Flat White

‘Gave jade, received brick’

23 March 2022

12:00 PM

23 March 2022

12:00 PM

A pregnant woman and her unborn child lost their lives after the bombing of the hospital at Mariupol. The terrified, bewildered faces of refugees huddled in underground bunkers. University students with rifles manning barricades and women filling beer bottles to make Molotov cocktails to throw at Russian tanks. Reports that it is the Russians, not the Ukrainians, who are bringing in ‘foreign fighters’ – Chechens.

Ukraine’s agony playing out on our screens may, in a terrible irony, have bought time for Taiwan. And, perhaps, Australia as well…

Xi Jinping must surely be now evaluating the failure of Putin’s military strategy of what was meant to be a short, sharp invasion to sweep away opposition in complete surrender amidst an acquiescent, flag-waving populace. 

But no, in a turnaround that Moscow and Beijing could not have foreseen, the world watched as ordinary Ukrainians fought back, resisted, and prepared to defend their city street by street, house by house. 

China’s aging leader must surely have taken into account that similar pictures of women and children in Taiwan, fleeing invasion, would not go down well for his country; he may even be regretting the declaration of friendship between Moscow and Beijing, signed off at the Beijing Winter Games (and why didn’t we hear more, or anything, about this, from our national broadcaster?) 

Even more ironically, Taipei is now the centre for China news-gathering, after the iron curtain on media which has fallen in Hong Kong. (Even Your ABC’s China correspondent reports from Taipei.)

Growing up in Queensland, there were stories of the Brisbane Line – a desperate, thrown-together strategy that evacuated women and children packed onto old rattlers bound for Roma Street station, stock driven south and the Americans arriving to bolster our defences. 

China’s military Belt and Road strategy could be summed up as, first take Taiwan, then the Philippines, and so on inexorably down the chain until only Australia stands in its road.

(Let’s leave New Zealand out of the equation, if Ardern is still around at this time, we may be confident she’d be writing her welcome speech, In Maori, of course.)

There’s an ancient Chinese saying, ‘Gave jade, received brick’.

Perhaps Beijing is now considering carefully the ramifications of backing Russia’s war against Ukraine too heartily and the international sanctions being levied against Russia.

We can only hope.

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