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As published in Pearls and Irritations – 23.3.21 and the Canberra Times – 26.3.21

At Anchorage the Chinese drew a line telling the US the old dialogue is finished. They are no longer prepared to be bullied. Either future dialogue is conducted with mutual respect or it will not be conducted at all.

China and the United States stepped into the ring in Anchorage, Alaska, and China won the bout on points. China is the world’s newest, and shortly to be the biggest, Super Power.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, failed to distinguish himself in front of Yang Jiechi, Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the CCP, top Diplomat under Xi Jinping and Wang Yi, State Councillor. Also present was US National security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.

Blinken, completely misreading the room, if not the change in global strategic politics, lambasted China’s increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness, ‘at home and abroad’. He claimed allies of the United States were united in this view, and hiding behind Japan and South Korea, which he visited this week, claimed they shared the view that China was authoritarian. Neither Japan or South Korea have issued statements to that effect.

Blinken cited concern over China’s human rights record in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as concern over Taiwan and ‘assertiveness’ in the South China Sea and the Covid pandemic, cyber-attacks on the United States and economic coercion ‘of our allies’, presumably Australia. He claimed that these issues threaten ‘the rules-based order that maintains global stability’. Sounding a lot like Morrison carping on about the rule of law, which he breaks on a daily basis. And so, it is with the United States and it’s 800 military bases worldwide.

Yang Jiechi was having none of it and most refreshingly took Blinken to task on the extent of American hypocrisy. Something informed observers have been fed up with for years but have been forced to accept through the craven acceptance of these double standards by Western leaders including our own. Sections of the media referred to Yang’s speech as a tirade which it was not.

America has met its match. Today, in my opinion, marked a turning point in International relations; China drew a line in the sand, did not bend at the knee nor tug its forelock. It was a shock to Blinken and has not yet been digested by analysts, nor has its significance registered on the media.

Yang said, ‘Let me say here that in front of the Chinese side, the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.’ And in so saying he threw down the gauntlet.

‘The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long-arm jurisdiction and supress other countries. It abuses so-called notions of national security to obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China’. Read Australia and ASPI.

‘We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world. Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States’. He said in a reference to right wing anarchy that the US stop pushing its own version of democracy when it was dealing with discontent among its own population.

And then straight to the solar plexus on an issue that has angered many for as long as I have been familiar with the United States, ‘We hope that the United States will do better on human rights. The fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights, which is admitted by the US itself’. He said Black Lives Matter had not just emerged over the past four years. American discrimination against Black people remains almost as bad as it was in South Africa under Apartheid. The demographic relating to deaths from Covid in the US will attest to that.

Yang might also have noted gun ownership and the civilian deaths from domestic shooting which are the highest in the world and the socially crippling uneven distribution of wealth.

The Chinese are fed up with threadbare American arrogance. They want to shape the world in their image. They have not sought an end to American democracy nor our own, but from Yang’s statements they would like a little less posturing. Over the past week the Chinese have drawn attention to our own appalling record with regard to refugees, Indigenous Australians and war crimes and they are, of course, right. Australia has double standards.

Australia can’t answer these charges or address the issues raised because we are leaderless. We have an immature and disturbed individual as Prime Minister who is enthralled with a demanding religious cult. His warped and twisted personality finds solace and relief in lying. He cannot face or admit that his statements have cause considerable and probably irreversible damage to Australia’s relationship with China, financially and culturally. He, along with most in government, continue to believe in the value of our relationship with America even though it has delivered nothing but tinsel, drugs, rock and roll and 150000 mentally damaged, dead and wounded from three totally ill-conceived American wars in which Australian politicians, who had never been in uniform and enthralled by the USA, sent our young off to fight with no objectives other than those spelt out by the US which were wrong. How could we?

The talks ended with the US facing the reality of a considerable Chinese push back. The Chinese outlined a new reality, all future exchanges will be conducted with mutual respect or not at all, they said as much. Some issues and matters are not up for discussion or negotiation. Australia has still to learn that lesson. Bruised, the Americans made a final statement, the Chinese did not. Sullivan said they had expected tough talks and the conversation was candid, he noted that the dialogue would continue.

The MSM has bought into the cult of American exceptionalism, none more so than Hartcher of the SMH. His belief in all things American has him suspending his limited judgement to advocate, as truth, senior US figures on matters relating to the bilateral relationship and China.

He reports the US Presidents, Indo-Pacific co-ordinator and unqualified showman, Kurt Campbell, recently in Australia, as saying the US would not improve its relationship with China until China improved its relationship with Australia. What a joke, what a clown. At the talks between China and the US in Anchorage Blinken said he felt an obligation to raise economic coercion against Washington’s allies. That’s it. He did not put the American relationship on the line.

