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The Taiwan Foreign Policy Fetish

Australian foreign policy towards Taiwan, as things stand, is a distant fantasy in floating mist. There is little to connect them, but Australia’s political classes have a habit of fabricating relations with those it cares little for, nor understands, all in the name of forced obedience. For decades, a puppy loyal Australia has committed forces without condition or qualification, refusing to understand the circumstances of their deployment, or the people who they will either kill or die for. The result is an astonishing global deployment of personnel with admirable ignorance to theatres most of its citizens would fail to name.

The recent Taiwan fetish risks continuing this trend. Australia’s Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, is a figure who has fallen head over heels with the latest, potential casus belli. Known by the late and very mischievous Bob Ellis as the simian sadist, Dutton is adamant that Australia will find itself at war over a bit of real estate whose history he has little knowledge of. “It would be inconceivable that we wouldn’t support the US in an action if the US chose to take that action,” Dutton recently told The Australian. “And again, I think we should be very frank and honest about that, look at all the facts and circumstances without pre-committing, and maybe there are circumstances where we wouldn’t take up that option, (but) I can’t conceive of those circumstances.”

In saying that it would be “inconceivable” that Australia would not find itself at war with the United States over Taiwan, the unimaginative, already pre-committed Dutton received the attention of China’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian, who called his comments “extremely absurd and irresponsible,” the mark of someone “obsessed with the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudices.”

Dutton’s execrable chest thumping was inspired by typically vague remarks from Australia’s paternal ally, who had recently promised, along with the United Kingdom, submarines with nuclear propulsion as part of the new AUKUS security agreement. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at a New York Times forum earlier this month, was pressed, as previous occupants of his office have, on whether Washington would defend Taiwan in the event of a conflict.

Blinken’s response had a bit of everything: dovish caution, chicken hawk pretence, hypocritical babble. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which obligates the US to supply Taipei military equipment for reasons of self-defence but leaves the issue of a firm security commitment open, shaped his initial remarks. Making sure Taiwan had “the means to defend itself” was “the best deterrent against any very, very, very unfortunate action that might be contemplated by China.”

This did not prevent the United States from lending a hand to “sure that we preserve peace and stability in that part of the world.” A “unilateral action to use force” by any power would constitute a threat to that peace and security and, in that event, “many countries, both in the region and beyond … would take action in the event that happens.” US intervention would take place to defend that “international rules-based order” developed by Washington against those who dared challenge it, “whether it’s China or anyone else.”

In her November 23 speech to the National Security College at the Australian National University outlining the purpose of Australia’s foreign policy, Opposition front bencher Senator Penny Wong gave few surprises. As is often the case with the Australian Labor Party when suffering in opposition, painful, even constipated caution, is preferred over clarity and conviction. “We must expand the choices and options available to us, to enable management of differences without escalation of conflict.”

But Wong did, at the very least, venture towards some sane ground in taking issue with Dutton’s assertion that Australia would “join” a war over Taiwan with Washington with no conditions. This was “wildly out of step with the strategy long adopted by Australia and our principle ally.” While Prime Minister Scott Morrison had avoided “the same febrile language” as his defence minister, Dutton was “amping up war, rather than working to maintain longstanding policy to preserve the status quo – as advocated by the Taiwanese leader, Tsai-Ing Wen.”

Dutton, simmering and seething such observations, sallied with a rebuttal, encouraging all who cared to hear him that China-the-regional-monster was the problem, rather than his own particular lust for war. “The Chinese Communist Party has a presence in 20 different locations in the South China Sea,” he stated. There were “butting up against the Japanese shipping vessels in the East China Sea.” The international rule of law, Dutton proclaimed, “should prevail and people, including our country and every other country, should adhere to that law.”

 

Cartoon by Alan Moir (moir.com.au)

 

Wong had been, according to Dutton, “irresponsible” and suggested that the Labor Party was “walking away” from the AUKUS security arrangement. The glue binding the three states, madly made and foolishly sought, has certainly increased the likelihood of Australian participation in any conflict with Chinese forces in the event the US are involved. The submarine promise is merely a sentimental, spectral hook.

Officials in Beijing have every reason to scoff at invocations of international law and its sacred bonds, especially when they come from a minister who shows no evidence of reading, let alone awareness, in the field. Australia has had, over the years, a rich history of reading international law the way any enterprising gangster and rule-breaker might wish to do. Bugging diplomats and representatives of a friendly, impoverished nation under false pretences for economic gain (East Timor); invading a country (Iraq) without any security justification in a crime against peace; and indefinitely locking up asylum seekers and refugees who arrive by boat, are all proud instances of how Australia, and the likes of Dutton, observe and disparage the ius gentium.

