The US/China Cold War erupts

The US/China Cold War is here and how. It’s brinkmanship at sea, via The Australian:

Australia has warned Beijing that the use of “intimidation or ­aggressive tactics” was “destabilising and potentially dangerous” following reports a Chinese navy destroyer launched an “unsafe” challenge to a US warship in the South China Sea.

In the latest conflict between the US and China, the Pentagon revealed that a Chinese warship had issued a challenge to the ­guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur as it sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson reefs in a freedom-of-navigation operation.

With tensions between the ­nations worsening, a decision by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to abandon a planned visit to Beijing was followed by a statement by Defence Minister Christopher Pyne last night warning against aggression in the region.

It’s brinkmanship on land, via the FT:

White House hawks earlier this year encouraged President Donald Trump to stop providing student visas to Chinese nationals, but the proposal was shelved over concerns about its economic and diplomatic impact.

As the administration debated ways to tackle Chinese espionage, Stephen Miller, a White House aide who has been pivotal in developing the administration’s hardline immigration policies, pushed the president and other officials to make it impossible for Chinese citizens to study in the US, according to four people familiar with internal discussions.

The debate about Chinese students intensified after the White House in December released its national security strategy, which said it would “review visa procedures to reduce economic theft by non-traditional intelligence collectors” and consider restrictions on foreign students in science-related fields.

It’s brinkmanship in the airwaves, via the ABC:

Another week, another nationalistic outburst by a Chinese citizen abroad goes viral.

This time a state television reporter named Kong Linlin allegedly disrupting a Conservative Party conference in the UK about human rights in Hong Kong.

Video of the scuffle shows the reporter slapping an organiser and then refusing to leave, declaring she has “the right to protest” in a “democratic UK”.

She was removed and briefly arrested but it didn’t end there.

As usual when these increasingly common events occur, China demanded apologies.

Two of them — one to Kong Linlin’s employer CCTV, and another to the Chinese embassy, which said: “In a country that boasts freedom of speech, it is puzzling that the Chinese journalist should encounter obstruction.”

In China, some of the country’s 800 million web users questioned Ms Kong’s actions, but on the popular and highly censored platform Weibo, there was widespread support, with some congratulating her for confronting, “poisonous Hong Kong separatists”.

Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s most nationalistic tabloid, the Global Times, used Twitter to ask: “Why can’t Chinese reporters have the right to ask questions and express opinion at this conference? Why views from mainland were rejected?”

The spooks are at work, via the AFR:

In his first interview since being named last year as director-general of the soon-to-be-established Office of National Intelligence, Nick Warner told the Power issue of The Australian Financial Review Magazine that he has already hosted a handful of gatherings with the country’s top business people. The briefings follow two years of heightened tensions between business and the national security establishment and come as Mr Warner is at the centre of the biggest overhaul to Australia’s intelligence apparatus in 40 years.

…Duncan Lewis, director-general of security at the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, confirmed he has also hosted a series of boardroom briefings to better inform the corporate sector about ASIO’s national security assessments. Another intelligence agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), is also working with companies on strategies to deal with cyber security threats.

We are SO unprepared for this. What are our next steps, then? Can we sail on oblivious towards an ever greater economic integration with China as our great power protector makes the shift towards strategic rivalry?

It is true that choosing one side over the other is not in the national interest. But to ignore the rising possibility that that choice will be thrust upon us would be downright reckless. Trump will pass but the great power contest won’t. As evidence think of Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, the TPP and marines in Darwin. Imagine as well if Bernie Sanders were now US president. Exactly the same conflict would be unfolding only he would be more obviously friendly to the US alliance network. When the Democrats win the White House again that’s what will happen.

We need to make a shift now so that as the struggle intensifies, we are as prepared as we can be. That does not mean choosing sides. That means seeking economic balance, political durability and strategic clarity. At the moment we have only made a start on the latter two and have done almost nothing on the former.

Where are our vulnerabilities?

In our strategic outlook we need a complete overhaul of our soft and hard power objectives. We should seek to promote democratic alliances wherever possible. Engage with ASEAN, India, Japan, Korea and European Union heavily. Governance in the Pacific is now central to everything that we do.  It must be woven into a watertight strategic alliance in our favour before it is done against. This does not mean getting into an open contest with Beijing. But it does mean doing it anyway.

