AFR demands peace in our time

Worrying stuff today as the AFR makes an editorial turn for “peace in our time” with China, no doubt egged on by captured Australian business interests.

Yesterday it ran a piece by Andrew Sheng is Distinguished Fellow of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the UNEP Advisory Council on Sustainable Finance and Xiao Geng, president of the Hong Kong Institution for International Finance, is a professor and director of the Research Institute of Maritime Silk-Road at Peking University HSBC Business School:

… the logic goes, the extradition bill would threaten Hong Kong’s liberty and autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle underpinning the city’s relationship with mainland China since 1997, when Chinese sovereignty was restored in the former British colony. But the logic is wrong.

Extradition arrangements are commonplace; Hong Kong has them with 20 other countries. More important, the Chinese government knows that it is in its own interest to ensure that Hong Kong remains a peaceful and prosperous world city, merging Chinese and Western business practices, governance systems, and ideologies.

….Such horizontally networked, emotion-driven movements often give way to violence, as Hong Kong is now learning. Last month, protesters stormed and vandalised the Legislative Council building and, later, the Chinese government’s liaison office. This month, the demonstrations have shifted to Hong Kong’s international airport.

How this stands up to scrutiny as argument for the editors is not obvious. The notion that extradition with China is the same as extradition deals with other nations is preposterous. As logic it is a clear fallacy of affirming the consequent: if A, then B; B, therefore A.

That makes the conclusion, that the protest movement is “emotional” a circular argument. They are illogical therefore they are illogical. This is propaganda.

Today the paper rolls out James Curran, Professor of Modern History at Sydney University:

…Two central problems emerge from Hastie’s analysis. The first is its imposition of the “lessons” of World War II on the China challenge. It is not what happened in the past that matters now, but what’s coming…The second is that having laid bare his assessment of the strategic environment, Hastie said nothing about what Australia should do.

…Likewise the government does not need to over indulge the sentimental dimension of the US relationship. True, it charms a president not disposed to alliances, but Australia is unlikely to be wrenched from its strategic mooring. Instead it should continue to warn its great power ally of the folly of trying to contain China and where possible counsel Washington into acting in a way that will be beneficial to Australia’s interests in Asia: admittedly a tall order in Donald Trump’s presidency. It should continue, too, enunciating a broader view of regional co-operation with like-minded neighbours, thus strengthening the diplomatic dimension of Australia’s influence.

…putting Australian strategic thinking into an emotional straitjacket is unhelpful. As the esteemed American journalist Walter Lippmann once wrote, “you can’t decide questions of life and death for the world by epithets like appeasement”.

There are issues with Hastie’s Nazi analogy. The largest is that the mechanisms of CPC authoritarian control have more in common with the USSR. That said, the CPC is a fascistic state with clear designs on expanding military power in its immediate region, internal persecution of millions of ethnically diverse peoples, a dictator with centrally planned economic levers used to control a local and global elite, and a determination to undermine and destroy regional allegiances to the existing liberal hegemon. That shares plenty with Nazism.

This same fascistic state has shown a clear determination to interfere with Australian domestic politics, has Australia citizens in prison to use as diplomatic leverage, and is currently massing troops on the border of one of its last remaining regions of greater freedom, where 100k Australians live.

In such circumstances, Hastie’s use of historical analogs appears more directed at removing a thick blanket of complacency from a polity that has spent twenty years being bought by the same tyranny. It is ripping a tiny hole of sanity in an existing emotional straight jacket of greed that is threatening to undermine our own freedoms.

As for Curran’s answer, where does he expect that “it should continue to warn its great power ally of the folly of trying to contain China” will lead given evidence suggests that the CPC has designs upon regional hegemony? Such overlordship in existing jurisdictions shows that that will severely curtail, if not end, Australian democracy. Very respectable strategic analysts are already arguing that we should give our freedoms away to avoid war.

At what point should we stick our hand up to defend the very foundations of our liberal democratic system if not when we still have the power to do so? When we don’t? Please.

This is a hegemonic struggle. It is a battle between a liberal US empire, for all its flaws, and an illiberal Chinese empire, with its considerably larger ones. We gave China a chance to liberalise. It’s gone the other way, now with increasing violence.

It’s bleedin’ obvious which side Australia should come down on and that it should do so with great haste and whatever strength it can muster. That does not mean adopting suicidally hawkish policy. But it does mean backing all efforts to contain China by the existing liberal hegemon, which are quite likely to succeed. More at The Australian:

Former CIA director and US general David Petraeus has called out China for failing to liberalise and become “more like us”, advising Australia to be awake to Beijing’s “very concerning” conduct amid intensifying pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

General Petraeus — who led Australians in the Iraq and ­Afghanistan conflicts before becoming Barack Obama’s spy chief — said managing China’s growing strategic influence was the “central issue of our day”, noting it was a “unique challenge” for the ANZUS alliance given the strong trade relationship Beijing shared with both the US and Australia.

The decorated former military commander told The Australian Beijing had “challenged the ­assumptions” held by the West that it would liberalise after participating in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, which it joined in 2001.

“China has evolved in recent years and, in particular, has ­challenged the assumptions we held for quite some time … that if we welcome China into the WTO, helped it establish a network of trade and relationships, it would become healthier,” General ­Petraeus told The Australian ­yesterday.

“And, as it did, it would inevitably become more open, more transparent, and frankly more like us (the West). These assumptions are no longer as valid as they once were and we need to operate with a somewhat different set of assumptions.

The AFR’s China appeasement push is precisely why Andrew Hastie was right to speak out.

Houses and Holes

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

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.

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