The war between Russia and Ukraine and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization backers continues, but Australia’s chief international focus is much closer to home — continuing to build tension between Australia and China where no threat should exist but where it is being manufactured.
The decision to buy nuclear submarines, join belligerent coalitions like AUKUS, extravagantly boost military spending and behave in a provocative fashion towards China can only have one result: entrench bilateral hostility.
A recent comment by Peter Hartcher, political editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, painted a grim picture for the immediate future. Somewhat strangely, he said trade boycotts and nuclear submarines were “unthinkable” just three years ago.
The future scenario is worth considering, but so too is the journey that has led to this point.
Polls conducted by the Lowy Institute in 2018 found 52% believed China would act responsibly in the world. In just two years that figure had plunged to 23%! By last year, it had dropped to 16%.
At the same time, faith in the Australia-United States alliance has become stronger: 75% believe the US would commit troops to defend Australia, should the need arise.
A seemingly endless cycle of deception is being played out. The anti-China crusaders do their work. The polls reflect this, and the same polls are used by the same propagandists to prove that a problem exists. This energises them to produce even more disturbing propaganda until the next poll figures are published.
This has been going on since US President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” committed the US to “contain” China. Hartcher, who has been in the forefront of the propaganda, feigns surprise at the shift in opinion.
Supporters of Australia adopting a war-like stance must be more than happy with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's obsequious pledge: “We will move in lockstep with our partners and allies."
Journalists sometimes conjecture. In the propagandised world in which we live some, like Hartcher, also offer “expert” policy advice.
Last year, the hawkish Liberal Senator Jim Molan lamented that despite the billions of extra dollars being pumped into the “defence” budget, the military “lacks lethality, sustainability and mass”.
Morrison’s decision to boost the army by 18,000 troops is considered by media as being nowhere near enough, nor fast enough to be effective.
Hartcher has proposed a plan: introduce conscription; stop selling iron ore to China; and offer more facilities for US troops.
A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a serious journalist would consider attempting to have such nonsense printed, far less have it taken seriously.
The argument for conscription is, in part, a response to the new German government’s turn to militarism including the discussion of conscription. The toe-in-the-water talk here is tempered by inferring that the conscripts would be used for relief work with floods and fires and in aged-care homes. It is a ploy designed to win public support for something that has always been anathema to the public. This conscription is presented as pacifist in nature, and would leave the army the freedom to get on with the core business of preparing for war. It is a spurious argument at best.
Australia is also being urged to stop selling iron ore to China. Last year, 80% of iron ore exports went to China. The fantasy is that Australia’s much vaunted “interests” will be furthered by an act of economic suicide.
In a world where propaganda takes over from truth, fantasy may have a place, but how will the billions upon billions of dollars that have been earmarked for Australia’s militarisation be found without selling commodities to our most important trading partner?
War, in the minds of the warmongers, is both imminent and inevitable. If all goes to their plan we will have thousands more soldiers, a conscript army to back them up and a ravaged economy. We will be moving in lockstep with our partners, as the PM pledged.
This brings us to point three of the master plan.
A greater use of Australian territory should be made available to the US for its nuclear-armed ships, planes and to further rotate forces from bases. This argument is based on the idea that US forces and materiel will be somehow “safer” here than they would be if they were in closer range of Chinese missiles.
At the same time, theorists accept that this would potentially make Australia a target in that seemingly inevitable conflict.
The disturbing part about all of this is not that it can be imagined, or written, but that it is becoming acceptable fare in the media and, therefore, for the public.
There is now an unquestioned assumption that China is a threat, that the threat is real and that our lives and security are in immediate danger. At some stage, tangible evidence will need to be offered to support this claim.
The potential for economic chaos must keep many a capitalist awake at night. Australia’s economy has long been based on extractive industries. While these industries employ relatively few workers, they provide vast profits for even fewer capitalists. The total export value of commodities to the world last year was $475 billion, $246 billion of which came from minerals and fuels.
Given that 35% percent of Australia’s trade is with China, how willing will these sections of capital be to heed the call to war?
To move in lockstep with “allies” is leading us into an abyss.