Asia

China and its Australian Apologists

 

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the high-flying linguist, diplomat, bureaucrat, trade consultant, politician, erstwhile candidate for UN Secretary-General, Harvard scholar and aspirant biographer of President-for-Life Xi Jinping, cannot help lecturing his fellow Australians on how they have triggered the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 2017, for instance, Rudd vented his fury at Prime Minister Turnbull’s patriotic proposal that Australians “stand up” to Beijing’s covert bribery of leading local figures:

That was just nuts … I was in Beijing at the time. You know, the whole debate in Australia about foreign interference—they don’t by large numbers pay much attention up there … and then suddenly in thunders Malcolm, and he picks the phrase which Mao Zedong [used in 1949]: The Chinese people have stood up.

Australia, allegedly, is in peril because Sino-Australian relations went “down the gurgler” due to bunglers like Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison et al who are not sophisticated Sinologists like Rudd. Almost the opposite, I would argue, is the case. Australia is in peril because so-called China experts, such as Kevin Rudd, have been played. Rudd’s pretence at being an erudite interpreter of China’s Communist Politburo stands revealed as not only a fraud but is irrevocably associated with an era that has passed into the annals of history. Kevin Rudd is yesterday’s man twice over.

This essay appears in October’s Quadrant.
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Relations between Australia and the PRC have undergone two distinct phases and now, almost certainly, are transitioning towards a third. Kevin Rudd’s judgment that the imperialist-Leninists in Beijing “don’t by large numbers pay much attention” to Australia’s foreign policy is contradicted by the evidence. Prime Minister Morrison had barely returned from the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva when Beijing’s special envoy to the region, Wang Xuefeng, was announcing plans to help Pacific nations mitigate the effects of global warming. The notion that the PRC, with official plans to expand its coal-fired capacity by 25 per cent, is on the cutting edge of global warming alleviation is farcical. On the other hand, bribing Pacific nations to diminish Australia’s leading role in the Pacific Islands Forum is a different matter. Pressuring New Zealand to sign up to Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is another piece of China’s imperialist-Leninist puzzle. We are, quite likely, talking about the emergence of a latter-day version of Imperial Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. What role Beijing has devised for us to perform and what role, if any, Australia might be prepared to play are matters of urgent concern.             

The exact nature of the era we are now entering cannot be known with any certainty, and yet it is guaranteed to be—as the Chinese are wont to say—“interesting”. Consider the unprecedentedness of West Australian Liberal MP Andrew Hastie’s warning, in his bombshell op-ed in the Fairfax press on August 7, about the PRC’s foreign policy, equating it with Hitler’s ambitions during the 1930s. Our “authoritarian neighbour”, asserted Hastie, has an interest in the Indo-Pacific region akin to Nazi Germany evaluating the deterrence of the Maginot Line before the Second World War. Hastie’s comparison with Imperial Japan’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region might have been more accurate, but other than that his point is well made. Such unconcealed antipathy towards the PRC has not been articulated in such unambiguous terms in Australian politics since 1971, when Prime Minister William McMahon accused Labor Opposition Leader Gough Whitlam of disloyalty to America for meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong. The realpolitik of Kissinger–Nixon would soon enough nullify McMahon’s criticism.   

But that was then, and this is now. Starkly put, will a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing force Australian to choose between political integrity and economic advantage? Would we consciously uncouple from the PRC and put at risk an export market that buys almost a third of our total exports? Or will we, at the other end of the scale, kowtow to Communist China and make the most of the material benefits afforded us through membership of Beijing’s version of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Is that the choice we are facing? As Hastie wrote: “Australia must now, somehow, hold on to our sovereignty and prosperity. We must balance security and trade.” We are, then, in the midst of a historic crisis that our China experts in the diplomatic corps, the professoriate and the political class assured us would never happen.

How did we get here? Formal Australia–PRC relations, in their first phase between 1949 and 1972, were not simply icy but non-existent. Canberra refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Communist-ruled PRC while maintaining diplomatic contacts with the Nationalist Chinese who had fled to the island fortress of Taiwan after losing the civil war in 1949. I recall, as a primary school lad in 1966, writing a letter to “The Embassy of China” requesting project material only to receive, by return mail, a large brown envelope with a colourful map of Taiwan inside. Although a number of Western leaders, including Britain’s Prime Minister Clement Attlee, were quick off the mark in 1950 to recognise Mao Zedong’s Communist Politburo as the legitimate power in China, Australia’s newly elected Prime Minister Robert Menzies hesitated. Before long 270,000 members of the People’s Volunteer Army were crossing the Yalu River into Korea to confront the armed forces of the United Nations, which included Australians. Official recognition of the People’s Republic of China was off the agenda. In the mid-1960s, with the Vietnam War raging, Canberra authorised a formal diplomatic mission to Taiwan or, as my primary school project referred to it, the Republic of China.

