Heated rhetoric casts shadow over fu­ture of Aus­tralian com­pa­nies in China

Global Times - - Biz Comment - By Hu Wei­jia The au­thor is a re­porter with the Global Times. bi­zopin­ion@ glob­al­times.com.cn

Anti-China rhetoric from Can­berra is bound to crip­ple the fu­ture of Aus­tralian com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in China, al­though this is the last thing Bei­jing wants to see.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2018 West­pac Aus­tralia-China Busi­ness Sur­vey, cited by Bloomberg News, al­most 80 per­cent of more than 160 Aus­tralian busi­nesses are op­ti­mistic about their op­er­a­tions in China over the next year. It’s an op­ti­mistic view, but it’s also un­jus­ti­fied.

Aus­tralian com­pa­nies’ op­ti­mism is a re­sult of their con­fi­dence in the Chi­nese econ­omy, in­stead of what some ob­servers have sug­gested: that Aus­tralian busi­nesses in China can re­main im­mune to Can­berra’s anti-China rhetoric.

In March, a sur­vey re­leased by the China-Aus­tralia Cham­ber of Com­merce, which also high­lighted an op­ti­mistic view about do­ing busi­ness in China, showed a ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralian en­ter­prises have ex­pe­ri­enced growth of rev­enues and prof­its dur­ing the past two years in the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy.

How­ever, bi­lat­eral ten­sion has been a source of con­cern, with more than 90 per­cent of re­spon­dents say­ing they see pos­i­tive bi­lat­eral ties as be­ing im­por­tant to their busi­ness growth in China.

Pol­i­tics is bound to af­fect eco­nomic ties. Aus­tralian com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in China are likely to be the first vic­tims of anti-China sen­ti­ment among Aus­tralian politi­cians.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been re­strained about Aus­tralia’s un­friendly moves, but the anti-China sen­ti­ment has made some Aus­tralian peo­ple un­easy amid sour­ing bi­lat­eral ties.

Me­dia re­ports claim­ing that no Aus­tralian cab­i­net mem­ber was given a visa to at­tend the 2018 Boao Fo­rum for Asia ear­lier this month have sparked con­cerns over bi­lat­eral ties. Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang has said that the re­ports were un­founded.

But such re­ports show Aus­tralian politi­cians are ner­vous amid stepped-up anti-China rhetoric. Aus­tralian busi­nesses in China will soon take a more pes­simistic view of con­di­tions in the coun­try.

China doesn’t want the sit­u­a­tion to worsen, but if Aus­tralia con­tin­ues to stir Chi­nese anger, Bei­jing is un­likely to turn a blind eye.

Ru­mors will start to fuel anx­i­ety among Aus­tralian busi­nesses in China.

Things may get even uglier given Aus­tralia’s eco­nomic com­ple­men­tar­ity with China. Data from the Aus­tralia China Busi­ness Coun­cil showed that about one in 58 Aus­tralian jobs was sus­tained by di­rect ex­port ac­tiv­i­ties to China in 2011. The Aus­tralian econ­omy will have to pay the price of the an­tiChina sen­ti­ment aroused by its own gov­ern­ment.

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