Wednesday 19th of June 2024

Aussie Useless Krappy Unhappy Sausage.....

The Albanese government’s embrace of the AUKUS security pact faces a second internal rejection in as many weeks, with the Victorian branch of the Labor Party poised to condemn it on multiple fronts, writes Phillip Coorey in the AFR.

Two weeks after the Queensland branch of the ALP, at its state conference, refused to support a motion congratulating the Albanese government ‘‘for investing in the AUKUS agreement’’, two motions condemning the government’s actions will be moved at this week’s Victorian state conference.

 

BY PHILLIP COOREY

 

Sources said that at this stage, the motions were ‘‘likely’’ to pass, which would be an embarrassment for Defence Minister and Victorian Richard Marles in his home branch, and set the scene for a bigger clash when Labor’s triennial national conference convenes in Brisbane in August.

The motions, if they pass, do not bind the federal parliamentary Labor Party, but the discontent threatens to erode its national security credentials, which Mr Albanese believes are as important as economic bona fides if Labor is to entrench itself in office.

The main motion, which will be moved by the Left-aligned Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, expresses ‘‘profound’’ disappointment over the government’s decision to embrace the security pact between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, and to spend up to $368 billion on nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarines.

 

To continue reading, click here to access the full article (paywall) at the Australian Financial Review, published Jun 14, 2023.

 

READ MORE:

https://johnmenadue.com/labors-internal-dissent-over-aukus-is-building/

 

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true multipolarity.....

 

BY Michael Keating

 

America is no longer the dominant hegemon in our region. In its place Australia can and should play an important role in establishing a true multipolar system of governance. But that will first require Australia to resolve the present contradiction between our foreign and defence policies.

The future US-China relationship

The starting point for any review of Australia’s international strategy must be an assessment of the future US-China relationship, focusing on the possible threats and opportunities.

A good start was made in a major speech by the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, at the National Press Club two months ago, where her key point was that we are living in a multipolar region. While Wong thinks that America will remain “indispensable” she understands that America will no longer be the dominant power in Asia.

Instead, Wong said that our national interest is to bring about a region where all countries benefit from a strategic equilibrium where no country dominates and no country is dominated.

Furthermore, the Defence Strategic Review comes to a similar conclusion, stating that “No longer is our alliance partner, the United States, the unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific.”

And as I spelt out in a previous article Why is America so reluctant to acknowledge China’s economic power?the Chinese economy overtook the American economy back in 2016 and has continued to grow much faster ever since. The idea that America can continue to dominate is absurd and not a sound basis for our international strategy.

The problem, however, is that America does not seem to recognise the change in its position in Asia. As Hugh White put it “It is quite clear that the US has no interest in joining China as a co-equal partner in a regional multipolar order.”

And as that most experienced diplomat, Henry Kissinger, said in a recent interview with The Economist, “we are on a path to great-power confrontation.” “Both sides have convinced themselves that the other represents a strategic danger.”

Thus the US, with our support, says that it wants to preserve the so-called “rules-based order”. But that order is not the order enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Instead, it was established by the US and was intended to serve the interests of the US.

It is therefore understandable that China might want to make changes to the US rules-based order – changes that could readily be accommodated by the other nations in the Indo-Pacific. For example, both the IMF and the World Bank have not reflected China’s importance in their governance and decision making.

Furthermore, as Australia’s former Ambassador to China, Geoff Raby says, “an inclusive framework of norms, rules and habits of consultation which include China and of which it is an author [my emphasis], will be the best means of constraining bad behaviour”.

But there is also the problem of US adherence to the new rules, as the US does not always abide by the present rules-based order. Instead, the US is happy to ignore or bend the rules when the rules don’t suit it. For example, the US has never signed up to the UN Law of the Sea, and the US does not always accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court or the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Thus, the US trade sanctions on China have never been authorised by the WTO, while when China introduced trade sanctions on Australia, the US quickly jumped in to take our market. Furthermore, it is not just China that sees America’s new protectionism as an attempt to contain it, America’s allies fear that the Biden Administration’s hyperactive industrial policy will damage them as well.

