What, exactly, is Turnbullism?

I’ve recalled for readers before a description offered by Paul Kelly about the John Howard view of Australia’s strategic bind vis-a-vis the US and China. Kelly used the old Yogi Berra phrase, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”. That is, Howard was determined to not choose sides at all. He opened the nation’s arms to Chinese investment, diplomatic and economic engagement. Yet he also pursued historically close ties with the US military, which included the bizarre notion of the “democratic quadrilateral” containment of China via an explicit alliance between the US, Japan, India and Australia based, in part, upon shared values. Then again, Alexander Downer once went so far as to state that Australia may not support the US in any conflict between Taiwan and mainland China.

It may be that John Howard was a man of his times. There was no need to choose sides in the early millennium, as China’s rise was fresh, the US was distracted by the terror wars of George W. Bush and the theatre of hottest contest was the Middle East.

Then again, maybe John Howard wasn’t just a man of his times. Maybe he foresaw that in the long run, although the strategic contest between China and the US was inevitable, there was simply no reason to hasten it.

I could be critical of Howard. The failure to manage the mining boom arising from the embrace of China led to an economic over-dependence on that nation but the effect of most of his decisions was to create a kind operational neutrality for Australia in the Asia-Pacific region as he managed Australian interests with an eye to alliance maintenance and engagement with a growing new power.

However, the deliberate naivete of the choices during the Howard era are steadily giving way to a pincer for Australia’s external relations in which economic dependence upon China continues to mushroom even as our strategic ties to the US tighten.

In 2005 it was just a bit of iron ore and coal. Now it is those two on steroids but also parabolic growth in tourism and education, the great white hope for agriculture and huge inflows of legal and dodgy real estate capital to support absurd house prices. Australia’s entire economic structure is now a reflection of our northern Great Power neighbour.

Yet since 2005, the US has extricated from its Middle East quagmire and openly “swung to Asia” (by which it means China) in its strategic outlook. Relations are cordial enough for now but the South China Sea remains a perennial hot spot.

There is something peculiarly Australian about this bind. The defining text of Australian foreign policy is Dependent Ally by Coral Bell, a truly marvelous woman made up of the strangest combination of disarming crochet and mental acuity that I’ve ever met. In it she argued that:

Over the 200 years from 1788, Coral wrote, ‘dependent’ was the right adjective for Australia’s role as an ally, both psychologically and strategically, yet those relationships with Britain and the US were ‘complex affairs, full of ambivalence’. It was characteristic that she looked beyond the pejoratives implicit in dependence to describe the many advantages Australia won from ‘a persistent national addiction to a usually comfortable dependence, a conscious and even sometimes Machiavellian adoption by policy makers of the easiest and least costly way out of assumed strategic dilemmas’.

That conniving lassitude is very much at work in our current bind though this time around it is a dual and possibly mutually exclusive dependency that could end up being too lazy and clever by half.

It is echoed around the region to a lesser extent in other Middle Powers, most pointedly in Japan and Korea, and Coral’s answer was for Australia to join them in enmeshing China and the US in a “concert of powers” that demanded they share responsibility for regional security and prosperity. There is some measure of that going on the in the G20 even if ASEAN is proving very limp-wristed but it is minimal, really, and largely economic in nature.

There are limits to what little powers can do but it’s time we asked what exactly is it that we are doing? Howardism was clear in its embrace of economic liberalism with the controlled movement of people and the assumption that deeper economic engagement with China would deliver it to democracy over time. That frame of reference has continued to dominate Coalition thinking on Australia’s external relations since. But these days it’s no longer at all clear that it is strategically appropriate. Blocks on the movement of people are more political rhetoric than reality. Economic liberalism persists but is giving way to ad hoc blockages for Chinese investment even as literally the kitchen sink is sold to Chinese interests. Commitment to the US alliance is still reflexive in the security community but it’s not at all clear that it will resonate with a polity that owes the value of its home largely to Chinese capital flows. Above all, Xi Jinping is slowing liberalising the Chinese economy but he is also de-liberalising its politics, embedding the Communist Party and security apparatus ever deeper into its own polity.  There is no democratic China in the offing.

Howardism is now little more than a bogus set of assumptions, trading on sentiment, and swiftly out-flanked by reality.

So, what has the Coalition brains trust given us to replace it if anything? Under Tony Abbott we didn’t really get long to figure it out. The hints were that Abbottism might develop into a global-roaming Australian musculature that sought to destroy evil abroad while plugging holes in Australian immigration at home. Cooped up in his office, staring at a bust of Winston Churchill all day, Abbottism in its infancy was an interventionist doctrine that sought to invade Iraq, Syria, the Crimea and African states for different purposes. It was a budding China hawk, favouring the traditional alliance in Japan. It was also determined to stop boats, launched a new “Border Force”, as well as restrictive house buying regime for foreign interests. It was a shockingly ham-fisted diplomat that pursued bilateral relations in trade over multi-lateral despite the former being largely useless.

