Australian business leaders should consider using this challenging COVID era to deepen their relations with Chinese counterparts and understanding of China’s markets rather than to promote a greater priority for commercial interests in political debate.

Is this the hour when Australia’s business leaders should stand up and be counted on Australia’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China? Michael Clifton, the rightly well-regarded chief trade commissioner in China for six years, certainly thinks so.

Now president of the Australia China Business Council in NSW, and stepping down after seven months as chief executive of China Matters, a Sydney based organisation that “strives to advance sound China policy”, he has contributed helpfully to this debate with a policy brief published by the latter. His brief is well-timed. And it comes, by coincidence, soon after I had a couple of long personal conversations with important figures deeply immersed in this area, one based in China and another in Australia, who were asking this very question.

My response is very different from Clifton’s, however.

Mine is that this is a good time for Australians who do business in and with PRC counterparts to focus especially strongly on those relationships, to watch more attentively how markets are changing in both China and Australia, and to adjust their business plans correspondingly.

Clifton, who was senior advisor to Simon Crean when he was Regional Development Minister in the Julia Gillard government, urges our business leaders to highlight the importance to Australian wellbeing of the PRC, to establish a formal China business lobby, to arrange an annual business summit with Chinese counterparts, to press Beijing for a better trade and investment relationship, and to press Canberra for a China Advisory Council reporting to the Prime Minister.

Please click here to read the full “Business should beware ensnarement in China controversies” article originally published at The China Story, written by Griffith Asia Institute, Industry Fellow, Rowan Callick.