But whatever one might think of these examples of the US use of its power when it was the dominant hegemon, the reality is that this is no longer the case. And as Penny Wong has made clear we want to live in a multipolar region which no country can dominate.

Australia’s role in encouraging multi-polar governance

The reality is that a multi-polar system of international governance offers the only sustainable way forward. At the very least, Australia should therefore be working to encourage the US to accept the reality of its changed situation and that it needs to work on relations that share the power.

As Hugh White says: “Australia’s best chance of shaping the new order in Asia is to influence America’s approach to it. But we cannot do that as long as our unconditional support for US policy sends the unmistakable message that we are perfectly happy as it is.”

The problem is that both our foreign policy and our defence policy are based on a contradiction. We recognise the reality that we are living in a multipolar region, but we then tie ourselves to an alliance partner that doesn’t.

In addition, as the Australian Government knows, our region is not enthusiastic about great power competition and doesn’t want to be forced to take sides. Like us, these other regional members depend upon both major countries, and we share a common interest in establishing a set of ongoing governance arrangements that accommodates the reasonable demands of all member countries.

For Australia, this would represent a return to the former Australian position where Australia was itself clear that it didn’t wish to take sides in the struggle for influence between the United States and China. But under the Morrison Government, Australia was so often seen as a mouthpiece for America, that it weakened our credibility within the region, and just when we needed it most.

As Geoff Raby said: “A sleight of hand is at work. Great power rivalry between the US and China is driving our policies and those of our regional neighbours. But it is taking Australia in a different direction from our regional neighbours.”

Instead, as the distinguished scholar and former Singapore diplomat, Kishore Mahbubani has said, ASEAN countries want to have good relations with both America and China, and the wisest policy for Australia is to align ourselves with the ASEAN position where we can. That way we could play a significant bridging role between Beijing and Washington. Indeed, as Minister Wong has said, “the value of our engagement in the region is central to the value we add in our alliance with the United States”.

Furthermore, Australia’s standing with other countries in the region would be improved if Australia plays a leading role in influencing America to accept the reality of a multipolar region, which they see as very much in their interests.

Australia’s future relationships with the US and China

As already discussed, Australia cannot be an effective intermediary in promoting a multipolar governance system in our region while it remains an unswerving disciple of America.

The key to Australia’s subservience to the US and our engagement in so many of its wars has been our perception that we depend upon the US for our defence. But we need to identify our own Australian interests clearly and all actions should be determined accordingly.

As Paul Keating recently wrote: “all governments declare that their fundamental responsibility is the defence of the nation. But what they really mean is the defence of the nation’s sovereignty – its right to divine its own destiny.”

Right now, the most immediate threat to Australia’s sovereignty would be a war between the US and China over Taiwan. I like many others do not think Australia should join the US in a defence of Taiwan, and the issue is how that might impact the AUKUS agreement and our purchase of nuclear submarines.

In the past I have defended the purchase of nuclear submarines. While many have argued that China has no intention of attacking Australia, intentions can change quickly. This is why defence forces are usually structured against an assessment of capability of potential adversaries and there is no doubt that China’s capability is rising rapidly.

In that context it is a legitimate response to buy nuclear submarines to strengthen our own independentdefence capability, but that equally requires that we control the use of these submarines. So, if AUKUS is not compatible with Australia being able to determine and protect its own long-run regional interests, as described above, then we should be prepared to let it go.

Indeed, as the Defence Strategic Review said, Australia’s focus should be on “how we ensure that our fate is not determined by others, how we ensure our decisions are our own.” So consistent with the Defence Strategic Review, if AUKUS does not allow us to make our own decisions in our own interest then we are better off without it. Major General Michael G Smith

Furthermore, as Paul Keating wrote: “Australia’s capacity to protect its sovereignty lies not in accession to US interests but in a broad diplomatic and security effort with our Asian neighbours to give the region the resilience they want, the economic growth they need.”

