Australia as a beggar nation: How the Country Liberal Party made the Port of Darwin a geo-strategic requisite for China

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photo credit: prospectmagazine.co.u

Introduction

The analysis of Australia’s leasing of the Port of Darwin (PofD) to a Chinese company (Landbridge Industry Australia) in 2017—ABC News ‘Why did the Northern Territory lease the Darwin Port to China, and at what risk?’[1]—and the serious future repercussions this will have to Australia’s security, is finally coming to the fore.  Whilst being mindful of Andrew Robb’s recent statement that there is an ‘anti-China’ sentiment that exists within Australia,[2] the underlying problem beyond the leasing is that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to rise.   The process of what constitutes a ‘rise’ has at its core the acquisition of international assets that contribute the fiscal-base of the owner’s home country cum domestic environment.  The PRC will want the asset to keep generating income; and will do all it can to keep this strong fiscal base.  There is no surprise in the  PRC pursuing this strategy as from an historical aspect, the act of gaining and keeping assets can be observed in the British dominance of India (circa-1612 – 1947) which contributed enormously to the tax-base of Britain; the United States of America (US) and its control over the Central Americas in the 1960s for the direct benefit of American companies; and Japan in its acquisition of American business assets in the 1980s—most notably in 1989, the Rockefeller Centre (Sony) and Columbia Studios (Mitsubishi).  The list of acquisitions and the ways in which they were gained is long and involves far too many countries for inclusion here, suffice to state China in the twenty-first century, like Britain and the US before it, will have the capacity in the near future to use threat-of-force or direct force to maintain a hold over its assets.  This factor can now be extrapolated upon.  

Expansionism: How mercantilism and threat-of-force rule

With the time span of the abovementioned cases crossing from the early-seventeenth through to the early twenty-first centuries emphasises the practice of gaining assets becoming firmly ensconced in the capitalist-driven business world.  Certainly, there is no immediate and substantial problem with this practice taking place from the perspective of international trade, especially in the case of China in the twenty-first century ‘globalised’ world, where it is commonplace to do ‘borderless’ business.   Whether the companies that indulge in the mercantilism alluded to are concerned enough about the welfare of the host country and therefore, contribute the correct amount of taxes and other ‘moral contracts’ within the host society are moot points and need not be debated here.  To be sure, there are many other accompanying components that allow a country to expand.  This has been true of Spain, France, Britain, the US and many others.  The assisting of expansionism for a country comprises of, but is not limited to, a strong and disciplined military, stable currency, domestic harmony and well-being, gross domestic product growth, a good (relatively constant) standard of living, a dutiful government sector, rising education standards, and a law-abiding and ordered society.

The problem for the world in general has been, when all of the abovementioned attributes coalesce within a country there is a tendency to create expansionist policies.  This can be due to ‘irredentism,’[3] the seeking of ‘righting past wrongs,’ outright revenge, the protection of an asset-beyond one’s own borders, the setting up of geo-strategic platforms and a myriad of other reasons.  Spain, in the fifteenth century expanded as far as the South Americas to claim territory and its expansionist tendencies would further usher in what would become known as, the ‘Vasco da Gama era.’    This era reflected on the achievements of the Portuguese explorer da Gama and his feats of navigation and science (circa-1500).   For all intent and purpose this would signify the power of the West for the following 500 (plus) years and as such the West—essentially Western Europe, Britain, and parts of the Mediterranean—would expand a geographic power-base and conquer the world.  The US would follow circa-mid-1800s with its demand that Japan ‘open up’ to trade with the West or be fired upon by Commodore Perry and his ‘black ships’ (1853 – 1854),[4] and moreover, the US would have numerous incursions into the lands of others.  The US’ international zenith of power would take place in the post-World War Two years (WWII).   For the West, expansionism would take place through colonialism, mercantilism, subjugation through direct military force and political manipulation or a combination of all.  A subjugated territory was considered to be ‘owned’ by the invader and hence, an inherent right of protection existed and the conquered land would viewed through a prism of being a protectorate, a suzerain state, or come under the more subjective mantle of being part of a ‘motherland.’  All would allow the territory to become part of the geo-strategic remit of the claimant.   The claimant’s inherent right to defend ‘their’ asset within the host-country would evolve to an inculcated norm within the claimant’s society—as happened recently with the Russian Federation and Crimea[5]—and the claim is often, and from an historical perspective, reinforced with military action.  The relevance here is, countries view their ‘rights’ and ownership as intermingled.  At this point the PRC’s ownership of the PofD and the repercussions this will have for Australia as the A-P becomes more fractious, can now be examined.