It appeared to be developing into a kind of Fortress Australia outlook driven by an idealised global liberalism that spurned internationalism and a limited grasp of strategic realism, but it did have a clarity of principle that privileged Australia’s “five eyes” alliances.

So, what is Turnbullism today? Again, we haven’t had very long to judge but it appears to be less restrictive regarding the movement of people, it’s cordial with the US but doesn’t show any great inclination to boost the alliance. It appears more happy than Abbottism to sell Australian assets to Chinese interests but has spasmodic moments, like Transgrid, when that’s suddenly uncool. It’s embraced a local-first posture for defense procurement with no obvious strategic goal and carried forward the largely political strategy of pursuing bilateral trade agreements. It is clearly less inclined to fight foreign wars but has little interest in multi-lateralism. We really have no idea how it defines the national interest. From Brian Toohey today:

One excitable government source reportedly claimed that China mightn’t be a threat at present, but we don’t know if it will be in 50 years, so we have to ban it from owning Ausgrid now. We don’t even know if there will still be a power grid in 2066, let alone whether China will still exist in its current political configuration.

Morrison, for part his part, displayed a disturbing ignorance of what Ausgrid does. He told a press conference Ausgrid provides “critical” communication services to businesses and government. Ausgrid confirmed on Friday it doesn’t provide any communications services, critical or otherwise, to business and government. It has no telco customers. Its only communications capability is for internal purposes such as checking faults. Yet Morrison’s decision could cut the sale price for NSW by up to an estimated $3 billion.

When asked what’s the problem with Ausgrid, a smug looking Morrison replied: “The only person who’s security-cleared in this room to hear the answer to that question is me.” But he said the government had been unable to come up with suitable “mitigations”. A similar security problem was solved in Singtel’s takeover of Optus’ telecommunications assets in 2001 that included an Australian defence communications satellite. The solution stipulated that only Australian staff be allowed to control sensitive functions. Malcolm Turnbull has previously noted the law provides the ultimate mitigation – Australia can take over infrastructure if a serious security problem looks like arising.

It’s early days of course and new PMs tend to have their doctrines thrust upon them by events rather than impressing themselves upon the world. Even so, when the time comes, the PM’s foreign and strategic policy regime needs to be driven by an internal logic that makes its positions clear to foreign business interests, that can manage strategic alliances and rivalries and that can garner support at home. In short it needs identifiable substance.

The concern today is that our ‘born-to-rule’ PM and real estate agent Treasurer have none.

Comments

  1. Fascinating.

    I am ambivalent about Australian ambivalence. On one level it is nice to see our own lack of imperialism and general preference to be helpful rather than directly interfering. Conversely, we do tend to join in random adventures as required by our allies (Middle East, for example).

    I actually think the Australian character has a bit if spark. Recall the public reaction that forced Howard’s hand over East Timor.

    When I was younger I would provoke dinner conversations by suggesting Australia adopt a form of isolationisn. We could be independent for food and energy trivially. Tech and manufacturing would need some effort but could be done on the back of boundless cheap solar and nuclear energy.

    Defence though? Well, I argued that a small nuclear arsenal would guarantee security. From everyone.

    • Could Australia afford to have developed that thar nuclear deterrent?
      “From 1940-1996, the United States spent a minimum of $5.5 trillion on its nuclear weapons program. This figure does not include $320 billion in estimated future-year costs for storing and disposing of toxic and radioactive wastes, and $20 billion for dismantling nuclear weapons systems and disposing of surplus nuclear materials. When those amounts are factored in, the total incurred costs of the U.S. nuclear weapons program exceed $5.8 trillion”

      • Not in the past. No way could we have afforded it. But if we had started a nuclear power industry we could afford to do it in a few years from now. Disposal is cheaper for a big empty country of coast huggers. Aslo, we wouldn’t build the massively overbuilt $6T US arsenal. 1% of that would still be overkill for Aus. We’d only need enough to vapourise a dozen cities.

        It’s only a thought experiment mind you! Not a personal strategic white paper.

      • And one worth having!
        But arguably the biggest nuclear power on the planet has alreday lost twice to China in the last 60 years – once; drawn to a stalemate in Korea and then defeated outright in Vietnam. Their nuclear power didn’t help! I’d suggest that whatever nuclear strategy that Australia could develope for your suggested $60 billion would have as much threat to China as a peashooter, given how The States has fared!
        Besides. China is winning the War of colonialism this time without a shot even being fired….

      • You’re right of course. I appreciate soft power a lot more today.

        Goodness knows who will win the next round of colonial wars. Is China’s foray into island expansionism going to be their first stumble? Never underestimate the USA in a hot war.

        Or will China’s wealth simply trickle westward to enable their elites to leave a collapsing, corrupt society?

        I am not informed enough to guess who is playing, let alone who is winning!

      • Janet when you have a rainy day watch ‘the fog of war’ McNamara’s mea culpa.

        [Paraphrasing] McNamara at dinner with old foes asks his counterpart why N. Vietnam did not accept their offer and sided with China. The scoffing reply was Vietnam had been at war with China for more than a thousand years, but was quite happy to be supplied by China in its attempts to secure independence from the Anglo colonialists.

