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China's perception of Mr. Palmer

In the media
CLIVE Palmer’s China connection is crucial for his corporate future, but his new political prominence is unlikely to prompt Beijing to ride to the rescue of his ailing businesses.

China will not have changed its perception of Mr. Palmer since founding his party

The Australian

CLIVE Palmer’s China connection is crucial for his corporate future, but his new political prominence is unlikely to prompt Beijing to ride to the rescue of his ailing businesses.

Former ambassador to China Geoff Raby, now a Beijing-based business consultant, said yesterday he “seriously doubts” China would change its perception of Mr Palmer since his founding of the Palmer United Party. “They would know that he has no power, is not part of the government, and would be watchful that they might be embarrassed by being somehow drawn into domestic politics,” Mr Raby said.

On Kit Tam, deputy pro vice-chancellor at RMIT University and an adjunct professor at the Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing, said: “I do not see any significant enhancement at all unless his party wins lots of seats and becomes a major player in Australian politics.”

Shanghai-based Australian lawyer and business expert Michael Wadley agreed. “I can’t see how his standing or his bankability would be enhanced in China to those familiar with him and our political system,” he said.

 “If anything, I think the better educated and experienced (Chinese) would just think our system is a little crazier than they may have already considered.”

Economist Jane Golley, associate director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University, said: “Money is likely to be a far more powerful card for him than politics - his billionaire status is more likely to help him in doing business than, for example, his stance on boatpeople. Moreover, I would have thought that his political status could just as easily work against him as for him … Money talks; politics just gets in the way, doesn’t it?”

Laurie Pearcey, director of China strategy and development at University of NSW International, said political success would be “a useful selling point for Palmer to spruik in Beijing”. “It would be fascinating how much kudos he would get if he won the balance of power in the upper house, and how much goodwill would be bought for Mineralogy,” he said.

Mr Palmer has claimed that when he was eight years old he sat on Mao Zedong’s knee, and that later China’s long-time premier Zhou Enlai introduced him to the last emperor, Pu Yi. But these extraordinary connections seem not to have guaranteed business success.

His relations with Citic Pacific, the developer of his $8 billion iron ore acreage in Western Australia, fell apart when he took the company to court; a $40bn coal contract with China Power International Holding disintegrated awkwardly; and several attempts to float assets in Hong Kong have failed.

This article originally appeared in The Australian.