Heated rhetoric casts shadow over future of Australian companies in China
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.