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China-Australia Relations and a Leader for the times

That Prime Minister Albanese had just 30 minutes following a 3-hour meeting between the USA and China to talk with the Chinese leader President Xi Jinping, was it worth the effort? Indeed, it was.

In diplomatic terms, even just talking with the President was Prime Minister Albanese’s most significant achievement since winning the May 21 election.

Following a decade of Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison’s belligerent style of decadent diplomacy, Albanese is showing Australians that relationships with those who differ politically and culturally and who you disagree with can exist so long as differences are respected.

We have not respected China’s rise from poverty to a global superpower in the last 40 years. An astonishing accomplishment, however one looks at it. That China now has all characteristics of a Fascist state doesn’t make the task any more manageable, but we must try to understand their objectives culturally and geopolitically.

China now has:

“… the world’s second-largest economy, trailing only the United States (International Monetary Fund 2020). Within a few years, it will be number one. It was the world’s leading exporter and second-largest importer in 2018, the last year for which data were available (World Bank 2020a). Its foreign aid provision and outward foreign direct investment (FDI) have also increased exponentially over the last decade.”

Accompanying China’s economic rise has been an escalating assertiveness.” America has been exporting its culture as a democracy to the world for as long as I recall, and China now chooses to exhibit itself to the world. That’s right, guys.

Whatever was in the minds of Abbott, Dutton, and Morrison in using language calculated to offend China but impress a domestic audience is anyone’s guess. One can only conclude that it was dumb diplomacy. China and the Australian electorate were equally unimpressed.

That they continued to use such belligerent language after losing billions in trade speaks volumes for their inability to talk the talk of international diplomacy.

Deliberately picking fights with a superpower is as stupid as saying, “I am responsible for what I say, but I’m not responsible for what you understand.” (Anonymous)

Albanese may not be our most articulate politician, but his knowledge, maturity and experience tell him when to ruffle feathers and when to push the diplomatic button.

After reading and listening to the many media reports, it is evident that he was, in the time available consistent in saying what was relevant to Australia’s interests.

Our Prime Minister, having employed the basics of international diplomacy, has taken giant steps toward restoring our relationship with China after years of open hatred. All it took were words that made the point intended without offence.

All of this doesn’t hide the obvious. Stan Grant, in an article for the ABC, made these points.

“That Xi Jinping is the same Xi Jinping today as he was yesterday. The leader who has overseen what has been called a genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

The same Xi Jinping who threatens war with Taiwan.

The same Xi Jinping who crushes dissent. Who has strengthened his iron grip on Hong Kong, tearing up the commitment to one country, two systems?

He is the same XiJinping whom Joe Biden called a thug.

The same Xi Jinping who calls Vladimir Putin his best friend and inked a no-limits pact with the Russian leader on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

All of this, of course, is true, and Grant adds the following to the world’s most perplexing problem.

“Democracy is in retreat globally. The US appears as a nation exhausted.

The midterm elections may have given some pause to Trumpism. But Donald Trump was always a symptom of a deeper malaise, which has not gone away.

America’s social contract is broken. It is crippled by inequality. It is lacerated by race.

Joe Biden is a pause from Trump’s excess and disruption. Even if he runs and wins a second term, he is not the future of the US.

More broadly, the West cannot expect that the liberal democracy that triumphed in the 20th century will meet the challenges of the 21st century.

It is tested at home and abroad.

Market-first neoliberalism ran aground in the 2008 global financial crisis. Globalisation has produced as many, if not more, losers than winners.

Those left behind have fallen for the siren song of political populists. From Hungary to Poland, Italy, India, Turkey, and the US, race-based nationalists, far-right white supremacists, and identitarians have triumphed.”

And where in this conundrum does the nation of Australia stand?

Despite the economic and social concerns that still exist, we have a mature leader who, in a short time, has proven himself to be a leader willing to get things done for the common good. He has already demonstrated the art of diplomacy and delegation – a leader for the times.

He has this thing we call character. Loosely it is described as a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of politics. But unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.

My thought for the day.

“We can learn so much from people we disagree with that it is a wonder we don’t do it more often.”

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  1. Terence Mills

    I find Stan Grant can tend to inject his own opinions into his reporting which is not always appropriate or welcome.

    In Q&A on Thursday Grant was discussing the Albanese meeting with Xi and one of the panelists (PETER KHALIL, CHAIR, PARLIAMENTARY INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE) noted that dialogue is a good thing, Grant interjected :


    “Did he need to look so happy to be doing it? There was a big smile on his face.”

