Xeating demands Australia bow to Angry China

From Paul Xeating just now:

Paul Keating says Australia’s foreign policy lacks “any strategic realism” and is leaving the nation unable to effectively manage the rise of China as Donald Trump vacates the Asia Pacific region.

…Mr Keating said Australia should channel its focus on helping “design a new construct” that engages with China but prevents it from dominating the region.

“The reason we have ministers and cabinets is so that a greater, eclectic wisdom can be brought to bear on complex topics and particularly on movements of tectonic importance. This process not working in Australia,” Mr Keating told The Australian’s Strategic Forum in Sydney on Monday.

“The subtleties of foreign policy and the elasticity of diplomacy are being supplanted by a group of security agencies which are now effectively running the foreign policy of the country. And the media of course as being up to its ears in it.

“There is alarm in Australia about the scale and speed of China’s rise and this comes out particularly in the hysteria (of the media), especially in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age but run up in the rear by The Australian.

“Big states are rude and nasty but that does not mean you can afford not to deal with them, whether it be the United States or China.”

“We need the United States as a balancing and conciliating power in the region. But it is very hard to be effective in that role if you don’t turn up. If you are not integral to and part of the strategic discussion. If you pawn the crown it is incapable of being redeemed at the same value,” he said.

“The global system is under stress and regional institutions are being marginalised. The President did not attend the East Asia Summit. He did not even direct is Secretary of State to attend the East Asia Summit.”

He also warned the United States was unlikely to return to its former influence regardless of who wins the next election.

“Indeed I think it is fair to say, that following this presidency, the United States will not return to being the state it was, regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat occupies the White House,” he said.

However, Mr Keating praised Mr Trump for seeking to avoid military conflict with China.

“President Trump’s instincts are to avoid military complications,” Mr Keating said.

“The confrontation he most seeks to avoid is with China. From the Australian national interest we should applaud the president for that. But more than that keep on applauding him,” Mr Keating said.

“For President Trump alone is deciding the United States foreign policy and the news in that for Australia is that he has no appetite for a military (confrontation) with China, which parts of the east coast foreign policy and defence establishment would countenance. And not just part of the establishment in the United States, part of the same establishment in Australia too.

“So while the President’s instincts in this respect are good, and they are particularly good, he is nonetheless not personally able to divine a new international agenda. He will not be constructing a new world model.”

So, Australia lacks realism for not engaging enough with China, but doesn’t need the same with the US?

The realism school of interanational relations is enough to any liberal serious dispepsia but it is unavoidable in some measure:

Realism is one of the dominant schools of thought in international relations theory, theoretically formalising the Realpolitik statesmanship of early modern Europe. Although a highly diverse body of thought, it is unified by the belief that world politics is always and necessarily a field of conflict among actors pursuing power. The theories of realism are contrasted by the cooperative ideals of liberalism.

Realists can be divided into three classes based on their view of the essential causes of interstate conflict. Classical realists believe it follows from human nature; neorealists attribute it to the dynamics of the anarchic state system; neoclassical realists believe it results from both, in combination with domestic politics. Neorealists are also divided between defensive and offensive realism. Realists trace the history of their ideas back through classical antiquity, beginning with Thucydides.

Basically, realism is about who has power, who wants it and how to keep it. It is ruthless.

So, if you want to be realist about both sides of geopolitics then let’s lay it out:

  • the US military currently gives existential force to liberal democracy Asia;
  • China wants to remake this model as illiberal capitalism with itself as the hegemonic head;
  • so, is it “realist” to expect the US, and everything it stands for, to allow a rival system to destroy its Pacific empire all the way to Hawaii, but to keep trading with it, given that strategic compromise will expose the western flank of its mainland? In terms of the seriously overworked metaphor of Thucidides Trap, that’s like Sparta inviting Athens to occupy the entire Agean without worrying about its own safety and system.

There are two answers to that question:

  • the Hugh White doctrine which sees China’s economic rise as inexorable and that leading to indomtable military might giving the US no choice;
  • that Chinese economic power is peaking now and, although it will be a great power, there is nothing inexorable about its rise. Indeed Chinese growth is already in deep trouble, it will slow from here, and terrible demographics ensure its relative decline before its get rich. This raises the distinct possibility of future CCP troubles at home (see Hong Kong, Xinjiang etc).

The truth almost certainly lies closer to the second than the first so the choice for the US is easier than it appears. Expose its western flank to a future Chinese empire or sustain the present arc of containment that runs from Japan to Thailand and Australia so that it is China that remains exposed, and is pushed as far from the US coast as is possible..

Except for one thing. There is one other false choice that is being promulgated. The “realist”elites  of this world that are bought by the CCP and together they bluff their way into turning US allies on one another and the hegemon. The CCP strolls into regional power without so much as a shot being fired.

A part of this sharp power lie, that is designed by Beijing to break ANZUS, is the acceptance that the intense abuse of the Australian democracy that we’ve witnessed by the CCP over the past five years is our own fault despite almost single-handedly keeping the CCP in power with our iron ore.

I’ll leave it to you where Paul Xeating falls into that strategic spectrum.