        Skippy…. poor Mac was a bit flummoxed imo… seems the same failure wrt the ME… not understanding the ethnic history of others…

      • bolstroodMEMBER

        I believe that Menzies asked the Brits for a dozen or so Nukes as part of the agreement to use Marralinga and other parts of Australia as nuke testing sights in the 1950’s, much to the detriment of Australia and New Zealand. Look at the cancer rates in today’s populations.
        The poms refused to supply said Nukes, which was wise given the style and standard of Australian leadership.Imagine The Abbottalypse with his finger on the Nuke button.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        re:Skippy. It also helps that the Vietnamese historically usually win their clashes with China.

      • adelaide_economist

        Yes they are extremely costly but an Australian arsenal would be more like a South African or Israeli level rather than US or Russian. We wouldn’t have needed to have submarine launched weapons nor be able to launch thousands of warheads. All we would have realistically needed (and in keeping with the concept of being non-aligned) was something very clearly aimed at self-defence and therefore only something that we could have delivered either with the F111 fleet (which I believe was capable of carrying nuclear bombs) or perhaps developed an appropriate long-range missile.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        +1

        Wouldn’t need a lot of nukes. Even a handful accompanied by a suitable delivery system to drop one into the middle of any approaching fleet would be enough.

        Two, maybe three countries in the world have – or are likely to have – the logistical ability to make significant landfall to Australia, and they’re not going to risk it under the threat of losing a substantial fraction of the resources they need to do so in one hit.

    • Name a country that would, realistically, have interest to invade Australia in the short term future (e.g. a decade or two)?
      Nuclear deterrence against whom?

      • They missed the chance.
        Imagine if they’d chosen to invade under Labor…

        I can just see Gillard standing up in parliament stating “and, further to the findings of the Department Of Legislative Tampering (DOLT) , anyone found guilty of invading Australia will be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and or two years imprisonment. The government will today be delivering a summons to the new Chinese protectorate of Darwin.”.

        Never in Australia’s history has so much idiotic legislation been enacted.

      • bolstroodMEMBER

        The USA when sea levels rise and the ocean conveyor currents stop causing much of USA to freeze.

      • Terror Australis

        The whole idea of country A invading country B is so “old school” that it’s almost endearingly cute.

        In an era of globalization, mobile capital and elites, there really isn’t any need or any point in doing that. Why bother when you can already exploit your neighbor through dodgy trade deals.

      • I am constantly astounded by the naivety about Indonesia. In several decades time, their military will be more powerful than ours. And the rise of Islam will be far more prominent then, than now, than it was 20 years ago.

        Everyone is so way behind the times. China invading? What for? They will buy anything they need. Moreover they could acquire the whole Russian East for far less trouble. Putin knows this and is just delaying the inevitable.

        PS – and Howard squandering the mining boom? Factually incorrect, Costello in his last budget had Oz going into a slight deficit, and mineral receipts are typically 12-8 months later. Backed by government revenues. No… the mining boom (in hind-sight) may have got of the ground in 2007, but it wasn’t Howard that saw any of the massive windfalls. This is factually correct if you want to check the numbers. Hence my assertion, Rudd was far, far worse than most suspect.

      • Seems we used to worry about the Indonesian army quite a bit. But yes, why bother to invade these days? I agree. Its hearts and minds. Make the culture ripe though media influence and push your companies(brands) in. Take the money, pay the right government people with favours or cash as required. You are in control without a shot fired. Quite civilized really. There will be no open conflict by major powers in the modern era unless to quell, subdue or deflect internal discontent I reckon. So as always, economic stability is all important. Retention of a functional middle class and increased financial equality is not just a philosophical good it is a practical necessity. Unchecked, the banksters malfeasance will eventually lead us into war. Friday rant over.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        Indonesia doesn’t have to invade Australia. They can just stop the oil tankers heading to OZ, and we will surrender unconditionally in 3 months. We habe no refineries and we have no reserve.

      • RT This new mosquito borne virus which eats your brain, will go through Indonesia like a dose of salts
        In 5 yrs time the pop will be half. in 10 yrs 1/4.
        Ask your self who is behind the spread of that?
        We will have subs full of live mosquitoes, just waiting to bite something.

      • WW, wished I shared your sentiments, but I don’t – Zika appears to be the real deal. I mean pandemic real deal. And the world is very slowly waking up to the fact. Cox makes the point that the first Brazilian study indicates that about 30% of babies will develop abnormalities so severe that they can be detected visually by rather crude ultrasound examinations. He concludes, that we will discover that there are other but less visible birth defects that will only become apparent as the affected child ages. Other scientists have already predicted, an increase in less obvious neurological disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

        So let’s assume that only a third of all pregnant women who are infected by the virus have babies with serious birth defects. Personally, it will be significantly higher than that, but let’s be conservative based on available data. What does this mean? As statistical evidence about the risks of Zika-induced birth defects is generated and spreads to the public, the fear will continue to ramp up.

