While the Australian media is working itself into a frenzy over the jailing of Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu, the public seems to be forming a more pragmatic view of our relationship with China.

The Herald-Sun's Mark Knight on Mr Hu's imprisonment

The Federal Opposition’s attempts to whip up a new round of dog whistling over the arrest have fallen on deaf ears as the public accepts there are things that are outside the power of even a Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister.

But the failure of the Hu jailing to bite with the public may speak to a broader maturing in out attitude towards the emerging superpower to which our fortunes are so closely tied.

The latest Essential Report asks a series of questions about the Hu case that has dominated national headlines in recent weeks.
The results show we are less than outraged by Mr Hu’s incarceration:

- 63 per cent believe that Australian companies that do business in other countries should accept the laws of those countries, even if they are very different from their own.

- just 26 per cent believe that the Australian Government should intervene even if someone is unfairly treated.

- 58 per cent of people think the Prime Minister Rudd’s knowledge and experience of China will make no difference to how the Chinese Government handles the Stern case.

- And just 21 per cent of people are critical of the Government’s softly-softly approach (with 47 per cent not having a view one way or the other).

These findings can clearly be read a number of ways.

One interpretation is that unlike our Schapelle, Stern Hu is a dual citizen and not really one of ‘us’. Another is that we don’t really care about what happens to executives of big corporations.

But another, perhaps more optimistic reading, is that we are starting to accept the contradictions inherent in our relationship with China.

Here are just a few of those contradictions that stump me every time:

- Trade – China’s demands for our resources is keeping our economy afloat, but we live in constant fear of exporting jobs to China

- Security – we look East for economic security, but identify China as our main emerging military threat in the latest Defence White Paper

- Climate Change – the development of China is seen as blowing carbon emissions through the roof, yet it remains our best hope of driving renewable technologies on a commercial scale.

- Asset Sales – the Chinese Sovereign Fund exerts massive purchasing power around the globe, to the extent that it is the key bidder for local state assets like electricity. (ie we sell our assets to another government)

- Citizens – an emerging and vibrant middle class seeks prosperity, but turns a blind eye against the indefensible suppression of minorities in Tibet, the Uyghurs, the prison camps and the memory of Tiananmen.

For mine, China is something way too big and too important to be either pro or anti.

In fact, the idea of China as a nation is a big pill to swallow. I can accept New Zealand as a nation, Great Britain as a nation, even the USA, but more than one billion people emerging from a closed agrarian economy is way to big an idea to be confined to a flag.

Some of the most interesting thinking about China accepts this. China is not simple nation – it is an economic force that will change the world.  The official ‘State’ of China is part of the equation, but more important is the way its emerging middle class, or ‘New China’ relates to the rest of the world.

American writers like Niall Ferguson have accepted this in coining the term ‘Chin-merica’ – the focus moves from the State to the relationship between American capital and Chinese markets.

Likewise, a notion of Chin-stralia, helps resolve a lot of these contradictions by getting the past the idea of a nation ‘over there’ and starting to focus on the ways the relationship with China affects us over here.

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    • miantiao says:

      06:39am | 21/07/09

      Foreign organised violence in our capital against our own citizens.

      Arbitrary incarceration of Australian citizens.

      Unequal trade relationship in regard tariffs and taxes(don’t hold your breath waiting for that FTA).

      Polical pressure ensuring our leaders do not personaly welcome certain religious leaders and nobel peace prize winners.

      For sure, I’d say our relationship is maturing.

      Susidise rio and dump the ore, or sell it to Japan SK and Taiwan at below contract prices until the CCP get a handle on what market prices mean. There’s an idea for a stimulus package.

      all too eager to proverbial Australia when ore and share prices crashed, but when things began to look up for the Aussie miner and they decided(quite rightly and legally and with the approval of shareholders) they didn’t need Chinalco’s cash. Chinalco was a last resort for reasons recently made obvious.

    • miantiao says:

      06:56am | 21/07/09

      Pro or anti? I would have thought the issue was more about the rule of law in regard international trade practices in relation to Chinese justification for incarcerating an Australian business executive, and the implications for the future.

      BTW Today’s Onion is a crack-up, it’s been sold to the glorious and harmonious Yu Wan Mei Chinese Fish and Polymer injecting company.

    • RT says:

      08:53am | 21/07/09

      My guess is that the public is reserving judgement about the jailing of Hu until we learn something about what he is alleged to have done and what the Chinese intend to do about it.

      For all the media commentary pointing to the difference in the reaction to Hu and the Hicks case, I think it’s similar so far. The Hicks matter did not gain momentum in the public’s mind until he’d been incarcerated without trial for a year or more. He went on to spend 4 years in prison before trial and the issue seemed to be that no-one in our government wanted to ask our military allies, the US, to give Hicks the same justice that they’d given their own or other citizens in similar situations.

      I think the Chinese will bring Hu to court soon or let him go. I hope he gets fair treatment. But we don’t have the leverage to put pressure on the Chinese the way we do with the Americans, having so close a military alliance and cultural similarities.

    • iansand says:

      09:32am | 21/07/09

      You left out “Most people perceive the media as a weird place populated by hysterical drama queens and treat whatever they write with a very large grain of salt”.  The masses are pretty smart.

    • Geoff Cass says:

      11:47am | 21/07/09

      RT is being a absolutely huge optimist if he/she really believes that the Chinese will actually bring the Stern Hu matter to the front at any time in the foreseeable future. Thay want to be handed tghe contgrollijg intgerest in the Rio Tinto mining areas, and to be able to determine the price they want to opay for the ore.
      Their Government is used to having everything go whichever way THEY want

    • SB says:

      12:45pm | 21/07/09

      Dual citizen?  Hu lost his Chinese citizenship automatically when he received his Aussie passport, according to the Chinese law.

    • GO says:

      03:35pm | 27/07/09

      who told you that SB.  He will always ne Chinese according to Chinese law.  It Anglo Aussies and only Anglo Aussies who lose citizenship when obtaining another citizenship

    • Mike says:

      02:46pm | 04/08/09

      actually it’s probaly more a case of Australians dont really give a shit about anything much and this is just another example

    • johnv_au says:

      05:33pm | 04/08/09

      I want to know what law he broke and when that law was made maybe just after Rio refused under great pressure from goverment and public opinion to sell a large stake in its australian operation to the state run chinalco Lets set up india and taiwan and sell to them

    • Albert Fish says:

      11:51am | 19/08/09

      Stern Hu is not an Australian citizen. Some time ago the Chinese government downloaded the entire website: http://www.basicfraud.com
      and then got some advice upon the issues raised from a number of internationally recognised universities. The Law School at Cambridge has always been most helpful in that regard.

    • NellMendez19 says:

      03:38pm | 10/10/10

      A lot of specialists tell that credit loans help a lot of people to live the way they want, just because they can feel free to buy needed goods. Furthermore, banks offer commercial loan for all people.


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