Are We Really Going to Sell Out the US Alliance for Property Prices? Australia’s China Choices

Jerri-Lynn here: This important post discuses choices that Australia faces in deciding what role China should play in its future. I was unaware just how aggressively China is deploying “soft power” and outright offers of money (or threats to withhold funds) in attempting to sway Australian foreign policy both in the short-term, in pressing China’s case for control of the South China Sea, and in the longer-term, to reconsider its alliance with the United States.

By David Llewellyn-Smith, founding publisher and former editor-in-chief of The Diplomat magazine, now the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics website. Originally posted at MacroBusiness

Finally the nation has been shunted into a decent debate about China and its role in Australia’s future. We know it’s a debate of substance because the Chinese Communist mouthpiece, The Global Times, was sufficiently exercised to mock it:

A Briefing Book, given to all senators and members by Australia’s Parliamentary Library recently, warned them of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and expressed concerns toward it. The book called on senators to adopt a prudent mind toward China affairs and to keep alert toward China’s motives behind its investments.

The book is an epitome of some Australians’ attitude toward China. The news that Labor Senator Sam Dastyari from New South Wales accepted political donations from a Chinese man has caused quite a stir. The Chinese donor was found to have paid his legal bills, and Dastyari reportedly supported China’s stance in the South China Sea issue. Conservative forces within Australia launched an assault on Dastyari and urged him to resign.

“I think the Australians need to make a choice,” said Colonel Tom Hanson, assistant chief of staff, US Army Pacific. “It’s very difficult to walk this fine line between balancing the alliance with the United States and the economic engagement with China.”

Some Australians seem to be deliberately hyping up the alarm toward China, which baffles Chinese society. China and Australia are geographically detached. Like Canada, Australia is an English-speaking country and apt for doing business, study, travel and migration. Canada used to have disputes with China over human rights. It is not difficult to understand as Canada belongs to the Western camp. But what bewilders us is why Australia keeps confronting China over security issues.

Southeast Asia is situated between China and Australia. But Australia seems to have more security concerns toward China than Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. It is even difficult to maintain a normal relationship with Australia now.

Geographic advantages grant Australia the most security among world countries. Its sense of insecurity comes partly from its own paranoia and partly it is created by itself. As an external nation, it is keen to get involved in Asia’s political disputes like the US. But its strength is relatively weak. The US wants to be a guard in Asia. Does Australia want to behave like an auxiliary policeman affiliated to the US?

Australia does not have to feel unsettled. It can rest easy due to being an ally of the US and stressing its identity as a Western country. At the same time, it needs China as its largest trading partner who is also willing to do business with it. Beijing will not force Canberra to pick a side. As long as Canberra knows what it is doing, Washington can do nothing about it.

China does not have to care about Canberra’s provocative words. But if it resorts to real actions to hurt China’s security such as sending warships to the South China Sea, it is bound to pay a heavy price. So far, China and Australia have only been engaged in a war of words, and their ties are not really affected. China’s relations with Canada have been warming up recently. The momentum of China-Europe ties keeps steady. The maritime disputes between China and the Philippines and Vietnam have been put under control. Australia should make reflections on whether it has gone too far in standing up to China.

That’s pretty clear. Beijing is happy to be friends so long as we stay out of any strategic tensions. If not look out, so says US strategic analyst Richard Fontaine, from the AFR:

“I did not sense there was a great appreciation for the specific vulnerabilities in the Australian economy,” said Mr Fontaine, who is currently the president of the Centre for a New American Security and has just spent two months as the inaugural Alliance 21 fellow at the University of Sydney’s US Studies Centre. His writings on “salvaging the global order” have been widely circulated within Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“If Australia were to do something that China considered provocative and it was going to retaliate what might that actually look like? What areas is it likely to impact and therefore how much risk Australia is willing to assume in order to push back.”

Mr Fontaine said retaliation was unlikely to be related to the iron ore trade but could take the form of a travel advisory warning or a directive to state-owned enterprises.

Precisely. What is most likely at stake here is the ‘citizenship export’ sector: education, immigration, property prices and capital imports (sold assets). Pretty much Australia’s current great hope for future economic development, known around here as the ‘McKibbin Doctrine’.

On the other hand, if Australia was to stand aside from any actual China/US tensions what would be the strategic cost? Again Richard Fontaine:

Fontaine argues the global order, an open and rules-based system, is under threat on a number of fronts including “China’s challenge to maritime rules across the South China Sea”.

