When I studied at the University of Sydney in 2009 for a master's degree in media, I was surprised by the interest ordinary Australians had in China. Not only was China the topic for class discussions every week, one of my lecturers also told me during an after-class chat that she was sending her son to learn fencing in Shanghai in the upcoming summer holiday as China had emerged as an ideal place for his training. Later, my supervisor at a local magazine where I had a month's internship told me his son was studying Chinese at Beijing University of Languages and Culture, as he believed the language advantage would help his son find a job in Australia which was forging an increasingly closer bond with China.
He assigned me to write an article about how small and medium companies run by Australian-Chinese were faring and whether their connections with China actually helped their businesses. During my interviews, I was amazed that a rising number of Australian-Chinese were actually making a decent living out of exporting Australian products to China.
However, when news came earlier this month that China's Wanda Group had bought the famous Jewel Project on Australia's Gold Coast and planned to invest $900 million developing it into a luxury resort, I did not even raise my eyebrows. I also laughed it off when an Australian friend in Sydney sent an e-mail informing me that Chinese developers are also reshaping and rejuvenating Parramatta, a suburban city on the western edge of the city.
True, the depth and breadth of China-Australia ties have grown immensely since 2009 when I first set foot in the biggest country in the Southern hemisphere. Apart from lucrative trade, exchanges between the two peoples have also expanded rapidly.
More and more Chinese people have easier access to Australian products. Australia has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists and for Chinese students seeking education overseas.
With the rising presence of Chinese in Australia, there are reports of how Chinese buyers are ratcheting up property prices in major Australian cities, Sydney in particular.
To me, it is a natural trend toward a win-win outcome if more people from both China and Australia are visiting each other's country and doing business with each other in accordance with law and international practice.
Unfortunately, some in Australia seem not to agree with me. Some even harbor animosity to Australian-bound Chinese people or Chinese investments. There have been several incidents since last year in which Chinese passengers on Sydney trains were the targets of insults.
If these unhappy scenes are just the wrongdoings of some biased Australians, the TV rant against China staged by Australian billionaire-turned politician Clive Palmer last week reflects the ugly undercurrents of racism against Chinese and China beneath the rosy picture of China-Australia interaction.
On Tuesday, Palmer, obviously under huge pressure from the strong condemnation he had received from people in both China and Australia, apologized to the Chinese embassy in Canberra for calling the Chinese government "bastards" and "mongrels" in a media interview.
In a written statement, Palmer said, "I most sincerely apologize for any insult to the Chinese people caused by any of the language I used during my appearance on the ABC television program Q&A."
It is important that the mining tycoon's repentance is heart-felt, and the Australian society truly learns a bitter lesson from undesirable scenarios such as Palmer's TV outburst.
Racism and discrimination against outsiders could easily erode the credibility of a multicultural society such as Australia's, as well as ruin the very foundation of good feelings between Chinese and Australians, which is bedrock for healthy China-Australia cooperation.
The author is a senior writer of China Daily. firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 08/27/2014 page8)