ABC News Item, 1 October 2021 …. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-01/perth-china-mcgowan-consul-general-forrest-trade-aukus-business/100502212
- Tensions between China and Australia rated little mention at an event in Perth
- The WA Premier said eastern states fail to appreciate China’s importance
- The Chinese Consul General in Perth considers the bilateral relationship strongP
While political tensions between Beijing and Canberra were largely left aside, WA Premier Mark McGowan used an event with the state’s top Chinese diplomat to lament the eastern states’ failure to acknowledge China’s contribution to Australia’s economic success. Neither Mark McGowan nor Consul General Long Dingbin made mention of their nations’ ongoing trade war, the AUKUS deal and the nuclear submarines that come with it, or the fact Australian Federal Ministers cannot get their Chinese counterparts to pick up the phone.
As guests of honour, alongside mining magnate Andrew Forrest, they both highlighted the strong relationship WA had with China at the China Australia Business Council event to celebrate the 72nd Chinese National Day.
WA ‘supported the nation’
During his speech, Mr McGowan suggested Australia’s eastern states failed to realise the importance of Australia’s relationship with China. “It has been a large part of the economic success and the cultural success of our state and our country for 50 years, and in particular over the last two years,” he said. “Where would the country have been, but for our strong economic performance here in Western Australia? And I think that perhaps that needs to be better appreciated in the eastern states of Australia.”
Mr McGowan said WA had supported the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic by keeping open industries which export to China. “A large amount of our exports do go to China, in fact the majority, and we are the nation’s biggest exporting state” he said. “For other states that don’t export much, they don’t really get that.”
He told the audience income generated by WA during the pandemic was going towards helping other states battle outbreaks and lockdowns.
Consul General lauds McGowan leadership
WA’s new China Consul General had praise for the Premier and a positive assessment of the Chinese Australian relationship.”It has been nearly six months since my arrival in Perth in April and I am so glad to see that with the strong leadership of Premier McGowan’s government the pandemic has been brought under control,” Consul General Long said. “And I am very glad to see that we are having a strong relationship between China and Australia.”
Consul General Long said China and Australia should look towards celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations in 2022. “I think all of us should do something for the 50th anniversary,” he said. “Let’s join hands together with endless effort for a smooth and healthy development of the China Australia relationship, which is beneficial for both of us, as well as the Asia Pacific region.”
Tensions are a business concern
The hosts of the event acknowledged the two nations’ diplomatic tensions more overtly. David Sun, from the China Chamber of Commerce in Australia, quipped that the heightened tensions made as little sense to him as the COVID-19 driven panic buying of toilet paper in Australia.
But President of the Australia China Business Council in WA, James Clarke, told the ABC the relationship was a concern for the business sector. “What we call ‘second track diplomacy ties’ are extremely important in a time where the bilateral relationship is where it is at,” he said. “Things might be happening on the surface, there might be political issues, but business is very keen to make sure that those ties remain strong so that the economy keeps on moving, business keeps on moving forward.”
“China is our largest trading partner so we can’t do without it.”
Neither the Premier nor Consul General were available to take questions.