A PRC Perspective on Australia-China Relations: Why Does Australia Always have a Problem with China?

Published in December 2020 on the WeChat microblog public account entitled “Otter Quick Points” 奥特快谈 The article was then copied onto the website of the Observer Guancha 观察者 and many other PRC websites. I added links to YouTube videos mentioned in the text. Chinese original text follows the translation.

Why does Australia Always have a Problem with China? They’re not that Weak and We’re not that Strong.

December 08, 2020

  Original title: Otter Quick Talk: Why does Australia always have a problem with China?

  [Article by Zhou Xueling, Wu Cuiting, and Liu Qian]

  In April 2008, the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited China and gave a high level speech in Chinese at Peking University, in which he popped up every now and then several references to “Kang Youwei”, “Diary of a Madman”, “May Fourth Movement” and so on. “He began with the phrase “Peking University is the most famous university in China,” and then paused for two seconds before saying, “Don’t tell Tsinghua University [1]. “

  At the time when some European and American countries were boycotting the Beijing Olympic Games, Rudd took a clear stand on China’s side, saying he was China’s “honest friend”. In an interview with CCTV, he even recited the phrase “There is a friend in the sea, and the sky is like a neighbor” in Mandarin, as if he were an old friend of the Chinese people.

  As a Chinese generalist, Rudd majored in Chinese literature and Chinese history at university and worked as a diplomat in Beijing. Before coming to China, Rudd was interviewed by Phoenix TV’s Ruan Jishan. He remembered to pat himself on the back, saying, “My wife and I especially like Beijing, especially the atmosphere, the people, and the culture.” But after the ass-kissing, Rudd came back with a sentence: I am still 100% foreigner.

  Later, when the program aired, the battle-hardened Ruan Jishan added a voiceover: “He is, after all, the leader of Australia, and in many ways has his own set of interests or values, including those of Australia itself, so we can’t expect all his policies to coincide with China’s.”

Kevin Rudd speaking at Peking University, 2008 Kevin Rudd speaking at Peking University, 2008

  Twelve years on, China-Australia economic ties remain strong, but the Australian government is on the front-line of China’s oppoents. In April 2020, Australia couldn’t wait to propose an “independent investigation” into the source of the pandemic, and in July it made a series of comments on Hong Kong and the South China Sea issue, and in November it reached a Reciprocal Access Agreement with Japan to deal with China. Not long ago, Australian Prime Minister Morrison went on a tear over a satirical cartoon created by a Chinese artist.

  In addition to sparing no effort to blacken China’s name, Australia has done a series of damaging and confusing things over the past few years. In August 2018, Australia banned Huawei 5G on security grounds, leading to a sharp increase in costs for its domestic telecom network operators. in early 2020, Australia launched an anti-dumping investigation into China’s exports of aluminum and steel and A4 paper, triggering Chinese retaliation and provoking a lose-lose China-Australia trade war ……

  There is a clip from the Australian drama Utopia, released in 2017, that is particularly appropriate for the moment. The protagonist takes a defense White Paper and tells all the officials in the audience to say what they intend to use the money for, otherwise they will not be able to explain to the Prime Minister. After a lot of stammering, they conclude, “To spend $30 billion a year to protect trade with China from the Chinese threat.” The irony is overwhelming.


On one side, a fierce fight in the economic and trade arena, and on the other, tit-for-tat of diplomatic rhetoric. From the South China Sea issue, Hong Kong issue, human rights issue surrounding women and menstruation, the Australian government rushed to the front line to repeatedly speak from the hip. Meanwhile, from coal barley, to red wine lobster, China’s countermeasures came in response. The once frank friends became opponents. Considered in the context of the backlash to globalization, Australia may be a microcosm of a larger picture of changing international rules.

  I. Ore: the winner and loser of China-Australia trade

  In 2018, Australia’s exports to China were 35.5% of total merchandise exports while imports from China amounted to 24.1% of total merchandise imports. China was Australia’s top trading partner for both imports and exports. Of the $23.2 billion in net exports from Australia, the surplus with China was a whopping $58.2 billion, meaning that without China, Australia would have fallen from a trade surplus country with seemingly healthy numbers to a trade deficit country. The deficit would have been even larger than its current surplus.

