STEPHEN FITZGERALD AND LINDA JAKOBSON. Engaging with China does not mean being an agent of China

[A letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 February 2018]

Clive Hamilton conveys a message which must be challenged, namely the insinuation that any person who engages with the Communist Party of China (CPC) should be viewed with suspicion or as belonging to a CPC fifth column (“Powerful relations raises a red flag”, February 24-25). It is wrong and indeed damaging to Australia’s interests if people (Hamilton refers to unnamed powerful corporate figures) who have dealings with the CPC are to be looked upon as untrustworthy.

As for Hamilton’s warning that “it is a trap to believe that we now live in a Chinese world”, we wonder what world he lives in. It is undeniable that the rise of the People’s Republic of China affects us all. To ignore it would simply not be facing reality. We must learn to deal dispassionately with a government even if we abhor some of its policies and disagree with its political ideology.

Lastly, Hamilton’s piece contains several inaccurate references to Linda Jakobson’s work. For example, the piece states that Jakobson asserts that without Chinese investment we would spend less on hospitals and schools, so let’s not have any more “public spats” and just get on with it. In fact, in the piece Hamilton refers to, Jakobson and fellow China Matters board director Andrew Parker point out that because foreign investment makes up the gap between our savings and our investment needs, lower foreign investment means making hard choices between funding our investment needs or spending on welfare, hospitals and schools. Sloppy referencing and unsubstantiated accusations call into question the credibility of Hamilton’s claims.

Stephen FitzGerald, AO, chairman, China Matters
Linda Jakobson, CEO and founding director, China Matters



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2 Responses to STEPHEN FITZGERALD AND LINDA JAKOBSON. Engaging with China does not mean being an agent of China

  1. Jim KABLE says:

    I’ve just listened to Clive HAMILTON at the Adelaide Writers Festival – and he presents a quite disturbing argument of Chinese interference (money to political parties/threats to others/students/universities…) which needs proper investigation and explanation about what has been going on!

  2. My letter immediately following, in slightly revised form, is that published by the Canberra Times,19 February 2018

    In his anti-China campaign, Clive Hamilton (CT Feb. 19) has given his twist to legitimate policy concerns on several fronts.
    The first is about the malignant influence of multiple vested interests on Australian politics. In his book Scorcher (2007), Hamilton had highlighted then-PM Howard’s attempted sabotage of the Kyoto agreement stemming from the coal export industry’s covert influence.
    All forms of systemic distortion of our politics by special interests should be subject to our scrutiny and regulatory reform, and outright corruption stamped out. That Chinese interests are increasingly involved, and presenting new regulatory challenges, should not be surprising given China’s long-run economic success and the interdependence of our two economies.
    But neither should Chinese interests be subject to uniquely prejudicial discrimination. China’s economic success has been built (not uniquely) on a combination of market forces, public ownership and central planning, but also is giving much-needed weight to building an ‘ecological civilisation’.
    Hamilton’s second concern is about China’s responses to declining absolute US dominance in the Western Pacific region. But China is not unique in linking its commercial with its geopolitical interests. Any realist analysis acknowledges such linkages, whether in an existing great power (the US), a rising power (China) or a middle power. Clearly, such commercial-geopolitical linkages also pose particular regulatory and security issues for a host (and resource-rich) country such as Australia.
    Clive is spooked by the Chinese Communist Party and its ‘bosses’. Again, we need calm and realist analyses and not overtones of a resurrected McCarthyism, ad hominem arguments or guilt-by-association.

    Barry NAUGHTEN

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