Australia US China-comments
Discussion of Paul Keating's article.
Keating puts a strong argument for multilateralism
Anne Mijch, 7 Jan 2020
I read Hartcher's Red Flag essay in Quarterly Essay which is presenting the challenges of China rising and totally opposite to Keating's thrust.
Yet I remain unconvinced like Keating of the wisdom of a Stand with US as the wisest response as proposed by Andrew Hastie and Duncan Lewis retired ASIO director.
A realistic view for me is based on recognition of the reality of China's inevitable strength and importance and their Confucian system with CCP history. We are best placed if we cooperate and stand for our own values.
Same with US who have recently moved further from the rest of the world in pursuit of selfish isolation.
Australia will add to the paranoid nationalism if we oversimplify the real world and choose a side.
In reality we need to engage and I think Keating puts a strong argument for multilateralism
Also here in Victoria we need to engage with the Chinese Australians who are enriching our country and culture. Again cooperative clear-eyed interaction is the more appropriate attitude and approach compared to paranoid isolation.
The USA, China and Australia
Robert Durkacz, 18 Dec 2019
Reading former prime minister Keating's piece about Australia "in the deep blue sea" between the two powers of the US and China I was at first looking for one or two principles that would generate his various conclusions and recommendations. Maybe someone else could do that or perhaps Keating himself will in another piece but for me I give up because for any principle that I might posit I eventually find a statement of Keating's to contradict it.
I am left with a few questions.
It worries me that Keating does not want to talk much about the need for a robust defence posture behind the diplomatic and economic interactions which he is keen to build up. Maybe he is against anything that China might construe as threatening or provocative. He does not seem to think Australia should invest in counter-intelligence directed against China as if that might cause offence. Further, when he writes that we should not complain about China being undemocratic, it seems he really means us to keep quiet about its oppression of subject peoples, its alarming experiments in Orwellianism, signs of militarism etc.
With respect to the South China Sea, he mentions that to blame Obama for not deterring it, but he does not seem to be advocating resisting it in any case.
The US is regrettably in decline in various ways. We should not rely overly on US power for our security. A military clash between the US and China would have unspecified but perhaps obvious negative consequences for Australia. In the background is the possibility that China might use its growing military power against Australian interests, with the US unconcerned to intervene but Keating does not mention this possibility.
China is just as important to Australia as the US. Ok, but only with respect to economics. We are comfortable with American military power but not with Chinese, right?
Keating constantly emphasises trade, diplomacy and economic engagement, as if with these things done well enough questions of security and the use of military force will solve themselves. The US should not seek any new military alliances, eg with India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia or Vietnam.
He further says that regional alliances are not on offer to us either but the evidence is not convincing. Surely it is far too soon to give up on any possibility of regional alliances, backed up by the US, to counterweigh China's power.
Keating might think that because "China’s historical view is not rooted in ideological aspiration, universal or otherwise" China would not threaten other countries unless provoked. What of the South China Sea and Taiwan, and what of Tibet and the Uighurs, all cases where China does show a capability for aggression.
The old saying is that if you want peace, prepare for war. I do not believe China would perceive that the US or other countries are tempted to move against it but it should believe that aggression against Taiwan would get a response. Keating does not mention Taiwan. Should the US support Taiwan in resisting a Chinese takeover if it came to that? Should Australia assist? Again this something that the Australian government must think about.
Keating says that a land war against China would be unwinnable and that "the shape of Asia cannot be cast by a non-Asian power". This is surely uncontroversial. It is a naval war that cannot be so easily ruled out.
Should the US step up its response in the South China Sea? Should Australia support that, with freedom of navigation exercises? Or is Keating avoiding these questions, even though it is something the Australian government should be thinking about.
It does seem that K wants Australia to make an accomodation with China. We should not offend or provoke China. He does not mention human rights issues, the Uighur people, Tibet, Hong Kong, experiments in Orwellianism, and it is possible to infer that we should not mention those things either. China has an ongoing ambition to incorporate Taiwan into its rule. While one can understand how Chinese rulers might think they are entitled to Taiwan, it would not be good for anyone if they tried to achieve this any way except peacefully. Even now, with no threat of military force, their tactics to exclude Taiwan from diplomatic recognition anywhere in the world is not intrinsically a peaceful approach.
It does seem that Keating thinks we should treat China and the US in an even-handed way. Never mind, he says, that China is not a democracy. We should not fear Chinese espionage or underhand attempts at influence because we do not do that with the US. For myself, I would reject that out of hand. It is a matter of our values.
It is at this point I would have to conclude that I cannot accept what Keating seems to be suggesting, in that nothing should persuade us to keep quiet about China doing morally wrong and dangerous things. The fact that China is powerful is more reason to speak because there is more chance of these things becoming part of the world's future.
Also quite alarming is Keating's belief as it seems to be that Australia should turn a blind eye to Chinese intelligence activities in Australia.