The trouble to come and the Country Liberal Party

What the Country Liberal Party (CLP) of the Northern Territory—long having viewed itself as the “natural ruling party of the Territory”[6]—has accomplished by leasing a significant and most strategic asset, is to place the PofD firmly on the list of having to be ‘protected’ by the lease-owner’s government.  This would be a nominal part of China’s overall foreign policy within the Asia-Pacific (A-P); and would be part of its normal foreign commitments; and exigencies.  Many countries have used the annexing of an asset that it controls, or utilizes it as part of a set of control factors, under the guise of subjective policies—regional stability; and national importance are two such factors.  There have been varying degrees of violence and politico-manipulation in many instances of claiming: Britain adopted this approach in the counter-strike against the Argentina’s attempt to take back the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas (1982), the US and the invasion of Granada (1983), China’s reclaiming of Hong Kong (1997), and the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank/East Jerusalem (1967), is to name only several nation-states that have implemented their ‘claim’ strategies for ongoing gain.     

Notwithstanding the abovementioned, all conflicts have a level of national protection as a core component of policy, although it is often accompanied by other imperatives.   Therefore, and based on history China will view the PofD as an asset that must be protected and moreover, the potential for it to be elevated to a pillar of the PRC’s regional preponderance is feasible proposition.  Based on history there is no reason why this will not happen and when it does the PofD will by definition, become part of the PRC’s A-P geo-strategic fiat.  The emphasis being made here is, as China continues on its current pathway of building a strong ‘blue water navy,’[7] the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and a sophisticated air force—the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)—it will have gained the capacity to strike at the PofD.   Of equal importance and much more likely however, is a threat-of-force, one that is able to be backed up by direct force, will be made and it will entail intimidating any ship entering, or exiting the port.   The ‘hard power’[8] that will be available to China and its allies (as it should be assumed China will have other dependable and allied A-P actors), will be centred on disrupting ease-of-access to the port without engaging in a ‘kinetic exchange’ or a ‘shooting war.’  The strategy—which has been utilized and applied by the West against Iraq and Iran in the Strait of Hurmuz standoffs (1988 and 2011 respectively)—is extremely effective as it immediately places the most powerful actor in a position of dominance and subsequently forces the less-powerful actor into a position of enforced negotiation.   The strategy and its efficacy has been observed by China and moreover, has been part of the PLAN’s ‘real world’ experience with the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s maritime force in actions off the Somalia coast (2008), which consisted of shipping-lane protection; and the curtailing of pirate activities.  This was the first time the PLAN conducted such activities and therefore, is well aware of the advantages a blockade can bring to an effective overall strategy.  To be certain, when the PLAN exercises a similar initiative toward Australia it will be resolute and it will be of polygonal intent: establishing China’s regional pro-activeness; changing the ‘strategic equation’[9] within the     A-P; place fiscal-pressure on the Australian economy; test the reaction time of the Australian military; and downwardly-moderate the Australia-US alliance.  When (rather than if),  the PofD becomes a strategic necessity for the PLAN to safeguard China’s asset and as per the Western ‘model’ of security and when this will happen and the crisis it will introduce into Australia can now be addressed.

Challenges for Australia

Importantly, China will exercise all of the mechanisms of suasion at its disposal and whether this will result in a kinetic, force-on-force exchange is moot and need not be debated here, as it is the problematics that Australians will face when China decides to pressure Australia’s geographic- and nautical-territory that is of interest here.  First of all however, a timeline of what could happen needs some understanding.  China since circa-1995 has embarked on a grand plan of irredentism and expansionism—often referred to as pax-Sino.  Two major undertakings have signalled its future intent: the ‘Nine Dash’ line[10] (NDL); and the ‘Belt and Road initiative’ (BRI).[11]  To be sure, both have been secured regardless of US and intra-Asian debate and protest; and negative commentary within the United Nations (UN).  Notwithstanding this, China has continued with its programme of expansionism and has not allowed peripheral debate to influence its agenda.  This has allowed Australia some diplomatic and military ‘breathing space’ in terms of not being directly threatened per se.  War forecasting however, is an inexact science and is dependent on many factors and moreover, relies on a set of identifiable parameters to take place which usually consist of demands, inducement, intimidation and finally, ‘coercion.’[12]  This has already happened in greater or lesser degrees in the PRC’s interactions with Vietnam and the Philippines so far however, kinetic exchanges has only consisted of minor skirmishes.  The intent of China will not change and over time it will force Australia into the forefront of its regional endeavours. 

The PRC will use the PofD to expand upon its notions of control and this will intensify as it continues to rise and it will use the feint of direct power—the presence of ‘capital ships’[13]—in order to cluster the majority of Australian military forces in the north of Australia.   Strategists’ understand the advantages and limitations of an armed force and of when and where, to feint and moreover, China understands the Australian military can only holdout for a week, before becoming ‘impotent.’[14]  The reason China will use threat-of-force is because it an eminently manageable tactic for a powerful actor, however it undermines the capabilities of the less-powerful actor by overstretching its capabilities.  More importantly, the tactic produces additional and complex domestic problems for the threatened actor, and this will be the case for Australia.