Turning to Australia’s future relationship with China, obviously our two countries do not share the same system of government and values. Of course, Australia will need to push back when its interests and values are challenged. The Albanese Government is right when it says that: “We will cooperate where we can, we will disagree where we must, and we will engage in our national interest.”

But Australia needs to work with other nations on specific issues of national interest, even where they are not like-minded in terms of adherence to liberal values, including respect for human rights. While our ability to push back will be enhanced if we have an ongoing dialogue, especially with China. For example, the renewed discussion at ministerial level has meant that issues that offend Australian values – unexplained detention of Australian citizens in China, human rights matters including Xinjiang and Hong Kong, press and religious freedoms – can now be raised, explained and discussed at senior government levels.

Conclusion

In sum, it is clearly in Australia’s interests to work with both China and the US. But we need to get on the front foot in working to establish the multipolar region that Foreign Minister Wong talks about. That will require Australia to work closely with the many other like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and if necessary, be less subservient in our future dealings with America.

 

READ MORE:

https://johnmenadue.com/australias-international-strategy-p2/

 

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a pact....

Executive Summary

As Sino–American relations deteriorate, risks of conflict between Washington and Beijing are growing. A major war would be terrible for both the United States and the region while setting back critical goals, like the fight to stop climate change. Avoiding a war while safeguarding vital U.S. interests ought to be a priority. But while many in the United States want to strengthen alliance structures as a means of deterring China and to make Taiwan a de facto security ally, those who espouse a strategy of Restraint believe this approach endangers Americans and undermines their prosperity. A policy of Restraint is predicated on the view that alliances are not ends in themselves, but a means of bolstering U.S. security. 

As Sino–American relations deteriorate, risks of conflict between Washington and Beijing are growing.

This brief analyzes the utility of America’s Asian alliances and security partnerships from a Restraint perspective under two scenarios. The first and preferred scenario is that of the United States and China walking back from their current march toward confrontation to achieve a stable, if still significantly competitive, relationship. The second and more likely scenario is a much sharper and sustained rivalry with China becoming a regionally strong, possibly in many ways dominant, power. We suggest the following policies toward key Asian allies and security partners:

• The U.S.–Japan alliance is core to American security and should be maintained or bolstered under the two scenarios, albeit with a defensive focus. The U.S.–Australia alliance should be maintained under both scenarios.

• While the alliance with South Korea, especially its extended deterrence component, should be maintained in the medium term, U.S. ground troops stationed on the peninsula should be drawn down and eventually withdrawn. The long–term (admittedly aspirational) goal ought to be a denuclearized, unified, and formally non–aligned Korea. South Korea should not be pressured to join an anti–China containment coalition.

• A future stable competitive/cooperative relationship with China will permit a continuation of strategic ambiguity and a more credible One China policy regarding Taiwan. The United States should also implement a more financially feasible, less provocative active denial force posture. However, under the scenario of a sharper rivalry with a militarily much stronger Beijing, the United States should enhance its deterrence capabilities across the board while avoiding intervening militarily in a China–Taiwan conflict, should deterrence fail.

• U.S. alliances with the Philippines and Thailand should be gradually transformed into preferred partnerships involving major U.S. economic support and some military assistance to build up their internal balancing capacities, but with no mutual defense treaties. A ceiling should be put on U.S. attempts to rope in India as a quasi ally.

The AUKUS military pact involving the United States, Australia, and the U.K. is more provocative and destabilizing than beneficial and should be rolled back. The four–nation Quad grouping can be beneficial to furthering U.S. influence if its public goods deliveries are much more robust and its de facto military dimension eliminated. 

• Under both scenarios, positive–sum engagements with China in arenas such as climate change, global health, and global financial stability should be a core U.S. priority.