“Countries like Russia and China were not among the architects 70 years ago, and they have been brought into the house only haphazardly,” writes Fontaine, who is now president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

“It remains unclear whether they wish to make major renovations to that house, or to tear it down entirely.”

As a middle power the cost to Australia from a collapse of the “rules based” multilateral system would be extreme. We would need to divert enormous new resources to defense spending, the Great Power tensions we are currently witnessing would morph into a permanent ‘Cold War’ and the US is quite likely to shift to a policy of China containment, forcing Australia into the very choice it is aiming to avoid.

It is here that we find an old school of Australian strategic thinkers, also at the AFR:

In foreign policy circles this is known as “independence within the alliance”, a posture favoured by former Labor prime ministers Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating.

…”Australia needs a foreign policy, and it needs it urgently,” said Keating, who was prime minister from 1991-96 and now sits on the advisory board of the China Development Bank, at a forum this week.

“China will once again be a great state in the world. Through its population and GDP, China [economy] will end up being one and a half or twice as big as the US.”

Keating believes Australia should respond by joining the Association of South East Asian Nations and avoiding any involvement in a potential US-China conflict in the South China Sea.

[Hugh] White, for his part, still thinks Turnbull is inclined towards a more independent foreign policy.

“I just think he is reluctant to open a debate on China, which is a big and scary subject,” White says via phone.

“That’s equally true of the [current Labor opposition]. There is a kind of cartel where both sides agree this issue will stay off the agenda.”

Which seems to be the default position for pretty much everything of importance on the Aussie agenda. Anyway, ‘independence within the alliance’ is what we’ve been doing for the past decade whether it was spelled out or not. You may be able to palm off the Chinese for a while longer by stating it openly but the Great Power tensions will simply keep rising. Australia may be ready to sell the US out but Japan and Korea sure aren’t. The three-way enmity there with China is never far below the surface. And if it comes to conflict in the South China Sea (or elsewhere) then the rules based system will be trashed whether we go or not.

The strategic fallout for ANZUS may also be severe. ‘Independence within the alliance’ that persists with Australia’s current economic transformation is turning us into a Chinese espionage hot spot, also from the AFR:

The government’s top intelligence experts are concerned Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull isn’t taking their warnings about the security threat posed by China seriously enough and the former banker is relying on advice from outside experts.

Despite vetoing a Chinese bid for Sydney’s electricity network this month, Mr Turnbull and some other cabinet ministers are reluctant to act on or receive warnings that China is engaging in spying on an “industrial scale” and that business secrets are among its top targets, three sources with senior contacts in the security services said.

“It is far more ambitious and better resourced than ever before,” said Paul Monk, an intelligence and foreign affairs expert who headed China analysis for the Defence Intelligence Agency.

“It’s notorious with politicians that they find intelligence to be a new thing when they go into politics. It’s things they would prefer not to know or suggest actions that can be embarrassing.”

“There is an unspoken rule that we spy on each other,” said Alan Dupont, a former military officer and defence analyst. “But to target in a massive way the business community of your trading partners and friends, in a way China has done, is unprecedented.”

In case you don’t know, these are the top minds in Australian strategic thought and what they are saying is more than a little scary. I mean, check out this bombshell from Peter Hatcher:

It is a polite fiction that donors will give money to politicians without expectation of a return on investment.

One of the biggest paymasters of Australian politics, the chairman of the property developer Yuhu Group, laid this out explosively for all to see this week.

…Huang has paid more than $1 million to both sides of Australian politics since 2012.

He is also the financier for Bob Carr’s pro-China outfit, giving $1.8 million to set up the Australia China Relations Institute.

Carr’s outfit is so relentlessly pro-China that Professor John Fitzgerald, of Swinburne University, has written of “the monotony of Carr’s China-Whatever comments”.

…None of this is happening in a vacuum. The president of China, Xi Jinping, has publicly called on the patriotism of overseas Chinese to advance Beijing’s interests in foreign countries:

“As long as the overseas Chinese are united,” declared Xi, “they can play an irreplaceable role in realising the Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation as they are patriotic and rich in capital, talent, resources and business connections.”