  In 2018, China accounted for 35.5% of Australia’s total exports more than the second, third and fourth places Japan, South Korea and India combined.

  As Australia’s “Customer #1”, China has been conducting anti-dumping investigations on wine, imposing an additional 80% tariff on barley, and imposing embargoes on lobster and coal in light of Australia’s constant trouble. However, Australia’s official attitude has become more assertive, just like “Grandpa B”.

  The key to this is that aggregate advantage does not mean structural advantage. If we break down the categories of Australia’s imports to China, 44 percent of iron ore, 12 percent of coal, and 11.4 percent of LPG, minerals alone account for 76 percent of Australia’s total exports to China, and these are the raw materials and energy indispensable for China’s economic construction.

 In 2018, Australia’s exports to China, iron ore (Iron Ore) accounted for nearly half while wine, barley, etc. only accounted for a marginal portion of exports.

  This is particularly apparent for iron ore, China’s iron ore imports accounted for 62.2% of the world’s total imports, while Australia’s iron ore exports accounted for 50% of the total exports. This means that if China does not buy Australian iron ore, there is not enough iron ore in the world for China to use.

  China’s own iron ore reserves are substantial however Chinese iron ore has a low iron content. That leads to greater pollution and so it is not cost-effective. The second largest exporter, Brazil, has a high iron content, but the shipping distance is three times that of Australia – China, and the freight difference alone accounts for about 5% of the domestic iron ore price, and transportation takes nearly a month longer.

  Therefore, China seems to have taken a swipe at Australia’s trade goods, but in reality it has not touched the sensitive parts at all. China may not dare to move this vital part easily until it finds a substitute for Australia.

You need to cross three oceans to get from Brazil to China, much further than Australia

  Can we find a replacement for Australia? Yes: there is an unexploited Simandou mine in Guinea, western Africa, with huge reserves and high iron content. That mine has been tagged the “Pilbara Killer”. Pilbara is one of Australia’s proudest mining regions [2]. Chalco has been working on Guinea for ten years, but it is still five to ten years away from substantial production.

  Therefore, in the short term, China lacks a stable alternative to Australian minerals, and therefore Australia is naturally emboldened. However, China’s inability to find a replacement for Australian imports likewise means that Australia will find it difficult to find a major buyer outside of China.

  In the case of coal, for example, although Chinese imports account for only one-fifth of Australia’s exports, the embargo has already sent Australian coking coal selling prices below off-season levels, leaving upstream coal miners struggling. If China did strike a blow against Australian iron ore, which accounts for four-fifths of Australia’s exports, China would face high iron ore prices, but Australia may have to suffer paralysis of the entire iron ore industry. That could be described a big kill.

  Therefore, although overall China is in the driver’s seat as Ausralia’s A#1 customer, China and Australia also have “mutual headlock on one antoher. Although China dominates the trade with Australia than more than Australia dominates trade with China, it would be fairer to say that the economies of China and Australia are very complementary. You sell me iron ore, I sell you electronic and mechanical equipment and we both will have a bright future.

  Back in 2009, China was Australia’s largest export market and largest source of imports. In 2015 the two sides signed a China-Australia free trade agreement, benefiting 90 percent of trade goods entries. However, behind the seemingly flourishing China-Australia trade and economic relations, unease was growing.

  II. Prejudice: Japanese Yes, Chinese No

  When Kevin Rudd visited China in 2008, apart from giving a speech at Peking University, his main objective was to show Chinese leaders that he was “willing to open the door to Chinese investment in energy and raw materials”. In the decade since Rudd’s visit, Chinese investment in Australia has soared tenfold, involving industries ranging from mineral-based to mining, energy, entertainment, agriculture, real estate, and transportation.

  During the decade when Chinese buyers’ money power was running unchecked, Energy Australia was pretty much just a name with Australia, with control in the hands of a wholly owned subsidiary of CLP; Alinta, the energy giant that sells natural gas, the big boss was actually Chow Tai Fook, who sells jewelry. Tianqi Lithium’s investment in Australia has not only created local jobs, but also created a new lithium industry for Australia.

