Clive Palmer (pictured), Australian mining magnate and leader of the nation’s United Party, accused China of trying to take over the nation’s resources. Although he was quickly lambasted by ruling Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbott, it seems that there is now a populist movement against China’s state-owned industries’ aggressive acquisition of foreign companies and infrastructure.
“They want to take over our ports and get our resources for free,” Palmer said during a television appearance. He went on to say that China’s state-owned Citic Pacific Ltd., his partner in the world’s biggest magnetite iron ore mine in Western Australia, are “mongrels” and “bastards” for the way they subjugate their own people and Australians.
Tony Abbott’s government strongly encouraged expanding economic and trade relationships with China. Australia has a substantial balance of payments surplus with China. Australia exported $95 billion and imported $47 billion in 2013. Australia’s main trading partner is China with 27% of total exports and 15% of total imports.
In 2010 and 2011, Australia reported consistent trade surpluses due to high prices of commodities being predominantly shipped to China. Metals, coal, oil, and natural gas account for 54% of total exports; machinery and transport equipment, computers and office machines, and telecommunication lasers account for about half of imports. But since 2012, the trade balance has fallen back into deficit due to a sharp in what China is willing to pay for commodities.
Prime Minister Abbott attacked Palmer’s comments as “hugely damaging” and stressed the importance of Australia’s relationship with its biggest trading partner. The powerful Australian Industry Group, the equivalent of America’s Business Roundtable, condemned Palmer’s comments as “ill-considered and inappropriate.”
Palmer is embroiled in a nasty legal battle with China’s state-owned Citic Pacific that alleges he siphoned off $12 million from a joint account to help finance his own political campaign. His rising United Party has three senators in Parliament’s upper house, making it the key constituent that Abbott’s government must win to pass legislation opposed by leftist Labors and Greens.
On an ABC-hosted evening show, Palmer denied Citic’s allegations and called the company “Chinese mongrels.” He added, “I’m saying that because they are communists, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system, and they want to take over this country.”
Joe Hockey, Treasurer of Australia, said “It’s hugely damaging for Mr. Palmer to make those sorts of comments, because ultimately, he is the big beneficiary of a Chinese investment partner – someone that has paid to help him to develop his resources.” He warned that such comments threaten to “bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.”
The Chinese embassy in Australia’s capital city of Canberra responded: “The words of Mr. Clive Palmer MP are absurd and irresponsible… full of ignorance and prejudice.”
Many Palmer supporters believe that the lawsuit filed by Citic against Palmer is retaliation for the United Party’s opposition to the Liberal Party’s efforts to finalize a free trade agreement with China.
Jacqui Lambie, one of the three United Party Senators, defended Palmer’s statements:
If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defense policy which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion – you’re delusional and got rocks in your head. The Communist Chinese military capacity and level of threat to the Western world democracies is at an unprecedented and historical high.
Many Australians have quietly applauded Palmer’s comments that their government is “bending over backwards” for China. From 2006 to 2012, China invested $52 billion in Australia and was seen as bringing jobs and prosperity to the “Land Down Under.” But as many of those companies that China took over are now laying off Australians, populist political resentment has grown that Australia is now at the mercy of China.
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