The following article appeared in Pearls and Irritations on 28 October 2021.
The default position of the LNP when seeking to deflect from failure, is to bully. It bullies a lot. In fact, bullying has become its primary tool of diplomacy.
Like all bullies it is very susceptible to being bullied. Morrison embodies the LNP. Trump bullied Morrison into bullying Xi Jinping, an undertaking they both thought would reduce Xi to a trembling wreck. Morrison told Xi to get his act together on finding the source of Covid 19. Without offering a shred of evidence Morrison opined that Covid 19 originated in the wet market of Wuhan, later he changed that to a chemical laboratory in Wuhan.
Morrison swaggered; smugness filled his smirking face. A real gotcha moment. “Genocidal” Xi was on his knees, the Red Emperor was without clothes. Morrison’s friend Donald Trump must be impressed, but the ugly wax man from Madame Tussauds laughed at him, not with him. And Xi incensed at this attempt by an untutored, uncouth figure head of a struggling US vassal state, to humiliate and intimidate him roared loudly from his watch tower and cut trade. And like Monty Python, Morrison ordered his Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, to mount her less than trusty stead ride to the watch tower and repeat his ultimatum. This did not give Xi pause for thought and contemplation, quite the opposite, he issued further decrees designed to weaken Morrison, which it did.
Trump, like a bloated python, smiled at Xi from the rampart and offered to sell what Xi had banned from Morrison. Xi agreed. Power has its own dialogue and understandings. Australia, once able to translate influence into power lost the ability under Morrison, who understands little. So little in fact that he instructed an unlikely understudy to take on Communist China in The World Trade Organization (WTO). Dan Tehan, has breathlessly undertaken this mission, after recently returning from a similar mission to Europe, which failed.
The French having been publicly jilted and humiliated by a drooling Morrison acting on behalf of the Sirens of Bidens court. He got into bed with Ms. USA promising a home, defence goodies and the acquisition of some large diamond subs. The heels of France’s shoes could be heard all the way from Kings Cross to the Boulevard de Clichy.
Tehan is not a knave, well not quite, but he is naive and untutored, like Morrison. The WTO has been weakened by the US in recent years in their desire to do whatever it takes to gain advantage over their disliked rival the Peoples Communist Party of China. God how the Americans hate that nomenclature. Just as they hate the Communist Party of Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea and Kerala. Their hatred is primal, visceral and completely childish.
On the WTO the Appellate Body functions as the High Court for global trade, it hears appeals by WTO dispute settlement panels. Its rulings are binding on member states. Since 2020 the seven seats on the Appellate Body have been vacant. From 2017 the US has blocked all new appointments to the Appellate, severely restricting the decision-making capacity of the WTO.
Trump imposed tariffs on all of America’s major trading partners, launched a trade war with China and violated the rules of the WTO. He threatened to withdraw from the WTO and took the US further down the path of a rogue player in international trade. The EU has assumed a leadership role within the WTO and China has been prepared to follow the EU lead. The US is in contempt of international trade law, Biden has not moved to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum affecting major trading partners.
Morrison’s ill-advised foray to the WTO is bound to fail and poor goofy Tehan will cop the blame, like the prefect Birmingham before him. These boys are on missions for men. They hunt the world for left hand screw drivers and elbow grease. While Dutton, confused about the world, has appointed a world adviser to his staff to tell him where countries and capitals are. With the exception of coal international trade, leaves him cold. But he has not lost his restlessness, increasing his suit sizes every six months. He does his best, like Goring, to keep abreast of things. He expects to win the Battle of the South China Sea.
The United States, Australia’s most trusted ally, currently imposes sanctions against thirty countries. Why? Because in one way or another they offend the US or in the case of China it is doing far better at most things than the US. Our trusted ally has agricultural sanctions levelled against us as well as steel, aluminum and Ugg Boots.
China uses trade embargoes to try and pull countries into line, Australia being the most recent. It has in the past deployed sanctions against South Korea and Japan. It has imposed sanctions on the odious Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce.
Economic sanctions and military threats, incursions and war are the arsenal of American diplomacy and foreign policy. By contrast China has deployed power, through the Belt & Road initiative, playing upon economic need to access and influence regional neighbours, in the process gaining financially. There is little difference in this to what America has sought to do for the past 70 years except China is proving more successful and making inroads with less overt bullying. Coercion and corruption exist in China’s vassal states and amongst its economic allies as a result of this agenda but there is a benefit to the recipients. The Tiger needs to be fed. Chinese money, labour and settlers are following the B&R. Increasing rail and road links will make Beijing the Rome of the East.
Faced with this growing reality how much longer will America (and Australia) chose confrontation over negotiation?
Bruce Haigh is a retired Diplomat and political commentator.