Between 2014 and 2017, Chinese investment in Australia rose significantly in a number of sectors, including tourism, transport, agriculture and real estate. Image credit: Reserve Bank of Australia

  However, even as Chinese capital has been involved in building Australia under an ideological bias, Australia has become increasingly hostile to Chinese capital, most typically exemplified by the case of Mengniu’s acquisition of LDD.

  In February this year, Mengniu reached an agreement with Japan’s Kirin Group to acquire the latter’s Australian milk processor LDD (Lion Dairy & Drinks). But after a six month review, the Australian Treasury Department eventually vetoed the deal on “security” grounds, so that LDD was eventually sold to Australia’s own Bega Cheese for a discounted price of A$40 million.

  LDD is a Japanese-owned company so even if sold to Mengniu it would be just a transfer from one source of foreign capital to another. In the hands of the Japanese, there was no problem. Chinese are a different story. In the end it was sold at a discount to Australia’s own people, it is clear that “the Japanese can, you Chinese just can not.

  This is precisely a reflection of Australia’s ambivalence towards China: mixed “greed and fear”. On the one hand, Australia wants to ride on the tailwinds of China’s rapid economic growth, from China’s rise selling more wool. On the other ideological prejudice makes it wary of China.

  In 1993, China Southern Airlines got a hundred-year leased Merredin Airport from the Western Australian government together with a Canadian airline for US$1 to open a flight school for 100 years, with equity shared equally with the Canadian airline. But China Southern Airlines took over, transforming the original two gravel runway Merredin airport by investing millions of dollars. It built asphalt runway, control tower, hangar and other facilities. This not only gave jobs to Australian flight instructors but also because of student purchases, boosted the local economy.

  But this project, paid for but not fully controlled by China Southern Airlines that benefited the local economy, was criticized in 2017 by The Australian newspaper that wrote “it is outrageous that Australian pilots cannot land at their own airport without Chinese approval.”

“Welcome to Meriden Airport wholly owned by China Southern Airlines Western Australia Flight Academy”

   In 2015, the government of Australia’s Northern Territory leased the Port of Darwin to China’s Shandong Lanqiao Group for 99 years. As the closest port to Asia, the Port of Darwin is strategically located. When the then US President Barack Obama heard about it, he was very unhappy and told Australia to “remember to give us advance notice next time [4]”.

  Even though the port of Darwin developed rapidly afterwards, Australia only discussed “how much of a threat would Darwin be in Chinese hands [5]?” and “When will we get Darwin back [6]?”

  Ironically, Chinese capital may seem overwhelming, but in 2019, for example, Chinese investment in Australia was only A$78.2 billion, accounting for only 2% of foreign investment in Australia that year. In the same year, investment from the United States amounted to A$983.7 billion, and while Chinese investment is not even a fraction of U.S. investment, 72% of Australians believe that “Australia approves too much Chinese investment”.

  In the growing climate of suspicion, the acquisition of Kidman’s ranch by China’s Da Kang Group (2016), the joint equity bid by State Grid and Hong Kong’s CKI for Power Grid Australia (2016), the acquisition of Australian gas pipeline company APA by Hong Kong’s CKI (2018), and even Huawei ZTE’s bid for Australia’s 5G project (2018), have all suffered setbacks.

  To reduce its economic dependence on China, Australia has also joined the trend towards decoupling from China. For example, it has promoted ecotourism and education to ASEAN, brought Taiwan on board to sign trade agreements, and even tried to transform itself into an industrialized country. This is also a reflection of Australia’s complex mentality towards China: it wants to make money from China, but fears being too dependent on China.

  As China’s economic power grows, this “greed and fear” mentality is gradually getting upended by ideological bias. Fear is overcoming greed, especially in restrictions on Chinese capital. This is one of the reasons for the deterioration of Sino-Australian relations. A more important reason is Australian politics.

  III. Palace Coups: the Curse of Australian Politics

  In June 2010, Kevin Rudd, the “honest friend” of the Chinese people, stepped down in disgrace, not because of a scandal or an election loss, but for a very third-world sounding reason – an internal party coup.

