Letter to the editor: Our greatest export is democracy

24 July 2018

By ATC member Ralph McKay
Published in the Australian Financial Review 27 June 2018

James Laurenceson’s “We need China in an age of Trump” (June 19) lacks basic rigour and balance. It’s a propaganda style piece presented as a scholarly work from the Australia China Relations Institute attached to the University of Technology Sydney.

Laurenceson refers to an open letter by “80 of Australia’s leading China scholars” concluding there is “no evidence” that China’s actions aim to compromise Australia’s sovereignty. No mention of the near 50 leading China scholars who signed an opposing open letter, many of whom are Chinese Australian.

The “no evidence” scholars group includes experts in things like Chinese gardens in the Ming dynasty. They invite expression of “as wide a range of viewpoints as possible, Chinese and non-Chinese alike”, yet in the same letter smear those expressing concern about the Chinese regime’s influence, by alleging a “racialised narrative of a vast official Chinese conspiracy”.

To understand the threat to Australia look to the invasion and suppression in Tibet, the tightening noose around Taiwan, the betrayed people of Hong Kong, the gross mistreatment of Nobel Peace Prize laureates the Dalai Lama and Liu Xiaobo and many more, the cunning no-shot-fired military capture of the South China Sea, and Clive Hamilton’s book “Silent Invasion“.  The Chinese regime is intolerant of opposing opinions and balanced debate.

Laurenceson is an economist. His repeated calls not to offend the Chinese regime rest solely on the growing dominance of Australia’s exports to China. Instead, he should be calling for an exposure limit to high risk economies, and more diversity.  India, the largest democracy in the world also has the fastest growing economy.

With tinted glasses Laurenceson ignores that which trumps all else – protection of basic human rights, fairness and freedom of expression. Over-trading with a country controlled by an authoritarian regime and shocking human rights record endangers the wellbeing of all Australians.

Compared to the Chinese regime Australia is a super power of democracy and human rights. Australia can use this power. Apply export limits to countries with governments that view democracy as its enemy. This will help seal the risk hole that Laurenceson wants to dig deeper. It will restore balance between long term security and short term profit. It will support the majority of Chinese who did not choose their dictatorial government.