China salon 30/6

Some of these items started in a draft Weekly salon. They got too big, so I’ve made a separate post, and installed Chairman Xi as a featured image.

Michael Pascoe: Dud diplomacy with China will cost plenty and deliver us nothing

    Nuanced, subtle, far-sighted, strategic, wise, prudent, considered, clever – all words associated with successful diplomacy, and all words I’ve never heard associated with Peter Dutton.

    Despite that, the Home Affairs Minister is free to weigh into Australia’s most important diplomatic relationship from time to time and does so with all the subtlety of a Bjelke-Petersen-era Queensland copper at a student demo.

    It might make Mr Dutton feel braver and more righteous than the next talking head. It doesn’t help Australia or anyone else.

    Mr Dutton’s Friday sprays on a morning infotainment show symbolise the disintegration of rational Australian foreign policy

That was Michael Pascoe Back on 6 June. He thinks there has been a “China-bashing bandwagon for domestic political reasons with no concern for our national interest” and:

    In short order Australia’s mainstream media has embraced Sinophobia as an article of editorial faith, while the federal government either intentionally sabotages our economic interests for no strategic benefit or simply blunders its way from one diplomatic failure to the next.

Scott Morrison’s Chinese whispers are playing with fire

That’s Paul Bongiorno, also questioning the wisdom of Morrison’s China strategy in the light of Australia targeted in massive ‘state-based’ cyber attack.

The Government is said to be worried about:

    China launching a major cyber attack, that can disrupt electricity grids, food security, transport logistics and spread misinformation and disinformation undermining confidence in government communications.

Except that no-one in the Government will name China, because these attacks can be made to look like they come from some-one else.

Apparently the main state players are China, Russia, and Iran, then there is North Korea and Israel, plus a horde of non-state actors, all of which have increased their activity of late.

Nevertheless the problem is this:

    Diplomatic sources in Canberra have no doubt the increased cyber activity is China’s reaction to what it sees as Australia playing the role of a “US henchman” in the United Nations.

    The Global Times, published under the auspices of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China, warned on Sunday that being a “US proxy” only “jeopardised relations with China”.

Morrison’s first act on becoming PM was to axe the position of minister for cyber security and fold the function into Peter Dutton’s mega Home Affairs portfolio. Dutton still hasn’t come up with a cyber strategy. Now we’ve hired former US secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen, who led the global campaign against Huawei.

The notion here is that we should get our own act together rather than taking public stances which put us more firmly in the US camp in the eyes of China. However, part of Morrison’s dilemma is that entities in Australia outside government control are lax and vulnerable, basically asleep at the wheel, so the warning was in part a call to be alert and alarmed internally.

Malcolm Turnbull’s view

I’m fascinated by the body language in this 2016 image:

Going back to April, when the Morrison government called for an inquiry, Malcolm Turnbull urged Australia NOT to anger China after Beijing’s threat to ruin our economy as revenge for COVID-19 inquiry demand. His analysis as to how the Chinese approach has changed, is outlined and cited in this ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) article, Turnbull memoir lays out Australia’s shift on China:

    In the six years between my speech at the LSE in 2011 and my Shangri-La address in 2017, China’s capabilities, in every respect, had continued to grow; but what had really changed was its intent. Under Xi, it became more assertive, more confident and more prepared to not just reach out to the world, as Deng [Xiaoping] had done, or to command respect as a responsible international actor, as Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had done, but to demand compliance.

See also the recent interview China wants a compliant Australia.

Turnbull says we have to deal with China as a friend and as an enemy (frenemy), but have to stay onside with both the US and China.

However, when matters become public, we have no choice but to stand our ground.

In this case matters are now very public indeed. Morrison’s position has been made more difficult by Trump’s invitation to attend the G7 later this year (see Scott Morrison’s G7 tightrope). It seems Trump will use the meeting to rubbish China, and may float ideas of making a break economically with China. Merkel and Macron will have nothing of this nonsense, but Morrison will be implicated.

No doubt there are back channel communications going on. In a media Q&A Morrison recently mentioned that we are currently working with China to recast the notoriously dysfunctional WTO dispute resolution processes. Also, we have more co-operative research with China than we do with the US.

Meanwhile China has stopped buying our wool and according to the AFR is seeking to diversify its sources of iron ore, where China is 80% dependent on Australia. Most of the rest comes from Brazil, so they are developing sources in Africa, which will take years.

Opinions have changed

This year The Lowy Institute Poll has found that trust in China has plummeted drastically:

    Only 23 per cent of Australians trust China to act responsibly in the world, a dramatic fall from 52 per cent just two years ago.​

I did hear of a survey which showed that Chinese people still ranked Australia in the top two as a place to visit or study, but I can’t find a link.

