Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 13:36 | SYDNEY
Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 13:36 | SYDNEY

Stern Hu: The big picture


Sam Roggeveen


15 July 2009 12:32

In a very unbloggerly display of reticence, I've resisted commenting on the Stern Hu affair to now, largely because I couldn't make up my mind about what I thought. But one thing that has helped crystalise my thinking a lot was this Lateline interview with Paul Monk and the Lowy Institute's own Hugh White, screened last night. Some choice quotes:

MONK: ...for some years now the Chinese state has been entrenching itself more solidly than ever in the commanding heights of the economy, including everything it regards as a strategic industry. That includes the resource sector. That is not what we have been hoping to see. We've been looking for market liberalisation opening in China - the party doing the reverse of that, not enough people have noticed, it seems to me...the Ministry of State Security in the forefront of economic affairs. This is a deeply regressive step...those developments are disturbing in China and the Hu case is a symptom...

WHITE: One thing is plain, and that is we know much less about the situation than we would like to. But from my reading of the reporting so far, the Chinese Government has actually fulfilled its obligations under our consular agreement - the bilateral consular agreement - and in a sense there's not much more the Australian Government can demand of China than that.

MONK: When (Hugh) says it's up to the Chinese to decide how to run the country, that's self evident in a certain sense. But it isn't the Chinese who are deciding how to run their country - it's the Communist Party, to the exclusion of civic groups or formations, that's the problem. If we can have a dialogue with Chinese with interests and open minds as regards principles of trade and politics, but the Communist Party is an authoritarian structure that governs in an arbitrary fashion.

MONK: It's odd, let me say in the context of the bilateral relationship, that the Chinese Government is not choosing to talk candidly with the Australian Government about this. If it has a problem with what Mr Hu did, and values the relationship, I would have expected that they'd go to our officials and say, ‘Look, we are concerned about this, this could be a problem’. That they are not doing that reeks of bad faith.

WHITE: I personally think we shouldn't be surprised that the Rudd Government, Mr Rudd's fluency in Mandarin notwithstanding, are having trouble getting more than the bare minimum out of the Chinese on this. To me, before saying Kevin Rudd should pick up the phone, we have to ask what should he be asking - what should he ask the Chinese Government? If the Chinese Government is treating this case according to Chinese law and are giving us the consular access which our consular agreement requires then in a real sense, there's nothing more that we can legitimately ask of the Chinese Government - or they of us, if the situation was reversed. So I think Rudd is right not to pick up the phone and I personally think the Opposition is wrong to make political capital out of what is a difficult issue in the relationship.