pacific trade block.

That decision is not Australia's alone to make and would likely be a difficult sell to other member nations.

Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, the challenge of China will continue to loom large in Australia's future.

I fully expect China to be the global financial centre in the next decade or so. That will give it massive power on top of their military might.

When that is coupled with their growing domestic consumption and their geo-political will, China represents both a threat and an opportunity.

The trick is how we can minimise the latter while maximising the former.

Part of the answer lies in broadening our trade options - both imports and exports. The more choices we have the more secure we will be.

But security is about much more than money from trade.

Our national defences are well below where they need to be. We have very limited capacity to manufacture necessities. We have expensive and unreliable electricity and our military capability is in a parlous state.

We don't even have long range missiles with which to defend ourselves in the event of any threat. At least this is being addressed, albeit far too slowly.

In fact, all of these requirements have been neglected by successive governments. Announced solutions have either failed, not been implemented or made things worse.

That neglect as left our nation vulnerable to the whims of others and amidst the current tensions in geopolitics, time for effective and meaningful change is rapidly running out.

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