Previously in the The Global Farmer ‘ I posed the question Is China to Australia what Russia is to Europe?’ I discussed Australia’s reliance on China for being by far Australia’s biggest export market. The heavy burden of dependence that the economy of Australia places on its mining industries is not often talked about by the majority of Australians. Maybe that is because it can cause a few uncomfortable thoughts, mainly what would happen if China stopped buying from Australia? What would be far worse though, is what would happen if China stopped supplying Australia?
The Five Eyes nations gather and share intelligence from around the world.
A study by a UK think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, last year examined the dependency of the Five Eyes countries—the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand— on China and found that Australia was by far the most exposed. The Strategist.
Europe is Exposed and it Hurts.
The political leaders in Europe, when they signed up to be reliant on Russia for fossil fuels, they gambled the welfare of some 400 million people and their industries, on being treated ‘properly’ by the communist Vladimir Putin and his Russia.
Europe knew full-well what Putin was like, they must have calculated the odds; they knew the character of the man and what he was capable of, but they trusted him just the same. Now Europe is being forced to accept a high price for trusting an ex KGB officer who became the ruler of the biggest country in the world.
Why Angela Merkle of Germany, Emmanuel Macron of France and the leaders of the other 25 countries in the EU trusted Putin, only they know. Apart from the Balkans War in the nineties there hasn’t been a major war in Europe for eighty years or so, but Europe knows war, it is written deep in their history, it is as if it is in their DNA.
Is this the end of Globalisation and Interdependence? What it Means for Australia’s Future.
The world has been thrown into turmoil by the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Every day as the Russians retreat, the bodies of men women and children, summarily executed, are found in mass graves or buried in back yards. Men with their hands bound, women raped; by the day it looks less like war and more like genocide. Europe is in shock because it cannot survive without Russian gas (LNG), coal and oil. Europe is Russia’s biggest customer for fossil fuels.
In an attempt to frustrate Russia’s invasion the world has placed sanctions on Russian exports of everything except fossil fuels. The world has frozen the accounts of Russian banks and all currency transactions. All Russian imports and exports have been stopped. The international community has frozen or repossessed the property of all the Russian billionaire oligarchs and their families, together with the assets of Russian politician’s and their families.
Russia is threatening to cut off gas (LNG) supplies to Europe unless they are paid in Russian roubles instead of Euros and Europe has said no, the contracts are in Euros. Europe knows the gas won’t be turned off because Russia needs the money.
Since the invasion began EU countries have paid the Russians €35 billion for gas compared to €1 billion it has given to Ukraine to defend itself. There is ample evidence that many countries in the EU are finding their own way, not Brussels way in this crisis and there are concerns that this show of independence may reduce the long-term value of the EU as a political force.
So much for interdependence and globalisation, particularly in Europe. It should keep national leaders awake at night struggling with the distressing realisation that they are funding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and so funding the killing of men, women and children, and at the same time they are sending rockets, missiles, ammunition and other articles of war to Ukraine, so they can kill Russians. How mad can the world get when you cannot manage your life without imports from your enemies?
For the sake of future generations, Australia must not give away its birthright for a mess of pottage.
I wrote the following after a long on-line discussion. It was the culmination of a larger debate about the real cost of renewable energy. I have tidied up a few phrases for clarity.
Thank you for your considered replies. I am in my eighties. My profession is agriculture from farming to science to agribusiness.
I have watched this country change substantially over the last 50 years or so. That we have largely lost our ability to be self-sufficient in some of the vital parts of our economy concerns me greatly.
Manufacturing jobs have been exported, it started way back when, when it was to Japan because their labour was cheaper than ours. Then there were others others like Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Russia for wool. Now we have China.
There was a time we were self sufficient in food, now we rely heavily on imports, our food processing and manufacturing industry has fled due, in the main, to high power costs, much of it has gone to NZ, where they now process Chinese produce and then send it here — we eat frozen Chinese fruit and vegetables.
The news that China accounts for thirty percent of Australia agricultural exports demonstrates how reliant the Australian rural economy has become on the People’s Republic of China.
That news caused some to question the wisdom of the marketers of Australian food and wine in placing such a heavy reliance on just one customer.
That is valid question, but did you know that China buys 30% of everything Australia exports.