The Chinese Communist Party even has a department responsible for the co-ordination of Chinese diaspora and international communities – as sinologist Gerry Groot, of Adelaide University, has written:

“The United Front Work Department (UFWD) is the organisation through which the Party reaches out to many key non-party groups within and outside China in order to achieve important political goals.

“It also monitors sensitive constituencies and selects representatives from them who they can then incorporate into the political system.”

There is a group of Chinese Communist Party party-connected influencers in Australia acting not merely for personal or commercial advantage but for China’s national interest.

The ABC’s Chris Uhlmann reported that “the security warning to party chiefs is another indicator of the growing concern in intelligence agencies about the use of ‘soft power’ in Australia.

“That includes donations to politicians and universities, urging community groups to press Beijing’s cause, increasing control over Chinese language media and buying space in mainstream media.

“The immediate goal is to push China’s case for control of the South China Sea and, long-term, to urge a rethink of Australia’s alliance with the US.”

Inside the parties, the connection between Chinese money and Australian foreign policy is being made starkly plain.

Senior Labor figures have told MPs that Senator Stephen Conroy’s tough position on China’s disputed claims in the South China Sea have cost Labor a lot of money, well informed sources tell me.

Specifically, they’ve said that big Chinese donors withheld $450,000 in payments that otherwise would have been given to Labor, the sources said.

…By offering, or withholding, money, this is an attempt at deep, strategic corruption, an effort to pay politicians to change Australian foreign policy.

Total disclosed payments to the major parties by Chinese corporate and business interests in the two years to June 30 last year was $5.89 million.

An informed official tells me: “There is very high level concern inside ASIO about the use of donations to purchase access and influence.

“It’s concern about systematic behaviour by people connected to the Chinese state apparatus. It’s centrally directed by Chinese intelligence.”

The obvious conclusion to draw for the Americans is that under such an espionage assault, little Straya is no longer a trustworthy “five eyes” intelligence partner. Moreover, if we were to abandon the US in a North Asian skirmish with China, or indicate that we would do so in advance, then why share intelligence with us now? Or, for that matter, spend trillions on policing the Pacific hegemony that enforces the rules-based system? In the simple calculus of real politik what’s in it for them?

None of this is really as hard as it appears. It’s only hard if we allow the fundamental tension between the economy and our strategic outlook to develop further. That tension is not between Australia as a Chinese trading partner of goods like raw materials on one hand, and the US as the regional hegemon on the other. The supply of raw materials to developing countries and emerging powers supports the international rules-based system because without free access to commodities nobody can grow and invasions for access become a rational choice for governments. The rules-based system polices the sea lanes that keep that trade flowing.

No, the fundamental tension is between where Australia’s economy is going and the US alliance. The strain is between the McKibbin Doctrine – selling to the Chinese everything that is not bolted down and the ‘citizenship export’ sector of high immigration, education exports, property prices – and the US alliance. There is no getting around this. If we allow that part of the economy to continue to develop and dominate then we are ipso facto entering an altogether deeper engagement with China that will render us strategically dependent upon the rising Great Power of North Asia and whatever it decides to do with the “rules based” system of Pacific strategic relations. There is no “independence within the alliance” that supports the current rules-based system policed by a US hegemon, there is only risking it by backing an unproven new one.

We might choose to back the new kid on the block but if so we should do it with our eyes open. Given it is totalitarian, we do not know to what extent it will at some point rely upon external aggression to support internal power.

On the other hand, the US is still the great Liberal Empire of our time, the greatest democracy on earth by some distance. It has no interest in leading wars of aggression in the Pacific. This is not some glib “end of history” drivel about democracies never invading one another. The US has been a troubled alliance partner in a decade of global misadventure that was shockingly destructive to itself and others. It might next elect a weirdo to the Oval Office and turn inwards for a while. It is very far from perfect. But its track record of support for an Asian rules-based system of international relations is very good (with some prominent Cold War exceptions) and that benefits Australia in ways so large that it is difficult to measure.