  As a result of the sudden announcement of tax increases on mining companies, the Australian government was met with strong opposition from mining owners and workers, and thousands of demonstrations broke out in many parts of Australia, causing support for Rudd and his Labor Party to plummet. The opposition within the Labor Party turned to Julia Gillard, Rudd’s deputy, and in the middle of the night of June 23, Gillard publicly announced that she would challenge Rudd’s leadership position, demanding that Rudd hold an election for party leader immediately.

  Gillard’s “coup” was described by the media as a “midnight political shootout”. Rudd immediately announced his resignation as he felt the momentum was over. Many Australians got up after a good night’s sleep to find that their country had a new leader. It was all very awkward.

Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard

  The coup d’état of Julia Gillard also opened the pandora’s box of the “palace coup”. In the decade that followed, Prime Minister of Australia changed hands six times, four times due to palace coups. A palace coup also brought in the current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

  Australia inherited the British system in which the majority leader of the parliamentary party is automatically the prime minister. However, unlike the British Parliament, which is elected once every five years, the Australian Parliament is elected once every three years, so there is more pressure to elect the Prime Minister. Moreover, fearing that their colleagues will use a public opinion poll to justify a palace coup, Australian prime ministers pay extra attention to public opinion, often sacrificing the long-term welfare of the country for the short-term favor of public opinion.

  Public opinion is indeed changing in a subtle way: in 1996, the number of people born in China was just over 100,000, ranking ninth. But in 2019, the number of people born in China is already up to 670,000, ranking second only to Australia’s former sovereign country, the United Kingdom. The increase in Chinese immigration has also brought with it the fine Chinese tradition of buying a home.

The number of immigrants from China has risen rapidly since 2009 and is in second place
Photo credit: Australian Bureau of Statistics

   After 2013, Australian house prices rose rapidly. Young Australians who could not afford to buy a house who were gradually joining the electorate blamed the rising prices on Chinese buyers. This, coupled with the increasing influence of Chinese capital in various industries, led to a growing anti-Chinese sentiment among the Australian people and a resurgence of the infamous “White Australia complex”. The undercurrent of public opinion finally blew up in 2017.

  The long-simmering suspicion of China finally found an outlet when the Australian Security Intelligence Organization ASIO accused Chinese businessmen of donating money to local politicians. As if catching a lifeline, Prime Minister Turnbull, who was in a precarious position in the polls, immediately introduced the Anti-Foreign Intervention Act, saying that it did not target any one country, but later shouted in Chinese in an interview, “The Australian people are standing up [7]!”

  The phrase “stand up” gave Turnbull a significant short-term boost in personal prestige, but sent Sino-Australian relations spiraling downward since 2017. Since then, China hawks have been on the rise in Australian politics, and anti-China lawmakers have formed a coterie of self-styled “Wolverines” to counter China’s “Wolf Warriors”.

  By 2019, Turnbull had been replaced by Morrison, who also made his way to the top by a force-out. One of the reasons Morrison won the parliamentary election that year and was re-elected prime minister was because of Clive Palmer, an anti-China demon.

  Clive Palmer, also known as Australia’s Trump, is also a big businessman (Palmer first made his fortune in real estate, but later switched to mining and now is ranked fifth in Australia in terms of wealth), also has some incredible ideas (Palmer once intended to rebuild the Titanic and build a Jurassic Park by cloning dinosaurs), and even their political slogans are surprisingly consistent.

Palmer’s campaign slogan: Make Australia Great

  But Palmer may have more Chinese roots than Trump. He claims to have lived in China for most of his childhood, and to have met Chairman Mao and the last emperor, Pu Yi [8]. After switching to mining, he made a fortune selling ore to China and at one point defended Chinese investment in Australia. But afterwards, due to business disputes with Chinese companies, he turned from a “good friend of the Chinese people” to a vanguard of Australian opposition to China.

  Palmer not only called China a “bastard” in words, but also said that China was “raping our country and our economy”[9] and even set up a small anti-China party, the United Australia Party, with tens of millions of dollars from his own pocket. United Australia Party). The United Australia Party constantly advocates that “the Chinese control our dairy products and real estate, and if this goes on, Australia’s children will have no milk and Australians will have no place to live [10].”