The menacing side of the PRC expressed itself in the Sino-Soviet Pact of 1949-50 and military intervention in Korea and Vietnam. “Political power grows from out of the barrel of a gun,” as Chairman Mao himself would say. Internally, martial law was declared in the far-flung provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet from the inception of the PRC. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) brutally suppressed an indigenous Tibetan independence movement in 1959. India’s generosity to Tibetan exiles was punished in 1962 when the PLA invaded India along the disputed Himalayan border. China’s Communist Politburo gave its unreserved support to the Soviet Union’s bloody assault on Hungary’s 1956 Revolution. Admittedly, the PRC rebuked the Warsaw Pact for doing exactly the same thing to Czechoslovakia in 1968. What had changed between 1956 and 1968, according to Maoist ideology, was that the Soviet Union, “the first socialist state in the world”, became an “imperialist” power through the “restoration of capitalism”. More likely, the Great Helmsman tired of Nikita Khrushchev’s refusal to acknowledge Mao Zedong as the torchbearer of Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin thought after the death of Joseph Stalin.

In his 1956 Secret Speech, “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”, Khrushchev denounced the Cult of Personality and recommended, in its stead, a system of collective leadership. Mao, “the Red Sun in the Hearts of the People of the World”, had found someone to abhor more than Chiang Kai-shek. Certainly, Khrushchev came to signify a very different kind of Marxist-Leninism from Mao: Khrushchev advocated (in theory) peaceful co-existence with the West; Mao exuded a radical disregard for the Cold War impasse. Mao, unlike the initially ambivalent Khrushchev, backed North Vietnam’s plan, in the late 1950s, to launch a guerrilla war against South Vietnam under the guise of the so-called National Liberation Front/Viet Cong. Events in Cuba, admittedly, overturned some of these preconceptions. Khrushchev loved to be photographed with Fidel Castro, but maybe it was the Soviet regime’s squalid cynicism that explains this love of posing with a youthful, energetic revolutionary icon. The PRC, at the time, did not possess the financial wherewithal to buy Cuba’s fealty.      

If the West, not least Australia, was disturbed by Mao Zedong’s adventurism, including Communist Chinese MiG-15s and MiG-17s dogfighting Nationalist China’s F-86s in the skies above the Taiwan Strait throughout the 1950s, spare a thought for the trauma he inflicted on his own captive population. Behind the Bamboo Curtain, beyond the prying eyes of foreigners, the Chinese Communist Party did its worst. Mao’s totalitarianism could be described as wave after wave of systematic terror, starting with the slaughter of 1.5 million people—according to Philip Short—in the “Land Reform” campaign. By the autumn of 1950, Simon Leys estimated, 80 per cent of China’s population had been forced to “take part in mass accusation meetings, or to watch organised lynchings and public executions”. And things only went downhill from there.

Few outsiders guessed the full horror of the Great Leap Forward (1958 to 1962) or any other homicidal rectification campaign launched by Mao Zedong, and yet most Australians did not have to know the details to get the picture. The psychosis of Maoism was first revealed to me, as a ten-year-old in suburban Australia, in evening news accounts of the Red Guards during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. On one occasion, while watching footage of frenzied crowds brandishing aloft copies of The Little Red Book, I wondered out loud if these fanatics might somehow be a threat to my secure childhood. My father, turning from the television, reassured me: “They live a long way from here.”

Radicalised university students in the West, including America’s 200,000-strong Students for a Democratic Society, saw Maoism in a very different light. By 1969, with the Vietnam War still raging, the SDS was commandeered by an alliance of Maoists and anarchists (later the Weather Underground) who shared two key assumptions. First, Mao Zedong’s erstwhile ally, North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, was not the enemy of the American people but a revolutionary hero; and, second, Vladimir Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism explained the genesis of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and also the reason for modern-day colonialism, inequality and poverty. Western capitalism, to put it in a nutshell, required the exploitation of both the people and the resources of the world in order to remain in business.