Some of the issues Australia would face as a feint and a threat-of-force takes place comprise but are not limited to, Australia has near-zero civilian- and military-reserve fuel and this problem would instantly come to the fore.   Severe fuel rationing and food distribution would become immediately and immensely problematic—as it did for Japan (an island nation-state) during World War Two.   Another two major problems would be a mass exodus of the population south from Darwin and this would create an overwhelming set of logistical, societal and order problems, which in turn would be compounded by a more general and frantic exodus of people from Australia.   People who are able to financially- and status-able (dual citizenship) to leave will do so, as there is evidence when a country comes under threat a significant portion of their population exits—Taiwan (1996)[15] is one example of such an occurrence.   Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the Australian import- and export-driven economy would essentially collapse under the strain of these problems; and Australia would be forced into re-negotiating the PofD by the PRC which would inevitably be used to their strategic and tactical advantage.  An obvious strategic demand by the PRC would be the non-entry of US Navy ships to the PofD and the tactic would be to test Australia’s resolve; place a significant  (if not catastrophic) stressor on the Australia-US alliance; and ultimately, force defence agreements to be moderated.  The question of ‘why and when’ will this take place can now be addressed.

Conclusion

Whilst the inexact science of war-forecasting has been alluded to, there are some components that indicate that China is to date, not able to pursue its agenda of being a major actor in the A-P to the fullest extent.  The reasons for this are many however, a nation-state’s progress is a dynamic and as setbacks are overcome—the US loss of the Vietnam War (1973), and the (then) Soviet Union’s loss of Afghanistan (1989) are two cases in point—powerful actors soon recover and begin another phase of engagements.  Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the fact remains ‘rising nation-states’ are keen to ‘stamp their authority’ on nautical-, air- and ground-territories.  At the present time there are moderations to China’s rise and they comprise but are not limited to, the retrocession of Taiwan not having taken place; the PLAN and PLAAF are not at full operational capacity; the NDL and BRI are and remain works-in-progress; China’s northwest province remains unstable; China-Russia relations (especially, with regard to energy security for China) are at times capricious; and China has not established whether the US will remain involved in the A-P to the extent it was in the twentieth century.   All issues whilst being significant are a dynamic, and will need to be worked through over time although once China has established its status in the region, whether it be a unipolar, or be a ‘pole’ in a multi-polar bloc, the situation for Australia will from a politico-perspective, intensify due to the vulnerability the lease has created in Australia.  

Australia’s problems will be compounded by its hold on the past and of considering the A-P to be its ‘patch,’[16] and whilst this is grounded in a history of dominance in the region, it remains an untenable ‘reach’ for Australia in a new and different A-P.   Australia is simply unable to defend its ‘patch’ against a major actor such as the PRC.   Due to its newfound and increasing status, China will exercise greater control over the A-P and thus, the protection of its assets will be by necessity, leveraged.   In order to uphold the tenet or protection threat-of-force and if necessary, direct force will be used.   Pre-military actions by China will comprise politico-strategies such as elevating its involvement in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; and exercising its rights more robustly in the UN, and particularly as part of the UN Permanent Five, will become more evident over time however there will be a deeper cause and intent associated with these actions as they will signal the PRC’s intent to exercise military suasion if need be.  The threat of direct force will only be used when China’s role in the A-P becomes more defined; and the desire to become a more forthright actor in the region is actively pursued.   As stipulated, the protection of assets and the influences therein, will come to the fore and actions associated with the PofD will signal the PRC’s policies toward its rights; and ambitions.    

The CLP leasing the PofD will allow the PRC to enact a claim on its asset, a claim that would not have existed had the lease not been entered into, and this in turn will allow the PRC to place restrictions on the port and the surrounding strategic ‘space,’ which must place Australia’s negotiation platform in a weakened position.  To think that Australia will not have to negotiate with such a powerful actor is an absurd and fanciful notion, as the pressures placed on the Australian economy— and military—will be too great.  Further exacerbating the problem of defending the PofD will be the ‘Attack Class’ submarines having not being assimilated; the Joint Strike Fighter not being capable of repelling the PLAN and PLAAF; and of Australians historic, albeit misguided, belief the US will come to its aid.   Which brings the question, when will all of the aforementioned happen? 

From the mid-2030s a dire time for Australia will have been created as China will have become a more military robust; and politico-sophisticated nation-state.  Notwithstanding this evolvement, the PofD will be a core underpinning for China’s regional military manoeuvrings, and Australians will have the CLP to ‘thank’ for creating a calamitous and ominous situation.  Unless Australia’s foreign policy attitudes toward the PRC change and decisions are made to mitigate the threat the PRC poses Australia will be drawn into a conflict.  Australia must embrace the fact that the PRC will increasingly become a major politico-, and military-actor in the A-P, albeit one that has been offered a disproportionate advantage by the CLP.  China, like powerful actors before it, will be prepared to use direct force in order to attain; and sustain its status.  The CLP has produced a problem that will malign Australia far into the future, on many levels, and will indubitably produce a crisis Australia has not experienced since the WWII (1942) bombing of Darwin by the Japanese Imperial Air Force; and the occupation of New Guinea by the Japanese Imperial Army in the same year.  Both caught Australia unprepared and created panic.  The CLP has consigned Australia to this future again by a massive and collective act of stupidity. 