ABC RN’s Background Briefing recently took a look at Why Australia’s spies think the far right could find a foothold during coronavirus, and found the activities of the far right much increased and quite disturbing.

Federal police raid Labor MP’s home in China links probe

Now we find that:

    NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane is being questioned in his parliamentary office after the Australian Federal Police and ASIO raided his home and office in Sydney on Friday.

    NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay confirmed she was aware of the raids, and that the party would suspend Mr Moselmane’s membership.

Ms McKay says there are limits to what she can say, but it’s “terrible”, so I guess we have to believe her. We are in a context where if guilty someone could go to jail.

Now we hear that Shaoquett Moselmane says it’s actually not him who the coppers are looking for.

Seems the ABC has previously been told that national security organisations have been “chomping at the bit” to get “a few scalps”.

So, he says, the lynching has begun.

    Mr Moselmane, who has made at least 15 trips to China, said he always footed the bill himself and that most of his visits were to deliver wheelchairs to disabled children.

    The former Mayor of Rockdale arrived in Australia from Lebanon in 1977 and has been a passionate anti-racism campaigner and regular attendee at Chinese cultural events.

    In a 2017 speech to Parliament, Mr Moselmane said he had a “great fascination” with China, which he described as a “great nation with a great history and great people”.

    “My views on China are, in my opinion, views that any Australian is entitled to, to have or to refute,” he said on Monday.

Looking forward, if he’s right he should be able to sue for damages and retire on the proceeds.

Alan Behm calls for calm and commonsense

Elsewhere, Alan Behm at the Australia Institute says a more considered and deliberate approach to the relationship with China is needed:

    “The stridency that distinguishes contemporary government pronouncements on China is alarmist and alarming,” said Allan Behm, head of the International & Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute.

    “China is here to stay, and no amount of Australian stridency changes that fact. This requires a return to the deliberate, measured diplomacy that is the key to progressing our national interests in a highly contested regional and global environment.

    “To alienate China, or for China to alienate Australia is not a sound strategy, and so Australia should work to understand the difference between accommodation and appeasement. Alienation never results in accommodation, but when backed by economic power and armed force, it may force appeasement. That’s the risk.”

Amen to that.

Most alarming of all

Our fourth largest export industry and 80% of our manufacturing has been put at risk as China Threatens To Boycott Kangaroo Scrotum Coin Purses, according to The Betoota Advocate:

Complete balls up, by all accounts.

29 thoughts on “China salon 30/6”

  1. Not sure anyone has read this yet. With the latest software upgrade I’m still the blog administrator, but am now being told I’m not allowed to see the statistics page.

    I misssed the story about China ‘s fisticuffs with the Indians in the Himalayas. I’m assuming that the provocation was initiated by a Chinese incursion.

    This is literally playing with fire. Do the Chinese really understand the image they are building here? How is a a bit of barren dirt in the mountains worth it?

    Also they have just put through the Hong Kong legislation which effectively breaks the ‘one country, two systems’ settlement.

    Worst of all by a fair stretch was a story about Uighars women being sterilised or forced to have IUDs installed. If true, as seems plausible, this is something that should be investigated, and if verified, the perpetrating country should become a pariah nation.

    Nation states are human constructs. There is a red line here which relates to genocide. In human affairs the majority should be able to protect powerless groups from what in the end is elimination rather than persecution.

  2. Brian: The question is to what extent our perceived “China problem” is a China problem vs a Xi problem or an external problem driven by what else is happening in the world.
    Our response needs to reflect our understanding of what is going on.