 

READ IN FULL:

https://quincyinst.org/report/a-restraint-recipe-for-americas-asian-alliances-and-security-partnerships/

 

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not involved.....

 

By Jocelyn Chey

 

We do not want there to be war over Taiwan. If such were threatened, we could never be involved.

 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

Right now you are visiting the People’s Republic of China. As an Australian who has been engaged with the PRC officially and unofficially for over fifty years, I welcome this news. I also wish to share some serious concerns with you and offer some advice about the way forward.

Australia’s ties with the United States are deep and well-founded so please consider my views as well-intended. Our two most important relationships, both economic and strategic, are with the US and China. Above all, we would like these two nations to engage in dialogue, based on mutual respect and understanding and find a way to manage difficulties and problems.

The most fundamental issue at present is the status of Taiwan. Please God, do not go to war over Taiwan. It would cause unthinkable damage to Mainland China, to Taiwan, to the US and to the whole world. Knowing how much we would suffer, Australia would surely not support an American military intervention.

More than fifty years ago, Australian Foreign Minister Tony Street visited the US. On 5 October 1982 he addressed the Asia Society in New York on the subject of American and Australian relations with China and Asia. He dwelt at some length on the subject of Taiwan and I would like to quote his remarks as I feel they are still very relevant today:

“This is an appropriate point for me to say that we are also very pleased that you (the United States) have reached some understanding with Peking (ie Beijing) about Taiwan. A year and a half ago, I visited Peking and Washington and was concerned then about the impact on United States and Australian strategic interests of disruption to United States-China relations.

“As our Prime Minister’s visit to Peking in August approached, we were deeply conscious that he would be there at a time when your negotiations were at a critical stage. In the event, the critical decisions on the Chinese side seem to have been taken at high-level meetings at about the time of Mr Fraser’s visit. We were thus very glad to carry away both restatement of China’s firm views about the Soviet Union and also reassurance that China gave proper weight to the strategic importance of friendship with America. …

“As regards China’s development, let me offer these comments:

“The plans of China’s new leaders are very ambitious. Indeed, for a largely peasant society saturated and suppressed by a backward ideology for many years, they might be called revolutionary. To see free market forces allowed to operate in China, to see great readiness to expand business with the world, to ‘First feed the people, then build the country’ can give us great heart.

“Australian policies are directed at making this turn and development of Chinese policies a continuing viable option for Chinese leaders. There has recently been a Communist Party Congress in China. On the one hand this showed the popularity of the change in Chinese policy. On the other hand, it is when he (Deng Xiaoping) is able to relinquish control, and a smooth succession can take place, that the road ahead will be clearer. Meanwhile, we share with you and other countries of the Pacific a very great interest in demonstrating that building relations with us represents valuable political and economic options for the next generation of Chinese leaders.”

Today, I offer you the same advice. Let us do everything we can to welcome China into the international community. Let us also do everything we can to prevent war in the Pacific. Regardless of whether you meet with President Xi Jinping or not, your visit to Beijing presents a crucial opportunity to gain a better understanding of Chinese concerns and priorities and to set guardrails in place to prevent any derailment of bilateral relations.

At the heart of those relations is the status of Taiwan. Fifty years ago, the US and China reached agreement on the definition of its status, and only then was it possible for overall bilateral relations to move forward. The Australian government’s position on Taiwan has been consistent throughout and, despite some recent difficulties and problems, Canberra still maintains this position. It is this that gives us hope that we can reach resolution of outstanding matters in bilateral relations before too long.

We do not want there to be war over Taiwan. If such were threatened, we could never be involved.

 

READ MORE:

https://johnmenadue.com/dear-secretary-blinken-some-advice-from-an-australian-old-china-hand/

 

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fantasyland.....

 

By Gregory Clark

 

The Western hope that Taiwan could serve as a catalyst for an attack of China seems likely to remain the fantasy it always was.