Australia needs to prepare a national defense strategy that is both integrated with the US but can also operate without it if need be. A nuclear debate is hard to avoid for both sustained power projection and continental defence.

It’s the economy where the hardest battle looms. Here the Chinese state already has a very strong foothold. If Beijing has any sense it will keep throwing easy dough our way. We should take it within reason and use it to hedge our bets. Blocking the sale of strategic assets is only the most obvious place to start. Thankfully the Chinese government has shut down the housing trade so we’re off the hook there. But the real battle is to shift the national growth engine from urbanisation industries to tradeables. The former is a pure figment of utopian globalisation, reliant upon exporting citizenship and importing capital, both of which now represent emerging national security threats.

We need to cut immigration sharply to shift away from building houses and roads and work instead towards a productive economy powered by exports and import competers, including especially manufacturing. Re-industrialising Australia is hardly something that will come easy. Industry policy can be used to promote it. More important is that we focus on our competitiveness instead of the easy debt-driven growth triggered by mass immigration. Then industry will grow again anyway. Critical is the breaking of the east coast gas cartel. Industry will die without that. Other reforms like changes to negative gearing are an excellent way to deflate house prices and lower the currency.

Cutting immigration also comes with the upside that it implicitly limits the channels of influence coming from Beijing. We should not use discriminatory immigration policy. That way lies disaster. Once any one ethnicity is singled out, all are at risk and Australia’s internal stability will destabilise. It is simply anathema to modern Australia and the values of humanism that underpin what makes Australia worth fighting for. We just halve the intake.

There is no need to resort to resource nationalism or other martial policies. These are wartime in nature and should be eschewed.

The political battle might be just as hard to win. The obvious measures of combating bribery and the influence of Chinese-sympathetic money is underway. A good start has been made on pushing back via the foreign influence bills but more is needed. We need a federal ICAC.  We need to ban political donations and introduce public funding for political parties.

More difficult is we need a new form of leadership. One that recognises the paradigm shift and throws out happy notions of a liberalising China, as well as a self-sacrificing liberal overlord in the US. China is a burgeoning dictatorship. The US is an angry superpower riven by class structures severely exacerbated by the nature of Chinese catch-up growth. Australia is “tip of the spear” for both and that position should be leveraged to find compromise wherever possible but do so with the full preparedness for failure.

The US versus China is now the defining struggle of our time. We need to recognise it openly without endorsing it. Yet Labor is still kneeling at the alter of the Asian Century doctrine in thrall to dated Keatingism. The Coalition is the lapdog of corporations such that it will agree to pretty much anything that they want in thrall to dated Howardism. Both operate under vestigial open border’s rubrics that will further entrench a Chinese economic dependence now clearly running directly contrary to our strategic interests.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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  1. A good first step is to make it clear that we will stop selling out our workers and low/middle income earners to our mercantalist trading partners and other predatory capital flows.

    If we choose to build our life style on:

    Capital flows that have been manipulated to manipulate trade.
    Applying those capital flows to driving speculative asset price bubbles
    Selling off our industrial and infrastructure capital assets
    Selling off our non-renewable resources at bottom dollar as fast as we can dig them up
    Selling off title to our land
    Providing work rights to temporary residents
    Expanding population to simply provide a larger local market to business interests (there is a 7 billion strong market they could be selling to if they were half competent)

    Is it any surprise that we find ourselves vulnerable to shifting interests offshore.

    Until we grow up and start voting for politicians who promise that we must start earning a living rather than squandering our inheritance we will only have ourselves to blame.

  2. “It’s the economy where the hardest battle looms. Here the Chinese state already has a very strong foothold. If Beijing has any sense it will keep throwing easy dough our way.”
    Case in point – Tassie:

    An academic has warned Australia is at risk of becoming a “client state” of the People’s Republic of China and has called for a proper and respectful debate in Tasmania about the nature of its relationship to the country.

    • The Tassie situation is very real and very scary. Part of a big strategic play by China for Antarctica. Long term I think they want a 99 yr Chinese concession and PLAN base in Tassie.

      • @ Dennis
        No, I’m deadly serious. You only need to look at what China is doing in Sri Lanka and Pakistan to see the model.
        You appear not to understand the CCP, its modus operandi, and its strategic intentions. China is not doing this for sh*ts and giggles. It is targeting Tasmania (and Australia/NZ) with long-term strategic goals in mind.

