The debilitating but widespread notion of economic complementarity between Australia and China, which played into this false determinist narrative, held that this naturally meant we shipped out resources and bought manufactures in return.
BlueScope Steel, spun off from BHP Billiton at the start of its glorious ascendant decade, offers an intriguing counter-narrative.
The demise of carmaking, wrongly viewed as the death knell of manufacturing, does not tell the entire story of a sector in which Australians have demonstrated a considerable capacity.
The car industry employed — and continues to do so brilliant engineers and others who will strike out in all sorts of interesting directions in the years ahead.
And here’s something extraordinary, a counterintuitive jewel.
Of course in big-picture terms, Australia will continue to produce efficiently many of the resources that our bigger Asian neighbours require, and will rely heavily on imports from smart, large-scale manufacturers in the region, especially in China.
But that’s not the whole story.
BlueScope is a telling, if still rare, example.
It is Australia’s biggest single investor in China, where it employs 1,500 people in five centres Xi’an, Tianjin, Suzhou, Guangzhou and its HQ in Shanghai — and is the leading producer of various hi-tech flat steel products.
Its output is bought and used, not stockpiled. It has carved out important markets in an economy where such inputs are extraordinarily competitive.
There is massive overcapacity in China, which the government has decided to underwrite through credit expansion to ensure it maintains its raw growth targets.
In the past five years alone, the production of finished steel products in China has soared by 145 per cent. BlueScope does not lack Chinese rivals determined to grab its markets, within China or Australia, or elsewhere in our region.
Read more: Australian manufacturing is back