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.