Poking the dragon. Prominent intellectual and Australia's first Ambassador to China Stephen FitzGerald has penned a stinging criticism of Australia’s foreign policies in relation to Asia, saying Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison are "so untutored in foreign relations and diplomacy, or so deaf, or both", that they don’t understand that "something has snapped in Jakarta". FitzGerald says the words used by the PM and the Immigration Minister and the "lecturing, patronising and racist attitudes they convey" have fundamentally altered our relationship with Indonesia, our closest neighbour:
"A strong, independent, democratic and regionally influential Indonesia is not going to put up with that any longer and relations are never going back to the way they were before."
At the same time, Australia’s relationship with China (our biggest trading partner) has been damaged with potentially disastrous consequences, he writes. These high-handed attitudes, together with remarks by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about the long-running Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute (Australia has backed Japan's claim to them over China's), have greatly displeased the Chinese government. When Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Li met with the Australian Foreign Minister in December, he said publicly:
"What Australia has said and done with regard to [this issue] has jeopardised bilateral mutual trust and affected the sound growth of bilateral relations. This is not what we desire to see."
FitzGerald says Bishop’s words sent a message to Beijing that on important matters, "we stand with a particular US view that doesn't want to accommodate Chinese power". All of this could come back to haunt the Abbott government, he writes:
"What will happen, if the Indonesian government turns to China to supply or even directly assist its navy in the protection of Indonesia’s sovereign borders? And China obliges? And they turn to Abbott, Bishop and Morrison and say: 'you, of all people, ought to understand'?"
If you meddle in someone else’s issues by taking sides when you’re not a party principal, can you really believe they might not meddle in yours?” Horses for (art) courses. One of the most interesting parts of the Chinese New Year celebrations -- an exhibition of Asian Australian contemporary art -- has opened at the Sydney Town Hall. Crossing Boundaries: A Celebration of Contemporary Asian Australian Art is an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, photographs and installations that reflect upon "individual journeys taken, boundaries crossed and new territories explored", according to curator Catherine Croll. Many of the works contain references to horses, as 2014 ushers in the Year of the Horse. Some of the most arresting works have been created by Hong Kong-born, Tasmania-based artist Gregory Leong, who has produced a series of works criticising the government’s policy of selling off assets to Asian buyers. In Coveting Thy Neighbour’s Cash (The Asian Century Series) (pictured below), he depicts Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd as auctioneers disguised as "Asia-friendly" Beijing opera singers.

Coveting Thy Neighbour's Cash

The smiling Chinese or Japanese tycoons wielding fistfuls of money have arrived not in wooden boats but in wooden horses, he says. "If major prime real estate and businesses have to be sold to foreign buyers, what does that say about where our economy and national pride as a country are heading?" Other artists include Korean-born photographer Soyoun Kim (image below), who says she is reflecting on the horse "as the symbolic image of crossing boundaries and journeys. I see myself as a horse, an expatriate who is crossing cultural boundaries and an artist who is going through a long journey."