Für Australien ist nicht mehr die USA die größte Weltmacht, sondern in zunehmendem Maße China.
Peter Flynn on China’s power
Australia has a love-hate relationship with China; or maybe a better description would be “a love-fear relationship”. Probably few people in Europe understand just how joined up the two countries have become. Consider the fact that 30 years ago, we had about 200,000 residents of Chinese ancestry, whereas today, we have more than 1.2 million, more than half of whom were born in China or Hong Kong. That is more than five per cent of our total population.
China will continue to be our primary source of new immigrants (ahead of India, interestingly enough), and they already account for one in ten of those who live in our biggest city, Sydney. They make up the largest group of foreign students and are an increasingly important source of well-heeled tourism. Australians like and respect their Chinese population as polite, hard-working people who have integrated themselves well across the country.
On the trade front, China overtook Japan more than a decade ago as our biggest export market. Few developed countries in the world are as reliant as we are on China, which takes almost 30 per cent of our exported goods and services— worth A$ 110 billion a year — including iron ore and coal for its steel mills. In comparison, traditional Western trading partners, such as the EU and the US, account for only about ten and five per cent respectively.
Here lies the dilemma: Australia needs China for its future prosperity, but gets anxious about a new world order in which it would be too reliant on a totalitarian regime that is pushy in Pacific geopolitics. Our dependence on security arrangements with the US seems far less assured as that country becomes more insular, especially under President Trump.
New laws introduced to fight foreign influence on Australian politics (the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill) have upset the Chinese government, which is undoubtedly trying to shape a softer image of itself to Australians. The government’s Foreign Investments Review Board also blocks efforts by stateowned Chinese companies to buy or get involved in strategic infrastructure assets.
Isn’t this what world superpowers have always done, though? It is forecast, namely, that China will overtake the US as the biggest global economy by 2030. Great powers project authority, promote their values and culture and, above all, protect their trade routes and supply chains.
Australia will, therefore, be challenged to achieve a fine balancing act over the coming years: holding on to the Christian, democratic values of the West on the one hand, and on the other, the economic pragmatism of needing a powerful neighbour (and benefactor) that does not give a hoot about the former. The global power shift is well under way, and it’s a bit late now for fear.