[Editor: This untitled article considers the problems of a future Australia dealing with an emergent China. Published in The Age, 11 January 1888.]
[The subject of Chinese immigration]
One of the questions that a Federal Council might deal with to some good purpose is the subject of Chinese immigration, for it is a question that affects all the colonies alike, and which cannot be satisfactorily disposed of without the co-operation of all. Probably Queensland is more immediately interested in it just at present, but in its remoter consequences there is not member of the group that can look forward to it without the very gravest anxiety.
The occupation of the New Hebrides by the French and the annexation of northern New Guinea by the Germans are circumstances that appeal to the national amour propre, but they sink into insignificance compared with the prospect of being drawn into active hostility with nation that is not only the most populous on the face of the earth, but which may be said to confront us at our very doors.
The extraordinary difficulty of the dilemma which we shall have to face sooner or later seems to have attracted the attention of Lord Carnarvon, who, if he is reported correctly, has been obliged to confess that he does not see his way out of it. The conclusion he has apparently arrived at is that neither a residential tax nor an import tax will settle the problem for more than a very short time; for a powerful nation in possession of all the arts of civilisation, and with an awakened consciousness of its strength and its vast resources, will not submit a moment longer than it finds it convenient to itself to be treated as the Ishmael of the East by a community so numerically inferior to it as the Australian people.
That an Imperial statesman of Lord Carnarvon’s rank should make the admission before the world is a noteworthy fact of itself, and our own politicians may be forgiven if they share his anxiety and are not free from his embarrassment.
Our own opinion is that the very hardest nut which remains for them to crack is this Chinese question, and that out of it may grow complications that will seriously affect our national life, and give a turn to our foreign and domestic policy that is not generally suspected by the ordinary observer of current history. For instance, it may retard and even postpone to an indefinite period the moment when, under other circumstances, we might reasonably look forward to cutting ourselves loose from the mother country and starting on an independent career upon our own account.
An independent Australia would mean an Australia that would have to accept all the responsibilities of independence, and among other things to fight its own battles and protect itself against any foreign foes whom its diplomatists have been unable to conciliate. But he would be a wise man who could fix the date when we should be able to repel the fleets and armies of the new Chinese Empire single-handed. More than one generation must elapse before we should be strong enough to throw down the gauntlet with a reasonable certainty of meeting the invader on equal terms, and in the meanwhile we must do one of two things, namely, either refrain from giving provocation or stick closely to the connection with Great Britain for the sake of the assistance and the protection we should derive from it. Whichever course we adopt, it will be a distinct tribute to the influence of the Chinese Empire upon our national politics.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), Wednesday 11 January 1888, page 4 (column 8)
amour propre = (French) literally, “love of oneself” or “self love”; self-esteem, self-respect, having a sense of one’s own worth
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]