        Beyond the humanitarian tragedy of mental disability, there is the cost to families and societies. Cox suggests that we don’t know what the cost of dealing with a child handicapped by the Zika virus will be, but it will be high. David Mandell, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania, estimates that the life-time cost of dealing with intellectual disabilities in the US runs at about $2.4 million.

        This does not, however, factor in the demographic impact of reduced birthrates. Cox suggests that we have little doubt that US birthrates will fall if the virus moves into our mosquito populations, as experts predict. For countries such as Japan and South Korea, which acknowledge the dire economic impact of low birth rates and a worsening dependency ratio exacerbated by a rapidly growing aged population, Zika is a potential nightmare.

        Key point – that mosquito that spreads Zika exists in Australia, the common Zika (the more begin version) is throughout PNG, the Islands and Indonesia – and I amy be wrong, but already exists in Oz.

        What you think will hit Indonesia will also hit us. It will definitely hit us – and could become a global pandemic. Problem is, they are 200m, we are 20m We have to stop them at the water. If not we are toast.

        One last bit that Cox noted – that this will blow you away – the second bit of dismal Zika news to emerge recently comes from the World Health Organization, which is saying that we have underestimated the ease of sexual transmission of Zika. In this AP story, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan is quoted saying that “reports and investigations in several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed.”

        How cool is that – Zika is or could be, largely transmitted as a STD!!!!!! Means we are more firetrucked than Indonesia, percentage wise.

    • Tokugawa practised isolation. How’d that work out for them?

      The nukes of the 50s were very different from the nukes of the 70s. The belief that just having a big bomb is enough to deter is probably as naive as thinking battleships would be the rulers of the seas.

    • adelaide_economist

      I’ve often thought that any serious attempt at being ‘non-aligned’ internationally could only have been viable with a small nuclear arsenal of our own. Historically, there was definitely a point where we at least toyed with the idea and regardless of whether the US or the UK was in favour of us having them, I think we probably did (or could have developed) the know how ourselves. After all, Australia was one of the first countries in the world to have a nuclear reactor (albeit the ‘experimental’ sized one).

      As for cost – well, costly yes but it would also have freed us from a certain amount of expenses incurred buying overpriced tech from the US/UK – and possibly one reason they may have been against us having such capability.

      All that said, I suspect given even the UK’s current nuclear deterrent today is basically sourced from the US suggests that even if we had acquired nukes in the 1960s we would probably have ended up retiring them sometime ago due to the mixture of both cost and the politics of having them. Acquiring them now would be basically intolerable regionally, whereas if we had done so back in the 60s or 70s it would just be seen as something that had to be accepted.

  2. I wish I could be more optimistic, unfortunately my ingrained cynicism does not allow me.
    The chance that Australia ever looses shackles set by the elder adapted distant cousin whom has deviated into a monstrosity and is dragging the whole extended family down – are equal to zero.
    I may have little or no evidence to substantiate this, it is based on all the reading between the lines ever since I learned English.
    But short term, elder adopted distant cousin may allow some ‘deviation’ from the usual pathways, all in the name of the PR.

    OTOH, I liked this quote:
    “the US was distracted by the terror wars of George W. Bush”
    Very powerful, laconic

    • You can lose them at any time. I suspect the reason that you haven’t is because there is a lot of value in being a free rider.

      • Not sure why you constantly relate common people with something like aggressive military industry as one same thing.
        It is a phenomenal artifact when an economical refugee defends his own nemesis again and again.

      • Economical (sic) refugee? I came here with a million bucks in the bank. Moving to Australia was the worst decision that I have ever made by far. Why don’t you actually make a point without murdering the language?

      • If prospects of a better life were better elsewhere, why are you clutching to this hideous place?

        That’s right, you know it quite well that when all the aspects of life are placed on the scales the scales always tip to one unusual side, the down under side.

        Anyway, what was the point of your first response? Are you trying to argue that Australia has a choice of military association of any spectrum at this moment?

      • My wife loves her job. It’s that simple. We’d be off like a shot if she didn’t. There’s no future here for our kids. Their grandparents’ generation have mortgaged it. She’s starting to come around to my point of view considering that we earn about 400K a year and still can’t afford to buy in our suburb.

        It’s amazing how thin skinned and nationalistic some of you are. How can you be left of Pilger and still be a chest-beating nationalistic moron? Only in straya.

      • You still did not answer what was the point of your first reply regarding the freedom of military alliance…

        Q:”If prospects of a better life were better elsewhere, why are you clutching to this hideous place?”
        A: “My wife loves her job [here].”
        See, “aaaa bbbeeeetttteeeerrrr llliiifffeee…”
        (hope that was written slow enough for you to read it and comprehend it.)
        This makes us both economical immigrants/refugees (with exception that I fled persecution by the MIL)

        Re: your lingo, it is nothing short of cunnilingo, arselingo and a confirmation of a stereotype, you know which one. It fits well only on Australian Property Forum… Obviously money in excess of $400k (as per your claim) cannot buy culture or civilisation.

