When are we going to start getting real about China? When are we going to stop pretending that China is potentially a normal nation like the United States or Britain or even India that we can keep trading with to our mutual benefit, while waiting for its supposed emerging middle class to soften its communist aggressiveness and turn it into a hail-fellow-well-met fully paid-up member of the comity of civilised nations in pursuit of nothing more sinister than universal peace and prosperity?
When are we going to open our eyes to the enormous threat that China poses to Australia? – and to the realisation that if China, now perfectly capable of over-running us with its vast armed forces, hasn’t yet attacked it’s most likely because it is waiting until its armed forces are vaster still, and can repel any conventional American attempt to defend us. And of course we are helping to bankroll this Chinese military expansion with our continued purchase of everything China makes. We’ve destroyed our own manufacturing industry, but if China produces something, we’ll buy it. Look around your own home. How many objects are there that are not made in China?
Trade, behind the guise of reciprocal profit, is a perfect mask for aggressors to build up their resources. And China, no matter how unpalatable our importers and exporters might find the fact, is an aggressor – against Tibet, in claiming for itself the South China Sea, in sabre-rattling against Taiwan and potentially against ourselves.
We’ve been here before. Japan at the end of the first world war was on our side, supposedly. As its industrial power expanded Japan became one of our best customers. How many trade delegations were there to and from Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, all spouting platitudes about economic cooperation? We cooperated all right. We helped the Japanese, during their war of aggression against – ironically – China, to get the iron that built their great steel fleets and air force and that, in the form of bombs and shells, later came back to us in the air raids on Darwin and to pulverise our troops in battle. Sir Robert Menzies, now revered in conservative circles as our greatest non-Labor prime minister, took years to live down his part in the iron sales when in 1938, as attorney-general in a government intent on appeasing Japan, he effectively forced the breaking of a union boycott against loading iron for export to Japan. He was dubbed ‘Pig Iron Bob’, and you could see this insult scrawled on walls and railway bridges throughout the land – perhaps it’s even there now in some neglected spot.
Today our big customer is China and we have firms like Fortescue, with two Chinese directors, one also a director of a Chinese state-owned steel company, sending shiploads of iron ore to China and anticipating, according to its CEO, Elizabeth Gaines, ‘a strong ongoing demand for our products’ and, when the Wuhan pandemic is over, ‘a steady recovery in economic activity in that market.’
Lenin is remembered as saying with regard to the overthrow of capitalism, that capitalists would sell the revolutionaries the rope with which they themselves would be hanged. China is a Marxist-Leninist state. Marxist-Leninists cannot by definition abandon their aim of destroying capitalism and imposing communism. Leopards and spots spring to mind. We are not selling China rope – the rope in your local hardware has actually come from China – but we are selling it the commodities it needs to increase its industrial power, and hence its military power and its capacity to export revolution. That’s bad enough. What is worse is that we are selling ourselves.
‘Australia rides on the sheep’s back,’ they used to say. The huge Chinese textile industry, that inundates the world with cheap wool-based products, also rides on the back of Australia’s sheep. So much so, that to guarantee the raw material at source, Chinese are buying up Australian sheep stations. The famous 2,348-hectare Mawollock property in Victoria is only the latest. The sale of our prime national assets to citizens of a foreign power ought to be unthinkable and especially in the case of a potential enemy. The marketing body Woolmark, unfortunately, thinks differently and rhapsodises on its website that ‘China and Australia are innovating towards a shared future in Australian Merino wool by developing new wool textiles and manufacturing techniques on a breathtaking scale that offers unlimited potential.’
Perhaps. But it would be safer to find other markets for our products. India and post-Brexit Britain both promise well.
China is further asserting its economic power through its iniquitous Belt and Road initiative that effectively blackmails small countries that can’t pay for infrastructure installed in their countries by Chinese contractors into becoming client states of Beijing. And let’s not forget that here in Australia many of the wind ‘farms’ that disfigure the landscape are Chinese-owned.
The trade war in which the United States and China have been engaged since 2018 has dispelled the Western liberal pipe dream of global governance and economic harmony with China as an honoured partner – what Chinese policy-makers rather cryptically call the ‘Community of Common Destiny for Mankind’. The gloves are off. Economic war is the opening phase of China’s strategy to pit itself against America for dominance of Asia and the Pacific – and ultimately the world. President Trump understands this – one wonders whether anyone in Canberra does. For all the infantile sneering in the liberal media at Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign, Australia would do well to consolidate the alliance with America as our only protection against Chinese expansion.
You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist who believes that Beijing deliberately released the Covid-19 virus onto the world – though it wouldn’t be out of character: that thousands of Chinese died in the early stages of the epidemic would be unlikely to bother a regime that has murdered millions of its subjects. But even if one accepts Chinese protestations of the accidental origin of the virus, there’s no denying to whose advantage it is that the economy of the West has suffered serious damage. Cui bono – who profits? Coronavirus is helping the Chinese quest for economic dominance, and so are we.
Australia will not be safe until China is economically and militarily contained. It will help achieve that goal if we reduce our trade with China, even if that means making the sacrifice of buying a more expensive product, locally made or imported from a country that is not a threat to us, or even going without.
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