  3. Relevant to the Chinese question: The hundreds of billions being poured into Defence shows Morrison’s done with the old world order. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-01/defence-spending-scott-morrison-miliatry-strategy-jennett/12410464
    “In four years — but really closer to two — the people who hear, watch and interpret the words and actions of Australia’s friends and potential foes have undergone a revolution in their understanding of China’s intentions in particular and the irascibility of Trump’s America.
    That change is amplified again in Morrison’s delivery of the latest update.
    Forget “hawks” versus “doves”. The doves were pecked mercilessly, and quietly fled a while back.
    The better metaphor for those working on Australia’s foreign policy are the frontier boundary riders, erecting fences and warding off any unwanted approaches.
    China at the centre of changes
    It is pretty much all about China these days.
    Who else could the Prime Minister be talking about when he contrasts this country’s approach with an unnamed other “we don’t seek to entangle or intimidate or silence our neighbours” as he vows “to shape, to deter, and to respond with credible military force, when required”.
    Who else could the White Paper be referring to when it inserts the words “coerce” or “coercion” a dozen times in a document only 12 pages in length.
    He is not freelancing, but accurately reflecting the wider shift in thinking and disposition that the boundary riders have adopted.
    In their view, there’s no point in a prime minister banging on about defending the international “rules-based order” anymore — China’s not playing by those rules and Trump is rewriting them on the fly, as he sees fit, on any given day.
    So it’s gone, Morrison’s not even paying lip service to those quaint notions anymore.”
    Interesting thing, China has done well from the free trade philosophy and the US support of free trade. Trump may well be right to challenge the sort of free trade that allows the likes of China to use free trade to undermine US capacity.
    The coronavius crisis and Li’s economic bullying has also showed the dangers of being overly dependent on one supplier or being exposed to economic bullying.
    My take is that the surge in defense spending will have little effect because China’s capacity is so far ahead of ours. Changing our attitude to free trade may be far more effective.

  4. JohnD I was just about to put up a similar link to the defence expenditure one. You comment that a better strategy might be to concentrate on trade is valid. Give them the resources so they don’t take the country too, approach. You’d have to nationalise the assets to pull that off. I suspect though that China wants to give their people deployment opportunities, the space is more valuable than the resources, and the Chinese will want to do things their way. How long can an Australian government hold out? Quite a while, but they will eventually lose. Two examples, Taiwan and Hong Kong. With the China take over of WA probability, the question becomes how would China take over the whole nation? The answer is slowly. During the second world war there was the secret horizontal Brisbane line. Then there was from Indonesia the similar Islamic line. Who would have thought that it would become a vertical Alice line dividing Australia.

  5. Sun Tzu is the play book for Xi.

    http://www.artofwarsuntzu.com/Art%20of%20War%20PDF.pdf

    On Stratagem.

    1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.
    2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
    3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.
    4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided. The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months; and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more.
    5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants, with the result that one-third of his men are slain, while the town still remains untaken. Such are the disastrous effects of a siege.
    6. Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.
    7. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.
    8. It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy’s one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.

    Too many things to bold, please RTWT to recognise what is in store for every other Nation.

  6. I mean really read it hard, and put it in the modern context.
    It’s chillingly accurate.

    We’re not dealing with a benevolent Emperor here, we are dealing with a World Conqueror.

  7. That would be the bows and arrows good advice, Jumpy. It’s a little different these days.

    At least the Aust. government realises that any intruder will arrive by sea. In this case initially, probably though, from under the sea so the cruise missiles are only marginally valuable. But the good news is that we have plans to build submarines, so as long as no one makes a move before 2035 we might be OK.

  8. BilB, the intruder is already here.

    There are hundreds of avenues, armed invasion is the second least probable.

  9. Jumpy: “There are hundreds of avenues, armed invasion is the second least probable.” Yep, it is cheaper to buy than fight and what you are fighting for may be trashed before you get it.
    One wonders if Bilb has ever been to NW WA in summer or thought about what an invader would have to do to avoid a long shortage of iron ore..
    BTW: What do you consider the least possible?

  10. JohnD, I think that a cost benefit analysis would assist in understanding the perilous situation Australia is in at a time when there is a reshaping of global borders. Consider this through the eyes and minds of other people.

    No, I haven’t been to NW WA, though I did grow up in New Guinea in the Tropics. At coastal level, didn’t like it., at altitude (Sogeri) it is much more pleasant.

    With Trump slumping so badly the immediate nature of the risk diminishes. I hear you say “why does that matter?” Well with open comment like “Trump destroys democracy in America” we are in a time when reality is a blurr and things that in the past were crystal clear are today barely worth a mention. The Right’s assault on truth, reality, science, good government, and social structure will yet become their undoing . Its the crying Wolf thing. Who is going to be outraged when the likes of Twiggy Forrest and Gina say “they’ve stolen my property” ? “You told Gillard and Swan that there was no profit, so,..no loss” Even Murdoch has milked the propaganda machine to the max and is losing influence because the miss information has become ever more patently fictitious.

    Right now economies are in peril of collapse Travel has become impossible, Security has become a faint memory, Savings are dwindling, and expectations of the future are in turmoil.

    The Least Possible thing is that there will be no change.

  11. Bilb: “No, I haven’t been to NW WA, though I did grow up in New Guinea in the Tropics. At coastal level, didn’t like it.”
    The Pilbara where the iron ore is gets very hot and can be hot and humid at the coast. (And get frosts during winter) I guess neither would put off the Chinese.
    Met some Chinese inner Mongolia iron ore miners once. Their mine was below zero in winter and seriously hot in summer.