[1] Christopher Walsh.  ‘Why did the Northern Territory lease the Darwin Port to China, and at what risk?’  ABCNews. 12 Mar, 2019.  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-12/why-did-northern-territory-sell-darwin-port-to-china-what-risk/10755720

[2] ABC Radio AM.  ‘Robb slams Turnbull, Joyce and security agencies over anti-China sentiment.’ Interviewer: Eliza Borrello.  https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/robb-slams-turnbull-joyce-security-agencies-anti-china-sentiment/10891480

[3] ‘Irredentism,’ or ‘irredentist policies’ comprise, ‘a party in any country advocating the acquisition of some region included in  another country by reason of cultural, historical, ethnic, racial, or other ties.’   See: ‘irredentism,’ Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition,.  HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/irredentism 

[4] See: ‘Commodore Perry and Japan (1853 – 1854).’  Asia for Educators.  http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/japan_1750_perry.htm

[5] John Simpson.  ‘Russia’s Crimea plan detailed, secret and successful.’  BBCNews, 19 Mar, 2014.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26644082

[6] ‘Why did the Northern Territory lease the Darwin Port to China, and at what risk?’  ABCNews.

[7] A ‘blue water navy’ consists of having a navy which is able to venture into open ocean or the high seas, as opposed to littoral waters.  A navy of this kind is according to Kirtz able to defend against ‘open ocean naval threats … and [is consistent with] gaining command of the sea.’  See: James Kirtz. ‘Introduction.’ Naval Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Operations.  Stability from the sea. Edited by James Wirtz and Jeffrey Larsen.  Oxon: Routledge, 2009, 1.

[8] ‘Hard power’ centres on military and economic power … .’ See: Joseph Nye. ‘Soft Power and European-American Economic Affairs.’  Hard Power, Soft Power and the Future of Transatlantic Relations.  Edited by Thomas Ilgen.  Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006, 26.

[9] There is some relevance in noting how the US changed the ‘strategic equation’ of the Middle East by initiating Gulf War II (2003) and it is, ‘For the Bush administration, Iraq was an inviting target for pre-emption not because it was an immediate threat but because it was thought to be a prospective menace that was incapable of successfully defending itself against a U.S. invasion.  For an administration that was determined to change the strategic equation of the Middle East and make Saddam an object lesson to [Weapons of Mass Destruction] proliferators, Iraq was not a danger to avoid but a strategic opportunity.’  See: Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.  Cobra II. The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.  New York: Patheon Books, 2006, 64.

[10] ‘The U.S. and China’s Nine Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity.’  Brookings Institute. 6 Feb, 2014.  https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity-2/

[11] ‘The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. The initiative aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves. The BRI consists primarily of the Silk Road Economic Belt, linking China to Central and South Asia and onward to Europe, and the New Maritime Silk Road, linking China to the nations of South East Asia, the Gulf Countries, North Africa, and on to Europe. Six other economic corridors have been identified to link other countries to the Belt and the Road. The scope of the initiative is still taking shape—more recently the initiative has been interpreted to be open to all countries as well as international and regional organizations.’  See: ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’  The World Bank   28 Mar, 2018.  https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/regional-integration/brief/belt-and-road-initiative

[12] ‘Coercion is the use or threatened use of military force to defeat any elements of the population that resist or threaten to resist an occupation … Coercion in occupations can take the form of either explicit actual violence, or latent violence that deters violent opposition to occupation.  Military occupiers may employ violence in order to destroy any opposition.  Occupiers may also use the threat of violence to quell any resistance before it erupts … coercion becomes a  necessary prerequisite to these more cooperative strategies when significant opposition is present’  See: David Edelstein.  Occupational Hazards.  Success and Failure in Military Occupations.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008, 49-53.

[13] Capital ships are the most potent surface arm of a navy and have been since circa—seventeenth century and Thayer stipulates this point as navies were continually involved in, ‘war after war [as capital ships] swept the seas …

[in]

exhausting strifes.’  See:  Alfred Thayer.  The Influence of Sea Power upon History 1660-1805. London: Hamlyn, 1980, 77.

[14] See:  Jamie walker.  ‘US forces too weak to defend Australia, says Jim Molan.’ The Australian.  4 Jan, 2018.  https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/us-forces-too-weak-to-defend-australia-says-jim-molan/news-story/a9cae939218b980b88d510c4780a1cdd

[15] The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis is able to be used as a guide to what a war would bring and although this crisis did not evolve further than a show of strength on the part of China through a live fire exercise, it nevertheless ‘disrupted naval shipping and air commercial air traffic, causing harm to Taiwan’s economy … [and] Taiwanese scrambled to reserve seats on flights to North America.’  See: Michael Cole.  ‘The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.  The Forgotten Showdown between China and America.’  The National Interest.  10 Mar, 2017.  https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-third-taiwan-strait-crisis-the-forgotten-showdown-19742

[16] ‘China shuns rivalry in the Pacific as Australia says “this is our patch.”  ChannelNewsAsia.  8 Nov, 2018.  https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/china-shuns-rivalry-in-pacific-as-australia-says–this-is-our-patch–10907760

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Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, international relations, Papua New Guinea, Rise of China, taiwan, war | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hell hath no fury:  The makings of a Turnbull return

Normally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues with a particular emphasis on war and conflict however, the arrival of Malcolm Turnbull on the ABC’s Q&A programme made me want to offer a possibility of Malcolm being the ‘comeback kid,’ a term that was originally applied to Bill Clinton.  So I suppose there is some relevance to international relations.  Nevertheless, the opportunity was too much, as was the chance to suggest how he will ‘come back.’

