Australia must foster a strong relationship with China or risk being cut off from access to new technological developments, according to former Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.
He was speaking at the Communications Day Summit in Sydney.
Downer is also a board director of Huawei Australia. The Chinese communications vendor was recently banned by the Government from bidding on certain contracts pertaining to the build of the National Broadband Network (NBN). National security was cited by the Government as a reason for the decision.
Huawei is a private company.
China’s Ministry of Commerce has labelled the ban “unjust”.
While Downer did not refer to the Huawei ban specifically, he highlighted the importance of Australia’s relationship with China.
“There are enormous risks involved if we endeavour to bypass China - to turn our backs on China,” he said. “... We survived the global financial crisis (GFC) because of our relationship with China, by the strength of the resources sector.”
Downer stressed China is not just a good market for Australia’s resources sector and nor is it just a place where goods can be produced inexpensively thanks to low labour costs.
According to the former Foreign Minister, in the 2010-2011 financial year, Australia imported around $8 billion of telecommunications products from China - 53 per cent of our country’s total communications imports.
“All telco vendors in this country manufacture some of their equipments in China,” he said. “... China is, importantly, increasingly becoming a source of intellectual property.”
While the Communist country has had a reputation of stealing intellectual properties in the past, the tables have turned, Downer claimed.
“China has become one of the great bastions in the world of research and development,” he said. “... A strong and mature relationship with China will guarantee we have access to technology as it evolves.”
Dower saw the fears against China solely because it is a Communist country as unfounded especially when the country is compared to the former Soviet Union.
“China is not driven by the desire of exporting its political system [like the Soviet Union in the past],” he said. “China is driven by a desire to improve the living standards of 1.3 billion people, a lot of whom were and still are living in poverty today.
“That is China’s core ambition - economics.”
The Communications Day Summit in Sydney continues.
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