In this, the Taiwan fetish becomes a Cold War iteration in the haunted, twisted imagination of certain policy makers, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to the war drummers in the Morrison government. Nonsense flows easily when abstractions and hypotheticals can be passed around with such ease. Sweetly and pathetically, Australian politicians are again reminding us that blood lust, especially from those who have the least reason to fight, remains unquenchable.

 

 

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19 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Peter Duckwit-Futton has little knowledge of anything of historical accuracy, rambling on in subservience for no reason except to embarrass and indebt us all. Stupidity is quite a hindrance in diplomacy, when analysis, negotiation and compromise count. Taiwan controls islands in sight of the mainland, and has done so since 1949. Shall we send infantry there, on their way to, perhaps, “defend” Gibraltar?

  2. Kate Ahearne

    Thanks, Binoy.

    However, I don’t get any sense from this as to where you actually stand yourself. If China did try to annexe Taiwan, what should Australia’s response Be?

  3. leefe

    I can’t see the US being so incredibly stupid as to start a war with China.

    If it did eventuate, however, our officially joining or not would be mute, because nuclear exchanges would be inevitable and more than one site in Australia would be targeted.

    Standing up to bullying is one thing, but starting a war like this would be global murder/suicide.

  4. Lawriejay

    “I can’t see the US being so incredibly stupid as to start a war with China.”

    What is called for is leadership and we have it – General Douglas McDutton

  5. Henry Rodrigues

    Do I hear the steady beat of the drums of war in tune with the religious discrimination bagpipes. There must be an election coming soon. The lying rodent must be well pleased with the performance of his disreputable party. Very soon the ex-copper will be giving a press conference, flanked by a dozen Australian flags, about the enormous number of illegal boat arrivals he has just stopped at sea.

    The braindead will be mightily impressed.

  6. New England Cocky

    It looks like the COALition armchair warmongers are hard at it, clenching their teeth at every bit of American propaganda and telling each other that ”We need a good war to sort things out”. Bit like a rabbit picking a fight with a dingo.

    Let us look at previous excursions into war zones; WWI was supporting ”the Mother Country” by sending a generation of fine young Australians to die in the industrial killing fields of ANZAC Cove and the Western Front. Menzies resigned his Australian Army Commission on the first day of WWI and lived to tell the tale.

    WW2 was a bit more serious; again supporting ”Mother England” against the duplicity of some among the English Upper Classes including the former Edward VII, defending Tobruk against Rommel’s German Panzers thus earning his praise for fighting ability.
    .
    Menzies was the PM absent in England attempting to control Churchill’s manic ideas, so Scullin (ALP) brought the boys home to defend Australia. The HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales were sunk evacuating Singapore surrendered by the English General Percival without a shot fired in anger.
    .
    Australian military personnel fought the Japanese Army to its first defeat in the invasion from the north defended across the Kokoda Track, and in both the Pacific around the Battle of Midway and against the Japanese Air Force in the Timor Sea. Teddy Sheehan VC belatedly was awarded the first VC to an Australian navy person about 70 years after his personal sacrifice shooting down Japanese Zeroes strafing his HMAS Armidale shipmates in the water.

    Korea, the first post-war imperialist escapade by the USA (United States of Apartheid) allegedly to prevent the spread of communism across Asia.
    .
    Then the imperialist Vietnam War that Menzies invited Australia to enter, probably to assuage his resignation from the Army in 1914. This unnecessary conflict was the second great defeat for American Imperialism that the Australian public blamed Australian troops for losing, quite unfairly.
    .
    Anybody for a war in the Desert? Little Johnnie Howard, who has never seen a shot fired in anger, put his hand up for Australia to join the Iraq campaign for the USA to takeover & control of Iraqi oil reserves then carried on into Afghanistan, the graveyard of generations of putative conquerors. The Scummo COALition misgovernment is currently ignoring the PTSD and other war injuries from this campaign, preferring to spend $500 MILLION glorifying the above ”war successes” which are in fact defeats, except in the minds of the COALition protagonists.

    PRC China is not interested in war, it is interested in growing international trade through the Belt & Road Initiative. Currently with Scummo playing Deputy Dawg, Australia has been hoodwinked by the American government into losing markets to PRC China that the USA is gleefully now filling to their profit. Who needs enemies when you have the USA as a ”friend”?

