The World

Apr 27, 2018

Turnbull’s allegiance to the US creates regional tension with China

Between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, the whole region is on edge.

Michael Sainsbury — Freelance correspondent in Asia and <em>Little Red Blog</em> Editor

Michael Sainsbury

Freelance correspondent in Asia and Little Red Blog Editor

If Malcolm Turnbull needed any further confirmation that being in strategic lockstep with the US, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, is going to be far tougher for him than his predecessors, events in recent weeks will have fulfilled his worst fears.

Turnbull -- like Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and John Howard before him -- has thrown his more or less unconditional support behind the US, further cruelling Australia’s control over its own destiny. But this comes at a pivotal point in history as China’s increasingly self-assured rise shifts the fulcrum of international diplomatic focus to the Asia Pacific.

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14 thoughts on “Turnbull’s allegiance to the US creates regional tension with China

  1. RL

    Well described MS, cheers.
    I’m a bit worried though because I’m starting to agree with your analysis of things.

  2. Marcus Hicks

    Funny how Malcontent had no issue leasing our most strategically important Port (Port of Darwin) to a company with direct links to the Chinese Government. Consistency & logic aren’t his strong points.

  3. David Nicholas

    Essentially Michael from where I sit, Australian foreign policy has been pretty much an illusion of the foolish. I have scoffed at this notion of us being a “Middle Power” and that we can balance our dependence on our trade with China with US hegemony in the Pacific. When this ‘balance’ notion was widely touted in in 2010-2011 that we possessed the capability to be deft doing what would be a clearly a delicate dance, to please everyone at the same time, I thought it was just plain stupidity. We cannot serve two masters and we should not have tried as subtlety is not one of our educated talents. We should have tried to find our way through the maze independently. But we came up short. This dance needed foreign ministers who could see the consequences of playing this game as it played out five-ten-twenty years down the road. Meaning knowing when we uttered policy at a presser in 2010 how that would immediately been seen by both Beijing and Washington as it related to their policies into the long term.
    The number of white papers on Australian strategy in the Pacific were always anti-Chinese in their tone and demeanour because people, like Rudd and Gillard were either anti-Communists in their outlook or very afraid of the same. The problem is no matter how fluent you were/are in Mandarin if you don’t like the people you converse with and lecture them on how to behave every time we come to their country they tend to piss on you from great height over years. One could argue that when it took us ten years to negotiate the China Free Trade Agreement —and not a very good trade agreement at that — when New Zealand negotiated their FTA in one should tell us something. Also when China decided that it would no longer take our recycled rubbish for processing a year or so ago, we didn’t see that this was a message about a bigger problem that has been building. So they have decided how to treat us as the American’s do, as poor country cousins.
    Essentially, the Chinese tolerate us for the essential commodities we have and can provide to them, but there is no friendly quid pro quo from them to us beyond our usefulness. Every time China extended the hand of friendship to us in the last 10 years that I’ve seen we either bit it or we accepted their largesse with a White Anglo-Saxon smugness and air of superiority. Julie Bishop is excessive using this behaviour. This is having ramifications. So much so that when we will need China’s economic largesse in the future in an emergency they will take their time in deciding.
    The US in the last ten years has become less flexible toward our ‘balancing’ in that they demand our obedience on all major policy positions on issues most of which are none of our immediate business. They insist that we must consider and get involved with policies such as Syria, Myanmar, Egypt, Libya; and follow willy-nilly the stupidity of Trump on North Korea and the South China Sea. To do this without so much as a question is just mind-boggling.
    That it is our strategic policy to follow the US and keep China at bay by excluding it from trading freely in the Pacific — the TPP — and that we snub the invitation to sign on to the Chinese Belt-Road Initiative four years ago now, in order to do America’s imperial bidding are decisions that defy credulity and which will no doubt will come back to haunt us.
    Blindly, we have made an enemy of China with little or no effort, but an enemy we couldn’t afford to make. I just shake my head in disbelieve at such stupidity. So it goes.

    1. Bill Hilliger

      David, well said.

    2. bref

      I quibble a couple of points.
      Essentially China only tolerates any western country because they have no choice. We are the source of their wealth. And that is precisely why there is less of a chance of war in the world today, not military power (although that plays a part), but trade.
      They didn’t single out Australia in not accepting recycled waste and in fact their decision will force us and other countries to finally get serious about packaging and recycling, and thats a good thing.

  4. brian crooks

    poor pathetic little malcolm, pushed pulled and bullied by trump to do his bidding, lips always pursed and ready to kiss trumps butt on demand, and forever on call to do his bidding, while the Chinese laugh at his weakness, imagine hawke or keating being treated like this, they`d soon put trump in his place.

    1. AR

      ..err, Hawke’s grovelling invitation for Raygun to test the MX missiles in this region?
      That was then, this is still then.

  5. bref

    In the light of the increasing irrelevancy of an arrogant US, maybe it is time to look more favourably to Asia, Europe, Canada and South Americas for trade and military ties. Its increasingly unlikely China will go to war with the very countries who buy their goods and are responsible for their wealth.
    Australians have been so brainwashed over the last 50 years, we’ve become little more than a sycophant to the US. Our pro US press bombards us with doom laden stories of China building a island-base in the Sth China Sea, nobody mentions that the US has over 200 bases ringing China and Nth Korea. We’re rightfully informed about human rights abuses in China, but seldom hear about the racist US judiciary system and the millions suffering in private jails in the US.
    Maybe its time to review some of our own agreements with the US. For starters we could cancel the ridiculously expensive fighter purchase, rethink some of their secret bases, maybe recall our own ambassador until such time they deem us worthy of having one of theirs.

    1. Bill Hilliger

      A vassal state of the U.S. does not dare to review agreements with the U.S.

    2. David Nicholas

      Well said. I think our reliance upon American military technology has been a mistake for decades. My problem is that we tend to contract with the US military when these machines are blueprints. The F111 purchase which took years to bring to fruition in the 1960s with huge cost overruns was a plane which was largely ineffectual in real time combat. That we repeated the same error with the F35 joint strike fighter and which any clear headed individual can see is out-of-date by the time we take delivery sometime in the 2020s just beggars we are fools for shiny objects. The US knows this and we fall for their dazzle-dazzle every time. Unbelievable!

      1. bref

        Its amazing that our pollies get away with wasting 100s of billions of dollars on the military which we never get back, yet bitch like mad over a paltry $50B spend on essential NBN infrastructure which will be paid back several times over its lifetime. (Waste in the sense that we could have bought aircraft with proven capabilities for a fraction of the price of the F35 JSF now predicted to be over $250M each, or spending $200B on submarines which will be obsolete before they’re even delivered)

  6. AR

    My personal favourite argument for this ludicrous confrontation is that by controlling the South China sea lanes we may be in danger of having our exports to … err, China curtailed.
    With which nation we have yoog trade surplus whereas our biggest trade deficit is with…, umm .. guess which Hegemon?

  7. Venise Alstergren

    I get awfully sick of Tiny Tits being credited with possessing a far greater depth and a far greater encompassing intellect than the woman deserves.

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