Ted Obrien Sunshine Coast

Australia’s greatest challenge lies not in COVID-19 but in resolving the China question, argues Federal Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien.

“The China question is the greatest challenge of our generation and if we’re to answer it successfully, we must better understand China, who they are and how they play the game.

“If we’re to navigate our way through the myriad of complexities of the Australia-China relationship, we need to try and see the world through Chinese eyes. When we do, it is obvious that China is playing an entirely different game from the one we’re playing,” writes Mr O’Brien in an essay in the latest edition of Quadrant.

Mr O’Brien offers an alternative explanation for China’s muscular behaviour by arguing that behind China’s punitive trade measures and wolf-warrior diplomacy is a shift in the country’s national identity.   

“China’s new brand of nationalism – based on a master narrative of national humiliation and a dream of rejuvenation – has been inculcated in the Chinese psyche far more deeply,” he writes.  

Australia is being wrapped into this narrative which “fails any test of logic” according to Mr O’Brien.

“This is what’s happening to the Australia-China relationship,” he said.  

The Federal MP, who is uniquely qualified on the topic after spending much of his 20-plus years in business working in and around China, proposes three principles to guide Australia’s approach to resolving the China question.

“First, we should reject the Chinese Communist Party’s framing of Australia; second, we should stand firm against undue pressure from China and; third, we should look for avenues to renew the relationship.”

Mr O’Brien’s essay, entitled “The China Question: The Greatest Challenge to Our Generation” can be found in the latest edition of Quadrant magazine – read in full HERE.  

Watch Mr O’Brien’s interview with Chris Kenny HERE.

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