It was only nine months ago, but it seems a world away. On 4 August, 2019, on a mild winter’s Sunday afternoon, helicopters hovered over the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens as a cavalcade of shiny black limousines and police motorbikes swept US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Macquarie Street to deliver a no holds barred speech in the magnificent Mitchell Room of the State Library. Hosted by former Speccie editor Tom Switzer and the Centre for Independent Studies, the address, which included a rousing Q&A with Foreign Minister Marise Payne, laid out in no uncertain terms Secretary Pompeo’s concerns and warnings about China and its aggressive, expansionist, totalitarian government, focusing in particular on China’s predatory economics and ‘debt diplomacy’ in the Pacific region. It was in this context and our own worrying entanglements with Chinese ownership of critical Australian infrastructure that Mr Pompeo made his quip, which became the centrepiece of our 10 August editorial, that ‘you can sell your soul for a can of soya beans’.
‘As was the case during many of his similarly blunt comments, you could not only hear a pin drop, you could hear the bristling hairs and arching backs of many in the room’ we observed in that editorial.
Indeed, what was most noticeable to this publication was how awkward and fraudulent so many politicians, academics and journalists in the room appeared, from Labor’s Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally to Malcom Turnbull, as they eagerly rushed to rub shoulders with the right-hand man of the president they so clearly view with either mild disdain or outright contempt.
As we modestly observed at the time: ‘As the first (and only) publication in Australia to not only support but also accurately predict Donald Trump’s presidential victory, it was both encouraging and highly amusing to see the VIP audience at the State Library, most of whom would clearly have felt far more comfortable had it been a Clintonite up there on the stage, sit in stunned disbelief struggling to absorb Mr Pompeo’s boldness of vision and bluntness of message.’
We went on: ‘The notion that America would ever leave Australia in the lurch, a recurring popular fantasy of the Left, was breezily dismissed. Nonetheless, Mr Pompeo was adamant that not only Australia, but the US and the West in general, had for far too long been complacent about China’s more sinister intentions; citing cyberwarfare, unfair and unprincipled business practices, the creation of large-scale debt in tiny nations throughout the South Pacific and the militarisation of the South China Sea (despite repeated promises from Xi Jinping that this would not happen).’
And that was before Covid-19 either slipped out of a slimy bowl of bat soup or escaped from a Wuhan virology lab, as Mr Pompeo has suggested.
A turbulent nine months later, we now find ourselves with an angry and belligerent China showing its true colours to Australia and the world in the wake of the corona virus pandemic; with crippling sanctions being slapped onto our barley exports to China (and other products) and an out-of-control Chinese ambassador making snide threats and dismissing the Australian push for an inquiry into Covid-19 as a ‘joke’ (before China sniffed the breeze and quickly signed up to it).
As Rebecca Weisser points out this week, the Left in Australia has spent far too many years toadying up to China – think Gough Whitlam, Gareth Evans, Bob Carr, etc. – whilst sneering at the US. We are now reaping the whirlwind of decades of over-reliance on cheap (slave?) labour allowing China to sell us cut-price products and in the process decimating our own manufacturing capabilities.
Now, of course, is the time for Australian manufacturing and businesses to start the long-overdue process of disentangling ourselves from the CCP’s tentacles. Free markets and open trade are all very well and good, but only if they are between nations that are both free and open. For too long, China has taken advantage of our gullibility and good natures.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shown himself to be a strong and resolute leader in the current face-off. We applaud him for that, and for his success in setting up the international inquiry into the virus.
It remains to be seen how much additional pressure is applied by China, and through what means, to either manipulate the inquiry’s findings or discredit them.
As Mr Pompeo concluded, ‘The US will not stand by idly while any one nation attempts to reshape the region to its favour at the expense of others … We’re here to stay and we want all Australians to know they can always rely on the United States of America. Just as we talk of Britain as a special relationship, we think of this as an unbreakable relationship.’ Ditto.
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