  The United Party of Australia also has its own YouTube channel, and in a video titled “Protect our Future”, the United Party claims that the Chinese government secretly controls Western Australia’s airports and ports and uses these important transportation hubs to pull the wool over Australia’s eyes. The video has received 3.44 million views. Another video attacking Meriden Airport has received 6.89 million views, a large number given that the total population of Australia is 25 million.


On the official YouTube account of the United Australia Party, the video attacking Meriden Airport was titled: A Security Message for Every Australian

  However, the influence of the United Australia Party in Australian politics is almost negligible due to its overly radical ideas and spicy slogans. But in the 2019 election, Palmer threw $60 million into advertising for the United Party, wildly attacking the relatively China-friendly Labor Party and advocating that China had bought the Australian Labor Party and used Labor politicians to infiltrate Australia.

  Although the coalition won only 3.5 percent of the vote after the election and did not win a single parliamentary seat, it did take away some of Labor’s votes, so much so that Morrison led the Liberal-National coalition to victory that year despite all the opinion polls showing that Labor would win, he was re-elected as Prime Minister of Australia.

  The fermentation of populist sentiment and the policy shift caused by the leaders’ extra attention to public opinion under the pathological “forced palace” system is the second reason why Australia is anti-China.

  Morrison, who came to power in a force-out, made a move to make that hard to do after his re-election in May 2019, by amending the bill to significantly raise the threshold for a “palace coup” so he has been sitting on the iron throne ever since. Now there are new variables in the China-Australia relationship.

  IV. The Dilemma: Follow Big Brother or Follow Big Money?

  In 2018, Netflix produced an Australian drama “Pine Gap“. The Pine Gap in the story is a town where the Five Eyes countries exchange intelligence, but the hottest topic in the town at the time was that Mr. Zhou, a representative of a Chinese company, was coming to buy land. This Mr. Zhou is not only contrary to the traditional European and American drama image of the Chinese short and thin, but also fit and elegant, and also had an underground affair with the wife of the American agent.

In “Pine Gap”, the fit man “Mr. Zhou” and the American agent’s wife are dating.

  The characters in the episode vividly reflect the delicate situation Australia is currently facing – on the one hand, a Chinese moneymaker is being hustled by town officials to get the economy going, and on the other hand, an ally from the United States is asking Australia to get its intelligence right. This is also a side note: China-Australia relations are never purely bilateral, and they cannot be understood outside the broader context of US-China relations.

  In the same month that Morrison was re-elected, U.S.-China trade talks broke down, a tariff war resumed, and U.S.-China relations deteriorated rapidly. This made it very difficult for Australia, which has long been “dependent on China for its economy and the United States for its security”. When the relationship between China and the United States is smooth, Australia is able to make its way between China and the United States without any pressure, but as China and the United States are drifting apart, if we have to stand in line, is it with Big Brother, the United States, or the big money, China?

  In July 2018, the United States asked Australia to take on China in the South China Sea to show its allies its determination to confront China’s “illegal actions”. Later, when the Australian state of Victoria signed a “Belt and Road” agreement with China, Pompeo went on a rampage, threatening to cut ties with Australia.

  In August 2019, Pompeo visited Australia, and during the symposium, an Australian think-tank mentioned that trade with China brings a lot of revenue to Australia, that Australia should not support the United States, and that “the United States will probably not win with China either”. It was this “America can’t win” that pissed off Pompeo, who made the straight-forward response: Yes, you can choose to trade your soul for someone else to buy your soybeans, but you can also choose to protect your people [11].

  Within a few months, however, the United States signed the first phase of the trade agreement with China – Pompeo had both protected his people and sold the soybeans, except that it was not his soul that was sacrificed, but Australia. A year later the China-Australia trade conflict erupted, and lobster farmers in Maine laughed when China refused to accept Australian lobster; European vintners laughed when China censored Australian wine; and the entire United States laughed when China called a halt to Australian meat imports.

  But even so, Australia still follows the U.S. lead in general. To understand this, one must look to Australia’s diplomatic and cultural psyche for answers.

  Australia, founded by British colonists and exiles, is culturally, linguistically and ideologically homogeneous with Britain and the United States. This makes Australia in reality obviously closer to its Asian neighbors, but psychologically it is more inclined to Europe and the United States, and is often suspicious of its Asian neighbors.