The answer to this strategic dilemma is actually pretty easy. When I was publishing The Diplomat, the then Chinese Ambassador to Australia, the elegant Fu Ying, recounted a story about travelling to far northern Australia where she imagined diggers and US marines fighting side by side on the beaches against Japanese invasion. It was at the moment, she said, that she understood that the strategic links between Australia and the US go deep into history, and exist beyond simple alliance paraphernalia (it may be that knowledge that has the Chinese state working so intensively to disrupt it). So, to manage our strategic tension we simply do what Fu Ying might have expected us to do, we take away Chinese leverage by:

properly policing Australia’s foreign property buyer rules;
banning Chinese investment in strategic assets while freeing it up in raw materials (including agriculture);
ratcheting down immigration levels;
focusing hard on improving general economic competitiveness so that we rebuild tradable sectors instead of relying on selling everything off to prosper, and
ban political donations.
We do this within a clear foreign policy, strategic, investment and trade framework, communicated through white papers and consistent decision-making so that it is clear to Beijing that we are their loyal partner in their developmental economic journey within the existing rules-base system of regional governance. And we tell the US that we back them all the way as the regional hegemon.

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  1. ambrit

    This all sounds suspiciously like what’s happening in America with the Government, Parties, Wall Street and AIPAC. Just as is happening here in America, short term thinking, and a focus on “personal” enrichment has corrupted ‘Public Policy’ to the extent that said ‘Public Policy’ is becoming increasingly counter productive for the society as a whole. Seeing similar tensions arising in the Antipodes leads the attentive observer to conclude that this trend in society is All Western; it is a symptom of Neoliberalism, and perhaps, the font of Neoliberalisms eventual decline and fall. The sad part is that many “little people” will suffer as a consequence. Call this effect an intended consequence of the Neoloberal Playbook. Inequality in bad outcomes is perhaps the major issue where the poor and powerless have a greater share of the anti-benefits than the wealthy.
    Napoleons’ “sleeping Dragon” is stirring.

    1. Optimader

      It seems A reasonable contemplation that with a population around 23MM Australia is at risk of loosing it’s cultural and economic Sovereignty to modest short term personal interests of those in power

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Australia must line up with whichever power keeps the sea lanes open, back in the day that was England, now it’s the US, in the future maybe it’s the Chinese.
        The fact that the US and MI5 executed a coup in Australia that toppled the government back in 1975 doesn’t help people’s view of the Americans. The (much) older generation still recalls being rescued during WWII but that fund of goodwill is dying off.

  2. Kulantan

    This post is accurate in terms of facts but I would ask the opposite question. Would we really antagonise our largest trading partner and regional super power for an Alliance that has gotten us to participate in illegal wars and make our society less safe and free.

    The whole idea that the US is an upholder of a “rule based” international order is a nonsense to the victims of torture, citizens of Iraq and all those blown to pieces by drones in areas where war hasn’t even been declared.

    As for Australia being part of a rules based international order, we have supported the US in all of its breaches and have committed more than a few of our own (our refugee concentration camps spring to mind).

    All this talk of rules based international order amounts to the aging global hegemon threating to revoke our preferred status in the current order. While its not a threat without weight (and allying with the Chinese doesn’t look great) its important not to swallow such propaganda whole, as it is a choking hazard.

    Finally this episode tells us that we have to participate in whatever five minute hate America has going at the time, regardless if how how irrational, dangerous and self harming it is. All our bombing brown people in the Middle East doesn’t give us any credit, we have to remain aboard the crazy train till it terminates or else. What a health relationship.

    1. fajensen

      While its not a threat without weight (and allying with the Chinese doesn’t look great)
      If Australia wants betters deal and more “respect” from the US, there has to always be the option of going with the Chinese or the Russians etcetera, whatever the bogeyman of the day is.

      There is a material difference between being a courtesan or a housewife married to Bubba (or Chang, for that matter).

      In Denmark we blindly follow the similarly-sounding McKinsey doctrine, which is to sell everything that McKinsey deems is worth anything, whether it is nailed down or not, cheaply to American “investors” like Goldman Sachs. That’s what unquestionable loyalty to only one master will buy you.

    2. norm de plume

      The Alliance has been a bipartisan article of faith since WW2, when the US took over from Britain as guarantor of our security. The reason we sometimes seem to be goading China is the same one that explains why Germany and other Euro nations do their best to appear huffy with Putin and Russia – because they, and we, are told to.

      The rising economic clout of China has seen the foundations of that ironclad, politically catholic, right or wrong support of the US eroding, and while up until the last decade or so Labor aspirants and apparatchiks like Mark Arbib and even former PM Bob Hawke were happy to have the odd chinwag with the local CIA chieftains, there is now schmoozing competition from the Chinese, not just to aid territorial aspirations but also to push free trade agreement barrows.

