Mutual Co-Colonisation

Australia was famously colonized by the British, who in the beginning sent colonists, including transported prisoners to Sydney in 1788. It had previously been settled by an indigenous (aboriginal) population.

A typical characteristic of colonies is that they send raw materials back to the home country in exchange for finished goods. When I arrived in 2017, notably Pre-Covid, Australia’s top exports, with China on the receiving end of the largest share of all three, were coal, iron ore, and education. Australia of course imports many manufactured goods from the rest of the world.

If one were to look solely at the coal and iron ore, China would be seen as the colonizer despite Australia’s higher standard of living. And if one were looking at some metrics of urbanisation and development, like the deployment of high-speed rail, China is also more ‘developed’.

The twist is education. Far more Chinese come to Australia for education than vice versa, and there is no more finished or prestige good than a student graduated from university. (Historically this was true at the high school level, hence the term “finishing schools”.) In historical terms, well-to-do Australians (Americans, Canadians, etc.) would send their children to the home country (England) for education at once-elite places like Oxford and Cambridge, and they would return to the colonies acting among the local elite (but never so elite as someone with a posh-UK accent and titles). Today developing countries send their children to places like Australia and Canada (and prior to recent events, the US and UK) for university, children who return and serve among the elites.

Is Australia the developed country or the developing resource-based economy? Who was colonizing whom?

Since Covid, and the souring of relations between China and Australia, and the rise of the fearsome AUKUS, these relationships are being unwound. We are seeing a precipitous drop in Chinese students at Australian universities, and they are importing fewer resources. So perhaps it is Mutual De-Co-Colonisation


China’s High Speed Rail Network
Australia’s High Speed Rail Network