ONGOING tensions between western nations and China over disputed territory in the South China Sea has seen a Kingston councillor express misgivings about Kingston forming a Sister City relationship with Chinese city Quanzhou.
Councillors at this month’s public council meeting voted to join the Australia China Business Council to hopefully boost business opportunities for Kingston companies but Cr Rosemary West said she had “mixed feelings” about a proposal to formalise a Sister City agreement with Quanzhou despite China being “a major trading partner” with Australia.
“I have real concerns about the implications of the rise of China,” Cr West said.
“I don’t think our businesspeople should be going into business with China with their eyes closed.
“You just look at what China is doing in the South China Sea and there is not too much international peace and goodwill going on there.”
Australia last month backed an international court ruling that decided China had no historical rights in the South China Sea over The Philippines’ held territory.
State-run Chinese newspaper The Global Times has warned Australia not to involve itself physically in the South China Seas dispute or “China must take revenge and let it (Australia) know it’s wrong” claiming Australia is “an ideal target for China to warn and strike”.
Other Kingston councillors are comfortable with a Sister City relationship with Quanzhou if it “provides value for the community”.
“I believe funding is minimal,” Cr Paul Peulich said. “Casey [Council] is in the process of establishing a Sister City and Frankston already has one and Dandenong already has one in place with Chinese cities.
“The importance of the relationship cannot be understated and governments have a role to play. Local government has a role to play in furthering that relationship.”
Cr Geoff Gledhill noted more than 160 businesses in Kingston are part of the car manufacturing industry supply chain and export markets are vital to provide jobs.
“That’s going to finish progressively over the next few years. We’ve got to replace those jobs that those businesses deliver and to expect some of the smaller businesses in Kingston to do so in the domestic market is just unrealistic.”
Councillors voted to write to Quanzhou civic leaders to seek agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding before considering a Sister City relationship.
“I feel quite uneasy about Kingston entering into a closer relationship with a Chinese city,” Cr West said.
“There is a lot of money from China coming out and buying our farmland and some of our beautiful houses that are being knocked down to be developed because overseas buyers can only acquire new houses.
“I think that we need to be wary.”
Delegations from Quanzhou have visited Kingston twice in recent months to discuss possible strengthened links between the municipality and China.