  In addition, the isolated geographical location of overseas makes Australia always have a kind of anxiety of being abandoned, and even fantasize that if a world war breaks out, it will soon be isolated and helpless. When Japan attacked Australia during World War II, Australia received minimal support due to its distance from both Britain and the United States.

  This sense of insecurity makes Australia badly want to find someone to provide security. Before World War II, it was Britain; after World War II, the disintegrating British Empire could no longer provide security for Australia, and Australia quickly turned to the United States, and made the U.S.-Australia alliance the cornerstone of Australia’s foreign policy.

  Doubts and anxieties, along with ideological biases, have been amplified by the rise of China and the “withdrawal” of the United States during the Trump era. So much so that security needs have eventually overridden economic considerations. The Australian government believes that “it is not enough to wait for the return of the United States; Australia must prove that it can and will do more [12].” In our Chinese parlance, this is called “swearing an oath and demonstrating their allegiance”.

  In an era of increasingly fierce Sino-American rivalry, pressure from the United States and their own anxiety about security issues, showing loyalty by being more aggressively anti-Chinese is the third reason for Australia’s anti-Chinese stance – even if the cost of doing so is $172 billion in Sino-Australian trade and Australia’s $51 billion trade surplus.

  V. Epilogue: When the Logic of Security Overrides the Logic of Efficiency

  For a long time, it was thought that economic and trade relations were the ballast of diplomatic relations and that there was nothing that could not be solved with money as long as business was doing well.

  However, in 2016, the trade volume between China and the United States was US$578.67 billion but nonetheless Trump was still able to reduce the importance of that once powerful stabilizing factor in US-China relations. Although China-Australia trade volume is not as large as the trade between China and the United States, China is Australia’s largest source of surplus, it would be reasonable to say that there is no reason to overturn the table, all this has already caused quite some trouble for Australia and China.

  Not only the U.S. and Australia, but in recent years, Japan’s new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has also called for key supply chains to be relocated back home from China, and Europe has said it wants to step up its scrutiny of Chinese investment. In terms of economic logic, none of the principles of trade wars, relocating supply chains or strengthening capital reviews are about maximizing efficiency. Instead they increase costs and are therefore are hard to understand.

  But efficiency first only works in a world where economic logic takes precedence, and what if the underlying logic of the world changes?

  In July this year, Robert Lighthizer, the flag bearer of trade wars, published an article in Foreign Affairs systematically expounding his trade ideas. He argued that U.S. trade policy should strike a balance between efficiency and security and follow a balanced, worker-centered trade path. Although Lighthizer’s argument revolves around trade, he is essentially saying that the underlying logic of the world is changing from efficiency first to security first.

  Not coincidentally, in August of this year, the Centrica Strategy team, in a report titled “Where are the investment opportunities under the internal cycle as the mainstay? The starting point of the “inner circle” is that security is more important than efficiency in the “protracted war” between the U.S. and China.

  When China and the United States, the two most influential countries in the world, begin to put security before efficiency, it must mean that the world will eventually enter the era of security over efficiency. In other words, in the past, we can concentrate on money, but now we would rather make less money, but also raise high the flags of ideology. “Standing in line” may be a key word for the next decade or so.

  For China, as its economic indicators and comprehensive national power grows steadily, old friends will grow old, young and strong people who are tough on China will enter the political arena, former “friends” will change their positions one after another, and more and more attacks and prejudice against China will probably be the norm in the future. Instead of holding a telescope to observe whether the Western world supports and insults China, we should hold a magnifying glass and focus on solutions to our own problems.

  They are not that weak, and we are not that strong.

  (This article was originally published in the WeChat public number “Otter Talk” and has been reprinted with permission by the Observer.


  [1] Kevin Rudd: Australia and China should be “honest friends” beyond short-term interests, China Youth Daily, 2008.04.10

  [2] Could China replace Australian iron ore with metal from Africa?