Agricultural exports are just a mirror image of what is going on in the rest of the country. In 2017-18 Australia exported goods and services worth a staggering $123 billion to China equal to 6.7% of the Australia Gross Domestic Product.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
There now seems to be a general consensus within the community and especially within the agricultural community, that Australia’s reliance on China has lulled us all into a false sense of security. We have been complacent. We have been happy to accept the contribution China has made to our standard of living by making available to us a range of ‘goods’ at prices that have been more than acceptable.
We have been more than happy to receive their tourists in their tens of thousands and a similar number of students without whom some of our universities, especially the regional ones, cannot manage. There could well be cold economic winds this winter on some campuses.
China has infiltrated our lives to the extent that there is an argument that we cannot now manage without them.
But manage without them we must; we must change. China’s aggression towards Australia is a sober reminder that they are a communist totalitarian regime intent upon the control and subjugation of others including Australia.
“An economic rule states that one should never underestimate the inability of free marketers to use common sense,”
K J Galbraith 2006. Lincoln Journal.
One of the interesting aspects of the current debate on the behaviour of China towards Australia, after Australia asked for an enquiry into the source of Covid19, is that many of those who are well known as journalists and commentators, and even some hopelessly naive Australian politicians, and we have our share of them, have shown most clearly that they know little to nothing about the art of negotiation or as many of us know it by another name ‘bloodless warfare.’
It is well known that when it comes to selling their wares farmers around the world are weak, some weaker than others. It is also well known and oft quoted the statement by President J F. Kennedy “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” These days we would say ‘person’ but the statement remains correct. The question is what have farmers done, particularly in Australia, to redress what is an iniquitous situation?
Since I started this look at China and our reliance on them for some of our vital goods and equipment, as well as our reliance on them to buy our raw materials like coal, iron ore, beef and wine; the relationship between Australia and China has deteriorated considerably.
The outburst by the Ambassador of China, threatening our beef, wine and tourism relationships, simply because our government made a valid request that a pandemic that has brought this world into lock-down should be investigated and the source found, was nothing short of Imperial bullying from the Middle Kingdom.
The United States sent its war ships into the South China Sea a few days ago. Whether in retaliation or not, reports are that China has sunk a Vietnamese small boat, probably fishing; has rammed boats from Malaysia and locked its radar onto a Philippine warship, which is hostile and usually means you are about to be fired on.
This means that China is quite prepared to escalate tensions in the South China Sea in an effort to distract the world away from asking the question China must answer regarding the origin of Corvid19 from Wuhan.
It must be determined whether Covid19 came from the wet market, or escaped from what appears to be a very insecure laboratory in Wuhan. China owes that information to the world.
In 2018 Australia imported goods from China to the value of US$57.7 billion or A$77 billion with an average exchange rate of .75 That is nearly $6.5 billion a month, every month.
It came as a shock to almost everyone to learn recently that we import over 90% of the medicines we use and most of them come from China and America. If China doesn’t make the final product they do make many of the ingredients. This alarming fact may never have come to light without the outbreak of the COVID19 corona virus. If China stopped supplying us and or America with medicines, what would we do?
We no longer live in a world of ‘It can’t happen here’ Because we know it can. We rely on China for so much; over US$13 billion in electrical goods — that must be most of our TVs and phones surely? Is this a danger to our independence and sovereignty?
I wrote last year about the alarming and strategically dangerous state of our national fuel oil reserves, in as much as we hardly have any. Bill Shorten the Leader of the Opposition in a recent speech told his audience that, “Right now, we have just 23 days of jet fuel, just 22 days of diesel and only 19 days of automotive gas.(petrol)” He added that when Prime Minister he would fix it. The Prime Minister, Scot Morrison, has not mentioned the problem, maybe he doesn’t want us to know?
Both of our would-be leaders are more interested in the show-time of denigrating each other and so winning the upcoming election — the security of the nation runs a distant second to getting their hands on the keys to The Lodge and even better, Kirribilli House.
‘When you’ve got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.’
Australia and its sophisticated agricultural industry have to decide whether they want to be a feeder of others, or be fed by others. Don’t laugh at that. Of course the world can feed Australia— it’s already started as we increasingly become more reliant others for food. We have no more people in this country than there are in a couple of big Chinese cities and we are an attractive proposition to feed, if only for access to our resources and for what food we can produce that others can’t. I read somewhere recently that China would only have to increase its horticultural production by about 3% and it could feed Australia. Think about that and the global fresh food trade. There are Egyptian oranges for sale in my town. So how important are we to China and how important is China to Australia? You may be surprised.