Cowards of Canberra gobble Beijing’s bluff

For a day supposedly dominated by “realism”, the obvious didn’t get a look in at The Australian’s Cowards of Canberra Conference yesterday. While the PBOC was forced to cut interest rates to combat a structural slowdown in the Chinese economy, and Hong Kong degenerated into near open war, all the Canberra cowards could discuss was China’s inevitable rise.

Ironically, it started with Paul Keating fantacism, which is so biased and dated that it verges on nonsense, from Paul Kelly:

There was wide agreement that China’s ban on the entry of two federal Liberal backbenchers was immature and counter-­productive. Keating said the challenge for Australian policy was fixing “a set of arrangements which engages China but which also prevents China from domin­ating the region”. He said a prudent policy would be to encourage the US to stay in the region but give China “the space to participate”. Australia should be actively involved in creating a web of co-operative regional ties but steer clear of any US assumption that China’s rise was incompatible with American interests.

Bravo for the web but what great power ever gave another voluntary space to grow and challenge it? Rising powers take space. If they take it from others then the moment that their interests are threatened they fight back.

The US will be the same of course. If we think we can just sail off into the new Chinese empire and it’ll be all good then we are deluded beyond all measure. What will happen instead is there’ll be a US-backed military coup in Australia as our fully US integrated defence and intelligence forces seek to sustain ANZUS. And as the US seeks to preserve its China spearhead, including the invaluable Pine Gap.

Do these supposed “realists” think that the US would rather fight the CCP in Hawaii or California than they would in the Far East using other nations? Realism is a double-edged sword that must involve calculus of how the US will react to any Chinese sell out by the cowards of Canberra, not just what Beijing will do if we don’t.

Even China diehard and Fortescue fan, Jennfier Hewitt came away noticing how craven was the Cowards of Canberra Conference:

But while most experts do agree public debate about China has indeed degenerated, it’s not simple to repair it in an era where China’s use of power has also been transformed and hardened beyond recognition from the Keating era.

Keating may be a poweful personality but he is operating on a dangerously dated Asia Pacific paradigm and should be viewed as some kind of aging nutjob, not the seer of Australiana.

Others made a little more sense, also from Kelly:

But Frydenberg believes the US remains strategically committed to the region and refused to subscribe to Keating’s declaration that Pax Americana was passing into history.

…[Dennis] Richardson said that a “few missteps” aside, the government had China policy pretty right. He said there was consistency between the major parties on China. Had Labor won the last election, he doubted China policy would be significantly different. Speaking as a former practitioner, he said criticism was “easy” and his real point was obvious: the critics were weak in explaining exactly how China policy should be reset.

When ALP defence spokesman Richard Marles called for a “guiding philosophy” to govern relations with China, Richardson’s retort was “grand plans don’t exist in the world” and challenged Marles to explain what he meant.

Former Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet head Martin Parkinson offered his own ­brutal realism when he defined the core issue: Australia was engaged in a negotiation with China about our future sovereignty.

He said the economic growth of China was the best thing for the world since World War II but China, as a rising power, was trying to hive off Australia from its US alliance partner.

Parkinson disputed conventional wisdom that “China has us over a barrel”, pointing out that China was also a beneficiary from its economic partnership with Australia.

The US is committed to the Pacific. The question is how? Will it be committed openly and in defence of democracy? Or it will be committed clandestinely via proxy wars to keep the CCP as far from its homeland as is geographically possible?

You really don’t want it to be the second path. Not unless you want to become Cold War Chile or Korea or Afghanistan.

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 fouding 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.

Comments

  1. They got rid of Whitlam and had a ready patsy in the Liberals to install, but now the problem is both major parties are CCP sell-outs, so no one left to pass the baton to.
    Our military are very reticent to be involved in politics. Look at how they walked off when Joshie tried to use them as a backdrop for political point scoring. By the time things get so bad here the military might even countenance a coup, we’ll be too far gone to fix things.

  2. There will be no ‘Chinese Empire’. China only looks out for China and nobody one else, so if the US desengage from South Pacific, Australia is on its own.

    China doesn’t care if Indonesia rules Australia after slaughtering everyone as long as the iron ore and coal keeps rolling.

    • What prevents you from owning one now?

      Join SSAA, get an RHVC, Cat A and B and perhaps C in Vic (not so much NSW I don’t think). Gets you a decent range of insurance.

    • I like to think myself a serious person but I strongly suspect we would struggle to find geopolitical alignment.
      So where does this leave me? where does it leave you?
      From his more recent musings I suspect Gunna finds himself in a similar conundrum.
      Personally I don’t think we have a snowballs chance in hell of maintaining the political and social allegiances that have characterized post WW2 Australia, they’re gone, in part because they’re not aligned with our export interests but mostly because we simply won’t be able to afford to indulge ourselves.
      In today’s Australia Economic realism drives Political realism.

      • Interested PartyMEMBER

        It’s not a binary equation. There are more moving parts than you can imagine.
        have a look at the link in my post below….book out 2 hours though, critical viewing imho.

  3. All the architects designs are crumbling. Super, his neoliberal disaster economy and now his foreign policy. When the US was focused elsewhere he was given room to indulge his multilateral ideas eg APEC – that the US would participate in discussions on equal footing. But the world doesn’t work that way. Genuine great post industrial buyers of last resort powers don’t just handover influence to others with per capita consumption equivalent to Nigeria simply to validate Keating speeches to the chattering class. But his language is fun!

    • ErmingtonPlumbing

      Are you going to embrace our new overlords if their socially conservative leadership bans deviant “Relations parties” in their territories.
      You could find yourself on a list other than a “Guest list”.

    • It’c called colonisation, China is simply exporting its surplus population to to US allies in the Pacific Ocean so as to undermine US hegemony in the region.

  4. TailorTrashMEMBER

    “Australia was engaged in a negotiation with China about our future sovereignty.”
    This chap gets it ….but why do we need to negotiate ?

    …..oh yes .I forgot …….we have sold our children’s homes We have sold the farms their food will come from
    We have sold their public utilities and their ports
    We have devalued their education and their citizenship
    We have corrupted their system of government
    and now we are negotiating their future freedom
    ….all I’m the space of 30 years …..shame straya
    shame ….
    I don’t always agree with the sometimes unfair
    portrayal of the boomer generation as not all
    them are as depicted ….but that generation surely lacked leadership of integrity and theirs is a sad legacy
    given the need to negotiate the
    future sovereignty of the country they will leave
    for their kids

  5. Paul was a lousy Treasurer, a lousy PM – who rode on Bob Hawke’s coattails – and is lousy now. Why should anyone take anything this idiot says seriously.

    As for the US backing out of Asia, that’s ridiculous.

      • Interested PartyMEMBER

        Absolutely.
        Keep in mind there is no perfect system. They all become subverted eventually. That is not any reason to just let whomever run riot, be it corporate greed or communistic controls.
        The video in my link never claims morality, or any high ground. It is about the subversion of governments worldwide, in real time. Evidence is provided throughout. And the USA is under siege right now.

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