The well-balanced, nuanced, articulate and commendable accuracy—albeit with only accomplishments writ large—in the ex-prime minister’s (pm) appearance on the ABC’s Q&A special edition as part of New South Wales Festival of Dangerous Ideas programme on 8 November, 2018, was exceptional only in that the ex-pm was able to contain his incandescent rage at those that unseated him (read: kicked him out of office).  It should also be noted that Mr Turnbull also kept insisting that though he is ‘retired,’ that does not exclude him from making a comment about his ‘brilliant leadership,’ and the aforesaid ‘accomplishments’ therein.  Nor should an ex-pm be excluded from the debate as a free and opinionated citizen in the liberal-democracy of Australia—all should have their say outside of the shackles of slander and smear in a robust democracy.  Was it just me, or did others get the notional understanding that Malcolm Turnbull is in the nascent phase of being a ‘comeback kid’?  The once ‘Honourable’ Malcolm Turnbull wants the title back!  This was his first go at establishing what will be a fast and furious transition to Minister of Parliament, although a few things will have to happen first.

The most important ‘thing’ to happen is that the Honourable Bill Shorten wins the next election and within this happening there is a ‘blowback’ within the Liberal Party and its ‘rusted on’ voters.  The demise of Ministers Abbott, Birmingham, Cormann, Dutton, Hunt, Seselja—or at the very least, a significant plunge in their popularity—and several others such as Craig Kelly and Nigel Scullion and other ‘faceless men’ (that term sounds familiar), will have to take place as this will segue into Turnbull being ‘invited’ back to the ‘sensible centre’ of the Liberal Party; and the Liberal Party per se.  Where will this mysterious invite emanate from and will there be enough constituents in the area concerned to vote for Turnbull because he is well … the one and only Malcolm Turnbull.   What has to happen is the revenge-vote has to come to the fore and the constituents concerned will want to send a message, to the Honourable Member Shorten and paradoxically, the Liberal Party as well.  Who will it be and what seat will it be?  Subtleness is the key here, and more to the point it will have to be like a hand-pass in Aussie Rules—seamless, a small move and able to help someone else kick a goal, something for the  greater good.  From then on it is Malcolm who will be kicking goals all the way back to the prime ministership.   Turnbull has this as his ultimate goal after last week’s Q&A, and he knows time is short but he does have the sympathy vote in hand; a large portion of the Australian public thinking he is ‘PM material;’ and he is still young enough to pursue this avenue.   And theoretically, if Shorten makes a hash of it then he only has four or so years to wait—and as it stands there is a dearth of talent in the Liberal Party—especially ‘leadership talent.’  This is perhaps Turnbull’s greatest weapon within the Liberal Party.  Where will he go and what will he do to achieve this?

 

Casting an eye over the Liberal Party and their seats as well as their ‘rusted on’ supporters one can be forgiven for thinking that the Honourable Karen Phelps might be the first to have her seat removed as Liberal Party people remove a person who was a blip on their political radar.  This is however, unlikely as to vote someone else in instead of Malcolm is tantamount to being traitorous to the cause, whereas voting in Phelps was not traitorous, it was a reaction—it was voting out the Liberal Party not voting Phelps in.  This happened in the resurgence of the Labor Party in Victoria after the mind-boggling horrors of the Kennett years in Victoria, it wasn’t that Bracks’ was particularly great, it was he was so vastly more in touch with the people of Victoria that he would ‘do.’ Out with Kennet, not in with Bracks and the other ‘99ers’ as they were called.

So, who will give up their seat in order to place Malcolm in a robust conservative position with a strong middle-of-the-road sentiment?  We have to go to the old stomping ground of Bennelong where they were willing to give a radical new-age thinking a go and an articulate woman a chance (Maxine McKew).  After they realised what they ‘had done,’ they returned to lackadaisical ‘everything will be fine,’ ‘no need to panic,’ run-of-the-mill political mainstream—the Honourable John Alexander.   This is where Turnbull’s greatest opportunity is, a solid Liberal seat that doesn’t want to venture into the unknown again, (because it was obviously quite scary to have an articulate woman in the job), yet it offers unlimited opportunity for another go at the prime ministership—and who in this seat would not be begging for a change from the humdrum of the current incumbent?

