After a Long march, it sure looks like China’s Man in Perth really means business
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China’s Man in Perth has always been a seat of great influence and understated power. Canberra might be fit for a plump Ambassador, the Sydney consulate needs a solid bureaucrat, handy with Visa law and getting visiting cadres to Taronga, but Perth is where the streets are paved with Iron 62pc Fe: $US118.50 (+2.16%).
The annual W.A. Australia China Business Council bash throws all kinds of shade at the national one in Canberra.
Basically, it’s where you want to send your Mr Fixit.
Long Dingbin has been plying his professional diplomatic trade at the Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China since 1987.
Before he took the Perth gig in 2021 – at the height of both pandemic and bilateral disintegration – he spent 5 years running what would’ve been a tough ship in allied-Pakistan as the PRC Consul General in Lahore.
Well, from the Chinese Consulate on Canal Road above the Kashmir Underpass, you can get out of bed and walk to India for morning tea:
I reckon a few years balancing somehow between Beijing, Islamabad and Delhi teaches a diplomat one or two lessons in negotiation.
He’s also got the political chops. After a few years as Deputy Mayor of Wenshan, in Yunnan Province, Long was pretty quickly invited to Beijing some time around 2011.
That’s where he’ll have honed some of the more formidable elements and access which are a feature of Chinese statecraft. The party diplomats’ MBA of sorts – doing mercurial things inside the Department of External Security Affairs, deep within the Foreign Ministry.
It turns out Perth also does a handy turn in the Aussie rock lobster trade.
Now enter Long Dongbin. China’s stick-carrying, but carrot-waving envoy at the gorgeous Chinese consulate in Perth.
This week Long raised that juicy carrot high in the air with a tour of the facility – this one being the well-chosen Geraldton’s Fishing Cooperative.
The carefully stage managed day out was reportedly a festival of high spirits, coming as it did literally hours after China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, lukewarmly declared Sino-Australian ties could eventually “come back to a normal kind of relationship”.
That was nice, but better was the still a bit opaque missive that China had lifted its headlock on the vast and valuable exports of thermal and coking coal which turned the market so entirely on its head for the last few years (2020?).
But it wasn’t until Long came out of his Sanctum Sanctorum to check out the crustacean situation that anyone really believed Beijing was playing with a straight bat.
Getting some quality lobster back into the stomachs of hungry Cantonese and Shanghainese diners is a clear, magnanimous confirmation that, should we behave ourselves, the bilateral political anxieties that have ramped up trade tensions could literally become past-tense.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong might do well to take a step back for a while now and let Donny Farrell get his trade minister portfolio the hell over to Beijing while the furnaces are still cold
Long said he looked forward to further developing bilateral ties, which – he didn’t bother adding – have been absolute garbage for almost a decade now.
“I believe that there will be further development between the two countries with efforts being made by both sides, and the Geraldton Fishermen’s Cooperative will play a bigger role for the fishery industry of both nations,” he said during the tour which was nice and comfortingly specific.
Long added that he hoped the cooperative would cement its confidence on working with China and get over for some of those big international import and export expos that everyone used to get so worked up about.
Watching from Hong Kong the South China Morning Post said, expectations that Beijing will soon lift its unofficial restrictions on Australia rock lobsters further demonstrate the resumption of trade ties between China and Australia.
The state-backed broadsheet is now referring to the long-term blockade of particular Aussie exports as a “verbal ban.”
China’s state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, reportedly told major state-owned (SOE) coal importers that “they must decide” what’s next for Aussie coal.
Meanwhile, director of the UTS Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) and Australia’s last surviving China dove, James Laurenceson said the ball was rolling.
“Removing disruptions to coal and lobster would provide a positive backdrop for an expected visit to Beijing by the Australia trade minister in the coming months.”
However, the grand takeaway for the West Aussie business community is, after a painful few years where political voices crowded out everything else, there’s a hand being extended.
The man at the end of it is serious, and it’d be worth grasping.
We were at a party
His earlobe fell in the deep
Someone reached in and grabbed it
It was a rock lobster
We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock
It wasn’t a rock
It was a rock lobster
Motion in the ocean
His air hose broke
Lots of trouble
Lots of bubble
He was in a jam
S’in a giant clam
Boy’s in bikinis
Girls in surfboards
Twistin’ ’round the fire
Bakin’ in the sun
Put on your noseguard
Put on the Lifeguard
Pass the tanning butter
Here comes a stingray
There goes a manta-ray
In walked a jelly fish
There goes a dog-fish
Chased by a cat-fish
In flew a sea robin
Watch out for that piranha
There goes a narwhal
Here comes a bikini whale!