Donald Trump Xi Jinping
(Image: AP/Susan Walsh)

"The Balkans produce more history than they can locally consume," Churchill is said to have sagely and hilariously remarked. He didn’t of course. It’s from a rather brutal Saki short story, in which a dullard MP’s one genuinely witty remark in his entire career -- though the "more history" bon mot is about Crete -- leaves him convinced he has a talent, causing his wife to take an overdose.

This jolly take came to mind while reading the right and centre commentariat's eructations on the China problem. Or the America problem, depending on your politics. Or, really, the Australia problem, and the double game of verbally committing to the US alliance while ignoring our deliberately chosen dependence on China.

This double game was started in the post-Cold War neoliberal era, and could have continued to this day, if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty slid through Congress in Obama’s lame-duck final two months. The TPP's intent was neoliberal economic encirclement of China -- keeping the temperature low, while maintaining US power projection in the region. The foreign policy establishment could still be carrying on with the double game to this day, but Donald Trump’s trade war has made that impossible.