By Denis Bright
Most of China basks in perfectly warm weather for the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC. It would be remiss of me not to make a comment on this occasion. I made a short visit to Guangzhou late 1974 which extended into the New Year. The Australian embassy in Beijing was already operating.
Our Gough Whitlam became the first Australian Prime Minister to implement a policy initiative to relocate the Australian embassy from Taipei to Beijing. This commitment was made from Opposition in 1971 despite tuts of dismay from the federal LNP which had been kept out of the loop of developments in Beijing and Washington.
President Nixon with the support of his secretary of state Henry Kissinger were following a similar path but it took several years to fulfil the commitment.
Although China remains Australia’s largest and most profitable trading partner due largely to exports of resources and foodstuffs plus net revenue from tourism and educational ties, investment ties have cooled during a new era of megaphone diplomacy as reported by the ABC’s Eliza Laschon:
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles says Australia’s relationship with China is “terrible”, accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of using “megaphone diplomacy” against the nation’s largest trading partner.
Mr Marles, Labor’s defence spokesman, has just returned from a three-day study tour of Beijing.
“The state of the relationship as it exists between Australia and China right now is terrible,” Mr Marles told ABC’s Insiders.
“I think there is a sense in which we are falling down their ladder of relevance.
“China is not seeing us in the serious way in which it has seen us in the past.”
Mr Marles took aim at Mr Morrison, who last week during a visit to the United States called for the superpower to no longer be considered a developing country and to face tougher trade obligations.
Relations between China and Australia remain strong at a grassroots level through the contribution of the local Chinese communities and especially its business and restaurant networks.
The swimming team from Central China has trained at the QUT Pool in Brisbane to escape from the Chinese winter.
Way back in 1974, I was treated to an impromptu visit to the Orchard Garden Swimming Pool in Guangzhou. This site with its twin Olympic pools has long been eclipsed as a local reference point by dozens of pools, water parks and artificial beaches across Guangzhou. The old pools continue to operate and can been seen on Google Earth.
Not so exponential are the trends in net Chinese investment in Australia in the post-property boom era and through federal government security reviews of some components of this investment:
Pragmatic sections of the federal LNP want our trading and investment status with China restored and arbitrary security controls reviewed (KPMG April 2019):
At a time of financial volatility on global markets, any persistence of trade and investment wars is clearly in nobody’s interests.
I do expect that Whitlameque values will be restored in commercial and strategic ties with China. Time is always on China’s side as it makes the full transition, sooner or later, to a global superpower and financial hub with many fringe benefits for Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific Basin.
Our mainstream media reports such events from a pro-American strategic perspective with a focus on perceived threats to Freedom of Navigation.
From a Chinese perspective however, the maritime boundaries of Taiwan are even more provocative and extend to within sight of the Chinese mainland in the Kinmen and Matsu Islands (ZeroHedge Online 7 July 2019).
While the centre-right Democratic Party in Taiwan has a popular mandate, there is always the threat of a declaration of independence from the PRC to stoke up further tensions even though the barriers between Taiwan and China have been lessened by tourism, family reunions and educational ties for student from Taiwan.
US citizens might be equally concerned if military installations from a potentially hostile province like Taiwan were in eyesight of major Atlantic coastline cities. The citizens of Xiamen and Mawei in China live in the shadows of such installations which are being refurbished by the Trump Administration in the name of Freedom of Navigation.
The Guardian Online (21 August 2019) has reported on the latest arms deal between the Trump Administration and Taiwan:
The Trump administration has approved the sale of 66 F-16 fighters to Taiwan in a move expected to anger Beijing. Taiwan will get the latest version of the Lockheed Martin-built fighter, the F-16C/D Block 70, in the $8bn deal, the state department said.
Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, said in a statement that president Donald Trump had green-lighted the proposed sale after Congress was notified last week.
The F-16s “are deeply consistent with the arrangements, the historical relationship between the United States and China”, Pompeo said.
“Our actions are consistent with past US policy. We are simply following through on the commitments we’ve made to all of the parties.”
Taiwan’s plan to upgrade its air defences comes amid increasing Chinese military incursions into its air space.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a part of China awaiting reunification, but the island is self-ruled and is a close ally of the United States.
In a statement, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees US foreign military sales, said Taiwan’s purchase of the F-16s “will not alter the basic military balance in the region”.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the recipient’s capability to provide for the defense of its airspace, regional security, and interoperability with the United States.”
As Taiwanese national elections approach on 11 January 2020, it is the centre-right Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Wen who is well ahead in recent polling of the Centre leaning Kuomintang Party (KMT) with its commitment to The Three Noes of no unification, no independence and no use of force.
Likewise, in Australia, Newspoll has just revealed the extent of popular support for the US Alliance in a currently politically charged atmosphere (The Australian Online 30 September 2019):
The vast US Embassy in Beijing and its consulates across China need to get on the peace train to promote new mutually beneficial Belt and Road Initiatives (BRIs) in the spirit of the Whitlamesque era.
September 27, 2019
On behalf of the people of the United States, I offer congratulations to the people of China as you celebrate your National Day on October 1.
The United States wishes the people of China happiness, health, peace and prosperity in the year to come.
Will this terse greeting be enough to turn the tide?
Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.