Citizens Electoral Council of Australia
Media Release Friday, 2 March 2018
Craig Isherwood‚ National Secretary
PO Box 376‚ COBURG‚ VIC 3058
Phone: 1800 636 432
Australia plays double game, driving China containment in Washington, London
If Australia wants a mutually beneficial relationship with China, it is time to stop the doublespeak. On one hand we praise the opportunities provided by China’s rise, upon which our economy has come to depend; on the other we cast China as a “threat” to the world. This is a two-faced approach to international relations that is not in Australia’s national interest, but in service of the Anglo-American world order mired in economic collapse and permanent war.
With the “special relationship” between the UK and USA under strain due to Britain’s blatant interference in the US election to stop Donald Trump from improving relations with Russia, Australia has taken on the role of Anglo-American go-between. While Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in London gushing over the UK’s “Global Britain” strategy of deploying its navy worldwide to recapture its colonial glory as the enforcer of global free trade, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in Washington, trying to convince Trump of the importance of the rule of (Anglo-American) law in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia twists itself in knots to play this game. After the US National Defence Strategy in December named China and Russia as greater threats than terrorism, Turnbull and Bishop expressed public disagreement. Their government’s 2016 Defence White Paper and 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper tell a different story, however. The former portrays China as the single greatest threat to the “rules-based global order”; the latter makes strengthening that order Australia’s top priority. One US analyst described Australia’s new foreign policy as merely “a more polite version” of America’s new National Security Strategy. The establishment media calls this two-facedness “balanced rhetoric”.
Turnbull went even further before he left for the USA, telling Sky News that “we do not describe China as a threat”, because a threat combines both capability and intent, and whilst China certainly has capability, “we do not see any hostile intent from China”. Yet at the June 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Turnbull lectured China against unilateral actions, coercion and breaching the sovereignty of other nations, suggesting China uses its economic largesse to dominate the region. In January, Australia’s spy agency ASIO reportedly listed China as an “extreme” threat to Australia, and Turnbull is ramming draconian foreign influence laws through Parliament targeted primarily at counteracting fabricated claims of Chinese interference.
Furthermore, since the election of Trump, Turnbull has urged the USA to return to the Bush-Obama policy of containing China. His Foreign Policy White Paper demands America’s role in Asia be strengthened as “an essential underpinning of the rules-based order” and a counterweight to China. Turnbull is now the biggest promoter of the revived US-Japan-India-Australia Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as a military and economic alliance, and the anti-China Trans-Pacific Partnership, reborn as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership—all to undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
In Washington, Turnbull met with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who on 13 February issued a new US intelligence assessment which warned that China’s actions are undermining Asia—read Anglo-American power in Asia: “Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese economic and diplomatic coercion”, it stated. Australia has stoked this fear, most recently in relation to Pacific Island nations, which have told Australia in no uncertain terms to butt out.
Australia is playing this double game in tandem with the masters of two-faced diplomacy, the UK. On 13 February during his visit to Australia, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told the ABC that “Australia [and] Britain see China as a country of great opportunities, but we shouldn’t be blind to the ambition that China has and we’ve got to defend our national security interests.” (Emphasis added.) Bizarrely, Williamson announced that in March Britain would conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea to challenge China. Most shocking is nobody asked what on earth the South China Sea has to do with Britain’s national security. American neoconservatives and liberal interventionists have pushed for Australia to do the same, the new US ambassador to Australia, four-star Admiral Harry Harris, among them. This is where the game gets dangerous—military provocations can quickly spiral out of control.
The TPP—more than trade
The TPP has become a not-so-secret Trojan Horse for defending the “rules-based order”—better called the “our” rules-based order—against Chinese efforts to supersede it with a new “win-win” economic architecture based upon cooperation on mutually-beneficial economic development. In his 25 February speech to leaders of the National Governors Association (NGA) conference in Washington, DC, which promoted Australia’s failed privatisation model for infrastructure over China’s successful state-directed approach, Turnbull made clear that the TPP was far from just an economic and trade policy agreement; rather it is a political and strategic intervention. Bishop delivered the same line to the UK Chamber of Commerce on 19 February.
Turnbull linked the TPP to the proposal for the USA and Australia to lead an infrastructure initiative of the Quad countries in the “Indo-Pacific” region. In order for the initiative to work in Southeast Asia or the Pacific Islands, Turnbull said, “we need to get on with the post-war project of shaping an environment in which the most competitive and rule abiding companies can succeed”—namely multinational corporations. Mapping out a vision for “a single inclusive free trade zone of the Indo-Pacific” (minus China!), Turnbull explained the role of the TPP: “And that’s why, as I said, we backed the Trans-Pacific Partnership so strongly not just because of the market access it delivers—which is very beneficial, creates jobs and investment, but because it creates the rules of the road we need to match the economic journey we’re embarking on.” (Emphasis added.)
While Turnbull said Australia looked forward to working with all countries, including China, he stipulated it would only be “on those infrastructure projects that meet the criteria of transparency, fairness, accountability and market need”—in other words, Australia’s definition of infrastructure, namely the Public-Private Partnership model which has proven to be a blatant public rip-off to profit investment banks. Turnbull did not say why Australia refuses to join China’s Belt and Road project, which we would do were we genuine about wanting collaboration.
For his part, Donald Trump didn’t seem persuaded by Turnbull. He indicated he had not changed his mind on the TPP, and praised the US-China relationship as “probably closer than we’ve ever had”.
“China is not interested in the so-called ‘competition of systems’,” Chinese congresswoman and senior diplomat Fu Ying wrote in the German Times following the 16- 18 February Munich Security Conference. Fu said China would not be repeating the mistakes of the Western world by attempting to impose its own values and model on other nations. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked for his reaction to the alternative infrastructure plans of the Quad countries, responded that China’s plans are “open and inclusive” and all are welcome. “All countries should strengthen such kind of international cooperation so as to promote regional and global economic development for the benefit of all.” (Emphasis added.)
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