        Me, nationalist…LOL
        Not even an Aussie.
        I could be on a 457 visa…
        or illegally here (one of those 645000 illegals Magic Mike mentions every now and then?).
        Heck I’m not even ‘here’!

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      Having US marines based in Darwin, while we lease the Port of Darwin to China (99year lease) is a very interesting situation.

    • @kodiak
      “It makes me sick to my stomach that my taxes pay for US marines to be stationed in Darwin.”

      It makes a lot of real Australians sick in the stomach too – – and on another matter :
      ” Moving to Australia was the worst decision that I have ever made by far”
      – – – Why don’t you – – just F Off ? – — and make everyone happy including yourself.

  3. Menzies also told Eisenhower in 1956 that Australia would not get involved in a Sino US conflict over Taiwan. So when the writer says Howard went as far in 2006 by saying the same thing I don’t think he went as far as the writer claimed.

  4. surflessMEMBER

    Introduction
    In the early years of the new Commonwealth of Australia, the United States of America was generally regarded admiringly by Australians as a democratic model to emulate. This high regard, coupled with a shift in international relations, led Alfred Deakin to invite the United States Fleet to visit Australia during its goodwill world tour of 1907-9. This shift came about through the decision of Great Britain to withdraw its major warships from the Pacific to the North Sea. By 1906 there were no British battleships or cruisers in the Australian region and Japan had emerged as a major power after it destroyed much of the Russian Navy in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. The growth of Japan was regarded with trepidation in
    Australia which saw itself as a bastion of white settlement in the Pacific. Deakin decided to invite the so-called Great White Fleet (sixteen white-painted battleships) to visit Australia as a way of countering Japanese influence in the Pacific. Significantly, he made his invitation without consulting
    Britain and the Colonial Office which caused some degree of displeasure in British diplomatic circles. However the visit was enormously successful; large crowds of people lined the shores and attended functions to welcome the American sailors in Sydney, Melbourne and Albany.
    Interestingly, after the visit by the Fleet, Deakin attempted to formalise Australia’s relationship with the United States by proposing an extension of the Monroe Doctrine to cover the countries of the Pacific, which would then enjoy American military protection. The British Government refused to support
    his proposal, thus it was never forwarded to the U.S. Government, but it foreshadowed the alliance that was to come into being some years later and which has since become the cornerstone of Australia’s defence policy.
    http://www.deakin.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/243295/adfleet.pdf

  5. China is not a military threat to Australia and is unlikely ever to be one.

    When our export and import transactions with China start being denominated in Yuan and actually transacted in Yuan and cleared via the respective Central Banks then we will be experiencing the closest of bonds between nations.

    We may have little choice but to remain neutral in a serious dispute between the US and China.

    From China’s perspective progressing in this direction is unlikely to be about taking over the world – that project seems a unique obsession of the monotheistic sky god cultures – it will be about creating bonds that guarantee security.

    A great Chinese Wall constructed of commercial and financial engagement and mutual interest.

    That is a good thing – trade and geater personal connection between nations and their peoples.

    Unproductive capital inflows – aka selling off assets and claims on our future income is dumb and that is why China does not allow it other than in trivial amounts.

    We should learn from China in that regard instead of swallowing whole the economic colonialisation / free capital flows ideology from our yankee bros.

  6. Hmmm
    2000/1 decision :Choose sides, Access of evil supporter OR Access of evil labeler
    2005/6 decision :Build Iron Ore / Coal mines AND Build US bases on Aussie soil (win -win)
    2008/9 decision :Rejoice that China builds Infrastructure while the US Financialized everything (our ToT shows us the way)
    2016/17 decision :What decision, Infrastructure’s back in vogue AND the cost of capital is at a record low (win-win for Australia)
    Decision What Decision?
    Maybe a time will come when we must make a decision but that time is still many years away.
    Imagine a world 20 years from today where China has the international status of the US in the 1950’s & 1960’s
    Imagine this China 20 years hence proposing an Asian equivalence of the EU ( would citizens of Korea, Philippines, Vietnam complain?) would anyone care what the Japanese thought? (look at their demographics worrying trend) would the US’s opinion even rate a mention anywhere?
    IMHO Australia’s doing exactly what it needs to be doing.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      I hope you’re right. But if there is an accidental naval clash in South China Sea, Australia will be forced to choose a side. These kind of event have a habit of getting out of hand, and the Chinese navy has been very aggressive recently.

      • “These kind of event have a habit of getting out of hand, and the Chinese navy has been very aggressive recently.”

        Nonsense ! The Chinese have been very patient with the USA aggressors who want to DOMINATE everything. It’s called the Chinas Sea because it’s China’s backyard & the access to all of their Ports. They are spot on to be standing up & doing something positive with those Atolls – they will be needed when the screws tighten & the War mongers push harder.
        If China was sailing ships off Miami & New York the Yanks would be threatening Nuclear Winter !

      • The Chinese aggressively manufacture sovereignty in contested islands and this is ok because of American aggression? It’s like you’ve got some new form of Tourette’s. Feck! Seppo whore! Yanks aggression! Hic. Hic. Jism!