Turnbull and his advisor’s must be looking at Bennelong and their mouths must be watering, a seamless transition, a ‘rusted on’ group of voters and the chance for these ‘aspirationals’ to have a prime minister in their midst.  And whatsmore, it wouldn’t cost Turnbull a cent (unlike his last grab at the job), he would just majestically reappear—the first step in his new Aussie ‘bloke having a go’ at what is rightfully his; and should never have been taken away.   Don’t underestimate Turnbull’s ambition; or his rage.

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Something is wrong here:  Six months (or thereabouts) in Taiwan and the whole damn thing

 

There’s not much more oppressive ‘out there’ than a tropical summer and I have to tell you that Taiwan in ‘right up there,’ when it comes to summer: baking -tropical, sticky and oppressive heat.   When I walk down the streets of New Taipei city and as I watch people cooking in this heat (July 2018), I have to say that I feel nothing but admiration.  The upshot of the diligence of the street vendors’ and the shopkeepers’ who choose to let the summer heat into their stores, is, the food is delicious.  What could be hotter than Taiwan in summer?  One may indeed ask that question.  That would be the political situation.  In the process of the everyday there is a multitude of political machinations going on—and off.  It is hard to believe that this island with approximately the same population as Australia could be such a maelstrom of regional and international activity—the ‘international’ consists of only one nation, but we’ll get to that.

But before we get to Taiwan, there’s a broader political perspective that one needs to have come to grips with, and that’s what happens when you’re an island nation and others need your ‘strategic locale’ to bolster their own needs—this will happen to Australia and the Port of Darwin but we’ll get to that too.  Back to the ‘problem’ with being an island nation, well just look at Crete and Malta in World War Two, and Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Okinawa in the same war and it didn’t stop there, as it happened to the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvina in the early-1980s.  It also happened to Hawaii—stolen form an Hawaiian princess by the United States of America (US).   And oh yes, it happened to the Australian Indigenous peoples too, their island got stolen from them as a collective, but after the apology to their stolen generations, they will get something to show for their ongoing suffering—the Turnbull government in its recent budget has allocated 48 million dollars to building a statue of Captain James Cook, for no doubt, the purposes of adding a little salt to the wound; and to show that there is and remains no limits to what a neo-conservative government will do to show that it has a will and a way.   If you are a neoconservative you just have to secret yourself away, wait long enough, like a submarine, and just when no one is expecting you—there you are!    I wonder if the Canadian prime minister is going to build a conquering statue for the Mohican’s to ponder?  The Honourable Prime Minister Trudeau does seem too sophisticated and cosmopolitan for that, and not being a neo-conservative and pre-determinist will also help him to not go down that path, I would suggest.  But, I digress, back to Taiwan or at least, the Asia-Pacific and island nations, which is the problem for Taiwan.

 

It seems if an island nation is what ‘you are,’ then someone, somewhere, is going to come after you,   and such a pivotal issue of rancour in the Asia-Pacific (now conveniently called the Indo-Pacific in order to include India and exclude China in the grand scheme of things) is.  The hope is that as the Indo-Pacific keeps getting referred to as the Indo-Pacific then China will decide it’s all too much and go home, back to where they ‘belong’—which is on their mainland only.   This hope will not happen.  As much as the West and its prudence in demanding that ‘navigation rights,’ and ‘sea lanes’ are part of the ‘international order’—you know the ones designed, expanded upon and valued-laden for the West in its robust management of the known world (then), and the global world (now)—and that went down particularly well with another Asian nation (Japan), when it was commanded by Commodore Perry to stop being recalcitrant, and damn well open its borders to trade.  Just a small mention here that according to Noam Chomsky when Japan got better than the West at trading, the West then went and shut it off—the Dutch, British and Americans were the main players in the process—which after much angst by the Japanese would eventually lead to the ‘surprise attack’ (the Japanese called it a ‘revenge attack,’ funny how it’s all about perspectives) on Pearl Harbor.  It wasn’t really a surprise attack and more of a cathartic happening which President Roosevelt allowed and needed, because most of the US’ population supported Nazi Germany and he was too frightened to intervene before this event because of the domestic voter-backlash.

That abovementioned aside, the  problem here is that China,  just like Japan before it, never agreed to the Western ‘order’—commonly referred to as the Westphalian order—as it had the order essentially thrust upon it after 1648, and it has resented it ever since.  A bit like in more recent times in the Australian domestic sphere  being told that as a member of the tax-paying public you are not allowed to protest on Crown Land (read: government owned) anymore, even though in a liberal-democracy you as a citizen technically own it.  That would never happen, surely!   Oh, the New South Wales (NSW) government has just passed that law, so if you don’t agree with what the NSW government wants to do, you’re free to protest, just not on ‘their land,’ which is technically yours, but try telling that to the arresting officer.