The greatest populariser of this brand of New Left politics, Noam Chomsky, former professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was neither a formal Maoist nor an apologist for the Weather Underground; nevertheless, his feted advocacy of Third World national liberation movements, from Castro’s regime and the Palestine Liberation Organisation to South Vietnam’s National Liberation Front and, initially, the Khmer Rouge, was Maoist in all but name. Simply stated: the global economic order was engineered or rigged by Washington and the other powers in the World Bank Group and the World Trade Organisation; consequently, only some variety of anti-US autarky, a là the Republic of Cuba, Democratic Kampuchea, and so on, could guarantee the dignity and self-determination of sovereign Third World people.

For tenured revolutionists in the West, however, Maoist fervour was a transitory business. With the curtailment of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the demise of the “Gang of Four” in 1976, new anti-US revolutionary scenarios needed to be found and championed. Chomsky, for instance, took up the cause of the Sandinistas, Michel Foucault celebrated the 1979 Islamic putsch in Iran, many later championed Bolivarian demagoguery in South America, and almost all have become Zionophobes (see “How the Left Became Anti-Semitic”, Quadrant, November 2012).

The tragedy for true believers, such as Adelaide University’s Neale Hunter, is that the rise and rise of Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping from 1976 marked the end of the PRC’s experiment with anti-capitalist autarky and (aspirant) notions of an egalitarian people’s community. Hunter’s Shanghai Journal: An Eyewitness Account of the Cultural Revolution (1969) was an internationally acclaimed first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai. The Chinese-speaking Hunter had been less a communist than a Roman Catholic when he landed a job as a teacher of English in the PRC in 1965. Mesmerised by Maoist utopianism, Hunter convinced himself that the passionate and ferocious Red Guards creating mayhem in Shanghai were engaged in a great struggle on behalf of the people against the privileged. The youth of China, soon to be imitated by student protesters in France, West Germany, the United States and to some extent Australia, were fighting for a “new mass democracy”.

Mao Zedong, as almost everyone in China knew perfectly well, was not just a fifth member of the ousted “Gang of Four” but its ringleader. Mao’s wife Jian Qing, who had been selected by Mao to serve in the Communist Politburo, disclosed this at her “Special Trial” in 1980: “I was Chairman Mao’s dog, I bit whomever he asked me to bite.”

Neale Hunter understood perfectly well that the purging of Mao’s closest ideological allies on October 6, 1976, signified the end of Maoism—though not Leninism—in the PRC. He could not hide his despair at the defeat of China’s radicals. At the start of a lecture to his Chinese Politics students later in October 1976, Hunter read out a poem he had penned the night before. I cannot recall it in any detail, but there was something about Chairman Hua Guofeng being an agent of the CIA, and a final line about Hunter’s imminent resignation from the Politics Department. The poem done, our highly esteemed lecturer stepped from the dais and, to our embarrassed silence, departed the room, his life’s major work in ruins. Hunter left for the countryside, whereupon he became an expert on Australian birdlife and published a number of poetry volumes. In the foreword to a 1989 edition of Shanghai Journal he expresses disdain for a post-Mao China ruled over by capitalist-Leninists, or what Mao Zedong himself had termed “capitalist roaders”.

In hindsight, at least, Maoist experimentation had run its course by December 1968 when millions of Red Guards were banished from the cities to the harsh hinterland in the “Down to the Countryside Movement”. The PLA, meanwhile, restored order in factories and municipalities that had descended into virtual civil war conditions. While Maoists such as Lin Biao (d. 1971), Xie Fuzhi (d. 1973), Kang Sheng (d. 1975), Jian Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen retained control of the media and propaganda complex, Premier Zhou Enlai and those more closely aligned with the capitalist-Leninist faction of the Party, like Deng Xiaoping, were given the task of preventing the complete disintegration of a society and economy traumatised by years of Mao’s millennial madness. With the Maoists (“the Reds”) and the capitalist-Leninists (the “Pragmatists” or “Moderates”) unable to gain a clear advantage over each other, the period from 1968 to 1976 might be regarded as an unproductive stalemate. Mao succeeded brilliantly on the diplomatic front after failing so spectacularly on the economic one. In a few short years, he almost single-handedly transformed the PRC from the civilised world’s pariah into, as he himself put it, “the other half of the sky”.  

