Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 02:12 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 02:12 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Stern Hu


Sam Roggeveen


17 July 2009 16:03

Harry Gelber from the University of Tasmania writes about the Lateline interview I highlighted with Paul Monk and Hugh White:

Re. your post on the Stern Hu affair. A few additional points:

  1. Monk — surprisingly for such a well-informed commentator — does less than justice to the relationships between Chinese politics and Chinese trade. It is pointless to classify as 'regressive'  policies that give priority to the country's social and political cohesion. That cohesion is anyway under challenge not just from Tibetans and Uighurs but from separatist tendencies in Taiwan and elsewhere. Matters have been made worse by a world recession, one of whose results has been the closing of dozens if not hundreds of Chinese factories with tens of millions suddenly unemployed, not to mention the variety of local discontents that have led to some 100,000 local demonstrations during the last year. That discontent may well be promoted by the arrogance and corruption of local officialdom, yet for the time being, the CCP remains the only 'glue' that holds together the huge and varied empire that is 'China'. 
  2. As Monk accepts in passing, overall trade policies are naturally a major 'national security' matter. (So, for that matter, is the management of China's huge foreign currency reserves.) Detailed information on China's ferrous metals production will naturally give foreigners additional insights into China's general domestic economy and unemployment situation, with attendant possibilities for social unrest. In that situation, the anxiey of the authorities to avoid higher metals prices and/or yet more unemployment, and even greater foreign insights into the details of China's economic conditions, seems understandable even if its expression in Mr Hu's case seems unnecessary and even counterproductive.
  3. Hugh White is of course right to point out how unwise it would be for Mr Rudd to seek to involve President Hu directly or prematurely, merely to satisfy the Canberra press gallery. Neither President Hu nor Mr Rudd can afford to lose face over this affair and Rudd's approach to the Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs seems well judged.