Abbott’s Asian enragement moves to China


From the SMH:

The Chinese government has delivered an angry rebuke over “irresponsible remarks” made by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop regarding its newly declared air defence zone in the East China Sea, in the latest diplomatic headache for the Abbott government in Asia.

Ms Bishop summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Zhaoxu on Monday to express the government’s concern over the new zone, which covers airspace over a string of uninhabited islands – known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan – at the centre of a longstanding territorial dispute between the two regional powers.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says Australia is opposed to any ”coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea”.

Echoing the sentiments of the Japanese and the United States, Ms Bishop said the timing and manner of China’s announcement was “unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability”.

…But in a sternly worded statement on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry warned Ms Bishop to ”correct” her characterisation of its new air defence zone or risk damaging bilateral ties.

“It is completely a mistake for Australia to make irresponsible remarks on China’s establishment of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, and the Chinese side will not accept it,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. “China urges Australia to correct its mistake immediately to prevent damaging Sino-Australia relations.”

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government would not retreat from its stance despite the pressure from Beijing and said it was expected to be ”a topic of discussion in Ms Bishop’s upcoming visit”.

I have some sympathies with the Government. China is being reckless and obviously we need to understand its intentions. But it should have been done discretely. Australia has taken divergent paths in its economic and strategic ties so a little caution when addressing either is useful. Megaphone diplomacy only threatens to tear our trousers in two. From The Australian:

AUSTRALIA is involved in an escalating diplomatic row with China after it criticised Beijing’s creation of a strict military zone over a group of East China Sea Islands also claimed by Tokyo.

Early yesterday a senior Australian diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing and told China was strongly dissatisfied with “irresponsible” remarks made by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about the “air defence identification zone”.

China is being stupid. And the US thumbing its nose with a twin B52 overflight of the new air protectorate is a more than appropriate response. But why are we going out of our way to buy in? It’s like ducking into a bouncer.

Until the newbies figure out that good diplomacy is about being strong not looking strong, unnecessary Asian enragement will continue.

Houses and Holes


  1. There hasn’t been any change of policy, the Chinese are just trying it on. Australian governments have been saying that for a long time. But I suppose there’ll be plenty more stories like to come on MB.

    On the other hand why didn’t Bishop inquire into the 15 trillion credit expansion China’s been doing for 5 years? All theatre

    • Are you going to engage with the issue or not?

      Do you think it’s a wise course for our diplomacy to keep pissing off our Asian neighbors unnecessarily?

      I don’t agree with what China did. It’s bloody stupid. I think the US flying its B52s through the Chinese foolishness was an appropriate response.

      But dragging the Chinese ambassador in here is also bloody stupid.

      Good diplomacy is not about looking strong, it’s about being strong.

      • And like I said if that blowhard Bishop was going to bother brining in the Ambassador why not ask about the credit expansion and is it having unforseen (?!?!) effects on the value of Australias property stock.

        That would have been useful if not so “diplomatic” but this South China Sea crap that Australia couldn’t possibly do anything about if it wanted to, and which is absolutely harmless to Australia (maybe not US and Japan) so yes I think being US lapdogs as usual is poor form. For which ever side of politics (if you can tell them apart)

      • There is no right or wrong in international ‘realpolitix’, only power. Australia is caught between the US, which we rely on for our security, and China, which we rely on for our economy, and Bishop’s action puts Australia clearly on the side of the US.

        Someone need to give Bishop a copy of ‘The Prince’ to remind her how a country caught between 2 power should behave. Despite all the talk of being ‘Asia’, we’re behaving as if we’re part of the ‘West’.

        • Australia’s politicians are not capable of the 3D chessboard that is Machiavellian intrigue and consolidation.

          No we are like Malta to the USs Venice, a useful strategic pawn, a piece to guard to be sure but not unexpendable

        • you’re paraphrasing Ronin, but you’re still correct.

          If Bishop really felt the need to interject in this (and for the love of me I cannot figure out why) then she absolutely must have done so privately. By acting as she has done so is another foreign policy own-goal

          The original quote is: Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies – only permanent interests.
          Lord Palmerston

  2. IMHO, I think it is a needless distraction away from macroeconomics for these stories to appear on MB.

    Lets just accept that the Abbott government is going to embarrass itself on a daily basis and do everything possible to help both the rent seekers in the big end of town and the ponzi little land lords.

    So what else is new?

    • You don’t have to read them but it is an economic story. What do you think happens as we wander around Asia shooting our mouths off in front of our largest trading partners?