  7. Once can hope we will stop getting on our knees and bending over when told. This is one area where i like MT. He recognises it’s not always in our best interests to tow the line like obedient dogs.

  8. The fundamental issue is that the USA’s doctrine is one of full spectrum dominance. It’s entire premise is based on the notion of American exceptionalism, in both cultural values and economic values – something they force on non complying countries by economic, diplomatic or military force. The doctrine calls for never allowing another challenger to American dominance to arise – it makes particular reference on this point to the former territories of the USSR, but is equally applicable to China. This is why we have a pivot to Asia and “containment.” It is also why they created the TTP and excluded China from it. It is why NATO still exists and has been swallowing up former Warsaw Pact members and indeed former Soviet States, encroaching onto Russia’s sensitive security zones, all the whilst using an informational attack narrative in the Western media with respect to “Russian aggression.” It is why the USA keeps very strict control of Germany’s media and foreign policy. Their worst nightmare is a natural economic and security alliance between Germany and Russia, one which would pry the European continent away from their influence and reduce their economic potential once married to a Chinese silk road.

    • It’s fascinating to watch China aggressively expand. Their immediate neighbors are shitting themselves yet the idiots from the back of beyond welcome their Chinese overlords with open arses. Be careful what you wish for.

      • The Chinese have been aggressively expanding economically – its what they have done historically as well. The artificial island crap is largely a response to the containment they are seeing from the US. Also, it is only natural that great powers expand, economically and militarily. Great powers have great ambitions. The key is how to respond to this. So far the most aggressively expansionist state in history (the USA) has done this poorly. Firstly by delaying time and time again Yuan acceptance into the SDR basket and not allowing it the voting rights its economic status means it should enjoy. Secondly by trying to contain China militarily via Australia, Japan and the Philippines. Thirdly by excluding it economically via exclusive trade agreements to blunt its growth.

        The Chinese aren’t much for military aggression. They tend to be more inward looking. They will expand influence via commerce first. Military options are likely to be defensive in nature. This is their history. It isn’t the Chinese who have bases stationed all over the world and a long history of using punitive economic and military measures to bring non-compliant countries to heel . Multi polarity is much more desirable than a single dominant state. The real question is whether the state seeking this will back down, make concessions and realise they can’t impose their system on the entire world, or bring us all to another global war.

      • You’re just a mentally ill apologist. Tell your tame China story to the Vietnamese and the Dalai Lama.

      • Kodiak, what i find “fascinating” is that you don’t actually reply to what i have written. I speak of enshrined US foreign policy and your reply ignores it completely in favour of pointing out Chinese shortcomings (legitimate as they are). You completely ignore what your country does abroad an who they have aggrieved! You don’t touch on any of the points i have made, you ignore them completely. Why is this so? Are they too hard to refute?

        Why don’t you tell your tame story to 500,000 dead Iraqi children, slaughtered Orthodox Syrian christians, the failed state of Libya, the collective peoples of South America – and the literally millions of other dead civilians due to the US military machine. You’re the apologist for the USA, who literally wrecks any country it can’t get compliance out of. The USA is not some moral beacon that steps in to uphold any democratic or neoliberal principles. It is a nation that steps in to uphold what it deems to be its economic and strategic imperatives. They are not guided by notions of democracy or values. If it were so they would not have (or continue) to be allied with (and shield) so many despotic regimes who do not care for nor share these principles in the slightest. The only tyrants and tyrannical countries the USA takes issue with is those that don’t bend to its will. That’s all it takes to be a target.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        Sino-Vietnam war is partially bout Vietnam’s interference in Cambodia, but also over the border. China generally do not invade another country, bit have a habit of ‘expanding borders’. Kinda of like what is happening in the South China Sea right now.

      • How can I respond to batshit crazy? Your whole thesis is impenetrable because it casts every foreign policy decision (no matter how sinister) as a direct reaction to pressure from the US. An argument with is a non-starter. Someone once told me to never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

    • Why would the Europeans replace the relatively lax and “over there” power of the Americans, with the very bellicose and nasty “over here” power of the Russians?

      It suits many regions to continue with American power, look to South East Asia as a good example of this.

      And its almost as if you don’t understand how empires work. There are no good or bad empires, they all involve dominance and subjugation, and the power is always exercised by the mighty over the weak. You think the Chinese and Russians would be different? Were you born yesterday?

      • Even a cursory glance at world history would show what ding-bat JC is. The Russians and Chinese have had empires, and you could argue they are STILL currently subjugating other peoples. Its not exactly a pretty process, and they haven’t come out of it smelling like roses. The other thing being forgotten in this thread is just entwined we are with America….this wont be like ticking a box. The process of going from being a global hegemon to being just another great power is going to be very messy for America and Australia. The last time this happened was WWII for Christs sake!

      • I will explain it actually – because i think you both fundamentally misunderstand my arguments. Nathan actually brings up some good arguments. The USSR was indeed no better (actually worse, just ask any Czech) nor would China potentially be – your point on empires is totally correct, they tend to subjugate the weak, especially towards the end.