Mao could thank, more than anything else, President Richard Nixon’s pilgrimage to Beijing in 1972 for his foreign policy reversal. The summit between America’s veteran Cold Warrior and Chairman Mao changed everything. For the USA it provided, after the setbacks of the Vietnam War, leverage against the Soviet Union and the beginning of détente. It was, in short, an act of realpolitik. For the PRC, on the other hand, here was the beginning of a process that would lead to the replacement of Taiwan on the UN Security Council, and so much more. Ordinary Americans were still discouraged from visiting Cuba but going behind the Bamboo Curtain was no longer frowned upon. Not that the new wave of Western visitors, including Hollywood celebrity Shirley MacLaine, made any more sense of the nightmare that was Mao’s China than the likes of Neale Hunter a decade before. MacLaine’s account of the PRC circa 1975, to be found in You Can Get There from Here (1976), is described as “life affirming”. Her memoir (and attendant documentary) were, inevitably, less about China than her own narcissistic odyssey of “personal discovery”. The PRC, in any case, was no longer the great bogeyman of the West.

Australia’s then Opposition Leader, Gough Whitlam, was ahead of the curve when he visited the PRC in 1971. During the era of conservative rule in Australia, from 1949 to 1972, when the PRC was an anathema, Australian leaders had feared “the downward thrust of Communist China between the Indian and Pacific oceans”. Not so Whitlam and all those political leaders who followed after him. Dire warnings about the Red Peril by, say, B.A. Santamaria, an anti-communist stalwart and Roman Catholic traditionalist, now sounded anachronistic. Peter Cai, in his October 2014 obituary for Gough Whitlam in the Australian, claimed that Whitlam was not Communist China’s “Manchurian Candidate” and always remained “steadfast in his defence of the ANZUS Treaty”. Whitlam’s positive engagement with Beijing was not an affirmation of the domestic policies of China’s Communist Politburo, but a coming of age for Australia, whose “relationship with Asia was largely based on fear and a sense of superiority”. Stephen Fitzgerald, Australia’s first ambassador to the PRC, explained the significance of Whitlam’s 1971 China pilgrimage in just such terms:

He believed that to change the relationship with Asia in substance there had to be a change in the way Australians thought and felt about it, from negative to positive. Not positive about communism, but certainly positive about acceptance of Asian states with different social systems.

Here we have the poisonous brew of geopolitical naivety combined with politically-correct orthodoxy. We must ingratiate ourselves with Communist China because this demonstrates our post-Anglo broadmindedness, even though common sense could have told us that friendly relations with the PRC’s Communist Politburo is not a measure of racial tolerance. The Taiwanese are appreciative of all things Chinese but that does not stop them from fearing Beijing’s imperialist-Leninism.

President Nixon’s rapprochement with Mao’s China was an act of realpolitik, the function of a particular moment in the twists and turns of the Cold War. Nixon’s tryst with Mao in 1972 had everything to do with a Sino-American desire to formally transmute the Cold War into a tri-polar rather than a bi-polar arrangement. Surely the geo-political reason for rapprochement with Communist China disappeared with the dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991. Our continuing positive engagement with the most tyrannical regime on the face of the Earth—one, moreover, that wishes to reduce us to the status of tributary state—serves no greater purpose than an export market for our primary resources. The Whitlam–Rudd protocol, if we may call it that, has turned out to be little more than a salve for our ruling class who, better than Morrison’s “quiet Australians”, always know what is in the best interests of our nation. Remember the disdain surrounding President George W. Bush’s speech to the Australian Parliament in October 2003 and the fawning over President Hu Jintao’s parliamentary address just one day later.

In the case of Kevin Rudd, for instance, we have a self-avowed Sinologist who made his first direct contact with the PRC, as a junior diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in the mid-1980s. He had been a student at the Australian National University of Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys), a scholar who denounced Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Moreover, WikiLeaks disclosures show that as Prime Minister (from 2007 to 2010 and again in 2013), Kevin Rudd expressed doubts that the PRC could be counted upon to behave like a modern, law-abiding nation, telling Hillary Clinton on 2010 that he was a “brutal realist on China”. In the same vein, as Foreign Minister, he publicly lauded President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” and supported Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s endorsement of a US base on our soil as a safeguard against Communist China’s future ambitions in the region. That said, the evidence points to the reality that Rudd has, in public at least, done everything within his power to normalise in Australia’s and the world’s eyes the PRC’s ruling clique, as if the ascendant capitalist-Leninist faction of the CCP is not an agent of paranoia and despotism with global ambitions.  