    It would have been bizarre if the two leaders had not smiled for the cameras.

    What do we expect our PM to do ? It may have been appropriate for Grace Tame to give Scott Morrison the bad-eye but this is the international diplomacy on the world stage stage. Of course he’s going to smile at their first public meeting and so he should.

  2. Phil Pryor

    In diplomacy, people meet on pre-arranged grounds, with some organisation and choreography, with photo opportunities these days, and so, they smile, indicating the direction to be suggested. Amateur and third rate media people (S Grant?) might consider this. Xi leads a nation with the longest, most stable, most consistent (depite vocabularies of whatever at a given time) societies in known history. Yet, under instructions, and to advance a career and keep a job, P Hartcher (look up the dictionary of political poo, and a hartcher is near harlot and harping) has bashed up a run of distorted articles for years, his white man’s burden apparently. The murderous, thieving, acquisitive, righteous, militarist, pompous USA gets ringkissing approval and China gets unfounded suspicion. Childish. Australia has become too reliant, submissive , a sucker, all learned from a past of imperial pronation and grovelling. Dogshit.

  3. Terence Mills

    Back in June 2021 Singapore prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, gave some very wise and considered advise to his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, to engage more calmly and directly with China, amid a historically frosty spell in relations between Canberra and Beijing.

    Lee described China as “one of the biggest policy questions for every major power in the world” and said that he told Morrison that Australia should focus on areas of mutual interest rather than ideological differences.

    “You don’t have to become like them, neither can you hope to make them become like you,” he said. “You have to be able to work on that basis, that this is a big world in which there are different countries, and work with others who are not completely like-minded but with whom you have many issues, where your interests do align.”

    Morrison ignored that advise but Albanese seems to have taken it onboard in a more mature and nuanced approach to China.

  4. Canguro

    Phil Pryor has the happy knack of bringing age, experience & education together to coalesce in a congruence affording pointed and appropriate commentary on his chosen subjects. Always a provocative and useful contribution. For far too long the plebians and proletariat have taken as gospel the words written for their consumption by hacks wearing hats with the label ‘Press’ inserted in the hatband, as if writing scrip for mass consumption somehow confers around it a corona of honesty, objectivity, truthiness, inviolability; it is one of the more insidious examples of smoke and mirrors employed against the world’s masses over the last several centuries, and current day commentators are no better than their forebears; the Grants, Hartchers, Cooreys, along with the Credlins, Kennys, Bolts, Deans, Murrays et al; all a bunch of drum-beating third-rate flacks fit for little more than page three columns in some amateur-hour surburban gossip letterbox drop. That they’ve somehow made it to front pages or television screens and wider audiences has had the opposite effect of what ought to be acknowledged; instead of being applauded as journalists, they’ve fallen for the fallacy of believing in their prescient capacities, serving up imagination instead of carefully calibrated objective and appropriate material.

    I liken them to lapdogs, confined to the front yard, running up and down and barking endlessly as the world moves by ostensibly safe from their inane and senseless yapping, but annoyed by their presence, nonetheless.

    Stan Grant’s assertion of “genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority” is a classic example of irresponsible hyperbole. Repression and genocide are not the same, however much one tries to square the hole.

  5. Jim Jacobsen

    Good read John. An excellent summation of the state of play.

  6. wam

    trump – controversy – sells adverts – is media common sense, Lord, not ‘sick’.
    In Australia – the same formula applies – the rabbott knew how to use it as did scummo – the loonies know how to gain from it – labor just sits back and hopes for a fair go.
    The frog boss may have stirred albo enough to expose AUKUS in a controversy? On that point, labor should investigate the circumstances of why pyne rejected japanese and german subs that could be built in south australia starting immediately for a french sub that cost 250% MORE and was based on a nuclear sub that would take 8 years. My conspiracy theory was pyne wanted to destroy the unions.
    ps great to have you back, lord,.
    Hope you escaped the floods??