I first knew Taiwan in the sixties – dirt poor and brutally oppressive. A well-known lawyer, Duan-Mu Kai, I came to know spent his time rescuing from execution people falsely accused of pro-communist sympathies.

Disagreement with the economic policies of ultimate leader, KMT boss Chiang Kai-shek, and his cabal, was also grounds for punishment.

I also saw official Taiwan in the early sixties accompanying the Education Minister, John Gorton, on an official visit. Seated next to Chiang facing the Taiwan Strait he was told how soldiers being parachuted with heavy packs into the sea before us were preparing for the inevitable invasion of the mainland.

Chiang had nothing to say about the corruption and cruelty that had forced his government to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

The KMT suppression in Taiwan began in 1947 with the killing at least 18,000 Taiwanese civilians to suppress a popular uprising against misrule. It was followed by the White Terror after 1949 which saw some 3-4 thousand local political and intellectual elites summarily executed for alleged leftwing thinking.

Martial Law continued though to the mid-eighties.

Returning to Taiwan after a gap of many years the place was un-recognisable. Prosperity has lifted the masses close to Hong Kong standards. Nowhere does one find the slogans and oppressive police rule of the past.

Taiwan is supposed to be under threat from Chinese communist invasion. Yet in trips that took me from north to south and back the length of the island on Taiwan’s very efficient copies of Japan’s bullet train system I did not see a single uniformed soldier.

The vast vault protecting the remains and history of former leader Chiang in central Taipei was firmly closed. ‘No longer interested in Chiang thought’ I was told.

The Taiwan military, and the large US military backup, which are supposed to defend Taiwan from Mainland China attack are both kept well out of sight.

Contrast this with the contacts with Mainland China.

Many of the talk and dance shows shown on my hotel TV were from Mango productions based in Hunan, the site of China’s original Communist revolution.

Sub-titles were unashamedly in the simplified Chinese mainland characters once condemned in Taiwan as a communist subversion of traditional Chinese culture.

The other side of the culture coin was a 100 percent modern Japanese-style Mitsui outlet store filled with families and buyers just outside the Tainan bullet train station in central Taiwan.

As in China high-rise residential pushes against town outskirts and surrounding rice paddies, though there are few signs of the over-building that plagues China mainland.

A very efficient subway network system which would put even the Tokyo and mainland China systems to shame has allowed this suburban expansion.

For meticulous cleanliness Taiwan rivals Japan.

Mandarin Chinese, imposed on the education system by Chiang Kai-shek as the language he would use on his return to China, has taken root and doubtless will serve Beijing well if and when it makes its return to the island.

Already it had been encouraging an impressive one million a year tourist inflow from China before the pandemic and anti-China politicians took control; Taiwan still sees tourism as a major basis for its future economy.

Even with the clampdown on China contacts by the current regime, over one million Taiwanese workers and several thousand Taiwanese students still decide to go and work or study in China.

Together with residents of Hong Kong and Macao special entry procedures facilitate return of so-called Overseas Chinese to China.

The possible return of KMT governments in Taiwan (the KMT has finally decided friendship beats enmity as a better way to get back to China) would see lifting of current bans on closer relations.

But either way, the Western (and Australian) hope that Taiwan could serve as a catalyst for an attack of China seems likely to remain the fantasy it always was. Even a declaration of independence would be seen as more of a joke than a readiness for war.

Taiwan dependence on the Mainland is too close easily to be broken.

 

read more:

https://johnmenadue.com/the-western-fantasy-of-a-taiwanese-proxy-war-against-china/

 

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china threat?.....

The ‘China Threat’: Can we escape the historical legacy of Anti-Chinese Racism?

