Australia’s largest trading partner is flexing their economic muscles. Our PM is a fool, mate. In chess parlance, he made a Fool’s mate. It is awfully difficult to drum up business – our trade emissaries would have spent millions wining and dining the Chinese, attended uncountable trade shows with our commerce delegates and perhaps even kowtowed to the throngs of Chinese buyers privately. Keeping a customer is often harder than winning one. To win one, you spend big on the marketing campaign and make sure your offer is of better value in terms of price and quality. To keep a customer, we have to exert so much more effort and at the same time incur ongoing expenses to keep the customer happy – honour our commitments, deliver more than we promise, maintain good communication channels and if necessary, keep a close relationship closer. Fix any problems quickly, stay competitive by regularly reviewing the quality and price of our products/services and avoid doing or saying anything to upset the customer. It is simply common sense, any average business understands these basic tenets. Yet, what do Aussie politicians do? They embark on a campaign to annoy our biggest trading partner. In weighing up the nation’s security versus prosperity, they choose to harm our economy by deciding that China poses a clear and present risk to our security. In 4G communications, Edward Snowden had already abundantly showed that no nation is safe from being spied on. PRISM is the American National Security Agency’s code name for their program in harvesting internet communications, without our knowledge and therefore without our permission, on a grand scale. So, why would 5G suddenly become a new threat to our security? Data from our communications is the number one source of raw intelligence – it always has been. It is not something new just because Huawei is at the forefront of the technology. What is new is that a Chinese company is leading the world in internet technology that will likely make it the authority on the Internet of Things. So, Huawei 5G has to be slowed down so that the US can hope to catch up. The Huawei decision is the first of many Australian narratives to loudly and publicly side with the Americans – this is seen as a necessary strategy to affirm the ANZUS treaty and to be regarded as a reliable member of the Five Eyes nations. As I said, the Aussie political elites embarked on a Fool’s mate when they continue to assume that the military alliance with the US is the best guarantee for our ongoing security despite the one obvious fact, i.e look at where Australia is situated on the world map and look at where the world’s largest economic power has shifted to. Look at the other Asian nations that are located much closer to China. Their biggest trading partner also happens to be China – they have their grievances and disputes, but hey, they do not grab their megaphone and loudly lambast China whenever their mood dictates. Everyone plays the long game; they know the end-game is to survive and prosper, despite their political differences. The ASEAN members have most to lose from China’s initiatives to corral back islands that historically belonged to China in the South China Sea. Historical claims are not valid under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled in 2016 in the case brought against China by the Philippines in 2013. But, who is the PCA? Contrary to popular belief, the PCA is not an agency of the United Nations, which may be why China therefore continues to ignore that ruling. ASEAN’s response has been mute unlike that of the Americans and Australians. China’s neighbours prefer to carry on doing business with their largest customer whereas the latter two which are located very far away from the disputed islands have been sending their warships to the hotspot for “war exercises”. Recently, India and Japan have joined them to form the QUAD, a military alliance to further annoy and threaten the Chinese. “You make me your enemy and we will be your enemy”, China has declared. Scomo, please do not touch your chess piece. Your next move could checkmate us. Do not run your country by running it to the ground. Be alert and be aware but do not mess up the nation’s economy by messing with our biggest trading partner. Remember, they are our biggest customer and we do not berate our customers with loud accusations and publicly confront them over their internal issues that we do not fully understand.
As if to further show our ignorance of our standing in the real world, some prominent Aussies have been quick to promote the boycott of products made in China. As if that would make a dent to their economy. Don’t we know they call us small potatoes? We, as a country, are no bigger than any of their big cities. The volumes we buy from them is pittance. Such unfriendly strategies are self-defeating, they only add fuel to the fire. We joined in the chorus about Trump’s “China virus” and foolishly and unilaterally called for an independent investigation into the source of the virus. It seems they have already decided the source is China since they have called for the investigation to start in Wuhan. Recent discoveries have suggested the virus was already present in Italy, Spain and in the US in late 2019. We lambast the Chinese about the Uighurs, Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Not so long ago, we saw fit to shake our finger at them for the exploitation of child labour and of untold damage to the environment. We scoffed at their empty residential towers, the highways to nowhere and the cities that are devoid of people. All that to perpetuate the outdated crass belief of white superiority over all others. That a small country like Australia can stand on the world’s lectern and think we can dictate to a global power with our free speech (at times evidence-free) shows our haughtiness and misplaced arrogance. The world has been the poorer when leaders show lack of leadership in the necessary art of mutual respect and courtesy.
Please stop me. Pour me the wine and I shan’t whine anymore. Sai weng shi ma, yan zhi fei fu. 塞翁失马, 焉知非福 When the bandit chief loses his best horse, is it bad news or good news? The stallion came home with a horde of mares and foals! When the bandit chief’s son broke his leg, is it bad news or good news? He remained safely at home and didn’t have to fight the enemies in battle. In the conflict between China and Australia, it is definitely good news for me! I love rock lobsters but never could afford them regularly. When I was last in Singapore, just a few years ago, Aussie rock lobsters there were cheaper than ones here! Then, a 2kg lobster with yi-mein (Cantonese egg noodles) cost well over $400 in Adelaide. My host in Singapore gleefully shouted me that dish and saved 1/4 of the price. It didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense now. Sure, overseas customers can afford it more so why do they pay less? In 2009, at a G’Day USA function in LA, I was shadowing the waitress who was serving the most delicious Spencer Gulf king prawns. She was a pretty lass, bright and alive, but I was actually eyeing her prawns. Those were the best South Australian prawns I ever tasted. Freshest, sweetest, most succulent. Ever. I shall reveal how many prawns I had that night. But I found them in LA, not home where they came from. It didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense now. Why is it we can’t buy the world’s best king prawns here? They are local! I understand the rich people overseas are willing to pay for them but hey, they usually get them free in events such as the G’Day USA which are funded by us taxpayers. Similarly, the same applies to all the best produce we churn out. Many years ago, I found our best pears, peaches and plums in Hong Kong and Singapore. Prices weren’t much different but they get the best, handpicked, I suspect. We get the deformed ones, the smaller ones. We get the tasteless varieties, picked two seasons earlier and frozen just for us. It didn’t make sense then and it still doesn’t make sense now. A couple of years ago, my sister from London came to visit us. Her hubby loves French wine but he was finally swayed by some of the Barossa’s best. They were good enough for him to cart a box back. It’s hard to understand and even if some of them didn’t break in-transit, those premium wines were cheaper in the UK than the cellar-door prices we paid here in our backyard. It didn’t make sense then and it sure still doesn’t make sense now. I love a good steak too. Our Angus beef has a unique exquisite taste due to its marbling. But a good ribeye was reserved only for Christmas, and only when our good neighbours invite us over. My excuse? Only they have the sous vide machine! The price is simply unaffordable, since the Japanese and Singaporeans can outbid us for our steaks. But, there is good news on the horizon. China this week just banned another Aussie beef exporter. I think we will still have our ribeye this Christmas after all, even though our good neighbours cannot come back in time due to the pandemic.
China has stopped buying wine from us. I know, I know we should be happy as we get to enjoy our great wines at a low price. I shan’t whine about it but I just realised my wine collection has depreciated in value by a lot! A good excuse to drink more, I suppose. Cheers!