  [3] Wine, Lobster, Copper … What’s at Stake in Our Trade Tensions withChina? 2020.11.06

  [4] ‘Let us know next time’: How Obama chided Turnbull over Darwin portsale, AFR, 2015.11.18

  [5] Push for Darwin Port to be nationalised to end Chinese ownership ofstrategic northern assets, ABC, 2019.08.04

  [6] Security concerns sufficient to ‘break China’s lease on the Port ofDarwin’, Sky News 2020.05.19

  [7] ‘The Australian people stand up’: PM defiant over Chinese politicalinterference, SBS, 9.12.2017

  [8] Palmer says Chinese companies are raping Australia’s resources, Australianmining, 2014.2.7

  [9] Go back to China: Clive Palmer’s tirade, the Australian, 2020.12.6

  [10] What will our babies be fed?

  [11] Speech on AU/US Alliance with Secretary of State Pompeo, AustralianGovernment, 2018.08.04

  [12] The World in a Vise: Sounding the Alarm on China, Then Running forShelter, The New York Times, 2020.12.06

  [13] Trump’s Trade Policy Is Making America Stronger, ForeignAffair, 2020.07.20

  [14] “Where Are the Investment Opportunities Under the Internal Cycle as the Mainstay? , CTA Strategy, 2020.8.15

  [15] “The collusion of elites – a study of Australian public opinion on China”, International Forum, 2019.05

  [16] Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia, KPMG, 2020.06.09

Keywords : Australia Australia Kevin Rudd Beijing

(This article was originally published in the WeChat public number “Australia Summary” and has been reprinted with permission from the Observer.)

澳为何总和中国过不去?他们没那么弱 我们没那么强

2020年12月08日 08:45 观察者网缩小字体放大字体收藏微博微信分享0



  2008年4月,时任澳大利亚总理陆克文(Kevin Rudd)访华,在北大发表了一个High Level的全中文演讲,隔三差五蹦出几个“康有为”、“狂人日记”、“五四运动”等词,对一些老梗也如数家珍,开场先来一句“北京大学是中国最有名的大学”,然后停顿两秒后又来一句:“别告诉清华大学[1]。”








  01 矿石:中澳贸易的胜负手

  2018年,澳大利亚向中国的出口,占据了商品总出口的35.5%,从中国的进口,占商品总进口的24.1%,进出口排在第一位的都是中国。在澳大利亚净出口的232亿美元中,对华顺差高达582亿美元,也就是说,如果没有中国,澳大利亚会从一个数据看似健康的顺差国,瞬间变成逆差国,而且逆差额会比现在的顺差还大。  2018年,中国占了澳大利亚总出口的35.5%比第二三四名日本、韩国、印度加起来还多


  这其中的关键在于:总量优势不代表结构优势。如果把澳大利亚对中国进口的品类掰开看,有44%的铁矿石,12%的煤,11.4%的石油气,光是种种矿产品就占了澳对中总出口的76%,而这些正是中国经济建设不可或缺的原材料和能源。 2018年澳大利亚对华出口中,铁矿(Iron Ore)占比将近一半而红酒、大麦等只占了个边角豆腐块



  因此,中国看似对澳大利亚贸易品手起刀落,实际却根本没动要害部位。在找到澳大利亚的替代品之前,中国可能也不敢轻易动这个要害部位。 从巴西到中国要途径三大洋,比澳大利亚远得多


  能不能找到澳大利亚的替代品呢?能:非洲西部的几内亚有一座尚未开采的西芒杜(Simandou)矿山,储量巨大、含铁量高,诨名叫“皮尔布拉杀手(Pilbara Killer)”——皮尔布拉正是澳洲引以为豪的一大产矿地区[2]。中铝在几内亚上已经砸了十年,但离真正投入生产,还有5到10年时间。





  02 偏见:日本人可以,中国人不行


  在中国买家钞能力横行的十年间,澳大利亚能源公司(Energy Australia)跟澳大利亚的关系差不多只剩下了名字,控制权掌握在中电集团的全资子公司手里;卖天然气的能源巨子阿林塔(Alinta),大老板其实是卖珠宝的周大福。天齐锂业在澳洲的投资不仅创造了当地就业,还生生为澳大利亚创造了一个新的锂产业。2014年至2017年,中国在旅游、运输、农业、地产等多个部门的对澳投资明显上升。图片来源:ReserveBank of Australi


