US Republican Senator Rick Scott, one of the loudest China hardliners, recently urged Australia to join the US in a new “Cold War” against China.
If a Cold War is not the outcome Australia wants to see, then Canberra should be mindful of avoiding inappropriate statements from its officials or politicians that may echo what Scott urged. Due to escalating tensions between the two countries on multiple fronts – such as the Hong Kong affair, a US-led inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus origins, and a travel and study warning – China-Australia relations have been rapidly sliding to near freezing point. A new Cold War may only further jeopardize the already fragile relations between the two sides.
Of course, whether or not a real Cold War will break out between China and Australia depends more on whether Australia will adopt a Cold War mentality like the US when it comes to China-related issues.
For instance, the US government will likely revoke its authorization for Chinese state-owned telecommunications companies to operate in the US, in an apparent attempt to push forward a decoupling with China and ramp up attacks on Chinese businesses. Such discrimination against Chinese companies is something the Australian government needs to avoid. We have seen that Australia is planning to overhaul of its foreign investment rules from January 1, 2021. While some media outlets believe changes will be made to tighten scrutiny over investment by Chinese companies in Australia, officials have not yet confirmed such speculation. We will continue to follow the developments of the new rules, as they will provide us with some clue to judge if Australia will enter into a new Cold War with China.
On Tuesday, China’s education authority issued an alert, warning Chinese students of the risks of studying in Australia. The alert came days after the Ministry of Culture and Tourism warned Chinese residents not to travel to the country. It can be expected that Australia’s tourism and education sectors will suffer major blows after the warnings.
As Chinese authorities cited rising discrimination against Chinese people as the main reason for their warnings, we sincerely hope the Australian government will learn its lesson and stop discrimination from spreading to more industries. If it does spread, the country will only bear more losses. The Australian economy will pay a heavy price if the country discriminates against not only Chinese people but also Chinese companies.
We advise Canberra not to be so reckless as to closely follow Washington, or to do whatever American politicians ask it to do. If a new Cold War leads to a China-Australia showdown, Australia will pay an unbearable price. Given Australia’s high dependence on the Chinese economy, an all-around confrontation will have a catastrophic effect on the Australian economy.