      And so we have the Dastyari affair, a storm in a teacup really but an important bellwether. Of course, all sorts of influential people have done all sorts of things for the Americans over the years, with some mutual back-scratching happening you would think, but the idea of China corrupting our pols is a shock to the system for many here. There may be an element of racism in some of it, but its more just the realisation that we are between a rock and a hard place, between irresistible force and immovable object, and we will lose skin whatever we do – there are no safe choices.

      It’s intriguing that one of the journos quoted above, Chris Ullmann, wrote a book which was turned into one of the better political thrillers of the last few years – Secret City. There is a macguffin plot which is not too bad but the main interest is the insider’s view of this growing superpower tension in Canberra and the increasing need to take sides in our politics. Neither behemoth is portrayed as better, just two bigs dogs acting in their own best interests with us as the meat in the sandwich.

      An aside – Dastyari bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Bean, something seized upon by opposing Liberal Senator Eric Abetz in a debate in the chamber on the free trade agreement with China. Dastyari, not to be outdone, called Abetz ‘Colonel Klink’, a reference to Abetz’s great uncle Otto, who was Nazi ambassador to the Vichy government. But it’s fair to say Abetz looks almost as much like Klink as Dastyari does Bean.

      The debate on that Chinese free trade pact was led by Labor’s Penny Wong, not only a rare pollie of Chinese descent but also our first openly gay female senator. She wasn’t pushing China’s barrow, far from it. She is a dyed in the wool TPP acolyte and salesperson and she was mounting a scare campaign based on the possibility of Chinese ISDS suits brought against Australian governments.

      Thing is, she reminds me of Mr Robot’s WhiteRose.

  3. nothing but the truth

    As Mancur Olsen had said – societies eventually are controlled and the surplus extracted by narrow, tightly related groups (hint, hint).

    On the other hand, our “Open Society” types keep insisting there cannot be a large scale conspiracy… (because they themselves are one)?

  4. Optimader

    The answer to this strategic dilemma is actually pretty easy…….So, to manage our strategic tension we simply do what Fu Ying might have expected us to do, we take away Chinese leverage by:

    properly policing Australia’s foreign property buyer rules;
    banning Chinese investment in strategic assets while freeing it up in raw materials (including agriculture);
    ratcheting down immigration levels;

    Altough easily proposed, in execution, I dont think there will be anything easy when it comes to not being absorbed into the Chinese Borg collective.

    The president of China, Xi Jinping, has publicly called on the patriotism of overseas Chinese to advance Beijing’s interests in foreign countries:

    1. Emma

      “banning Chinese investment in strategic assets while freeing it up in raw materials including agriculture” Given the increasing issue around water resource utilization within Asia, and the potential security risks which this issue entails, I suspect that point on agriculture requires additional thought….

    2. Skippy


      Australian assets were sold off long ago to America and the EU during the Keating period with the free market reforms and RBA joining the cartel, which was accelerated during the Howard period to reduce the national deficit… as his stripe are want to do for ideological reasons and not economic.

      Disheveled Marsupial…. all the anguish over the sale of national assets is a horse after it has left the barn and across the horizon…. at least the Chinese aren’t bending us over to buy F22’s or F35’s…

  5. JTMcPhee

    Does anyone think that the misleading personification that our Game of RISK!-playing World Leaders call “China” will be any more adept, with soft or hard power, than an other set of corruption-building, crapifying racketeers, at any kind of stewardship or governance?

    What outcomes do us humans want from the political economy, again? What outcomes are possible?

  6. christy

    Its very simple. The US wants Australia on board it’s crazy train, or else. (courtesy of Citi, JPM, Wallstreet, USMIC, TPP)

    The US is holding Australia’s feet to the fire, or getting ready to waterboard it, whichever.

    If I were Australia’s leader, I would stay away, very FAR away. I wouldn’t want any piece of that US turd pie.

      1. Emma

        China secretly wants New Zealand because the feng shui is really wobbly there.
        What with more sheep than hobbits, they’ve clearly missed serious fundamental advances in humanity, haven’t they?!
        It’s like not letting grains become beer instead of bread, mate!
        But this suits China so they’ll pretend to go after Australia when in reality they’re really after New Zealand.
        And just how will they do it?
        They’ll enter New Zealand with a bomb squad disguised as the Beijing Opera. Then they’ll carry out controlled explosions of sheep…..
        And vegemite sarnies.
        Then there’ll be nothing left standing but little hobbits to nibble on!