David Llewellyn-Smith

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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Comments

  1. first Keating installed neoliberism in Australia and now wants to remove small bits of democracy we still have

  2. China’s not interventionist my azz. China may not follow the US scorched earth style of intervention but they sure as hell do it in their own Sun Tzu way. There are many instances of Chinese intervention even their latest effort to tell Australians what is acceptable language to China. Nothing more than a sellout.

  3. “Power without purge its preference”

    Oh yes, do go on? Wonder what the Uighurs might think?

  4. But “Power without Purge” is OK? Reminds me of this – https://youtu.be/uW9Q1cm_Tnw?t=20 – just hush up & it won’t hurt……. Silence is consent ‘n all that.

    At least you know what you get with Brash & Obvious. What will Sneaky & Deceptive bring?

    Edit – I’m now answering to a ghost? Good Riddance to the deceitful one!

  5. No one’s condoning the actions of the US, their track record at democratising the world is pretty fvcken abysmal but at least we can openly criticise the US for its direct actions and support for tin pot regime’s. Criticise China and you’d be re-educated with a kidney removed for good measure. I’m sure China will make good use of our offshore detention facilities when Australians disappear for daring to stand up and criticise China, an action you apparently support 3d.

    • The dichotomy is a choice between an unreformed CCP ideology that opposes free speech and equates democratic western governance with colonialism OR the US that promotes one set of values yet delivers another.

      Which can be reformed first and realistically represents Australia’s best interests?

      It seems to me it will be the one where the people are not crushed when they seek to overthrow the government at the ballot box or via the use of free speech. Western people want western values; it is a delusion to think that this is the same in China. But this delusion has been spread for 30 years by the likes of PK.

      The more that we think that Australia needs to dove-tail with the CCP, the more that our western democratic values are eroded by our own mindset. Oil and water will not mix, they just seem to for a few seconds if you shake them hard enough.

      Theoretically, if the two blocks played by the same rules Keating might have point. Instead I fear that he is living in the past with the dream of China reforming as it develops. Instead it shows every sign of continuing an ideological confrontation with western values with ever hardening rhetoric and hand.

      Keating has become a dangerous echo of a hope 30 years ago. It is not in the nature of the man to admit that he’s been wrong.

      China plays the long game. Time to see the writing on the wall.

      • Luca BiasonMEMBER

        would also add that the CCP nationalistic vision is fundamentally driven by a deeply rooted personality cult, which in the context of China is something to be taken extremely seriously.

        • Absolutely. When highly intelligent and well educated mainland Chinese talk of how much they admire the great men of the CCP it says much about the folly of the idea that reform towards western beliefs will be a natural process. The cut snakes of the Left and opportunists of the Right refuse to deal with the unique psych-social context of China. We are dealing with a culture and brand of politics that no one understands. Paul Keating might think that state dinners, party theatrics and Board Room bonhomie have him on the inside, but it is the inside of an ideological strait jacket where they have him and people like the Glorious People’s Premiers of Victoria and Tasmania.

          This will not end well. The most dangerous politicians are the ones who think they are smart and have an internal compass. The Chinese will tell them that their culture invented that too.

    • Abysmal – gave Australia back. Japan and Germany, too. Philippines, too.

      The Aussiefication of history is shocking. Especially when you gloss over your own hideous crimes.

  6. I know 60 Minutes is B Grade but last nights episode just further shows the lengths the Chinese are willing to go to control the Pacific region.
    Keating is a disgrace.

    • If you extrapolate what’s happening today then, yes, China’s attempts to establish itself as AsiaPac hegemon looks threatening, however, there are clouds on the horizon for China’s extraordinarily ambitious plan: the first is the end of globalisation and a distinct possibility of a return to isolationism within economic or cultural blocs – China would be on her own because no one really likes or trusts her. The second is that the Chinese banking system is essentially insolvent and is walking an extremely fine line, made even worse by her slowing economy. This is why there is no stimulus — they’ve shot their bolt and the house of cards that is their financial system would be fortunate to survive the slightest gust of wind. A banking collapse / economic crisis is going to bring the curtain down on China’s expansionist plans, including the ludicrous Belt and Road bollox.

  7. Paul Xiping is an idiot!

    China’s golden age of growth is over. Their labour force is shrinking, they’ve over invested and are suffering a collapse in ROE and a banking system problem and TFP growth is slowing.

    Their population is substantially smaller than the coalition of adversaries – India, Japan, Vietnam and US.
    Their economy is substantially smaller too.

    They are playing old fashioned communist mind games and using useful idiots like Keating to push their agenda.

    Why doesn’t he do the honourable thing and just die?

  8. @PeterBruce, MB was just today bought out by a Chinese state owned enterprise and David has apparently disappeared. Good luck with your auto-payment cancellation

  9. Australian politics is all about corruption. Those who can give the most bribes get to cal all of the shots. China has just worked out how western “liberal democracies” work and are exploiting it for all its worth. If you want to undermine China’s influence the best way would be for Australia to become an actual democracy and implement direct democracy.
    Also the constant warnings about China’s demographics stopping them from becoming rich is the mathematical lunacy of the debt peddellers.