Take, for example, Rudd’s lengthy prognosis for Sino-American relations in 2019, delivered to Asia Society New York towards the end of 2018. There is much detail in it and you might be forgiven, on first reading the transcript, for believing that Rudd has something weighty to say about averting a war—“either cold, medium or hot?”—between Beijing and Washington. On closer inspection, however, there is almost no substance to his admonition. The West and the PRC continue to view each other through “the fog of perception and misperception” and it is the role of experts such as Kevin Rudd to provide helpful analysis in order to initiate “a new strategic equilibrium”. The crisis has occurred, in the opinion of Rudd, because President Trump undercut “the traditional moorings of US–China relations” and threatened the stability of the global economy with his introduction of tariffs against China and his America First rhetoric. Rudd, astonishingly, believes this provides the “reformers” in Communist China with the opportunity to comprehensively liberalise their economy and finally open up the PRC to unfettered foreign investment, with the Party nomenklatura restricting itself to “competitive neutrality between foreign firms and domestic firms, as well as between private firms and state-owned enterprises”. This is what Kevin Rudd, back in December 2018, encouraged President-for-Life Xi to do in order to gain the trust of the world. He omitted to mention that such a course of action would compel Xi Jinping and Co to surrender absolute power. Clearly, President-for-Life Xi, as events in Hong Kong illustrate, has not been heeding the advice of Kevin Michael Rudd.

Rudd might have been mentored at a formative age by Pierre Ryckmans about the perfidy of Mao Zedong’s CCP, but there is a sense in which he entirely misunderstands the irreformability of Deng Xiaoping’s CCP. Deng, who spent time in Paris as a younger man, was a more widely travelled and urbane character than Mao, and yet the commitment of the two Supreme Leaders to both Sino-revivalism and Leninism was equal, differing only in how to achieve the goal of global hegemony. Mao, as Jung Chang and Jon Halliday detail in Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), originally saw the PRC’s trajectory towards superpowerdom through an alliance with the Soviet empire and the defeat of the United States (using nuclear weaponry if necessary), and Beijing’s replacement of Moscow as the capital of communism. Deng’s Four Modernisations involved a similar standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants route to superpowerdom, albeit with America rather than the Soviet Union providing the necessary lift-off. Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of short-term obsequiousness towards Uncle Sam can be understood, in retrospect, by his transient invasion of Vietnam in March 1979.                               

Perhaps if Kevin Rudd had made his diplomatic debut in China earlier, he might not have become such an apologist for the PRC. By the time he arrived on the scene, the new post-Mao rulers in China had their totalitarian game plan sorted. In stark contrast, American researcher Steven W. Mosher was unhindered in his search for the truth because he undertook his field studies in 1979, during that brief window of opportunity between Mao’s demise in 1976 and Deng’s undisputed supremacy after the crushing of the Democracy Wall movement at the end of October 1979. Mosher’s photographs of young Chinese women being prepared for abortion when seven or eight months pregnant caused a storm of protest from Beijing, resulting in Mosher being ousted from Stanford University. But he had seen the truth, as I did as a witness to the Democracy Wall movement, and once you have a hold of the truth it is hard to hand it back. Mosher’s subsequent work, including Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese (1984), Journey to Forbidden China (1985), China Misperceived (1990) and Bully of Asia: Why “China’s Dream” Is the New Threat World Order (2017), tells a very different tale about Communist China and its quest for global supremacy than does Kevin Rudd’s apologia.

What is especially egregious about Rudd’s Asia Society New York address is his pretended unease about the advent of “neo-McCarthyism” through the “conflation of the Chinese Communist Party and the simple word Chinese”. Politically correct inanity is truly the last refuge of the scoundrel. The Whitlam–Rudd consensus was that the politics of Communist China should not impede Australia’s appreciation of Chinese civilisation, and yet now Kevin Rudd wants to reverse this dictum entirely: we must not criticise Communist China because that might have racist implications. Again, are not the Hong Kongers Chinese? Are not many of the pro-Hong Kong demonstrators in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne expatriates of Chinese descent? Rudd, like so many Western Sinologists, has fallen into the trap of conflating China with the CCP. Sydney University’s vice-chancellor, Michael Spence, made the same error when he cautioned Australians “to be careful that the whole debate [about the PRC] doesn’t have overtones of the White Australia policy”.     