  12. The Chinese Communists are the only entity reshaping borders today.
    And no other entity in the World has the ability to stop them other than America.

    Well, about 30 of the 50 States have the willingness to if necessary anyway.

  13. Well, about 30 of the 50 States have the willingness to if necessary anyway.

    I thought the USA was still a federation. Has #45 dissolved the Union while we weren’t looking?
    And I don’t have the details to hand but I believe Donald J’s BFF Vlad has been trying to alter a border or two – something to do with Ukraine?

  14. Jumpy, America is impotent. Bush proved that with his disastrous wars in the Meddle East. Trillions spent, nothing gained. Do you seriously believe that after their rape, pillaging, and abuse from Trump Americans have any interest in global events? They have decades of rebuilding their country, their economy, and their international reputations. After four Years of Trump they haven’t built a single new bridge but on the eve of an election they announce they’ll get started soon, with not even one $ billion. Right after an election.

    https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica/financing/infra-grants/infrastructure-rebuilding-america

    Republicans are frauds.

  15. I’ve heard that there are holes in the road in Washington DC, an indication of how little the US are prepared to spend on public works.

    On US impotence, I recall Immanuel Wallerstein saying that the invasion of Iraq demonstrated the limits of US power, which we knew from the 1960s and Vietnam, but had forgotten. The logistics of modern war are such that the US could not invade Sweden.

    It seems to me possible that China could invade Australia and take WA, but I doubt it would happen. They would rather make us into a client state. We give most of our resources away for close to nothing now. Italians and others make more out of our wool than we do.

    Meanwhile on Hong Kong it appears that China has passed a law that would allow them to arrest anyone anywhere for anything they have done now or in the past.

  16. Thanks for the Sun Tzu extract, Jumps old bean.

    Food for thought, and general enough to adapt to current competition, regardless of the state of weaponry. (So BilB, I think it’s applicable even now that bows and arrows are old hat. Then again, nuclear weapons introduce new difficulties; as did poison gas, aeroplanes, submarines, cannon, missiles in their day.)

    Brian, your last paragraph at 10.31am suggests to me that the new Chinese law could be termed “over reach”. Wouldn’t stand up in the World Court (Hague) or in the UN.

    Then again, the PRC has ignored a ruling of the World Court, which said building up artificial “islands” in the Sth China Sea and then claiming territorial waters nearby was NOT ON.

    Bush Lawyer
    PO Box 4321
    Gippsland
    Or see Syd over at the Bar

  17. Not a good move: Morrison appears to have decided that being seen to take on China is good internal politics. What is best for Australia is good managing of our relations with China. Doesn’t mean grovelling but will often, but not always mean quiet diplomacy rather than the megaphone diplomacy Morrison that we are seeing at the moment.

  18. In the early 1960s, when “Red China” was recognised by very few nations, I heard that a diplomatic ‘back channel’ for the USA to talk to “Mainland China” was maintained through an Australian embassy.

    Not sure, but I think it was an Aussie embassy somewhere in Europe.

    The subtleties of diplomacy would escape very few medium and large nations, I’m sure, John.

    (“Megaphone diplomacy” doesn’t exclude all kinds of other contacts. In the early 1960s both the USA and the PRC would have been strident about each other, in public.)

  19. Joseph C. Sternberg in the “Wall Street Journal”, reprinted by The Oz:

    This, however, misses the more important role Hong Kong came to play for mainland China, a role Mr Xi ignores at his peril. The city used to represent Beijing’s commitment to its word. Now it represents Mr Xi’s willingness to break that word.

    It sounds quaint in a world increasingly defined by hard-nosed realpolitik and great-power competition. Who cares what the Communist Party does in Hong Kong if its intentions in the South China Sea or in its Uighur concentration camps are clear enough?

    Yet precisely because Beijing has stirred so much suspicion with those actions, it benefited from abiding by its treaty obligation to Hong Kong’s autonomy. The idea was that the Communist Party might be slippery at every opportunity, but when pressed would stick to its black-letter commitments.

    Mr Xi may come to regret casting off that credibility so cavalierly.

  20. Mr A, the most pertinent line is,

    2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

    The left and much of the right are already submitting to this.

    If forced to choose either live under US or CRP norms, what would you choose for your grandchildren?
    I’m going US every day of the week.

    It a real, timely dilemma right now.