      Did the China FTA just step forward?

      • Oh Cmon, on the one hand we have the TPP giving sovereign control of the economy and judicial systems to corporations and other fascistoid entities (NGOs), and on the other I’m supposed to think sovereignty over rocks really matters?? Give me a break.

        I think you should have excoriated Bishop for wasting time not concerned with the housing bubble but that’s just me.

        Btw all USDxs down except
        … BTC back over 1000 – bought 10 on a whim a week ago when they touched 780,sold 5 this morning for AUD1300 profit in 5 days and I still have half the position.

        Fiat is toast

      • I did say it is IMHO 😉

        Anyway, re FTA, I watched the last 4corners episode and wisdom came from the unlikeliest of sources, Clive Palmer. The Chinese are not here for charity or because we are a servile trade partner. They are here because it is in their interest to be here and no matter how many times Clive Palmer b!tch slaps his Chinese trading partner (a SOE, for crying out loud), they will still be here.

  3. I am completely perplexed at peoples reactions to all of this – these Islands are CLEARLY Chinese and had for all intents and purposes been stolen by Japan.

    Historically they were Chinese, they are located in China and have always been part of their culture – as was Taiwan where these Islands are located off.

    Japan acquired these Islands as part of World War 2 which happened to start in China – people tend to forget this – a long time before the rest of the world.

    They were meant to be handed back but the United States unilaterally handed them to Japan.

    Lets keep history real here folks.

    The US is flying directly though Chinese airspace and claiming Islands which absolutely belong to China – I think we need to reconsider a lot of our positions on things, and war mongnering on behalf of an overly aggressive United States which is playing global brinkmanship with our most important trading partner is lunacy beyond words – especially when WE are in the wrong.

    • A reality check. China’s claim over those island is based on the ‘nine dotted lines’ submitted to the UN in 1948, after World War 2. Everything else is just Chinese propaganda.

      Territorial claims are not adjudicated by who owned it historically, but by who can enforce those claims. As the US planes flying over the area has demonstrated, China cannot.

    • CLEARLY?? I think not – one could go around the world and dismember every country on your logic, including your beholden China. Nice Trolling attempt anyway.

      China’s bullying is finally, clearly showing All it’s true demeanour and intentions. Perhaps the government could remain silent, but IMHO I think all associations with China need to be reconsidered, regardless of ones economic reliance on them, and at some stage a stand has to be taken. Stop feeding the bully/beast.

  4. Another histrionic overreaction by the blatantly juvenile Australian media.

    This very issue is also expected to be the focus of talks between Joe Biden and senior Chinese officials on Biden’s forthcoming tour. US aircraft have been monitored as they flew through the zone ignoring Chinese demands. This is a small but notable escalation in the global military muscle flex game and all interested parties will watch closely. The same (I understand) official that requested Bishop change tone also intimated another AEZ over the South China Sea could be imminent – now that is a biggie – anyone aware of the region will understand that (CFR, Kaplan’s ‘Monsoon’).

    The Chinese are not surprised by some critical reaction, they know the game only too well and strident defence goes down sweetly with the home audience. China is tentatively stretching its scope – and as such has many keen observers some of whom will question the motivation.

    I would be very very surprised if this is not as easily resolved as the SBY spat, a storm in a teacup and the Chinese like their tea.

    • Quite right 3d1k I attempted to make that point at the outset but failed to provide the clarification you just did

    • What is Australia’s interest in protesting over China’s Air Defense Identification zone? By unnecessarily sticking out head out, we demonstrated to China how we prefer the US over them, and completely shut Australia out of any role in the conflict here after.

      Context is everything. The Chinese declaration is a direct response to the joint US-Japan military exercise that occur at Okinawa 2 weeks ago. The Senkaku/Daioyu ‘island’ is a small piece of rock sticking out from the sea, and the best solution for peace may involve someone just blowing the rocks up. There are no ‘good guys’ or ‘right answers’, it’s all just nationalistic sentiment on all sides running amok.

      • We are not talking about Bishop’s etiquette, which was appalling, we’re talking about the unnecessary histrionics. For me that’s been my whole point, you can easily find adequate blame for politicians incompetence without having to over-stretch the point and sully the general discussion.

        Would the tenor have been different if the headline had read: China rebukes Bishops Diplomatic Poor Form, or Abbott Needs To Shore up Foreign Policy/Diplomacy Pronto Times Awasting.

        Those, whilst still critical generally keeping with the same theme do not cast the matter into the real or ENRAGEMENT MOVES TO CHINA, which is histrionic and gives one no sense of what the spat is actually about.