Back to the broader point that is trying to be made.  Anyone doubting the difficulty with which China had to come to terms with such a situation should simply read Martin Jacques’ When China Rules the World.  The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New World Order, and this will allow you, as it did me, to come to grips with the horrors of having something so insulting thrust upon you. Understanding of this type of situation is to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown which is the course of pain that the Native American Indians had thrust upon them (for decades).   If you can read it through the tears you’re a stronger person than me.  China is rising and as unpalatable as that may seem to those of us who have watched the West become the ultimate power, to acknowledge that things have changed would (possibly) diminish the need for conflict.  Try it Australia, it might work.   You know all that talk about diplomacy trumping (pun intended) war!

More to the point.  When I was first in Taiwan some fifteen-plus years ago I thought the situation was tense.   The situation back then, now, seems like a walk in the park, a leisurely stroll followed by a picnic.  It’s also a bit unnerving to observe how when I have been back to Australia on albeit short visits, that there is barely anything mentioned about what is going on in the Asia-Pacific with regard to the crisis that is unfolding before Australia’s eyes—plenty of comment on Brexit and the US trade war, barely any on the Asia-Pacific, ooops sorry, the INDO-PACIFIC.  Get it right!

Every day here in Taiwan there is comment on the ‘China threat,’ the Taiwan response, the scrambling for political certainty, what will happen, the rise of China, the number of allies Taiwan has, the change in military strategies by both actors … the list goes on.   The commentary involves a situation that will (one day) come to a head, as it must, and therefore, the commentary is worthwhile and necessary.  The problem is after six months or so of being here in Taiwan, the dialogue is Taiwan-China-US.  Serious and critical commentary from any other international entities seems severely lacking.  I thought we lived in a global world.

Something is wrong here.

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Rise of China, taiwan, Taiwan politics, Uncategorized, war | Leave a comment

Taiwan 2018: A few weeks in …

Taiwan: to mid-February 2018

The Taiwan-China issue remains vibrant and ongoing.  There is near-daily comment in the newspapers about the ongoing situation:  China asserting pressures and Taiwan attempting to retain its independence (whilst not actually declaring independence).  The situation is fraught with tension and the debate is definitely ‘hotting up’ as China is placed in a more prominent position by others.  Nevertheless, the elements of commentary are broad and perhaps the most damaging for Taiwan consists of Britain wanting to enter a new ‘golden age’ with China.  Front page:  May meets with Xi as she seeks China trade post-EU.

Comment: The sign to Taiwan is clear: Britain sees China as an economically viable partner.  This will without doubt, impact upon Taiwan’s status in terms of each time China makes a gain such as this, it creates additional problems for its international standing.  (Toward a new UK-PRC ‘golden age’)

The ‘values’ argument continues, with Taiwan values being different than that of China’s and is premised on democracy, and freedom of speech and shared community being unique to Taiwan and not so for the PRC  (Taiwanese values mean ‘not PRC’s’).

China has also increased it economic presence by proposing a new ‘Silk Road’ through the Arctic and PLAN ships passed through Japanese territorial waters off the Tokara Islands which China argues was the Osumi Strait (China sees new Silk Road in the Arctic).

Australia gets a mention:  China criticizes Australia for being ‘anti-China’ (Chinese infiltration not unnoticed).

China exercises ‘sharp power,’ which is the ability to manipulate or intimidate another nation’ (Ad displays China’s ‘sharp power,’ and just below on pate 8, ‘China’s new approach on Taiwan,’ which discusses China’s desire for unification to take place by at the very latest, 2049—the 100 year anniversary of the PRC (China’ new approach on Taiwan).

‘China should be wary of Trump,’ which essentially argues that because Trump is impressed by the size and cost of things, Trump is likely to go up against China only in order to get a better deal for the US, and if that entails abandoning Taiwan he will do so.

‘Taiwan confronts its darkest hour.’ This article deals with the way in which China is seeking to increase military pressure on Taiwan whilst also encouraging Taiwanese business to invest in China.  The article argues these people will become pawns in the economic stranglehold that will play out in favour of China; and to the detriment of Taiwan.

‘Taiwanese find opportunity, risk in China,’  is an article about the incentives China is offering Taiwanese in the form of start-ups and other financial incentives, as Taiwan’s economy stagnates and the offer of incentives is not as great.  The possible effects on Taiwanese in terms of whether it influences them in favour of China is also discussed.

In  a more globalised sense ‘Crack between the US and Europe over China widens,’ as Europe grapples with the way in which it should approach China and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, and not surprisingly how Trump has impacted on the relationship.  The article is especially focused on the retreat (contrary to what the White House says) of the US in the region.

The list of way in which Taiwan can defend itself is lauded in ‘So you think China can win,’ and more importantly deals  with what will happen to the PRC government  if the US does come to the  aid of Taiwan.  It also deals with the problems on mainland China which deal with border disputes and the way in which constant disputes sap personnel and this will work against any invasion or restriction plans.

Eleven major articles in about 15 days sums up the  concern.