  21. Jumpy: “If forced to choose either live under US or CRP norms, what would you choose for your grandchildren?
    I’m going US every day of the week.”
    I would prefer my American grandson to live a relatively sane place like Australia compared with the US. However, like you, if the choice is to be a US only citizen the US rather than a Chinese only citizen in China as things are now even though the US has left lots to be desired for a long time.

  22. Yes John,
    And frankly, every nation state that I can think of, has “left a lot to be desired”.

    That includes Australia.

    But the finding out of those deficiencies, and trying to help desirable changes: it’s good, eh?

    PS lest I be misunderstood, my criticisms of various national figures are not based on any assumptions that I could do better, or that the tasks they face are simple and easy. Every human has her flaws; leaders no less than others.

    Cabinet government has an advantage in spreading the load of fact-finding, allowing specific talents to be harnessed, and lowering the probability of really stupid decisions being made.

  23. In the being forward is to for armed department a worthwhile enterprise is to think through why China would want a South China Republic, and how they would go about achieving it.

    I’ve projected that China wants new opportunities for their huge population, a place to do things, and develop a new life, a place that is closer than Mars. That is one thing.

    Another thing is that if China had command of the place where the resources are they could process them there without taking that material to China in create the pollution that is choking their otherwise beautiful country. Barren Australia, why not transfer all of the mess to where to where the resources are, and use huge amounts of the sun’s energy to do it.

    I can go on here at length with the benefits, and frankly it is a no brainer.

    When would they do it? It is a bit early though they will have 3 aircraft carriers soon. That will be enough, particularly considering that they have 68 submarines. This is why Trump is pivotal. The US 71 submarines are the only resource sufficient to thwart a plan to make a move on WA. China could easily mask a coup by transporting everything they need in Submarines and otherwise invisible container ships organised to carry troops and equipment in dummy containers all masked by regular commerce.

    https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3079546/taiwan-scrambles-warships-pla-navy-aircraft-carrier-strike

    I think this would be an overnight war, done by dawn. 20 missile launching submarines surfacing off the East Coast would be a sobering bargaining chip which would force immediate negotiations. Resettling evacuating WA’lians would become the preoccupation of the government, and a Putin co-ordinated move on the Ukraine and Europe would divert all attention away from the Pacific. China could relocate 5 million people to WA in just 12 months utilising all available space in the Chinese model of accommodation rather than the Australian one (20 people to a McMansion rather than 2) and the face and future of Australia would be changed for ever. The economy too would turn to custard as Australia would have lost its biggest customer, and tourism struggling back from the Covid period would become problematic.

    Fortunately Trump is looking defeated. This would delay, or perhaps even prevent a change to the Global Order. Then the message must become how to restructure Australia so that it is not such a totally self absorbed sitting duck clutching its nest eggs.

  24. Today, Monday 6th, “The Guardian” reports from Beijing and Hong Kong, the arrest of Professor Xu Zhangrun, a law prof at a uni in Beijing.

    He has published highly critical articles about the state of the PRC polity, its President, the nation’s response to the pandemic, freedom of speech (lack of), political freedom (lack of).

    He was suspended from his university quite some time back. “The Guardian” says his expertise is in
    constitutional theory &
    Western philosophy
    .

    good luck, Prof!!

  25. I just noticed that “The Age” (Nine newspapers) reports the Professor’s arrest also.

    In the introductory paragraph online, “The Age” reports that Professor Xu Zhangrun was formerly a senior Visiting Fellow at the Melb Uni Law School and wrote a book about the Australian legal system.

    You see, if one is Victorian, the most important thing to know about a chap, is whether he has a Melbourne connection – preferably prestigious!!

    😉

    Parochialism Is Us

  26. Ambi: “You see, if one is Victorian, the most important thing to know about a chap, is whether he has a Melbourne connection – preferably prestigious!!”
    That is one of the things we really noticed when we moved to Melbourne. In the NT one of the things we noticed were Victorians had gone to classy Melbourne schools like Geelong yet had very low level jobs in the NT. Felt a bit sorry for them, particularly the loader operator with the classy accent. (They didn’t come across being in the NT as an act of rebellion.)
    One of the things my wife noticed was that Melbourne people were amazed that she had done Latin, French, and German in a NSW regional high school. (She thinks her convict ancestors give her more status than going to a toffy Vic school.)

  27. Yup.
    Convict ancestors you either have or you don’t.
    Can’t buy them.

    Barry Humphries was merciless about toffy-school mates in the early 60s. Legend has it that when (as a boy at Melbourne Church of England Toffy School) he was forced to attend football matches of the First XVIII, he would sit with his back to the play, knitting.

    They couldn’t cane him.
    Not out in the open.

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