        My 2c

      • dumb_non_economistMEMBER

        I doubt blowing up rocks will solve this, it’s the oil & gas below that all are really interested in.

        It may well blow over in the short term, but long term this will be a real security issue as with the other territorial disputes in the SCS. The Chinese are starting to throw their weight around.

    • once again 3dik you do a fantastic job putting forward a compelling argument that is actually totally irrelevant to the actual topic in question. One might think you have received advanced training in PR or something… but I digress.

      This is not about our media and whether they are reporting fairly or giving it proportionate air time.

      This is about the decision-making thought process behind: whether we needed to say anything (upside vs downside to Australia) and then whether to make this decision public (only downside to Australia from what I can see).

      You’re right, everyone does know the game, especially China and the US. Since they along with Japan are unequivocally the three most important nations to australia’s long-term interests, what was the rationale for saying anything ? and FFS who thought it would be a good idea to do so publicly ?

      • No its about this headline “Abbotts Asian Enragement Moves To China”.

        Little over the top? But much more than that tells you nothing about what actually went on just blames Abbott as some sort of biggot by implication

  5. Before calling the Chinese government reckless and stupid, I suggest you look up the location of the “Senkaku Islands” on Google Maps.

    Given the complex history of the region and the fact that this episode of sabre-rattling does not directly involve Australian interests, it’s an issue Bishop should have stayed well clear of.

  6. The US may be far more concerned about China’s air space announcement than we are. Maybe its a direct threat to their “contain China” long-term strategy? Maybe they just leaned on their allies to join in the indignation? If so, they probably wanted us to do it publically.

    Gotta do what the boss says.

  7. Houses and Holes
    November 28, 2013 at 7:44 am

    HnH….”I don’t agree with what China did. It’s bloody stupid. I think the US flying its B52s through the Chinese foolishness was an appropriate response.”

    I have a different view of all this, which should be seen as the latest installment in the gradual escalation of territorial friction in waters between china and its neighbours.

    China’s moves in relation to these islands and the Spratly islands are a response to US strategic moves aimed at curbing China’s political, economic, diplomatic and military influence in its own region. As is well-known, the US devised a “pivot to Asia.” This is now the framework for US strategic aims in East Asia. Essentially it has adopted a policy aimed at containing China and recruited this country as well as nearly all of China’s neighbours to its project.

    Understandably, China has been resisting this. These territorial disputes have been alive but dormant for decades. It is only US pressure that has animated them in recent years.

    We are being drawn into a competitive game between great powers. It is not a game that is in our economic, political or security interests and, rather than accommodating the US, we should be trying to dissuade them from pursuing it.

    We have had many decades of peace in our region – peace that the US is willing to jeopardise in order to maintain its monopoly on power in East Asia and the Pacific. This is not a policy of our making. It is a policy designed and built in Washington. China has every reason to reject it and so do we.

    Instead, we are on the cusp of enabling the permanent basing of US ground troops in the NT. This will be a very significant development in Australian policy, yet has been barely remarked on let alone debated.

    This most recent episode clearly illustrates that we are going to become grist in the mill of US-China rivalry. MB readers should take note of the following, being an excerpt from the communique issued after the most recent AUSMIN meeting in Washington.

    “The United States and Australia discussed their continued efforts to implement the U.S. force posture initiatives in a manner consistent with both countries’ regional security objectives, including the common goal of increasing practical cooperation between Australia and the United States and other regional countries.

    The two countries agreed to commence negotiations on a binding agreement to support future defense cooperation involving the U.S. rotational presence in northern Australia, including activities such as: joint and combined training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and combined exercises in Australia and multilateral engagement in the broader region.

    The United States and Australia agreed to work towards full implementation of the U.S. force posture initiatives involving rotational U.S. Marine Corps deployments and increased rotations of U.S. Air Force aircraft in northern Australia, including substantial progress towards rotations of a full Marine Air Ground Task Force of around 2,500 U.S. Marine Corps personnel and equipment. They also agreed to continue examining opportunities for future naval cooperation in Australia.”

    • Hypocrisy is also involved. The Japanese decide to ‘unilaterally’ expand their own Aircraft Defense Identification Zone in 2010.

      The smart thing for Australia to do is to keep its head down. If itmust make a response, di it as part of a regional response. The B52 already made the case for US, they don’t need any further help. The most constructive thing Australia can do is to find a way for the all the sides involved to ‘save face’. A good start is a proposal to poke a hole in the ADI zones of each respective country to exclude the disputed islands.