Hartcher quoted the lightweight Campbell as saying, ‘President Biden was very direct with Prime Minister Morrison that we stood together on this. So, we have indicated both to Australia and China at the highest levels that we are fully aware of what is going on and we are not prepared to improve relations until those policies are addressed and a more normal interplay between Canberra and Beijing is established.’

Hartcher said, ‘It is the first known intervention of any nation to take substantive steps in support of Australia in its confrontation with Beijing.’

What nonsense. On several counts. The first being that it was not raised as a substantive issue at Anchorage by Blinken and why should it be. The US has enough problems of its own with the relationship. The second being, as Yang made perfectly clear, the US does not have the leverage.

The US has already demonstrated that it will take advantage of Australia’s trade difficulties with China by filling the orders itself. Grow up Hartcher.

How long will it take these besotted US disciples like Hartcher and Sheridan to realise statements and guarantees by US officials have never been more than sops. The problem for Australia is that people like Hartcher, Howard and Morrison believe them.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired Diplomat.   

As published in Independent Australia – 22.3.21

The Australian Government first discussed the need for a second airport in Sydney in 1969. A decision to locate it at Badgerys Creek was made by the Hawke Labor Government in 1986. Twenty-five years later the first earth works were being undertaken, amidst the usual allegations of corruption and dirty dealing.

In China eight new airports are being opened every year, with time from decision to final construction averaging two years. The Chinese look at us askance. Australia simply doesn’t cut it and it knows it. Why can’t Australia get it’s act together? Easy money from minerals, wheat, meat, tourism and students. Sound Chinese investment knocked back to please the US, who laugh at us behind closed doors.

Hedonism and corruption dominate the LNP, which Morrison encapsulates. Australia has never had a lazier Prime Minister and for him money grows on trees. He along with many of his contemporaries have no idea about real work or the real economy. Posed photos of Morrison building chook and cubby houses says it all.

The LNP fears the dynamism of China. They fear the Chinese work ethic, particularly when observed amongst the Chinese who live in Australia. The answer of the LNP and those they mix with has been to embrace industrial scale corruption. To use their political power to make hay while the sun shines, place themselves across the money trail. The dominant Murdoch media lets them off the hook, as long as the LNP gives the equally corrupt Murdoch what he wants, which they have, including tax payers unreceipted dollars.

The Chinese observe this. The staff at their Embassy in Canberra are highly trained. More literate and intelligent than most members of Morrison’s cabinet, they read what is published as news, listen to radio and watch TV. They have come to the same conclusions that I have along with other Embassies in Canberra. Like minded embassies talk amongst themselves. In addition, China monitors all news services reporting on Australia and in order that we should not feel too important they do it for every country in the world. The point being they know us better than we know ourselves.

They also spy on us, as we do them, but they do it more effectively. And we also get information from the US which is tainted. They put spin on their intelligence to try and lock us into their view of China. And they have been successful, just as they were with Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? An overwhelming desire amongst Australian policy makers not to take responsibility for foreign and defence policy, founded in an inferiority complex grounded in not believing in the unique and innate worth of the country they represent.

China is aware of this in spades. They know us a lot better than we know them and ourselves. They knew exactly what was behind Morrison’s ill-considered Wuhan, Covid accusation. They have watched and listened and lost respect. As have many thoughtful and considered Australians. Inept, thoughtless, crude and indeed arrogant attempts to bridge Morrison stupidity by Australian politicians and officials have only made matters worse.

From everything I have been able to glean Xi Jinping thinks Morrison a fool and has written him off. He sees no hope of reviving the relationship while Morrison is in power, so the Chinese will not bother. But they will take further punitive trade measures were Australia to make sillier and more thoughtless ASPI inspired anti-China statements and undertakings such as giving asylum to CIA backed dissidents from Hong Kong.

The Australian government has no idea of what is happening. China is cutting us loose. We will hang below Asia as neither fish nor fowl. Asia will cut us loose. We have no understanding that China is the major power in the region, if not the world, and to put it crudely, in the absence of getting our own act together we have to acknowledge them as we acknowledge the US. China seeks the same respect we give to the US. Is that hard? Yes, given the racism of the LNP.

Kurt Campbell, yet another US special representative, this time for the Indo-Pacific has said the Biden Administration will not resume normal relations with the Chinese until they treat Australia better. How humiliating and what rubbish. We do not need the US to conduct our foreign policy and the fact they think they can, demonstrates how weak and ineffectual Morrison appears to them.

The Morrison government has dragged us out of Asia and the Pacific, just as Vorster, the Apartheid Prime Minister dragged South Africa out of Africa. The reality is soon to hit.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and former diplomat.