  今年2月,蒙牛与日本麒麟集团达成协议,意欲收购后者旗下的澳洲牛奶加工商LDD(Lion Dairy & Drinks)。但在6个月的审查后,澳洲财政部最终以“安全”为由否决了这一交易,以至于LDD最终被折价4000万澳元“贱卖”给澳洲本土的贝加乳酪公司(Bega Cheese)。




  但就是这么一个南航出钱却不完全控股,还利好当地经济的项目,在2017年被《澳大利亚人报》说成“不得到中国人批准,澳大利亚飞行员就不能在本国机场着陆,真让人愤怒。” “欢迎来到中国南航西澳飞行学院全资拥有的梅里登机场”








  03 逼宫:澳大利亚的政治症结


  由于突然宣布对矿业公司加税,澳大利亚政府遭到矿企业主和工人的强烈反对,澳洲多地爆发数千人的示威游行,陆克文和所在的工党支持率大幅下跌。工党内部的反对派转而支持陆克文的副手茱莉亚·吉拉德(Julia Gillard),6月23日半夜,吉拉德公开宣布挑战陆克文的领导地位,要求陆克文立刻举行党首选举。




  民意也确实在发生潜移默化的变化。1996年的澳洲,出生地为中国的人只有10万出头,位列第九。但是2019年,出生地在中国的人已高达67万,位列第二,仅次于澳洲前宗主国英国。中国移民的增加,也带来了中华民族的优良传统——买房。 来自中国的移民者数量从2009年来迅速上升,位居第二图片来源:Australian Bureau of Statistics




  到2019年,特恩布尔已被同样是逼宫上位的莫里森取代,莫里森在当年的议会选举中爆冷胜出得以连任总理,原因之一就是靠反华狂魔克莱夫·帕默(Clive Palmer)。



  帕默不仅在言语上把中国称为“杂种”,还似曾相识地叫嚣中国“强奸我们的国家和我们的经济”[9],甚至自掏腰包几千万,成立了反华色彩强烈的小党澳大利亚联合党(UnitedAustralia Party)。不断鼓吹“中国人控制了我们的乳制品和房地产,这样下去澳洲的娃儿就没奶吃,澳洲人也会没地方住[10]。”

  澳大利亚联合党还在YouTube上开设了自己的频道,在一则名为“保护我们的未来”(Protect our future)视频中,联合党声称中国政府秘密控制了西澳大利亚的机场和港口,并利用这些重要交通枢纽薅澳大利亚的羊毛。这条视频播放量高达344万。另一条攻击梅里登机场的视频播放量高达689万,要知道,澳洲总人口才2500万。

 澳大利亚联合党的官方油管账号,攻击梅里登机场的视频标题为: 对每一位澳大利亚人都至关重要的安全信息





  04 两难:老大哥还是大金主?













  05 尾声:当安全逻辑盖过效率逻辑













  [2]Could China replace Australian iron ore with metal from Africa?, TheGuardian,2020.12.03

  [3]Wine, Lobster, Copper … What‘s at Stake in Our Trade Tensions withChina?, The Sidney Morning Herald,2020.11.06

  [4]‘Let us know next time’: How Obama chided Turnbull over Darwin portsale, AFR,2015.11.18

  [5]Push for Darwin Port to be nationalised to end Chinese ownership ofstrategic northern assets, ABC,2019.08.04

  [6]Security concerns sufficient to ‘break China’s lease on the Port ofDarwin‘, Sky News,2020.05.19

  [7]‘The Australian people stand up’: PM defiant over Chinese politicalinterference, SBS,2017.12.9

  [8]Palmer says Chinese companies are raping Australia’s resources,Australianmining, 2014.2.7

  [9]Go back to China: Clive Palmer‘s tirade, the Australian, 2020.12.6

  [10]What will our babies be fed?, Youtube, 2019.4.21

  [11]Speech on AU/US Alliance with Secretary of State Pompeo, AustralianGovernment,2018.08.04

  [12]The World in a Vise: Sounding the Alarm on China, Then Running forShelter, The New York Times,2020.12.06

  [13]Trump’s Trade Policy Is Making America Stronger, ForeignAffair,2020.07.20



  [16]Demystifying Chinese Investment in Australia, KPMG,2020.06.09关键字 : 澳洲澳大利亚陆克文北京

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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