Making Your Luck
The following is a reconstruction of a Powerpoint presentation I gave in Perth, Western Australia at the invitation of those who wanted me to speak on the question of whether Australia could remain "the Lucky Country".
Countries, like people, have nicknames. Australia has been called the "Lucky Country" because it has been so rich and so secure for so long. But can this good fortune -- if fortune it is -- last? Back in the 1960s, there was an American television series called the Land of Giants about people who are transported by space warp to a mysterious planet where everything is many times larger than on Earth, whose inhabitants the Earthlings nicknamed the Giants. In that world, everything – including cats, dogs, mice, insects – was terrifyingly huge, forcing the formerly dominant humans come to regard them in fear.
The show’s premise could serve as a metaphor for the situation Australia finds itself in. In 1914, Australia was an outpost of the mighty British Empire, on whom the sun never set, whose navies girdled the globe. The British Empire's share of world GDP was 19.7% in 1913. Back then China produced only 8.8% of the world’s GDP, less than half the British Empire’s. A hundred years and a seeming space warp later Australia finds itself in the land of Pacific giants. The British Empire is no more. What’s left of the Royal Navy is on the other side of the world. Suddenly, like the TV show everything is big and frightening.
Giants can injure even without meaning to. Take Vancouver. A Bloomberg writes of it: "The money is arriving so fast, and in such volume, though, that standing by is no longer an option. Vancouver was perhaps the first major Western city to experience the full force of Chinese capital. Soon, it could be the first to learn what happens when you try to stop it." China is so big it can hurt you without meaning to. Not just Canada, but Australia, Africa, America but the whole world is feeling the impact of globalization. Yet too often China hurts not only by mischance but design. An article from the Wilson Center noted:
In June 2017 the New York Times and The Economist featured stories on China's political influence in Australia. The New York Times headline asked "Are Australia's Politics too Easy to Corrupt?," while The Economist sarcastically referred to China as the "Meddle Country."
The two articles were reacting to an investigation by Fairfax Media and ABC into the extent of China's political interference in Australia, that built on internal enquiries into the same issue by ASIO and Australia's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2015 and 2016. The media and official reports concluded that Australia was the target of a foreign interference campaign by China “on a larger scale than that being carried out by any other nation” and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was working to infiltrate Australian political and foreign affairs circles, as well to acquire influence over Australia's Chinese population.