A human hair is 100 microns in diameter. Have a look at one and ask yourself: could you make an electronic component, or anything, that small? A red blood cell is 8 microns in diameter. Taiwan is making highly complex electrical components 0.03 of a micron in depth. These are the semiconductors that are in everything from cars, usually 0.065 microns, or in your mobile phone. They are in the forthcoming small modular reactors, spacecraft, phones, fridges and missiles.
When I was in Taiwan as part of what Labor hoped would be an invisible delegation, we asked whether Australia could be part of this manufacturing process. We were told our role was in the application side. Translated, that means our role is to purchase semiconductors, whether we realise equipment has them or not.
There is a huge difference between buying something that is clever and making something that is clever. There is a huge difference between using a smartphone and making one. This is why an island half the size of Tasmania supports a population nearly the size of Australia’s with a gross domestic product approaching that of Australia.
Our major resources are coal, iron ore, gas and agriculture; theirs is IQ. It was such a reality check for me and others on the delegation. Today, when I hear of the CSIRO it is usually something to do with climate change research or politically guided reports. In the past it was wi-fi, myxoma virus to get rid of rabbits, the seed intellect for computing or penicillin. Would it not be wonderful if instead its scientists were leading in groundbreaking, world-changing technology such as small modular reactors, or smaller microreactors? This is the strength of Asia, focusing on the cutting edge of super smart.
The biggest interest Taiwan has in Australia is food. That is something it has not figured out how to cover for itself and it is one of our strongest levers that we can fill the demand. However, with our aversion to dams, fascination in a new methane pledge and policy of zero-emissions power security destruction, agriculture may also become one of the glories of our past.
As I boarded the plane to return home, the thought that ran through my mind was not of the threat to Taiwan from China but the threat to Australia from our unbridled romantic naivety to the economic reality of the world as it is now. This reality underpins the new global power paradigm.
Bipartisan talks to get underway in Taiwan
A bipartisan group of MPs will arrive in Taiwan this morning, meeting President Tsai Ing-wen and top officials in a ...
China and Taiwan, I believe, are unlikely to come to a conflict. It is too stupid and they are not stupid. China instead will try to assert its power incrementally.
There can be only one sun in the sky and the new dynastic form of leadership in China under Xi Jinping believes that heavenly body is Beijing. This is not the future, this is now, and it will continue on this course. It has been happening, it is accelerating in effect and it will arrive as vassal status for the weak. The US, we hope, has a life and strength of a thousand years, but I stood before Chinese bronze craftsmanship more than 3000 years old in Taipei. They play a much longer game.
The only defence is strength, not just military as that is merely an outcome of economic strength. Economic strength comes from being the best in many fields.
Our education has to produce the best mathematics, physics and chemistry students. In the humanities, we need to have proficiency in English better than the Singaporeans and more languages spoken at year 12 than just English. Agriculture has to produce not just volume but also the highest quality, which we do.
Asia has such a great advantage with its Confucian ethos, respect for family, teachers and the law. They waste little energy and have less time for those who want to be belligerents outside the guide rails. We are so concerned with trying to make everyone happy we create the all-inclusive culture that leaves us all behind.
The new emperor is making sure they are heard. This was mentioned to me more than once: “China will ask that you listen” – roughly translated as you will do as you are told if asked.
When asked about the delegation, Anthony Albanese said: “I have no idea, I’m not going, you should ask them.” An odd response considering he previously had been on a delegation himself and ours included and was led by Labor. It almost sounds like he was trying to hide us under a rock, maybe as a duty to a request made to him. In the same month, Penny Wong could not find the time to meet a delegation of Uighur representatives whose people are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party.
The one sun in heaven has dawned for Australia and we are hoping others will give us shade.