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The foreign investment debate

By Chan Cheah - posted Thursday, 9 August 2012

If we are not careful, the current debate on Chinese agricultural investments in Australia could revive "White Australia Policy" sentiments and divide Australian society. Being a Chinese in Australia does not mean one is from China. They come from all parts of Asia and the rest of the world.

The 3rd Aug 2012 ABC debate highlighted two issues: lack of information about Chinese investments from abroad and lack of government leadership in managing foreign investment in Australia.

Current debates misinform because they are based on misleading or prejudicial information. Media representatives have to be more socially responsible and hence more diligent in their investigatory work before disseminating information. We have already witnessed in our history the ramifications of misinformed social policy – the nineteenth century's racial riots and killings of early Chinese settlers; the anti-Chinese "White Australia Policy"; the One Nation Party's policies. Is hatred of the present enemy, who happens to be the Chinese, an accidental event or an incited one? Few Australians understand that many Australian enterprises, especially those in the mining sector, collaborate with Chinese foreign investors for strategic reasons and their foreign investment strategies do not always involve complete takeover by their Chinese partners. We have apparently forgotten the past major investors from Britain, Europe, America, Japan and Singapore, who are now integrated into Australian society as employers and exporters. We should not be gullible or influenced by debaters to the point of being fearful and resentful of Chinese foreign investors. We must not be easily misled and divided because nearly one million of us are Chinese Australians.


We should be more wary of greed and power brokers, influencing societies everywhere with new tactics of social manipulation for economic or political gains. For those of us who are familiar with the Shock Doctrine, Meltdown and Food Inc phenomena, we know information is the key to freedom from power brokers. Ironically, a major segment of our population is not very information-literate. Many are older Australians with worldviews based on their past and unfortunately more negative perceptions of Asian countries. They also tend to have more time to voice their views and are therefore able to influence public opinion.

While multiculturalism has enjoyed some success, many of our government agencies have failed to acknowledge and effectively manage reverse racism (I would have said the effects of 'positive discrimination') against more established Australians. That unaddressed community frustration felt by some established Australians is surfacing now, and fuelling the sentiments of public debates.

Australia is part of the globalised world. Globalisation is more than inter country trade exchanges. It is about increasing human connectivity; having different worldviews, accessing different products and services anywhere any time, creating ideas and innovations and being exposed to great cultural and linguistic diversity. If it is true that 56% of Australians see Chinese as the latest enemy, we are not just at risk of being a weak minded society but also one that is not doing well on the playing field of globalisation. We cry foul every time the homeland impacts of globalisation are not in our favour. We think we have the spirit of globalisation when we announce the Asian Century agenda. How Asia-literate our political leaders are, will make or break our capacity to relate and collaborate with Asia. Presently, Australia lacks capacity, not capabilities, to become a great cross-cultural global player and collaborator. We do not have clear leadership and vision for the 2st century. We are still releasing latent colonial sentiments of white / western superiority and arrogance, while joining the USA in accusing China of displaying an imperialistic and Middle Kingdom mentality in her globalisation efforts.

We have lots to catch up on, in matters relating to the measurement and management of homeland and international impacts of globalisation. The steep learning curve is evident in the current debates. Our political leaders are not recognising and unlocking their very own Chinese Australian talents to improve their Asian literacy and help reposition Australia's globalisation strategies to result in better engagement with China and socio-economic outcomes. We need our public leaders to be more adventurous and imaginative in trying new strategies that create symphony with those of China. The aim is to create shareable benefits and non-adversarial risk management of globalisation with each other.

When economic growth slows down further, people will look for scapegoats and let CCCAV make it clear now that Chinese Australians who have sacrificed and contributed to this great country in the past to the present, cannot and will NOT be collateral damage because of lack of information, sovereign maturity and readiness to deal with the homeland impacts of China's globalisation. The public should also be made aware that our Chinese Australian citizens are part of our nation's untapped solutions.

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About the Author

Dr Chan Cheah is an independent R&D and management consultant. She has worked in Fortune 500 and multinational organisations, federal and state government agencies, small to medium enterprises and universities. She is also an active advocate and community developer in the Chinese Australian, healthcare, ratepayers communities and corporate social responsibility sectors.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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