  7. Jack sprat

    Australia has never cast off its colonial mentality , that is why it still has a foreigner as its head of state . The AUkUS pact reinforces its colonial status by letting the Anglo powers decide which wars it should fight in . History has shown that non allied countries have far fewer wars and that being non aligned lessens conflicts escalating to global war as was the case of WW1.The fear of Asian invasion is deeply imbedded in the minds of a lot Australians was one of the reasons the australian colonies federated in 1901 . The conservative government is relying on these traditional fears as a political strategy to win the next election .

  8. Michael Taylor

    Australia has had the dilemma of deciding who to be friends with: America for defence, or China for trade.

    Dutton chose America.

  9. Terence Mills

    The relationship between Taiwan and the PRC is complex and in many respects has characteristics in common to that of New Zealand and Australia : there are historical links and much affection as well as a fierce independence.

    For us to be making commentary on the Taiwanese situation is like Cambodia making commentary on the Australian/NZ relationship. Not wanted and not appreciated.

    For that commentary to be coming from Spud Dutton is like Homer Simpson expounding on world peace ; amusing but irrelevant and somewhat annoying – like a mosquito in your bedroom at night !

  10. Phil Pryor

    Cocky, Edward VIII and Curtin…as for Tobruk, who needs that sand and rock.

  11. Doug Pritchard

    I certainly would not dispute Minister Duttons to commit this country to warfare with absolutely no thought to the reason, or the consquences. I`m sure tying his shoelaces in the morning is a challenge. So his opposite number in USA, with similar qualifications would coax him into this outcome with his eye on his political future, and American jobs in the military complex.
    If this is truly a lucky country, then this collection of Big Swinging Dicks will be consigned to the scrap heap, and replaced with a cabinet who are willing to consider its citizens as a priority.
    Not being a person of faith I am quite prepared to pray for a just outcome.

  12. wam

    Can anyone see West Papuans being granted freedom from foreign control? What about the native Taiwanese. Will they ever be freed from the chinese boat people of 1949? Happily, dutton has amassed over $399m in the 22 years since leaving the police so his future is assured.
    Angus Grigg:
    ‘While the story of his university failure has been largely forgotten in Canberra, his lack of academic credentials has always been used against him.’
    His academic failures will rise and, as his political influence depended on his usefulness, that will make his personal PM hopes well and truly gone and his usefulness to scummo will disappear..

  13. New England Cocky

    @Phil Pryor: Thanks for the edit.

  14. Henry Rodrigues

    “Tying his shoe laces is a challenge”

    Especially when he’s wearing moccasins !!!

  15. Douglas Pritchard

    Unrest in the Solomon Isles, and our rush to respond (not interference according to the minister) is interesting. Apparently a key factor is recognition of Taiwan, or rather lack of it. So there is a bit or regime change afoot, and thats something that the good old CIA is expert at. They love to arrange it, and always get it hopelessly wrong.
    I listened to Keating on the subject and Taiwan is a Chinese worry, and not ours. But the potato has the power to get us immediately involved, and that`s a big worry.
    The idea of following USA into another dark hole, simply because they beckon, really has to be halted.

  16. Graeme

    Insiders this morning – first time I can remember agreeing with Jennifer Hewett from AFR.
    Dutton is doing a reverse FDR… “Talking loudly and carrying a small stick”.

  17. Terence Mills

    Peter Dutton has notoriously bad judgement : remember his words when he made the futile attempt to topple Malcolm Turnbull

    “I believe I have the best prospect of leading the Liberal Party to success at the next election”.

    For him to now be using combative belligerence against China as a political tool to hurt Labor is dangerous and ultimately self defeating.

    I agree. Graeme “Talking loudly and carrying a small stick”. This could further damage our trade relationship with China and Spud doesn’t seem to realize how important this is to our economy.

    Prime Minister of Singapore made some sensible recommendation to Morrison over our deteriorating relationship with China : was he listening ?

    “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”

    “There will be rough spots … and you have to deal with that,” Lee added. “But deal with them as issues in a partnership which you want to keep going and not issues, which add up to an adversary which you are trying to suppress”

    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong June 2021

  18. GL

    “I agree. Graeme “Talking loudly and carrying a small stick”. ” Without my reading glasses I thought it said, ““Talking loudly and carrying a small dick.”” On second thought however, it could be that he’s making up in noise for what he’s lacking in other areas. I have heard whispers that he’s intensely jealous of hamsters for having a bigger…

  19. Harry Lime

    GL, they not only have bigger DICKS,they are infinitely more intelligent,.more charming and a lot better looking.In fact ,if hamsters were running our government,we’d be the envy of the world, if not the galaxy.

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