Australia’s ruling class, as exemplified by Kevin Rudd and Michael Spence, have failed the ordinary people of this country. They have not been alone in their dereliction of duty, of course. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo never said a truer word when he declared “the world has been asleep at the switch”. The likes of Rudd regret that “strategic co-operation” with the PRC has been replaced by “strategic competition”, and yet the PRC has been our adversary since its founding in 1949, and the pre-eminence of Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping only marked a change of tactics but not in its ultimate purpose—the submission of the West and global domination. There have been warnings enough about Beijing’s imperial ambitions, including Peter Navarro’s The Coming China Wars (2006) and Death by China (2011), but we were not ready to hear them. President-for-Life Xi Jinping’s stridency of late has caught Australians off guard, from the snarling rebukes to former Foreign Minister Bishop and former Prime Minister Turnbull and the demand that Qantas no longer refer to Taiwan as the Republic of China, to the request that Australian university staff provide passport details before teaching students from the PRC. Not-so-friendly panda has been displaying its claws for some while now, but maybe it took the events in Hong Kong to finally focus our attention.

The PRC’s covert struggle against the West, not excluding Australia, has been going on right under our eyes. Xi Jinping’s hubris has just made it harder for us to fool ourselves about the advantages of positive engagement and the delusion of a strategic alliance. Bill Gertz’s Deceiving the Sky: Inside Communist China’s Drive for Global Supremacy (2019) makes clear that China is not only brandishing the “weapons of job destruction”—as Navarro would say—against the West but every cyber-weapon at its disposal to target the secrets of all and sundry, from the United States Navy to the Boeing Company. We are, according to Gertz, talking about a legion of 100,000 state-employed hackers appropriating anything that might be of advantage to the imperialist-Leninists in Beijing. China’s Cyber Corps, as it is now called, is linked to the People’s Liberation Army and the Ministry of Public Security, both gangster-like instruments of the Communist Politburo. The hirelings of Big Brother are being motivated with catchy axioms such as: “Carry Forward the Thinking on People’s War, Win Cyber Network War in the Future.” The Cyber Corps has, metaphorically speaking, crossed the Yalu River and is now intent on destroying Western imperialist running dogs, of which Australia is one.

The PRC’s “people’s war” against Australia, then, is identical to the “People’s War” against America. This is how it was in 1950; this is how it is today. The Cyber Corps hacked Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology in 2015 and national security research at the Australian National University in 2017. It is not a matter of debate that a percentage of tertiary students from the PRC, who make up the largest component of a $30 billion overseas student business, are paid emissaries of the Ministry of Public Security, with some actually disclosing these connections. All of this is but the tip of the iceberg. In 2013 came the news that China’s spies had stolen the blueprint for ASIO’s headquarters. It seems as if every week new examples of “collaboration” between Australian university researchers and PRC agents comes to light. In some cases, no doubt, university personnel have been tricked into betraying Australia because of the naive half-century-old maxim that only positive outcomes can derive from strategic engagement with the PRC. We have been under siege for years, only we did not know or, to be accurate, did not want to know.                           

Australia is in desperate need of a new modus operandi for dealing with the PRC. Not surprisingly, Kevin Rudd’s 2018 lecture about “a new strategic equilibrium” founded on economic reform in China has proven illusory. In truth, apologists of this type are essentially asking us to continue the positive engagement or appeasement approach of 1972 to 2019. We might be better served to revisit the original 1949 to 1972 phase in our interactions (or lack thereof) with Communist China. At least we would not have to mouth PC absurdities about how the Chinese people “stood up” when communist warlord Mao Zedong (and his millennialist army) conquered the country and then set themselves up in Zhongnanhai, the imperial gardens in the old Imperial City. We would also be free to explore the right of Hong Kongers to be independent. And if the people of Hong Kong are “quelled” by the PLA, as Carrie Lam blithely puts it, at least we might learn something from a people’s struggle against the People’s Republic.

Resuming our original antipathy to China’s version of Stalinism, now reconfigured as Xi Jinping Thought, might encourage us to rethink our commitment to Taiwan, which Australia once recognised as the Republic of China. We could, at the very least, come to appreciate, as earlier generations did, that the fate of Taiwan is not unrelated to our own. My no-nonsense father turned out to be wrong about one thing on the subject of the PRC: our adversaries do not live a long way from here.          

Daryl McCann has a blog. He tweets at @dosakamccann.

 

3 comments
  • Max Rawnsley

    Excellent analysis by McCann.
    We are now heading back with the life appointment of Xi Jinping to a ‘red’ world vision, if there was ever any doubt. The Belt and Road initiative is the stalking horse to establish influence and control.. Vic and WA government are in thrall, with Andrews even planning a visit and that’s just Australia. Africa? Pacific Islands?.