      • What a load of tosh. I understand what China’s about, but your drawing a long bow with the claim that China is after a lease on Tasmania, not a hope of that EVER happening. On what grounds could anyone expect this to occur?

        Some of the rubbish that is written about a loss of sovereignty over loans is just laughable. You could use Darwin Port and what is happening in the Pacific as examples. Lets say in Vanuatu that they build the port and the Gov cannot pay it back so the Chinese entity takes possession under the loan agreement, this doesn’t give them unfettered rights do as they please and set up a naval base, it gives them the right to operate the port. Like with any country, the Gov would still maintain control over what use can be made of it and who can use the port. The idea that China could just move in is ludicrous, that would be a hostile act, that would be an act of war. Can you imagine the Pakistani military doing nothing if the Chinese just decided they would use a Pakistani port as a naval base under similar circumstances. Bloody ridiculous!

    • They recently lengthened the runway at Hobart to accommodate a dairy products freighter that was due to operate direct to China. Not sighted at this stage.

  3. interested partyMEMBER

    The tangled web that exists……

    and in another coincidence…surely just that… turns out that “Feinstein’s 3rd husband whom she married in 1980, Richard Blum is DEEPLY and PERSONALLY connected to China as a prominent investor.”

    On security…
    Trump is rumoured to be heading our way in November…possibly. What are the chances of a trade deal being sorted out, one that alters the outlook of the AUD, and also strengthens the military connections between our two nations?

    Don’t know anything myself…just speculating.

    • I don’t think Trump will head here until the EU is sorted. We’re small potatoes.

      He’s cemented two trade deals now. Korea (51m people) and Nafta 2.0. (163m)
      He’ll refocus on NATO and US/EU and Japan trade. (~500m and 127m)

      If successful on all those fronts, that’s a combined economic alliance of 1.1bn of, (aside from Mexico) most of the wealthiest people on earth.
      Then he can turn to the 25m population pile of rocks and other periphery alliances.

  4. On the navy: each of those chinee ships will be closely followed by a Los Angeles class submarine
    and the chinee know it
    Strayan sugar farmers saying low cost sugar from India is doing em in
    and Honey, dont mention it

  5. “In a country that boasts freedom of speech, it is puzzling that the Chinese journalist should encounter obstruction …”

    Freedom of speech for me … no freedom of speech for you! All animals are equal but some are born more equal than others 😉

  6. A foreign citizen acting for state controlled media protesting and disrupting a domestic political event, and then going on about her “rights”. FFS, in China she’d be in jail or worse.

    The arrogance of these people is astounding, and it certainly isn’t doing their cause any good.

    • They don’t care about the public — they care only about feathering their nests. It has got to the point where they don’t even care whether they’re caught doing it either.

  7. Take back Port of Darwin from Landbridge. Give them back their $506m. This is an unacceptable national strategic risk.

    The timing of the playing of this card can await a suitable opportunity.

    Australia remains open for trade yet has to step back from the gleeful sale of assets with military implications.

    Andrew Robb is a traitor.

  8. I think we are getting too worried about the sand islands China is building. A better strategy would be to get them to build as many sand islands as possible, hell get them to fill in the entire Pacific.
    The thing about these islands is:
    1) they cost a fortune to build and;
    2) will cost a fortune in maintenance because of the constant unrelenting wave action.
    3) Militarily it wouldn’t take too much to put the runways out of action in case of a conflict

    See how all those artificial sand islands in Dubai are getting on financially?

    • This is correct. They’re like aircraft carriers with broken engines or in other words “targets”. The position of every one of them is no doubt stored to within about one millimeter in a few hundred Tomahawk targeting systems.

  9. I say we should build the N-bomb. Just got to find a way to keep Bob Katter, Pauline Hanson and Cory Bernardi well away from the key and buttons. Scomo might also be a worry. He might choose to delivery us all to god if the tongues and happy clappers tell him to.

  10. Jumping jack flash

    “We are SO unprepared for this. What are our next steps, then? Can we sail on oblivious towards an ever greater economic integration with China as our great power protector makes the shift towards strategic rivalry?”

    You betcha.

    Head in the sand, as always. Its our culture, maate!