As published in Pearls and Irritations – 21.3.21

The maintenance of national sovereignty requires vision and leadership; sovereignty will evaporate without it.  Sovereignty requires a level of consensus. Without vision and national direction, sovereignty is likely to be ceded, sold and stolen.

By that definition Australia is without sovereignty. It has ceded defence and foreign policy strategy to the United States and in the process alienated it’s largest trading partner, China. At the insistence of the United States, it blamed China for the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, resulting so far in loss of trade amounting to around $50 billion in the agricultural, mining, investment, student and tourism sectors. It was not a smart move and has some way yet to run, particularly as under direction from the CIA, the Minister of the Australian Homes Affairs Department, Dutton, agreed to give asylum to US backed, Hong Kong activist, Ted Hui, last week.

This move has further angered China and has probably put paid to talks seeking to repair damage to the relationship and restoring normal trade. Mimicking the United States, Australia has decided to become paranoid about China and to officially dislike it. Australia has no reason to do so. Any attempts by the Chinese to undermine Australian sovereignty can be countered by the many intelligence agencies Australia sees fit to foster.

America, on the other hand, has worked itself into a slather, based around the fact that it wants to remain the World’s top dog. With the Chinese economy strengthening year by year and the American economy declining it has looked for someone, anyone, to blame other than itself. China became the whipping boy. Instead of looking for co-operative arrangements with China leading to mutually positive outcomes, America took China on. It wants to contain China. It wants to weaken China; it wants to reduce competition.

American diplomatic skills are weak. It has not sought to seriously negotiate with China. When American diplomacy breaks down it quickly resorts to the threat of force, or it engages in military exercises designed to intimidate. And Australia has given up sovereignty to assist, such as patrolling shipping lanes in the South China Sea with or on behalf of the US. There is no threat to Australia from Chinese claims in the South China Sea. There is from banging our little drum on behalf of America.

Certainly, regional dynamics have changed with the aggressive leadership of Chinese President, Xi Jinping. With growing wealth comes increased well-being and power. Xi is keen and determined to carve out a new place for China in the world. He seeks respect for China, perhaps not always in the most subtle of ways but understandable at the hundreds of years of humiliation at the hands of European and Japanese occupying powers. If you don’t understand that about Hong Kong then you understand nothing of Chinese history.

There has been absolutely no reason to be part of American foreign policy toward China. At a time when America was vilifying China and blaming it for stoking the war in Viet Nam, Australia, reclaiming its sovereignty under Labor leader, Gogh Whitlam, from the craven LNP, opened relations with China. It parlayed successfully with Mao Zedong, a leader infinitely more aggressive than Xi Jinping, and with skilled diplomacy turned it into a most enduring and productive relationship for nearly 50 years before being trashed by Morrison. Ceding sovereignty to the US over China has cost us dearly and maybe costlier if the US in its infinite stupidity goes to war with China.

And war is a possibility with the US arms industry pushing policies of confrontation. To assist the United States in their competitive paranoia we purchased from them a flying lemon, the F35, foisted upon a gullible and sycophantic John Howard, who became a major seller of Australian sovereignty, all the time hiding the sale behind the so called Anzac tradition and Australian jingoism. Australian diplomacy has been a victim with senior appointments going to LNP politicians and resource cuts to overseas posts, language training and aid. Regional posts have been particularly hard hit with Australia being unable to influence adverse political developments, most recently the military crack down in Myanmar. A diminution of diplomatic influence represents a diminution of sovereignty. One actor who benefits from this is China. And America will not protect our interests in Asia because we have different interests and because its influence is limited. Again, Myanmar is a case in point.

As we know Morrison is a blustering bully. He is not a nurturer; I doubt he would even understand the meaning of the word. Having sold and ceded our sovereignty to the US on the international market, all but rendering Australia incapable of making independent decisions, Morrison is now hellbent on squandering domestic sovereignty. He is dividing the nation on the most basic of issues, the rights of women. And it centres on the most ugly and cruellest of reasons, denial of rape, concerning people and environments he is directly responsible for. An issuing looming is the likely failure of timely Covid vaccinations of the Australian people. The infection of a doctor in Brisbane this week is indicative of the coming Covid corruption that may yet put us all at risk. Morrison had himself injected with the superior Pfizer vaccination which is not available to the rest of the population. How will that play out? It is deeply divisive, which is the antithesis of fostering sovereignty.

Without domestic sovereignty, which requires a clear consensus on how to handle fundamental issues, whether natural disasters, climate change or a significant social problem, a nation is weakened and open to exploitation both from within and without. Morrison is squandering, indeed exploiting social capital for his political survival. His behaviour and his instincts are dictatorial. Australia’s loss of internal cohesion at the hands of Morrison further undermines what remains of our limited sovereignty.

Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat and political commentator.