        1. optimader

          vegemite sarnies

          It’s like not letting grains become beer instead of bread, mate!
          Need to brew enough beer to maintain a proper inventory of Vegemite

          vegemite, bags of money and promises of more…

        2. ChrisPacific

          That sounds like an early Peter Jackson movie.

          Controlled explosions of sheep would largely hit rural areas and not do anything very much (contrary to what your Australian friends may have led you to believe, there is not one in every bedroom here). They would do better to booby trap the coffee shops and cafes – in Wellington at least there would be barely a block left standing.

        1. christy

          This article explains where I’m coming from.

          The world’s players are getting tired of US bullying. Putin and Xi are building/have built a coalition to counter the US hegemony. BRICS was only the beginning as Putin has already sought out allies strategically and militarily in the Middle East, (including Turkey where Erdogen is shifting his rhetoric) surrounding borders near the Ukraine and Poland (where NATO is building up military) and the South Seas where the US is taunting the Iranians and Chinese militarily.

          Australia is determining which ‘side’ it will partner with.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      No, not “gone”, just off the front bench (shadow ministry). He’s still a senator, and a damned fine one at that.
      Brilliant fast move by Labor, gets attention back on the teetering Turnbull government. With a one-seat majority all they need is a bathroom break by one of their MPs and their ability to govern ceases. Last time there was a one-seat government it fell and they had a new election.

  7. Ignim Brites

    It is difficult to imagine what national security interest Australia has in upholding an American rules based hegemony in the South China sea or in Southeast Asian waters in general. Granted there is a sort of race based comfortableness to it. It is clear however that the US really has no compelling national security interests in maintaing hegemony in Southeast Asian seas. And that being the case, efforts to maintain such hegemony will certainly become soon a topic of ferocious partisan debate. This is the iron law of contemporary American foreign policy, anything that is not clearly and unequivocally required for national security will be subject to ferocious partisan debate.

    1. JTMcPhee

      As with “the US,” parts of what makes up the pseudo-entity so carelessly described as “Australia” have very clear selfish (by measure of species survival and all that) notions of what constitutes “national security interests.” Another marvelous blaaah of a chimaerical euphemistic obfuscation, like “enemy,” that “everybody knows what it means so clearly by observation and experience that there’s never any need to define it, and if “we” tried, we would only argue over minutiae and embarrass ourselves by not actually having any idea what it means, or the definition (like “War is a racket!”) might show up the bezzle and fraud and ugly stupid reality of the Game, thereby complicating the serving of “our” interests. And besides, it really feels so powerful and intelligent and on the side of history and it feels so powerful to say it out loud or put it on a PowerPoint screen or repeat it for emphasis in a white paper. Another undefined term that pushes so many factitious buttons (domination, profit, extraction, violence, careers in “the industry” even for women! [Applause!],, “jobs,” on and on) and keeps the Juggernaut of “human progress” rolling toward the cliff, while riders on the carriage toot their bugles and fire off bullets and missiles in all directions, and troll for and reel in all the extractable fish and other fauna and extractables in a growing circle of reach…

  8. JTMcPhee

    “Are we really going to sell out the US alliance for property prices?”

    Who is this “we” of which the headline writer speaks? Do “we” have a damn thing to say about the framing and structure and motions of the Owners? Other than among “ourselves,” in blogs and such? Which (“blogifiication”) fits one definition of “say,” maybe, but not the one that counts when it comes to setting and enforcing that other mushword, “policy.”

    I’m guessing that “we” have no substantive, collective, collaborative, pithy statement or notion or idea of what outcomes “we” want (and have any chance of requiring) from “our” political economy. “Our” only in the sense that we live within the margins of it. but hardly “our” in the sense that we have any say in in what said larger complexity actually does…

  9. Optimader

    Who is this “we” of which the headline writer speaks?

    I’ll suppose he is referring to fellow Australians.

    1. Quade Masters

      It’s my understanding that we pumped 5 billion into Ukraine in the 10 years before the coup in order to prep them for America’s love…

  10. Punxsutawney

    To the Colonel in the US Army:

    If China is such a threat, why do we, (the US) allow a multi hundred million annual trade deficit with them? Why do we encourage sending our advanced manufacturing know how and jobs to them? Are you being played the fool here?