    Its an easy call for politicians. Become fellow travellers at your peril, you are an intended cog, nothing more in a socialist machine starkly different in nature to a western democracy. But the apologists gather hardly aware they are being used, but then China can be confident there are more to take their place.

    I have noticed several writers several even in the Australian running the uncritical quasi apology line in extolling the Chines miracle so I imagine this will grow and the new normal will resort to the old catch cry of racism etc for all who dissent. The arrogance of a one party state was in evidence with the China Ambassador listing the achievement of his country.

    Truth was an early casualty. No mention of the Muslims herded as, apparently, terrorists. “the detention of up to two million people in the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang region was “not targeted at any religious group”, and was no different from anti-terror measures undertaken by Western countries”

    But he went on ““Economically speaking, China has grown from a poor and backward nation into the world’s second largest economy, which accounts for about 16 per cent of the world’s GDP,” he said.
    “China is now the largest trader in goods and the second largest trader in services. It is also the largest industrial country and biggest holder of foreign exchange.”
    How does this square with China not conforming to the UN Climate Change approach on the basis of its economic status?

    We do need to co exist but on our terms

  • whitelaughter

    The simplest way to deal with Beijing is that every time they tick us off, a randomly selected staff member and their position from our Embassy there is moved to Taiwan. While the ambassador moving would be amusing, having the staff responsible for student visas in Taipei would be even funnier.

    That Krudd has been taken for a ride by China cannot possibly be news to anybody.