Source:  Taipei Times

Commentary:  The above show how intense the Taiwan-China situation actually is, and remains; and offers an understanding that it is spreading beyond the Asia-Pacific and into Europe which has essentially, not been a military player to date, in the region to any great extent.  This will probably change though as China continues to flex its strategic-muscle in the ‘One road, One belt,’ initiative; and its economic prowess continues to influence.   France and India have begun to show some additional interest in Taiwan, India in particular has conducted strategic manoeuvrings with its navy recently; and is acutely aware that the  more power China gains the more ‘catching up’ that India has to do.   With the UK making sure to be amicable with China is no doubt a huge worry for Taiwan as its approach will inevitably give China more credence in its dealings with the UK and whilst it is premised on Britain attempting to turn a ‘hard Brexit’ into a ‘softer one—and of PM May attempting to shore-up her shambolic government—the very fact that she has made the journey must somewhere in the future weaken Taiwan’s influence in Britain. Of particular worry, in the press it seems, is that Taiwanese that move to China, will be merged into being ‘Chinese’ rather than being ‘Taiwanese,’ and this seems to be an overarching worry to the government of Taiwan.

 

Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, European politics, international relations, Rise of China, taiwan, Taiwan politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An insane Industrial-Capitalist notion: Australia to be one of the ‘top 10’ arms exporters …

The Australian government’s latest idea to be a reasonable global citizen is to increase Australia’s share of being an arms-exporter. Spruiking the idea, in Nov 2017, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP was in Saudi Arabia according to reports (1). The idea of selling arms to a country that has never (to my knowledge) published a ‘rules of engagement’ protocol regarding the Syrian Conflict is a dangerous administration to be dealing with.
But, it’s all about jobs!
Pyne will no doubt also stress that arms deals are highly-monitored. That’s really worked for Australia in the past. Take the use of Australian gifted patrol boats, helicopters and aircraft (2) that were used in the blockade of Bougainville–which was ostensibly, on the part of the New Guinea government to support a private company and its assets.
 
This arms-dealership/manufacturing policy is yet again, another sad refection on the industrial-capitalist, neo-liberal agenda the Turnbull government pursues.
 
 
 
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Taiwan: a week in …

Since arriving in Taiwan ROC one week ago there has been …
 
  • four new flight-paths across the Taiwan Strait unilaterally decided upon by China;
  • President Tsai  should plan to avoid conflict with China, and has been asked on TV to define ‘Taiwanese values’;
  • an article stipulating ‘The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has a history of lack of restraint’;
  • the removal of the Taiwanese flag from the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and the Office of the US Trade Representative; and
  • the US’ stipulating there is ‘no change’ in its relationship with Taiwan.
 
Source: Taipei Times
The rise of China is actually happening!!!
Posted in American politics, Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, international relations, Rise of China, taiwan, Taiwan politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A volatile combination: Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea

https://i1.wp.com/www.klikdigital.com/johnofgodbrothers/imageup/oceaniamap.jpg
Map credit:  lahistoriconmaps.com
Having just read Pacific Power.  Australia’s Strategy in the Pacific Islands, (Author: Joanne Wallis) this book is an excellent read, and anyone interested in International Relations, especially the Asia-Pacific (A-P), should indulge in this succinct and articulate analysis.  One thing that I found particularly disturbing and of profound significance to Australia’s future was that ‘reflecting on Australia’s benign neglect of the Pacific Islands during the 1970s and 1980s,’ (p92), with the rise of China — and its inherent and continual geo-strategic push throughout the A-P (which is what, as I have previously stipulated, is what rising powers seek to achieve) — Papua New Guinea (PNG) has an agreement with Australia: Joint Declaration of Principles (1987).  What is most amazing about this agreement and according to Wallis is that if Indonesian military forces intrude into PNG in order to prosecute a mission –such as seeking refugees escaping from West Papua/Irian Jaya–is that in the process if they come into contact with PNG military forces.  What does this mean for Australia? According to Wallis ‘Australia may be obliged to assist PNG forces in such a conflict, which would place Australia in direct military conflict with Indonesia …’ (p316).
 
As China rises and its ties get closer with Indonesia and the Chinese government formulates and then develops further pacts with its A-P alliances, such an encounter could be used as a trigger for China to move on its Australian assets (such as the Port of Darwin), in order to proffer its geo-strategic footprint in the region; and exert greater authority over the region per se.  Yet another issue for Australia to consider in the future  as the submarine debacle continues; Australia cuts foreign aid to its nearest neighbours which will inevitably have a backlash; and the political-memory of World War Two remains vibrant due to the ‘saving of Australia’ by the United States of America (US), from which Australian politicians’ seem totally incapable of extracting their collective-selves from.  If China utilizes such an action and then extends upon it, the repercussions for Australia could be immense.   In the introduction to the chapters Wallis also alludes to the voting in of Trump and the repercussions for the A-P that may happen due to this.  Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned it is a very interesting read and one that is thoroughly recommended for those interested in International Relations.   
Posted in Asia-Pacific Politics, Asian Century Politics, Australian politics, Indonesia, international relations, Papua New Guinea, Rise of China, Uncategorized, war | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment