Chinese-Australians and the Australia-China relationship - with Jieh-Yung Lo

Guest: Jieh-Yung Lo, Melbourne-based writer and commentator

Host: James Laurenceson, Deputy Director, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney

Australia-China relations are currently strained. There is much media discussion about international students and political donors from China. However, views of Chinese-Australians appear to receive less consideration.

What does the Chinese-Australian community think about the current debate? What role do Chinese-Australians play in the Australia-China relationship?

Jieh-Yung Lo joins James Laurenceson to discuss the diversity of Chinese-Australians, and their importance in fostering cross-cultural communication between Australia and China. They also discuss the challenges Chinese-Australians face in gaining political representation and the reasons behind their apparent lack of participation in the current debate.

There is difficulty in defining ‘Chinese-Australian community’ due to the linguistic, political and cultural differences among Chinese-Australians. Media often refer to them as a single group. This is inaccurate and misleading; they have diverse opinions and interests.

Chinese-Australians faced barriers to achieving political representation prior to the current debate. These barriers have, however, been exacerbated over the last 12 months. Chinese-Australians face difficulties in being heard on policy matters, and in being viewed as constituents and potential candidates rather than ‘cash cows’. They also find their interests and loyalties frequently questioned, which is a major disincentive to running for office.

Many Chinese-Australians feel afraid to participate in the current debate on Australia-China relations for fear of being labelled as CCP apologists, even if they hold moderate views.

Discussion of Australia-China relations has a somewhat one-dimensional focus on economics and trade. Other aspects of the relationship, such as culture, history and politics, should be given greater attention. A more multidimensional relationship would put Australia in a stronger position to influence China’s behaviour when it does not accord with Australia’s national interests.

Theme music by Sam J Mitchell.

June 14 2018