Rowan Callick, who is now China correspondent for The Australian, has written two interesting articles relevant to Australia/China relations. He seems to have good contacts with both Chinese themselves and with outside experts on the Chinese political situation. The shorter one is of particular interest as it assesses the influence of Xi and argues that he operates as in a sense a “benevolent” despot, but with the benevolence not extending to corrupt senior officials (see Callick on Xi). Xi, who is said by Callick to have drawn all power to himself, is said to be favourably disposed to Australia.
This doubtless helps explain Turnbull’s decision to visit China for two days this week notwithstanding that the budget (set for 3 May) begins its final drafting process. Turnbull will be visiting at the same time as the Australia Week in China which is a trade mission that will include the largest ever business delegation from Australia. The press release below (see Prime Minister to Visit China) does not indicate that Turnbull has anything specific to discuss with Xi.
He obviously hopes however that his visit will help recover some of the lost polling. Today’s ABC Insiders, which had a more than usual left “team”, carried an interview with Resources Minister Frydenburg, who performed well but who was on the defensive because the poor performance of Turnbull has now become media entrenched to some extent. Andrew Bolt has foreshadowed an article suggesting the Liberal Party itself needs to hit the panic button.
Callick’s articles also relate to this second visit to China of the Australia Week in China. The Minister for Trade and Industry appointed by Turnbull (he was dropped from a ministry by Abbott) describes it as the largest-ever trade mission (see Ciobo on China). Ciobo is leading the mission. Andrew Robb led the first mission in 2014.