  • padraic

    An excellent summary of the current situation with China and its background. Two statements struck me, viz “the fate of Taiwan is not unrelated to our own” and we need “a new modus operandi to deal with China.” The first statement reminded me of the attempt by Japan in WW2 to colonise much of Asia, including Australia. A new way of looking at China may be to examine if China is behaving as a new imperial power, instead of just modernising and improving the lot of its citizens and enjoying good and respectful relations with the rest of the world.
    The history of humans has many aspects. One aspect is the tendency to have empires. Empires probably existed before recorded history. They never stop happening. After the European powers (including Russia) exited their colonies in Africa and Asia between the 1940s to the 1980s, and Japan’s attempt at colonisation (of Australia at al) was defeated in WW2, many drew a sigh of relief and thought that this would be an end to that aspect of history and we could all sit back in our comfortable nation states and watch the United Nations do its thing and we would live happily ever after. However, colonialism is very infectious and has become resistant to the UN antibiotic (in fact, in view of Morrison’s recent justifiable comments re the UN, we need a new antibiotic). The UN appears to have lost interest in world peace and is more interested in Goldilocks and the 3 bears.
    There have been many empires and for different reasons, usually driven by internal and/or external forces on a community. The early Greek colonies around the Mediterranean region like Marseille in 600BC, Syracuse in Sicily, Cyrenaica in Libya etc began as trading posts, mainly in olive oil. These were colonised by internally displaced Greeks and their geographical control was usually limited to small city states, (a bit like the non-conformist Quakers and Ranters fleeing to America from UK). By 400 BC the Persians added Greece to their empire. This was an external factor and initiated the pushback by the Greeks leading to the Greek empire (323BC) of Alexander the Great which stretched from Spain to India. Whole nations came under his control through war augmented by sending colonists to settle in the conquered territories. There were 20 cities that bore his name from Egypt (Alexandria) to Afghanistan (Kandahar) with large Greek populations. From 202 BC to 220 AD the Han dynasty in China controlled a huge empire via military expansion which included those parts of Central Asia associated with the Silk Road, as well as Korea and the northern part of Vietnam. There followed the Roman Empire whose western part was reduced as Attila forged the Empire of the Huns (450AD) through war, stretching from Persia to France through central Europe, reducing the Roman Empire to around the Mediterranean and this eventually shrunk to become the Byzantine Empire. By 562 AD a pushback against the Huns resulted in the East of their empire being lost to in the West to the Frankish kingdoms and in the East we saw the beginnings of a religious aspect to colonisation as the Muslim Avars formed the Avar Khanate. By AD 771 this religious influence on empire grew into the Abbasid Caliphate which controlled most of North Africa through to the Middle East and with the Umayad Emirate controlling most of Spain and the Khazar Khanate up against the border of Hungary (Magyars). These Muslim empires as well as the smaller Christian kingdoms and empires in Western Europe were both threatened by the expanding empire of Genghis Khan which stretched in 1230 AD from Persia to Korea and included big chunks of China. By 1278 AD the Khanate of the Golden Horde was pressing up against Poland, Hungary and Eastern Russia and the Baltic States and the Mongols had taken over what had been the Persian Empire. The popular history of empires is usually confined to the countries in the northern hemisphere that stretch from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans but empires occurred elsewhere such as in Africa and South America. In West Africa’s “Gold Coast” from the 8th to the 11th century you had the Ghana Wagadu Empire covering Ghana, Senegal and Mauritania. This was followed in the 16th century by the Songhai Empire which stretched from the Cameroons to the Maghreb and like the Ghana Empire was involved in the gold trade. In Southern Africa the Mutapa Empire lasted from the 15th to the 18th Century from Zimbabwe to the Indian ocean and traded with Portuguese and expanded from its beginnings by force and by encouraging groups to join the empire voluntarily and a seat on an “Empire Council”. Shaka the Zulu (1787-1828) forged a Zulu kingdom by uniting various clans through carrot and stick methods and dissident groups like the Ngoni and Ndebele expanded the kingdom into a de facto empire when they colonised big chunks of neighbouring countries – the Ngoni finished up in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania and the Ndebel e in south-west Zimbabwe. In South America the Inca Empire was formed through a combination of conquest and peaceful assimilation, backed up by a religion supported by human sacrifice (always a big incentive for citizens to toe the line – vide the Druids in pre-Roman times in Europe, and in countries around the Mediterranean at the time of Abraham). Similarly the Aztec Empire covered large parts of Central America from the 14th to the 16th centuries.
    The above thumbnail sketch of the history of just a few of the empires that ever existed is to illustrate that it is not only white Europeans who indulge in empire building but it appears to be in the DNA of all humans. In examining the potential of China as a new coloniser one needs to look at any reasons for empire such as a pushback, trading, religion, war, settlement, internal displacement. In relation to pushback, one hears a lot from China about the “century of humiliation” used to blame European powers for their lack of development in the 19th century. In the 21st century could this be a justification for imperial expansion? Are they wanting revenge against Japan for its war on China in the 1940s? It’s very fashionable for superiority complexed left wing self-loathers to wallow and live in the past, as we see in our own society. Trading has been good to modern China. Its low cost manufacturing has produced significant capital inflow as has sales of products to the rest of the world. In a sense USA and the rest of us have pulled China out of poverty. But will they want to take over the countries on which they are dependent for their raw materials, like Japan in WW2 taking over Indonesia for its oil? Under European empires trading was just the first step to such a conquest, illustrated by the British in India, the Dutch in Indonesia and the Portuguese in Angola – to name a few examples. How can China claim to be a mendicant state in relation to its international trading status and at the same time find the money to establish bases in other countries through its BRI? Does this mean that other countries are indirectly funding this “peaceful” expansion and influence? Religion in the West has largely become a personal choice and not a socially controlling arm of society, but in China Communism has taken on the role of a fundamentalist controlling religion with its mass face recognition systems, its social credit system and control of the Internet and its inability to tolerate other religions and hence suppress them, like in Tibet and in the Uighur territory. Are the Confucius Centres platforms for zealots to spread the new religion of Communism? One reads that the rulers in China see their system as a viable future for others. How would they bring this about? Does settlement of Tibet and the Uighur territory by Han Chinese to the extent that the original inhabitants could become an ethnic minority, as well as forcing them to adopt another language indicate an imperial trend? Similarly, is the development of a large diaspora in outside countries a sign of imperial intent? In European empires external colonies were run by Governors with a military background to control independently minded settlers as well as the indigenous people, should the need arise – vide the miners’ rebellion in Ballarat. Because of the “tyranny of distance” and poor communication many settlers and their subsequent generations lost contact with the metropolitan power and asserted themselves politically as in the USA . These days such a model has become redundant, what with aeroplanes and Internet and SBS (even minus the SBS, given modern communication) there is little need for newcomers to assimilate into their new society and they can form apartheid type enclaves potentially controlled by the metropolitan. Does that represent a realistic potential for empire?
    Like many, I don’t have an answer to the above questions, but as a non-believer in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, I believe they need answering. Perhaps a realistic examination of those questions and issues by an objective academic historian would help clear the fog and develop a new modus operandi in dealing with China.

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