You can keep your Chinese future, professor

Today I carry on with my recent deconstruction of the writing of Professor James Curran who has swiftly risen in place of Geoff Raby as the AFR’s China apologist de jour. Over the weekend he argued that:

  • The Morrison Government is lost in a dying Anglospheric dream.
  • Recent moves by Dutton to increase American presence are a response to “the China threat narrative generated by this government”.
  • Why is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan not enough to secure protection from ANZUS forever?
  • Canberra is incapable of imagining an Asia without American power but it is coming.
  • Australia is giving up too much independence to Washington.
  • We need “creative policy energy needed to build up security with, and not against, Asia.”

Let me ask you, which frame of reference is more lost in a dream here? The acceptance that China has made an autocratic shift and is threatening Australia daily, or, that we need more Keatingesque engagement with Asia? Cripes.

The rest of Professor Curran’s points are thin-sliced at best:

  • Being dependent in defence is hardly a new situation for Australia. Nor is it new to most of Asia. Just about all of it sits under the US nuclear umbrella. Then there are the deep and abiding relationships between the US and ROK, Japan, Philippines and Thailand, plus the growing relationship with India.
  • Nor is it new that Australia has had to beg, borrow, cajole and nudge its great and powerful strategic allies. Go read the greatest single greatest work in Australian strategic history, Dependent Allie, by the great Coral Bell, who I sorely miss.
  • Nor has Australia ever paid anything like it should for the protection afforded by ANZUS. On the contrary, it has enabled us to run spectacularly low military budgets for decades as we soaked up the many trade advantages of US-protected markets and waterways in Asia. Which, I might add, were gamed relentlessly by Asian nations who fixed currencies, stole IP and pursued mercantilist settings. The very worst being China.
  • Nor is it new that Asia is dominated by an Asian power. We’ve seen Japan do it twice. Once militarily and once economically.

It might be argued that the US is less reliable these days. But I don’t think so. Trump and Biden disagree on everything EXCEPT China. Biden has kept and deepened the trade war. He is rallying the global alliance network to the task as well. Trump relaunched the US First Fleet to patrol Asia. Biden is readying another. Competition and containment of China is the one area of complete agreement between wildly different administrations that have both reinforced strategic power projection in Asia rather than undermined it. Australia is an integral asset in US pacific command power projection which is why we’ve always paid so little for ANZUS.

Moreover, the entire basis of Professor Curran’s argument is a false assumption on two fronts. China will certainly rise some more. So what? It will also sink into the middle-income trap, capping its power. While the global liberal bloc has the entrenched advantage of freedom and soft power to keep it richer, more innovative and ahead in defence technology.

Second, Australian suspicions of China have not been aroused by a few months of Morrison foot-in-mouth. They are based upon six years of scandals in universities, government, media and business around malign CCP influence seeking to bend Austalia to Bejing’s will. Not to mention seizure of the South China Sea, destruction of Hong Kong, warmongering over Taiwan, border wars with India, the global plague, cyber attacks and trade war upon ourselves and, of course, being spat upon daily by wolf warriors.

If the good professor wants to make friends with this tide of shite then go right ahead. But leave the rest of us Aussies out of it, thanks. The CCP’s wolf warriors have made abundantly clear their terms for friendship:

Which clampdown upon our freedoms is Professor Curran happy with to deliver his sadly obsolescent “creative policy energy needed to build up security with, and not against, Asia.”?

Houses and Holes
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  1. Hernando Dobski

    Dong Jingwei, the CCP’s “spycatcher” has defected to the US.[1]

    He claims one third of Chinese students in the USA are actually CCP spies.

    I wonder if any Chinese students or academics in Australia are?


  2. I have maintained that one half of Chinese migrants to Australia are here to get away from the CCP,
    The other one half are here to keep an eye on the first half.
    Anyway it’s all over for the commie rat bags, because …
    THE BEETROOTER IS BACK… we are saved !?!?

  3. C'est de la folieMEMBER

    None of these guys touting an ‘accept the rise of China’ (or engage with it, or profit from it) cant get away from a fairly straightforward counter argument.

    At the very core the leadership of China (and of all autocracies) is about retaining control of China (or wherever they are being autocratic).  That dynamic (those autocrats and their people) is one which all other peoples and nations are inherently excluded from (be they foreign agents, exploiters, spies, military or terrorist threats, unfair corporate rivals etc) or tightly controlled in how they can engage (see Apple, Google selling themselves out in China, see the way big oil prostrated itself for Russia, and the way big FMCG companies bend over backwards in both naitons to get a foothold).  That engagement needs to take place within an overtly state supporting legal system (Neither China nor Russia have the same legal understanding of ‘rights’ as applicable to individuals or entities when balanced against the state as would be found anywhere in the Anglosphere, or EU).  Because of the dynamic between the state and the autocracy in those nations there is a very heavy hand of the state – particularly security – to go with that law.

    Now supporters of those states have a valid point when they say capacity to handle the dynamics between the state and the governed or access to legal outcomes in the Anglosphere or EU goes first and foremost to those with capital backing to support them.  It does for sure.  They are also right insofar as access to capital buys outcomes within those polities which can be detrimental to individuals.  But those without capital backing are far more llikely to get outcomes to support their circumstances in those legal and political systems than their counterparts in (eg) China, where the entire point of the autocracy is to reempphasise the point that it is the State which controls outcomes, and that those wishing to change outcomes need to engage with the State (the autocracy) on its terms – which invariably mean seeking political outcomes through a range of vested pecuniary interests, and through processes which are invariably very tightly controlled by those interests as the mechanisms of the State (where any critique of the management of those processes becomes a critique of the State and can be rebuffed on those grounds regardless of any ‘merit’.

    Ultimately comes a point (when balancing one against the other) where a decision between being a possible/probable corporate peon in the Western world needs to be balanced against being a State controlled peon in an Autocracy (China for starters).  Even if the ‘West’ seems to have declined in terms of its ability to enable ‘freedom’ and enable capacity to influence interactions with capitalised players in the legal system, and has lost economic vibrancy through the wholesale trashing of manufacturing and outsourcing of this to jurisdictions where labour rights and outcomes are lesser, it still retains something of all of these.  The comparison then becomes one of would an individual have similar scope to address and gain outcomes against autocratic entities (companies, bureaucracies for starters) in an Autocracy.

    That of course is before one gets to the possibility that although the media has been welll and truly reamed across the developed world, in most parts of the world (but not Australia) there is still enough of a functioning media to consider being able to bring attention to issues and influence the polity (and then the judiciary) this way.

    The real questions arising from these people always come back to why we have trashed the strength of the state, and particularly public interest regulatory and monitoring systems, and embedded a power to corporate and capital interests under the guise that through these being ‘efficient’ we as public will get a better outcome from them.  But not much in that questioning would suggest that better outcomes are being gained for most in an autocratic system, other than pose the question of why our elites and political and corporate leaders want to craft a (near) monopoly power akin to their State counterparts in autocracies for those with capital – which would ultimately lead back to the only way to bring about constructive change would be to have a ’revolution’  (accompanied by all sorts of ugliness).

    It isnt really about China, it is about a whole expectation of government and scope for change.  We (the Western world) seem to be deliberately trying to become more sclerotic.  But those touting more engagement with China and acceptance of their approaches to, not just business but life per se, are touting an eternal stuggle against decay itself – because no growth or progress is ever going to be enough and it will always be too much for those controlling the here and now.

    Now theres a lunchtime rant!

  4. Mic SmithMEMBER

    Well said David. What does Professor Curran want to do? Roll over to a dictatorship?