By Denis Bright
Six centuries ago the legendary Admiral Zheng He traded across the Indian Ocean Basin to East Africa, the Persian Gulf and possibly Northern Australia. China was transformed and strengthened by this early globalization.
Is this a model of globalization which can be extended centuries later by contemporary Maritime Silk Road Initiatives and Continental Transportation routes to Europe?
The Financial Times reported that the federal LNP had rejected the best offer of the New Century from China. Prime Minister Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had just met in Beijing. The Trump Administration’s agenda for Asia was still uncertain, just a few weeks after the Inauguration:
Australia has rejected a Chinese push for a formal alignment of Canberra’s A$5bn state infrastructure fund with Beijing’s New Silk Road strategy, over concerns it could damage relations with the US at a time when it is asking Washington to do more in the region.
The Chinese initiative, also known as One Belt One Road, envisages investing almost $1tn in port, road and rail projects overseas-and Beijing has been pressing Asia-Pacific economies to sign up to its vision.
But Canberra has confirmed there will be no agreement over the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility during a trip to Australia this week by Premier Li Keqiang.
“No formal memorandum on this issue will be signed during the visit,” said one Australian official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Mr Li’s trip comes at a tricky time in Sino-Australian relations. Canberra is pressing Washington to bolster its presence in the region and taking a tougher line on inward investment from China, recently blocking two high-profile takeovers.
Last week Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, called on the administration of Donald Trump to expand the US role in Asia to ensure stability and peace.
“While non-democracies such as China can thrive when participating in the present system, an essential pillar of our preferred order is democratic community,” she said in a speech in Singapore, which drew an icy response from Beijing.
Like former foreign minister Andrew Peacock, Julie Bishop should not be dismissed as just another G’Day USA foreign minister.
The issue of a potential deepening of relationships with China through Silk Road Initiatives has re-surfaced according to Fergus Hunter’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Turnbull government has distanced itself from a central theme of the Trump administration’s new national defence strategy, which defines growing Russian and Chinese military might as greater threats than terrorism.
The American strategic outlook, unveiled earlier this month by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, elevates “inter-state strategic competition” as the administration’s primary focus and outlines Russia and China as revisionist powers seeking to challenge the US, undermine free and open economies, grow their militaries and “shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model”.
But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday said neither country posed a military threat to Australia – a statement at odds with an earlier response from Defence Minister Marise Payne, who said Australia shared “similar concerns” to those expressed in the US defence strategy.
“We have a different perspective on Russia and China, clearly. We do not see Russia or China as posing a military threat to Australia,” Ms Bishop told Sky News.
We continue to work closely with China. We undertake military exercises with China as well as other countries in the region and will continue to do so.”
Julie Bishop deserves strong bipartisan support in fairly evaluating China’s proposals.
The Trump Administration’s preferred rank order of our Indo-Pacific Friends is a recipe for an Australia that is locked into the old resources and rural sector first model of development. Expect more Adani Mines and Cubby Cotton Stations. There is also the recent add-on of arms exports manufactured under the tutelage of the global military industrial complexes.
There are no federal LNP plans for Australia as a regional global financial hub. China’s offer strengthens the style of capitalism which future Australian governments decide to pursue.
The Chinese offer of assisting the North Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF) should be a central ingredient of a Bill Shorten social market agenda. Compare this with the latest variations of the $1 billion loan by the federal LNP to fund the Adani Railway Link:
Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has quietly explored the option of taxpayer support for Adani’s embattled coal project through Australia’s export finance agency.
The Export Finance and Investment Corporation (EFIC) has confirmed it held “exploratory” talks on Adani with the office of Mr Ciobo, who last year ordered the agency to resume financing local mining projects after banks shied away from the coal sector.
EFIC also confirmed it had repeated dealings with Adani.
However, the agency — in answers last month to questions on notice from a Senate Estimates Hearing — said it was “not currently considering funding any coal projects”.
The prospect of a loan or a guarantee from EFIC would give Adani’s controversial project an alternative path to taxpayer support, after the Queensland Government shot down its bid for a $1 billion loan through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.
Back In 1961, Labor aced every federal seat in Northern Australia except Dawson in a cliff-hanger election. Six federal seats north of the Sunshine Coast are now easily winnable on a progressive North Australia Agenda. Federal Labor can achieve majority government by these gains alone.
Melissa Price in Durack (WA) maybe be the only federal LNP member left to represent Northern Australia in the House of Representatives if Labor can consolidate an imaginative Northern Development Agenda that incorporates Maritime Silk Road Strategies.
The sprawling Durack Electorate in WA has a current 11 per cent buffer after preferences. Swings of this magnitude have been achieved in the past. When the appeal of Northern Development becomes overpowering, even an existing LNP primary vote of 41.7 per cent in Durack may not be a sufficient buffer.
Labor’s Dr. Rex Patterson achieved a swing of this magnitude in the Queensland federal electorate of Dawson at a historic by-election in 1966. The seat was retained until the LNP landslide of 1975.
Welcome to the new era of sustainable development for Northern Australia with an empathy of current trends in regional unemployment and Indigenous disadvantage.
Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.