        My argument is for a world order built on multi polarity – not the dominance of the USA, or any one country – but where 3 super powers (economically and militarily) would have spheres of influence in their own back yards. Outside of this they would fight for influence economically (deal making). This is where international laws and norms come in and the multi polar powers would ideally try to solve global problems. These laws would be thrown out the door naturally when one of the powers would be compelled to act on a red line or an imperative strategic interest.

        The issue i have is that the USA isn’t about choice. It will overthrow govts. and instill ones friendly to them. It will take over media via NGO’s and feed local populaces propaganda until they can shape public opinion, and it will break countries militarily, based on belief of their own exceptionalism and the fact that they feel the entire world is their perogative. It does not care for democracy! They subvert everywhere. They act as if they have a strategic interest over any nation – and the interests of others are not valid.

        You can see this in the post USSR security architecture. The USSR gave up huge amounts of territory and this was done without a shot being fired actually. Instead of looking to build a new security architecture that would include what was left (Russia) the Western led NATO did the opposite and started swallowing former Warsaw pact countries and indeed Baltic states into its alliance. It continues to do this by trying to integrate the Ukraine and Georgia – against Russia’s express and continued displeasure. It plundered Russia economically, and supported the disquiet in the caucuses in the hopes of breaking the remnants of the USSR (Russia) into even smaller pliant states or federalised zones. It totally dismisses Russia’s historic and valid concerns about being encircled militarily – in particular its sensitivity to having a degree of influence and control over the Ukraine. The Russians were likely have been prepared to use tactical nukes to keep access to the black sea – luckily this wasn’t required. The US now wants to host an inherently offensive weapon, a missile shield (let’s ignore the fact the tech doesn’t work yet) to blunt Russia’s second strike capability. It was also the USA who unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty. Today Russia is not looking for overt power to control Europe – it can’t even if it wanted to, Germany already has control. It is looking for breathing space from military encirclement and an opportunity to grow economically without having the US subvert its every move. It is looking for security primarily. It had even in the past spoken about joining NATO. The US, as per its doctrine is looking to keep Russia weak.

        It is starting to do the same with China. Trying to blunt its military and economic potential. As Nathan points out an empire is an empire and will want to expand, sometimes to the detriment of the weak. My real issue is what will happen when the US invariably finally steps over the mark with either Russia or China, based on this notion that it can attain uni polarity. The answer is hopefully a limited military exchange. The other one would be a nuclear winter. The USA and its neoliberals are playing a dangerous game based solely on the fact that they believe they should control the entire planet, and it is their divine right to do this.

        My argument is that China’s rise is inevitable, as was Russia rising from the remnants of the USSR to once again be a military power and even an economic one. Trying to choke these countries economically and militarily will lead to war. This cannot be allowed because it could lead to a nuclear exchange. The USA needs to realise it can’t dominate every sphere – and yield in areas where their interests are not as strong as those of China and Russia. Unless of course American’s feel it is in their interests to fight a war with Russia, over Syria or Ukraine as an example, or with China over Taiwan?

      • @Nathan
        You sound like another homesick Yank ? – — with all the usual blinkers on ,lights off & no one home.

      • “The process of going from being a global hegemon to being just another great power is going to be very messy for America and Australia. The last time this happened was WWII for Christs sake!”

        You are actually closer to my page than you think. My primary argument is that the USA is not a benevolent hegemon. It also revolves around the fact that we shouldn’t be helping them to go down to just another great power kicking and screaming in a nuclear storm, because they can’t handle the new reality.

      • It’s hard to describe the US as a benevolent hegemon just based on cynical proxy wars during the Cold War, but it isn’t like most empires either. Ask the Filipinos if the US is a benevolent hegemon. Or the Japanese or Germans, the latter two being economic powerhouses after the US defeated them in war. Ask the people who benefited from the Marshall Plan. Hell, Curtin basically invited the US into Australia and we left after the war. The PI kicked us out some years back and now they are begging for US presence. Why? Because they know that the US is benevolent compared to China.

        Personally, I’d like to see the pseudo-intellectual left have a taste of a world in which Americans return to isolationism. They deserve it. Let the Chinese control the SCS. Pull out of South Korea and redeploy to the PI. Fuck the Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Aussies and Kiwis. The PI is our only friend in the region. Pull out of NATO and let the Europeans sweat, too. Fuck. Them.

      • @JC what you described is the plot of 1984, but with a positive spin. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

        The Concert theory is all well and good, but it involves endless jostling between Great Powers(read: wars) and STILL involves subjugation, which you have described as “spheres of influence”

        What happens to a country like Australia, which doesn’t neatly fall into anyone’s spheres? Are we doomed to be a battleground? No thanks, American hegemony has worked out just fine so far, and you aren’t offering anything that is worth replacing it with.

