Chinese President Xi Jinping (Image: via AP/The Yomiuri Shimbun)

What’s the deal with inviting Australia to everything we’re not really part of? It started with the Eurovision song contest, and now we’re getting to go to the G7, like a bunch of rubes who get to sit at the big table.

We’re not the only ones being invited, but the others — South Korea, India and South Africa — are all much larger in terms of population and heft.

We’re the add-on, the white guys with the largely vacant lot at the end of an unfashionable cul-de-sac. Now nearly half-a-century old, the G7 is being reshaped yet again. After a brief period as the G8, with Russia, and the thought that it might become the G10, G12, etc, and the creation of a fully multilateral G20, we have returned to the Western command model with a few guest appearances.

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The absurdity of having a global leadership body in which Canada is a full member but India is not gives a lie to the notion that this is a group of parliamentary democracies. Italy may soon exit the democracy club; it is unlikely to be expelled.

The subtle shift in the group’s fortunes, and the world’s, can be seen in its changing rhetoric. Until a decade or so ago, it strutted across the Western, and then the world, stage. Now it is constituted as a defensive body against the remorseless rise of China, a rise the G7 countries have, separately, spent decades fostering.

Scott Morrison’s speech yesterday, with its lame attacks on China, is Australia singing for its supper at the table. The attack on the world’s leading non-white power has been subcontracted out to the white settler-colonial ratbag, and ensures that we will be invited back.

There is much to condemn in China, true. Pointing out that its rise out of imperialist-era poverty was achieved by ignoring almost everything the Washington consensus gang advised to, and imposed on, developing states — and is a heroic achievement of humankind — shouldn’t blind us to the fact that its continued authoritarianism is not merely generally repressive — an arguably justifiable strategy at this stage — but specifically racist, as regards the Uyghurs and others.

China, now, is sui generis. It is somewhat Marxist, somewhat capitalist, and somewhat of a normalised fascism. But we can’t say this was anything new. Its post-1979 Marxist “transitional” dirigisme was always tilted towards Han Chinese expansion within the country. No one raised a peep for decades.

Our self-interest would be best expressed by relentless sycophancy to the Chinese miracle, and utter silence on human rights. We’re the country who has become most utterly dependent on China. Well, except for the United States of course — and there’s the rub.

It was all “look at the gleaming towers of Shanghai”, and how Deng Xiaoping is a Carpenters fan, etc. So there is something weird about us having to be the muggins who calls out the big panda. We have the most to lose from angering it — and we are losing at the moment.

There is no “Chistralia” — we’re simply dependent. But there is a “Chimerica” with mutual interdependence based on China propping up US global dominance by currency, so that China’s US debt holdings are not immediately and catastrophically devalued.

That is holding off not merely greater conflict but the creation of a global China-India-etc-led pool currency to replace the greenback. That indicates a fascinating paradox about the course of the global liberal order. In one respect, the free-trade liberals were right.

Global interdependency has made war that much more difficult; everyone’s making money like bandits and don’t want to lose the grift. But far from promoting freedom, free trade ensures its opposite. It makes real objection to another nation’s murderous oppression impossible.

National self-sufficiency, to the greatest degree possible, is not merely a wise strategy in terms of survival, it allows for a real moral stand, and to stand up for oppressed groups within other countries. The noises we are making on Chinese human rights are just so much chin music.

I’m emphatically not saying that we shouldn’t make them for reasons of hypocrisy, not lecturing Asians, etc. I’m saying we, and others, gave away the capacity to give such pronouncements weight decades ago, and we all knew exactly what we were doing.

A third of a century ago, we went down the Anglo path of giving away our industrial base, rather than the German path of modernising it within a state-market framework. Was the German path even possible for us? We’ll never really know. We had great reserves of national solidarity to draw on in taking the latter, which could have been deracialised and repurposed. But the culture that has emerged from that standing-down may have made reclaiming such impossible: atomised, hedonised dependency has shaped us in a certain way.

But then, to a degree, if we’re really going to be honest, the impossibility of our position in the future was laid down deep in our past. Within the next two decades, the major powers’ military fighting capacity will surely become so high-tech and automated that any notion of our own national defence of this vast continent will become absurd.

These possibilities are not symmetrical. To put it in the bluntest realpolitik, a US-Australian alliance in such circumstances would rely on “whiteness” (or “non-East Asianness”) to bind it together. By those two decades hence, we will be a far more Eurasian nation than now. Even if we wanted to draw on that icky possibility, it may not be open to us. And the US may be changed substantially: a post-democratic isolationist nation, happy to hand over the hemisphere.

These events are already under way. However we prepare for them, the very worst way, it would seem, is to be the West’s official entry, null points, at this new song and dance spectacular.

In the short term we need to stay out of any and all American wars and “forward defences” — especially the very forward defence of ending up in a Chinese sea, between a rebel province Chinese island and a Chinese mainland — and, should total geopolitical conflict threaten in a couple of decades, make the fundamental decision to either let the US completely take us over in military terms, or admit that the place is indefensible and consider how and under what conditions we would acquiesce to a mass demographic realignment, and consider the project known as “Australia” to now be superseded.

Is Australia “like a bunch of rubes who get to sit at the big table” or are we big kids now? Send your thoughts to letters@crikey.com.au, and don’t forget to include your full name if you’d like to be considered for publication.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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