    The answer is because, someone, or someones, are getting very wealthy doing so. I hope they have your back when it comes to conflict, but my guess is they will be nowhere to be found, And it will be the people in the middle and bottom that suffer.

    1. flora

      That question isn’t the Colonel’s to answer. That question is properly directed to US politicians – who, over the course of 2 decades, have changed tax code to encourage offshoring, of even nat. defense material manufacturing.

      1. Punxsutawney

        Yes, those same politicians who will be happy to use the Colonel as a prop at a campaign rally, won’t care much how their decisions affect his job, as long as they have their positions, and the money and power that go with it.

        As near as I can tell from my local US Rep, they are either intentionally, or unintentionally clueless about the connection.

        1. flora

          I agree. Your local US Rep should look at the 2 charts in this Bloomberg piece. This is what happens when you offshore most of your manufacturing to China et al. Both North America and the EU countries have gone down this garden path. (If your Rep thinks this is a reason to push for TPP, instead of repatriating manufacturing via incentives, your Rep is clueless.)

          1. flora

            my opinion: the neoliberals and the finance sector know the price of everything and the value of nothing, as the old saying goes.

            1. Punxsutawney

              Indeed on he Neolibs.

              My rep talks about how TPP will help Potato farmers, if exporting all the potatoes around here will make up for the lost manufacturing. Vote: Clueless

  11. Oregoncharles

    On an ancillary topic: The South China issue bothers me because the Chinese claims – to the whole enchilada – are so patently absurd. They’re a blatant case of imperial grab-ass – but then, China is a deeply imperial state, historically even more isolated, ethnocentric, and grasping than the US. Recent vagaries in the power balance have moderated that, but they’re reverting to form. On top of that, the “nine-dash-line” they base their claims on is itself purely imperial, just an assertion by the prior regime. You’d think the “Communists” would be embarrassed about it, but that’s their policy: assert every conceivable imperial claim. Historical continuity, in spades.

    From an Australian point of view, the suggestion that they just rely on their natural moat and stay out of it makes a lot of sense. Why borrow trouble? But it’s equally true that they’re especially dependent on maritime and international law. A dilemma, and I don’t suppose the US is helping any.

  12. oho

    Australia’s biggest threat ain’t China, it’s some sort of climate or geopolitical-induced upheaval in Indonesia or Papua New Guinea that sends waves of migrants to Australia’s northern shore and will dwarf Australia’s present migrant issues.

    just being a realist.

  13. Oregoncharles

    ” It has no interest in leading wars of aggression in the Pacific. ”
    Snicker. Maybe, given the geographic limitation, but not something you’d want to rely on.

    OTOH, China is a nuclear power and should be safe from that sort of thing. Of course, I suppose the Russians thought so, too. The US is a DETERIORATING great power, neither reliable nor predictable.

  14. Patrick

    Australia should be worried that the US sells out to China and abandons any southeast asian commitment anyway. At that point any australian antagonism of China will end up doing Australia tremendous harm.

    These days money counts more than principles in the US, and China has the money, so the US sellout to China is all but inevitable. Really, the decision was made years ago when we decided to deindustrialize; giving up all our tangible assets for intangible assets. Now our national leverage shrinks daily.

  15. RBHoughton

    Oz has already chosen. The north coast is lined with American military establishments and they are not leaving. Its rare for the US to withdraw from a country once its got in – the Philippine Islands is the only example I can think of and Duterte might again withdraw soon which would make US commitment to stay on in Australia even stronger.

    The difficulty is the successful Chinese strategy of improving commercial ties with Malaysia, Indonesia and the rest of S E Asia and not trying to install military bases and surveillance bases. If USA had shown some interest in Asian cultures and history it might have been different but that is not the western way and, anyway, in Australia the people in power are all European refugees with the same cultural proclivities as the States.

    There is a small group in UK who are floating an idea of resurrecting the old Commonwealth with the Dominions leading the group in the same way the Security Council leads the UN. This is intended to replace the trade Britain has jeopardised in Europe. That might help Australia decide but its not going to happen quickly if at all.

    Relying on the American war economy has been a good policy in the past but the costs mount-up even with the economies of drones and mercenaries and the underlying US economy does not look good. I think Australia’s best course is to keep her head down and mind her own business.

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