By Marilyn Lake

 

How ironic that mainstream newspapers and conservative commentators should lambast former prime minister Paul Keating for living in the past when he denounced the AUKUS agreement and the Labor government’s fulsome support of it. It was, of course, the AUKUS agreement itself, entered into by Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden in 2022, that was the real blast from the past. Their declared solidarity in confronting what they defined as Chinese ‘assertiveness’ echoed white men’s defensive transnational identifications of more than 120 years ago when first faced with ‘the rise of Asia’.

Indeed, the ‘Chinese threat narrative’, as it has recently been labelled, was constitutive of Australian nationhood. But in recent decades this paranoia had been thankfully overcome, transcended in the late twentieth century by fresh thinking, a series of diplomatic initiatives and the building of new cultural, educational and trade relationships. Now, however, in 2023, with the ‘yellow peril’ revived and recast in the Nine newspapers as a ‘red alert’ in a series of articles accompanied by graphics depicting scary Chinese fighter aircraft heading south, we seem once again to be seeing Chinese ‘hordes’ coming in our direction. But whereas the White Australia Policy—the building of the great white walls—was a defensive, insular policy, now we are being enlisted by the United States into an aggressive ‘force posture’ militarism, aimed at containing China and aggrandising the United States as the dominant and unrivalled power in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 1901, our first prime minister, Edmund Barton, rose to his feet in the new federal parliament to quote Australian intellectual and erstwhile Liberal politician Charles Pearson on the humiliating consequences for white men of coming Chinese global power. Holding aloft Pearson’s work of prophecy, National Life and Character: A Forecast, Barton quoted him in support of the foundational Immigration Restriction Act. Restrictive measures were necessary, Barton argued , because of the global rise of the ‘black and yellow races’. Postcolonial assertions of racial equality spelled unmitigated doom for the white man in a post-Western world.

‘The day will come’, Pearson had written,

and is perhaps not far distant, when the European observer will look around to see the globe girdled with a continuous zone of the black and yellow races, no longer too weak for aggression or under tutelage, but independent, or practically so, in government, monopolising the trade of their own regions, and circumscribing the industry of the European.

Invited to ‘international conferences, and welcomed as allies in the quarrels of the civilised world’, the rise of China as a global power meant that white man’s ‘pride of place’ would be ‘humiliated’.

In such a changed world, Pearson elaborated, we would ‘wake to find ourselves elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by peoples whom we looked down upon as servile, and thought of as bound always to minister to our needs’. Now, in 2023, it is clear that US president Joe Biden thinks that American ‘pride of place’ is threatened with humiliation in the Asia-Pacific region by Chinese ‘assertiveness’. Australia is being militarised to help the United States avoid that unthinkable fate. Our traditional fear of China is being deployed afresh to ensure that we are willing allies in the fight to maintain American ‘pride of place’ and primacy of race.

In National Life and Character, Pearson had predicted China’s ‘inevitable position as one of the great powers of the world’: ‘With civilisation equally diffused the most populous country must ultimately be the most powerful; and the preponderance of China over any rival—even over the United States of America—is likely to be overwhelming’. His historical understanding of shifting world forces in a postcolonial world had been decisively shaped by his residence in Melbourne among large and literate Chinese migrant communities and their writings on Chinese history and demography, notably The Chinese Question in Australia by Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong and Louis Ah Mouy, published in 1879.

In that widely circulated publication, the Chinese Australian colonists had informed Victorian readers that they came from the oldest empire in the world and that they were the products of a proud civilisation, whose population had been recently calculated by the census as reaching almost 400 million. Australia’s population, Lowe Kong Meng et al. noted, was just over 2 million. In China, they reported, famine and starvation had recently caused the deaths of ‘millions of men, women and children’. Fairness and justice demanded that Chinese be permitted to settle in Australia.