    • Briefly CNAS has covered these issues extensively over the years

      And if you have not read Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Battle for Supremacy in the 21st Century by Kaplan I heartily recommend it. Even if you confined your reading to the chapter China’s Two Ocean Strategy? you will be well rewarded. (Also includes brief discussion if the Spratly Islands and Chinese strategist call the First Island Chain and Great Wall in Reverse). Potential flashpoints exist in numerous places.

  8. CNAS =

    Center for a New American Security
    1152 15th Street,
    NW Suite 950Washington, DC 20005

    We are just the threshold of a long-term strategy to position US forces here….

    Resident Power
    Building a Politically Sustainable U.S. Military Presence in Southeast Asia and Australia
    By Ely Ratner

    “The United States faces a strategic window of opportunity to enhance its military presence in Southeast Asia and Australia, strengthen its alliances and partnerships and reinforce U.S. leadership in the region.

    Current U.S. policy aims to achieve a more geo- graphically distributed force posture in Asia as a response to the evolving regional security environment, the rising geopolitical importance of Southeast Asia and the drawdowns from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This goal of diversifying the U.S. military presence in the Asia- Pacific region has included efforts to develop new presence and access arrangements in Australia, the Philippines and Singapore, as well as new opportunities for training and access in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and elsewhere.
    This will be no small task. Although threat dynamics open doors for the United States to deepen security ties with allies and partners, the ability of the U.S. military to establish new arrangements, deepen them over time and sustain them over the long term will hinge on conducive political environments in partner countries. Likewise, fundamental fissures in political support would cause agreements to be terminated, scaled back or forced into burdensome and sensitive realignments at enormous political, economic and strategic cost to the United States.

    Although policymakers and analysts in the U.S. government and research community have devoted substantial resources to understanding the opera- tional requirements for force posture revisions in Asia, less attention has been paid to devising strate- gies for political sustainability within the region. This imbalance must be corrected. At this nascent stage of developing arrangements in Southeast Asia and Australia, operational considerations cannot crowd out the fundamentally important task of ensuring enduring political support, without which U.S. force posture objectives in the region cannot be achieved. The United States must play the long game of developing strong partnerships throughout the region.”

    This is an American project to which we are becoming auxiliaries. This matter should really be discussed widely, rather than simply accepted as a fait accompli.

    • Thought you’d find it interesting. Further reading of CNAS will provide extensive coverage of China/US interests the in region with particular attention to seaways from military, trade and resource perspectives. CFR also covers similar territory in part.

      • 3d, these matters are almost invisible here, yet they will have profound and very long-lasting effects on commerce, diplomacy and security in the region. It is really time we had a far more informed discussion of these matters.

        • They are. There appears general consensus.

          If you mean discussed by the media/public these matters are little understood and I fear any discussion would quickly degenerate along partisan lines – unfortunately promulgated by many in the media.

          However I may be too pessimistic in this regard and would agree that broad discussion of the policy intent and prospective ramifications would be welcome. Are we as a nation up to the task?

        • I’d love to have that discussion, every time I mention these FP gaffs are due to US pressure all I hear is crickets (notable exceptions: 3d1k,Flawse, dam, dumplings, ChinaBob)

          • I don’t think Abbott’s gaff “China trades with us because it is in China’s interest to trade with us” is really going help either side nor in the end our own.

          • I don’t think its going to harm anyone either. Why would it???

            Don’t they, anyone, trade with us because it’s in their interest? Or should china keep gifting us (Twiggy and Gina) Fe02 price rises just cause they’re good mates?

          • Huh ?

            Is there anyone here who doesn’t think the yanks dictate most of our foreign policy ?

            The “FP gaffs” aren’t due to US pressure, they’re due to people shooting off their mouth without getting their marching orders first.

          • No offense Drsmithy (and I say that with upmost sincerity) they did get the marching orders — from the neocons!

            It may not have been official but all the Howard era Libtards get their orders from the Chicago school neo-cons.

            What do you think all this privatization but don’t mention the war (housing bubble) is about?

    • Briefly scroll down to China’s Island Disputes, FYI

      To others bemoaning Australia taking the US line what else do you expect – we have a couple of strategic agreements with the US and act in accord with those. To express concern that actions of one nation have potential destabilise are entirely in accord with international practice.

      • But spying on 26 million Australias for NeoCon sh*ts and giggle isn’t!!!

        Damn it 3d1k, you’re bright, well informed, erudite and strongly adroit in political practice! Do you ever consider that maybe those in control of the reigns of power are lunatics!?!?!