China Rolls out a Comprehensive Plan: AustCham Beijing Chairman’s Column
Australia needs a brave and compelling vision to drive its future engagement with China, writes AustCham Beijing Chairman, David Olsson.
Every five years China rolls out a comprehensive plan for the country’s national development. It sets out key economic and social objectives to guide policy making and business development for the ensuing five years.
The broad principles for the 12th Five Year Program (2011 – 2015) were discussed at a plenary session of China’s Communist Party held in Beijing in mid-October. Over the next six months those proposals will be discussed with specialists from academia, international agencies and think tanks, with the final program being submitted to the National People’s Congress for approval in March 2011.
The contrast to the policy reform process in Australia at present (or lack of it) could not be more stark.
Our government’s attempt to push ahead with much needed social and economic reform agenda is hamstrung not only by the need to accommodate the views of minorities, but also by the fact that, as one commentator put it, “the main pro-growth parties have made a parallel, bipartisan shift to seek a small Australia”.
The fact that we have a minority government is no excuse to shy away from a major policy reform agenda. Past prime ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard were all able to push forward significant reforms in the face of stern opposition.
There is no shortage of areas that are in urgent need of review, including on-going tax reform, carbon policy, water policy, education and skills training.
High on that list is also the need to continue to engage effectively with China.
As China grows in size and influence, so does its interest in Australia. Over the next two decades, we will see unprecedented Chinese trade and investment growth, as well as the deepening of business, cultural and personal links.
This growth cannot be sustained in a policy vacuum. There is a pressing need to articulate a vision of the future which embraces a rising China. It will need to be brave and compelling.
Government and business as partners
It is the role of government to provide policy direction. We expect and demand this of our political leaders, but it is unrealistic to expect politicians to do this without support from an active and engaged community.
Many organisations, chambers, institutes and think-tanks are producing excellent papers and leading discussions around the need for clarity around Australia’s future engagement with China.
AustCham is committed, during the next few years, to use its position as the Chamber representing Australians and Australian organisations on the ground in China to lead, and work with others in leading, debate and discussions around these issues so that we can lift our heads up from the populist “small Australia” focus and look at the bigger picture issues.
China’s 12th Five Year Plan will lay out a blueprint for China’s national policy priorities for the coming five years. Similarly Australia needs a plan and vision for its future engagement with China.
Recent events and initiatives
Autumn is always a time of much activity in Beijing and the last month has been no exception.
Work continues on the closer integration of the Mainland China and Hong Kong Chambers. A joint committee is putting plans to provide for a more integrated one-stop shop for our members doing business in China.
Our Working Groups have been active on a range of industry focussed activities. Detailed information can be found on our website, but here are a few of the highlights.
The Food and Agribusiness working group has held briefing meetings for several visiting agri delegations from Australia, including a visit last month led by the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Steve Whan (pictured left with David Olsson).
Members of our Mining and Energy Technology Services working group joined colleagues from AustCham Hong Kong and Shanghai on Austrade’s highly successful business delegation to Mongolia in September. Australia is one of the largest foreign investors in the fast growing Mongolian mining sector and judging by the interest we will continue to explore ways of supporting our members in this part of the world.
The Financial Services Working Group has also been active with its plans almost finalised for a high level briefing by the Chinese financial authorities on Beijing’s future policy directions.
One other event deserves special mention. I was privileged to participate in the inaugural Australia-China Youth Dialogue held in Beijing and Shanghai in early October. With a number of prominent speakers, 30 students from Australia and China spent three days engaged in frank and robust exchanges around a range of issues affecting the relationship. I was encouraged by the quality of the conversations and heartened that the next generation of leaders and participants in Sino-Australian affairs are so actively engaged. ■
For more information about AustCham Beijing visit: www.austcham.org