The unusual thing about the dubious detention of Rio's Stern Hu is that it has become so public. Arrests and the involvement of official law enforcement bodies in Chinese commercial matters are commonplace.
Normally the authorities and any foreign entity involved prefer to keep such detentions quiet, all the better to perhaps work out a solution to whatever the real conflict might be behind the heavy handedness.
The biggest immediate problem for "our" Mr Hu then is that his arrest has made headlines around the world so that any back down from Beijing's amazing initial allegations would involve considerable loss of face - not something totalitarian regimes care for or handle very well.
The immediate very public escalation of the arrest issue makes discreet high level use of guanxi - the uniquely Chinese concept of personal relationships - extremely difficult. And now that Chinese government sources are suggesting "their" Mr Hu - President Hu Jintao - personally approved the "investigation" that led to the arrest, it's all moved several steps beyond whatever a few words in mandarin by K. Rudd might achieve.
M. Turnbull's demand that the PM get on the phone to bring China to heel faintly echoes the provincial Australian newspaper's famous editorial that began: "We have warned Mr Hitler..." Yet again the opposition leader has been diminished by going for the quick political shot with no regard for the actual issue.
And amid all the speculation about the role played by the Chinalco deal and the internal Chinese power struggle over who runs price negotiations, another important factor has been overlooked: the disregard bordering on contempt for China's strong concerns about the BHP-Rio Pilbara joint venture.
There was China saying it would use its equivalent of the ACCC to block the BHP-Rio deal and no-one seemed to take it seriously. As well as Rio playing hardball on price negotiations, never mind the Chinalco non-deal and perhaps - to draw a long bow - the OZ Minerals Prominent Hill nonsense, well, just what did Beijing have to do to be taken seriously? Locking up a few Rio employees seems to have worked nicely.
The irony in all this is that Australia plays host to plenty of real Chinese spies undertaking a wide variety of "intelligence" and less pleasant activities and we don't seem to mind.
The Chinese embassy and consulates are crawling with spooks making life unpleasant for students and Falun Gong members while nicely-connected Chinese business people develop spectacularly generous "friendships" with our politicians apparently for no other reason than they like their company, if not their taste in suits.
Cripes, to think David Combe was hung out to dry back in 1983 for accepting a few cigars and the odd bottle from Valery Ivanov. The Russian was expelled and Combe's fledgling business as a lobbyist was destroyed. How times have changed.
(And just as a passing matter of opinion, it's worried me that anyone seemed to think there would be anything wrong if the Defence Department was doing some security checking on its then minister, Joel Fitzgibbon - certainly someone should have been. The conceit was thinking that China might have been interested in cultivating Fitzgibbon because of his Defence title - it was when he was shadow resources minister that he meant something to Beijing and regular first class international travel became such a trifling matter as to be forgotten.)
Remembering Chen, Peng
And speaking of forgetting, how quickly we've forgotten Chen Yonglin. It's only five years ago that the Chinese spy defected to Australia from his role in the Sydney consulate, telling anyone who wanted to listen about the extensive spook operation run here by China. The Howard government declined to grant Chen asylum, but subsequently a protection visa was issued after pressures was applied by the Greens.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman at the time said: "The appropriate thing for the Australian government to have done would have been to have provided immediate protection. We're disappointed that that was not the case.
"Furthermore, many people in Australia, many people in the international community have wondered where, in fact, this government's credentials lie and whether their commitment to international human rights principles are as robust as they should be."
Yes, that was K. Rudd and that's the sort of meaningless stuff opposition types say - just ask Malcolm.
Funnier things were said at the time though. China's ambassador to Australia, Madame Fu Ying, denied Mr Chen's claims and reckoned he would not be punished if he returned to China. Yeah, right.
Madame Fu is now China's ambassador to the UK - the one K. Rudd embarrassingly didn't want to sit next to in the BBC television studio.
But none of that is of any help or amusement for Stern Hu and his almost-anonymous co-workers who don't have Australian citizenship.
Colleague Ian Verrender has reminded us of the appalling treatment of another Australian citizen, James Peng, who was kidnapped from Macau and jailed for six years on trumped-up charges. That was about Peng being ripped off by one of China's "princelings".
Perhaps more pertinent, given the allegation of state secrets, was the 2004 arrest and jailing of a New York Times journalist, Zhao Yan. When no evidence could be found on the espionage charge, Zhao was jailed for three years on a spurious minor fraud allegation. With a system that assumes guilt, I suppose everyone can be found guilty of something.
The good news for Stern Hu is that he only seems to be accused for stealing state secrets for Rio Tinto, not for Taiwan. In November businessman Wo Weihan was executed after being accused of spying for Taiwan.
Diplomatic appeals by his daughters, Austrian citizens, came to nothing.