Pearson, a former lecturer in history at Kings College and Cambridge, had migrated to the Australian colonies—first South Australia and then Victoria—to make a new man of himself, as he put it, and as a self-styled radical democrat, he proposed to help build a new society along the lines of equality. His startling work of prophecy about changing world forces, published by Macmillan in London and New York in 1893, caused a great stir internationally. Theodore Roosevelt wrote from the United States to tell him of the ‘great effect’ of his book on ‘all our men here in Washington’ and reviewed it at length in the Sewanee Review, acclaiming its ‘deep and historic insight into the world-forces of the present’.

British reviews of his ‘remarkable’ and ‘strikingly original’ work noted the importance of Pearson’s location—in the colony of Victoria in the south-west Pacific—in shaping his perspective. ‘His view is not purely or mainly European’, noted the Athenaeum, ‘nor does he regard the inferior races as hopelessly beaten in the struggle with Western civilisation. The reader can indeed discern that Mr Pearson’s point of view is not London or Paris, but Melbourne’.

In Melbourne Pearson had encountered a strong political mobilisation on the part of Chinese Australians, who considered their rights and capacities as colonisers to be equal to those of their fellow British colonists and who invoked international law to argue their case. The Australian colonies had a long history of discriminatory legislation aimed at barring Chinese immigrants, beginning in Victoria in 1855. As a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly and a government minister, Pearson had supported new Victorian legislation in 1881 which in an amendment also disenfranchised Chinese Australian men, some of whom had previously been exercising their right of manhood suffrage since the 1850s.

In his speech to the Legislative Assembly, Pearson drew on the information supplied by his fellow Chinese Australian colonists:

The population of China was nearly 400,000,000, and the mere natural increase of that population in a single year would be sufficient to swamp the whole white population of the colony. Australia was now perfectly well known to the Chinese, communication between the two countries was thoroughly established; and in the event of famine or war arising in China, Chinamen might come here at any time in hordes.

Pearson repeated this passage about Chinese ‘hordes’ the following decade in National Life and Character, but there he included the larger context of modern Chinese mobility and their movement into the Pacific as far as Hawaii, South America and South-East Asia, including the East Indies and the Straits Settlements. Drawing on the work of imperial travel writer Baron von Hubner, Pearson was able to show that Singapore, to the north of Australia, had quite suddenly become a Chinese settler colony. ‘On my first visit to Singapore in 1871’, Von Hubner had written, ‘the population consisted of 100 white families, of 20,000 Malays, and of a few thousand Chinese. On my return there, in the beginning of 1884, the population was divided, according to the official census, into 100 whites, 20,000 Malays, and 86,000 Chinese’. Census figures enabled a new global history. ‘Chinese colonisation of the Straits Settlements’, Pearson concluded, ‘shows what the race is capable of’.

White claims to ownership of temperate territories across the globe were fuelling a new ‘religion of whiteness’, which, as the African American observer W. E B. DuBois noticed, was fundamentally proprietorial: ‘Whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, amen’. This new global colour line was creating an oppressive relationship of ‘the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea’. Canada and New Zealand had passed discriminatory laws against the Chinese and the United States had enacted new immigration restrictions in 1888.

At an international conference—the Universal Races Congress—in 1911 in London, the Singapore-born barrister and Chinese delegate Wu Ting-Fang decried the new ‘White Policy’ and its spurious rationalisations:

I have noticed that this cry of a ‘White Policy’ has been raised, not by the aborigines, who might have some excuse, but by the descendants of the settlers who had conquered and, in many cases, killed the aborigines of the country, which they now want to keep for themselves, and by politicians who recently migrated to that country. Is this fair or just? To those who advocate such a policy, and who no doubt call themselves highly civilised people, I would remark that I prefer Chinese civilisation.

Du Bois’s key insight was that these proclamations of white ownership were a defensive response to new claims on the part of colonised peoples—the ‘black and yellow races’—for equal treatment and an equal place in the world.