  7. B Sullivan

    Grant and the other propagandists portray China as an authoritarian oppressive state, but is it really any more authoritarian than so called western democracies? Or oppressive? It is hard to argue that China isn’t a more egalitarian society than our own fake democracy (AEC figures for 2022 Federal Election show half a million Nats voters won 10 seats, a million and a half Greens voters won 4 seats, ie fake democracy). And how does it always turn out that in democracies eighty per cent of all the wealth of the nation always tends to be controlled by as little as twenty per cent of the people. The will of the majority of people in democracies is always subverted by the power of the privileged minority without regard for the suffering or hardships imposed on everybody else. they are not democracies, they are oligarchies, states ruled by the few. Just how oppressive is the Australian housing market on people who can’t afford a home, even though there is no shortage of houses? Rich people buy up and vastly inflate the value of all housing and poorer people have to work away their whole lives paying them obscene rents with little rights or security of tenure. State oppression or oppression by the private sector, which is worse from the point of view of the oppressed, who can’t do anything about it? Living in a democracy is no guarantee of fairness.

    Artemis I has just been successfully launched. It is in response to China’s aspirations to explore space. China has had to develop its own space program because NASA will not cooperate with China. NASA will not even allow Chinese Astronauts on the International Space Station. Now China has its own space station, and they have also successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars, something no other country except the US has ever done. The private sectors in the west see this as a threat to their commercial exploitation of space. So what will they do to ‘contain’ China? And when do people like Stan Grant recognise that the treatment of China by the ‘democratic’ nations of the west, at the insistence of their private sectors, is just as authoritarian and oppressive as he imagines the Chinese state to be?

    Confucius came up with the golden rule centuries before Jesus Christ. Treat others as you would have them treat you.

  8. philip chugg

    well i am a Stan Grant fan,,he is the best part aboriginal speaker i,ve ever seen or heard of,,rather an intelligent man i think,,
    and not biased like the former so called corrupt and lying liberal government..

  9. Arnd

    B Sullivan:

    “… but is it really any more authoritarian than so called western democracies?”

    Good question – though I still prefer to live in Australia. Or any of the Western European countries – Spain, say, or my native Germany.

    The USA – “The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave”, according to their own national hymn – just happens to be the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and by quite a margin. Even China or Russia fade by comparison.

    Discuss! 800 words!

    P.S.: I don’t really know about Stan Grant. I think that, of all MSM journos, he has the most astute grasp of the current social, economic and political situation, both in Australia and abroad – viz. his appearance on Insiders this morning. But ultimately, he seems just as entangled in the prevalent mainstream paradigms as all other journalists, and consequently I do not think that the self-righteous impatience that occasionally infuses his commentary and on-screen demeanour is warranted or helpful.

  10. Fred

    BS: It’s not fake democracy, rather a foible of the system. It might be time to have a review of how elections are run. Why does Tasmania get the same number of senators as NSW? Voting above the line, while convenient, is also distorting factor.

    There isn’t a perfect voting system. Each has its issues, not the least being “voluntary” voting as used by UK, US, CN, … and most of the world. It is debatable whether that works adequately given “motivation to vote” plays a major part. UK now has Brexit, US had Trump and maybe Trump’s second coming and CN has Xi forever. Apparently China has some interesting candidate selection processes, even though theoretically “anybody eligible can stand”, so I wouldn’t call their voting system/results better than ours.

  11. B Sullivan

    Fred, of course it is fake democracy. Just look at the AEC’s election figures. It isn’t a foible, it is a massive democracy wrecking rort. The over representation of National voters in parliament compared with the under representation of three times as many Greens voters is a deciding factor as to who forms government. The Libs and Labor cannot help but be aware of it, but instead of correcting it they try to exploit it to win office. That is why they pander to the tiny minority interests in regions on matters of coal mines and other environmental issues. They know that shutting down the fossil fuel industry would win more votes generally, but not more seats in the regions, so they ignore democracy and play their pork-barrelling cards instead.

    The media knows it too but they too go along with it. Remember BIll Shorten’ s policies on negative gearing? Massively popular according to every poll, but defeated by this bias in the system (which is obscured by the obligation to state preferences even if you have no other preference). Thanks to this rort the media insists that abolishing negative gearing is electoral poison. It isn’t. Shorten lost because half a million Nats votes returned 10 seats while more than a million Greens votes only returned 1 seat allowing Scott Morrison to win his fake miracle election because his far less popular party than Labor is in coalition with the over represented Nats.

    The problem could be solved with proportional representation. Proportional representation isn’t democratic in the Senate, because each State gets the same number of senators no matter what size their population. But Federally it would work and provide everyone with fair and equal represention based on democracy instead of location.

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