        The Concert process you are descibing

      • @JC what you described is the plot of 1984, but with a positive spin. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

        The Concert theory is all well and good, but it involves endless jostling between Great Powers(read: wars) and STILL involves subjugation, which you have described as “spheres of influence”

        What happens to a country like Australia, which doesn’t neatly fall into anyone’s spheres? Are we doomed to be a battleground? No thanks, American hegemony has worked out just fine so far, and you aren’t offering anything that is worth replacing it with.

      • “Pull out of NATO and let the Europeans sweat, too. Fuck. Them.”

        The problem here is the opposite. The USA is needlessly expanding it as a tool of dominance, rather than maintaining some kind of status quo – or trying to give Russia some security guarantees. It is actually trying to aggressively encircle a fallen foe. That is the danger and the irony. Europe will be f*cked by virtue of NATO expansionism, not because it ceases to exist. In response to any actual hot war the Russians won’t be firing any missiles at the continental US, they will be aimed at what they (and Eurocrats) will deem an inconsequential European city in the hope of some kind of deescalation. This has in fact been written into Russia’s military doctrine in recent times. NATO’s expansion actually harms the security of Europe.

      • “Ämerican hegemony has worked out just fine so far, and you aren’t offering anything that is worth replacing it with.”

        The hope is something where they aren’t running around like a wild animal, but their still # 1 military, means expansionist China can’t really do the same either – but will get its way (or an acceptable outcome)_ on the stuff that is of high strategic importance to it. I don’t think Russia will. It has learnt some lessons from its past.

  9. China is a extreme threat to us, and any self determination we have left. The last thing we should be doing is spurning existing military and defensive ties and “hoping” we can sit in the corner unnoticed. Once we make it clear that as a country we are too scared to stand up to an over seas power then we are screwed and our children are destined to be the white trash of Asia and a life of scrubbing floors and waiting on the Chinese overlords in their mansions on Sydney harbor.
    Whats happening strategically in Asia at the moment has its closest parallel to pre 1939 war time Europe as a economically resurgent Germany expanded to claim previously lost territory in its “Lebensraum” (settler colonialism). Back then the lack of opposition led to further expansionist claims that emboldened Germany and plunged Europe into a dark age for generations.
    China must be resisted, It simply must. The future of generations to come depends on it.
    China’s current economic slap in the face regarding imports is a good thing. This may be the wake up call this country needs to stop being depended on corrupt money flows from a dictatorship that thinks nothing of oppressing its citizens with violence. We all seem to have forgotten tiananmen square.

  10. “then we are screwed and our children are destined to be the white trash of Asia and a life of scrubbing floors and waiting on the Chinese overlords in their mansions on Sydney harbor.”

    Our govts. economic policies with respect to where they let Chinese capital flow will achieve this far better than a military attack. The solution lies in applying the actual law properly on foreign purchases, stopping mass immigration via worthless student visas and not letting China buy up strategic farm assets that they understand the true long term value of and we happily sell.

    Sailing some vessels with our American buddies past their islands simply won’t do the trick. Being assertive is good, but in the diplomatic and economic arena. Not in the military arena. Having a strong and proficient military is a good back stop / insurance policy, but should never be anywhere near the forefront of solving these issues.

    • If this country does not stand up to China’s threats, either subtle or overt or either economic or military then the current suite of policies that exist to benefit foreign Chinese interests and our current political thieving scum overlords will never change. If our politicians are forced to (for what ever reason) publicly resist Chinese threats on the international stage that will resonate locally with the voting public and generate a snow ball effect that will make it not only easier to trash current policy, but show politicians they will need to, if they want the votes.
      In this case Chinese economic threats are a good thing.
      This could be the start of changes we need to make.

    • “Chinese capital flow will achieve this far better than a military attack. The solution lies in applying the actual law properly on foreign purchases”

      Simple: a law that provides that, upon hostilities with China against us or our friends, all ownership of real estate, businesses and financial assets held by Chinese citizens or Chinese companies in Australia is void. Pick a fight, and we’ll take all the assets you thought you’d bought here.

  11. I love the Chinese people, their food and the trade, but IMHO the Chinese regime is evil (stepping up restricting freedom of info + speech), and unjustly claiming virtually all of the South Chinese sea.

    The current Chinese strategy is to intimidate everyone with their (economical) size not to ‘sadden’ the Chinese leadership. But eventually Australia has to decide between _justice_ and _profit_. Selling out your soul for profit is spiritual prostitution. Australia has to decide.

  12. Tom ConleyMEMBER

    No Australia hasn’t dropped the US alliance. Policy-makers are maintaining a policy of strategic ambiguity when it comes to the trilateral relationship, just as they should. When push comes to shove Australia’s ‘choice’ of the US will become clear. Until then take the fork.

  13. At least none of us will be dealing vis a vis with China. Based on the “level-headed” comments I for one think it’s a good thing.

    • Our role should be mediating disputes and trying to reach a consensus between China and the USA across various issues where they are at logger heads. This would actually keep us relevant and important. Sometimes this will mean both compromise, sometimes it will mean the other wins. We are in a unique position here, which if played correctly can actually be good for us. Our politicians however are sniveling little worms who, sadly won’t be able to pull this off.