After 1905, when Japan defeated Russia in an historic naval victory, it replaced China as the main Asian target. ‘Do we sense somnolent writhings in black Africa’, wrote Du Bois in his essay ‘The Souls of White Folk’, ‘or angry groans in India, or triumphant “Banzais” in Japan? “To your tents, O Israel”. These nations are not white. Build warships and heft the “Big Stick” ’. US President Theodore Roosevelt, alerted to changing world forces by Pearson’s National Life and Character and espousing the strategy of ‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’, was pleased to send his Great White Fleet to Australia in 1908 at Alfred Deakin’s request, to demonstrate his country’s naval power. As DuBois recognised, the transnational proprietorial claims of white men’s countries were defensive reactions to the geographical mobility and political mobilisations of colonised and coloured peoples.

In the Australian self-governing colony of Victoria, home of radical liberal politicians Pearson and Deakin, Chinese Australian communities had not simply resisted racist discrimination and exclusions, they had also proposed a different vision for a future Australia as one animated by ‘cosmopolitan friendship and sympathy’, in which Australians from different backgrounds would enjoy ‘common human rights’, as they put it—probably the first human rights claim in Australian political history. Their vision anticipated what we would later call ‘multiculturalism’, but unfortunately this early political contribution of Chinese Australians in the 1880s is little known by present-day students of Australian political history. If our historical writing were more inclusive and imaginative, Australians today might be better able today to understand the ways in which past encounters of subjects of the Chinese and British empires in Australia were mutually formative. Visions of white self-governing nationalism on the one hand and cosmopolitan friendship and sympathy on the other were each shaped in response to the other.

The ideal of multiculturalism would finally replace race-based nationalism as preferred national policy in Australia in the late twentieth century. Immigration restrictions would stay in place in the white settler countries until enormous international pressure led white men’s countries to begin to dismantle their racial exclusions. From the 1970s, under the Whitlam government, Australia became more outward-looking. Diplomatic recognition of China was followed by the establishment of new cultural, educational and trade relationships. But it was Prime Minster Keating’s determined engagement with Asia in the 1990s that marked a decisive break with our colonial past and looked forward to the new era of multiculturalism and multilateralism that we inhabit today.

The dramatic economic growth of China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia represented, Keating noted, ‘a profound shift in the balance of power’ in the world. He recognised that the economic transformations to our north had profound implications for strategic power as well. We had to actively engage our neighbours, to find security within rather than from our neighbourhood. ‘If we do not succeed in the Asia-Pacific’, Keating memorably proclaimed, ‘we succeed nowhere’. Diplomacy, open-mindedness, language proficiency and negotiating skills would be key to building a secure future in the Asia-Pacific world.

At the same time, burgeoning Chinese migration has been transforming Australia, and the large enrolments of Chinese students in our universities are remaking our culture, economy and society. The Chinese-born population is now the third largest migrant community in Australia after the United Kingdom and India, comprising 7.9 per cent of our overseas-born population, and is increasingly influential in Australian elections.

Just as Australia has become more integrated with our Asian neighbourhood and more Asian in complexion, however, the American and Australian defence establishments and their political and media minions have become more strident in revivifying the ‘Chinese threat narrative’ to persuade Australians that we must join the United States in militarising Australia, confronting China with military force, taking the fight to the South China Sea. Impossibly expensive and impoverishing American nuclear-powered submarines are the new ‘big stick’ foisted on us so that we might join the next American war at the American president’s bidding. Having spent decades establishing our independent multilateral relationships in a multipolar Asian neighbourhood, Australians are being dragged back into a past world in which transnational white Anglo-Saxon solidarities are reinvigorated to ensure the pre-eminence of the United States and the supremacy of the white man.

The China Threat: Can we escape the historical legacy of anti-Chinese racism?‘, Arena Quarterly, no. 14, 2023, was originally published by ARENA on June 29, 2023.

This article is part of P&I’s extended series: China: Perspectives beyond the mainstream media, guest edited by Jocelyn Chey.

https://johnmenadue.com/the-china-threat-can-we-escape-the-historical-legacy-of-anti-chinese-racism/

 

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