Good grief, via the AFR:
Labor is urging the Turnbull government to tone down its anti-China rhetoric, warning that it is flirting with a “dangerous exercise” by politicising the bilateral relationship between Canberra and Beijing.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong will tell the Australia China Business Council’s showcase annual networking day in Federal Parliament on Tuesday that it is possible for Australia to assert its national interests and safeguard sovereignty without being “offensive and inflammatory”.
“A more sophisticated approach, based on both respect and a firm articulation of our convictions, will do more to ensure our national interests are maintained than will the disjointed megaphone diplomacy the government seems to have preferred of late,” Senator Wong will say, according to speech notes.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, who will also address the event, lamented the recent damage that had been done to the relationship with Australia’s major trading partner. “When the bilateral relationship with China gets dragged into the domestic political debate for the purposes of one political party, it is a dangerous exercise,” he said.
The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a pincer movement to manipulate Australian democracy out of its alliance with the US liberal empire. On the one hand the CCP funds, corrupts and amplifies all pro-China voices, including buying support in the national parliament. On the other hand, it sues the pants of critics to suppress their views in a strategy known as “lawfare”.
This strategy has already corrupted influential segments of the Australia Labor Party. The NSW Right has lapped it up. And an unfortunate number of the party’s grey beards are now not only on the China gravy train but in the explicit business of disseminating Chinese propaganda, including Bob Carr, John Brumby and, arguably, Paul Keating who all want more Chinese investment.
Where that leads Peter Hartcher sums up nicely:
The Chinese Communist Party built a road into Tibet and the Tibetans were excited – it was their first highway: “We were promised peace and prosperity with the highway, and our parents and grandparents joined in building the road,” as the president of Tibet’s government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, tells the story.
…”Then they built the road. Once the road reached Lhasa – the capital city of Tibet – first trucks came, then guns came, then tanks came. Soon, Tibet was occupied. So it started with the road.”
…The Chinese Communist Party built roads into Xinjiang, the Muslim-majority lands just to the north of Tibet. “When the Chinese people first went to Xinjiang, we all thought, what nice people,” says the voice of the ethnic Uighur people’s independence movement in the region, Rebiya Kadeer.
“We treated them nicely, we expected some investment and development,” she tells me. “Initially they said ‘we will help you with development but you will rule over the land,” says Kadeer, once one of the richest women in China and a member of China’s National People’s Congress, now living in exile in the US.
“Only three per cent of the people in Xinjiang were Chinese,” ethnic Han speaking Mandarin Chinese, distinct from the Turkic-speaking Uighur who make up the biggest ethnic group in what is now a province of China.
The Beijing government operates a transmigration policy in Tibet and Xinjiang, relocating Han people from the south to change the ethnic and political composition. The percentage of Han Chinese is now about 40 per cent in Xinjiang.
“They increased and and increased and now they are killing us,” says Kadeer. The Chinese Communist Party has built a network of re-education camps for the Uighurs. Kadeer calls them concentration camps where people are detained indefinitely without due process.
…These are cases of China consolidating power on its periphery. They are not stories of the Chinese Communist Party conquering foreign nation states.
But they are, nonetheless, instructive tales of how Beijing has used infrastructure as the friendly forerunner of political power.
At least the Coalition can see the local parallels, at Domainfax:
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the Turnbull government will compete with China’s infrastructure development spree in Australia’s neighbourhood to help ensure small nations are not saddled with debt that threatens their sovereignty.
Making some of the frankest remarks by an Australian politician about the swift expansion of Chinese construction of roads, bridges, ports, airports and buildings in the Pacific region, Ms Bishop said Australia needed to ensure countries in the region had choices and were not stuck with opaque development offers.
Ms Bishop, in an interview with Fairfax Media about China’s signature infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative, said Australia was concerned about the economic viability of small Pacific nations and did not want unsustainable debt burdens imposed on them.
It will only take one Chinese military base in the South Pacific and Australian democracy is dead. It will be like parking an aircraft carrier off Canberra. Behind the scenes, Beijing will determine who rules, who prospers and who goes to the Pilbara labour camps.
If that base comes, will Australia and the US go to war to prevent it? Or, like the South China Sea, will the US surmise that Australia took the Chinese bribe as a grown-up nation, chose to betray ANZUS and, really, it doesn’t deserve the sacrifice of American lives to protect it? The US could just draw a line through Hawaii instead and let China have the west of it.
Australian democracy is a much more fragile thing than we imagine. It is only protected by the willingness to declare and act in its favour.
And Labor wants silence.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.