Australia and the sport of China baiting

August 15, 2022
A US aircraft carrier, guided-missile cruiser and guided-missile destroyers in the South China Sea. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Journalists’ aggressive questioning of China’s ambassador Xiao Qian’s presentation to the National Press Club on August 10 again showed how the bourgeois media stirs animosity towards China.

The reporting of Qian’s Press Club address, according to Sinologist Stephen Fitzgerald, “revealed as much about the reporters themselves as it did about the content of the Ambassador’s remarks”.

Fitzgerald was Australia’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic. He observed that Qian’s speech was “friendly, conciliatory and constructive”. It highlighted “the benefits of the economic relationship” and “Beijing’s willingness to reset and stabilise our relations” including “listing a number of specific issues” for collaboration.

Yet, the ambassador was confronted with the worst of Australian journalism. It was almost a competition in belligerence. Channel Nine's Chris Uhlmann was the most aggressive, yet much of the bourgeois media lauded him.

Michael Shoebridge, from the right-wing Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Qian’s speech was “core, boilerplate CCP [Chinese Communist Party] messaging about mutual benefit, proper handling of differences and China never seeking hegemony, expansion or a sphere of influence”. These sentiments, it seems, only “prove” China’s hostility.

Tensions between the United States and China continue to grow, with the US provoking China over Taiwan despite its official “one China policy”.

“We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-Strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” the US State Department said in May.

But the drive to war, perhaps over Taiwan, is real. The unthinkable is being thought and planned for.

The bipartisanship in approach from Australia's major parties means it can play a central role. It also indicates that nothing has been learned from decades of subservience to US ruling class interests.

Pelosi's provocation

Democrat speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “visit” to Taiwan had one aim: to raise Beijing’s ire. It achieved just that: the live-fire drills, missile launches and the invective from Beijing were inevitable.

Pelosi, the White House and the Pentagon knew China would respond this way. While speaking of “de-escalating” tensions, the federal government remains in lock-step with US imperialism.

There is a predictability about all of this.

Ever since China moved from being “workshop to the world” to becoming a threat to US economic supremacy, an endless demonisation campaign has been waged by the West and its media.

President Barack Obama first sought to preclude China from regional free-trade arrangements and shifted the bulk of its naval and air-force capability into the South China Sea. China reacted, supposedly “proving” its growing aggressiveness. The cycle repeats and today the majority of Australians have been won to the idea that China is a threat.

Taiwan is now the trigger point, with China’s claim to Taiwan being used to manufacture a threat to the West.

This was a position the US and Australia were happy to accept. Australia declared its position as early as 1972 when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam declared “the Australian Government recognises the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China [and] acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China”.

No subsequent Australian government has seen the need to alter that.

With its policy of “strategic ambiguity”, the US has managed to create division and discord. While not recognising Taiwan as a separate state, it maintains its pledge to support it if it is endangered.

A cynical and dangerous chicken and egg situation then follows: Taiwan is armed and supplied with US weaponry. China reacts. Taiwan must be supported.

US President Joe Biden has, at least twice publicly, stated that the US would support Taiwan militarily if it were deemed to be necessary.

Defence review announced

The Anthony Albanese government announced on August 3 that its new Defence Strategic Review looking into “future strategic challenges”, “the force posture it needs by 2032–33”, “investments required” and “funding needs” would report back in early 2023. Some have said it is a way to trim the sails. But it defends the expenditure of billions of dollars being spent on the Australia, United Kingdom and US military alliance (AUKUS) and the nuclear submarines.

It states: “Australia, the UK, and the US are examining the full suite of requirements that underpin the delivery of the nuclear-powered submarines.”

It states euphemistically that it will “help ensure we maximise the potential of this and other AUKUS partnership initiatives in Australia’s best strategic interests”.

AUKUS will remain in place and with it the stationing of hypersonic missiles, nuclear submarines and “off the shelf” submarines as an interim measure.

The Labor government claims to be trying to repair the Australia-China relationship, but continuing the policies of the former Coalition government says otherwise.

China’s policies regarding Taiwan are unambiguous, if dangerous. So much of its rhetoric is tied to domestic politics and the need for national legitimacy.

President Xi Jinping and the CCP use nationalism and nationalist symbols to maintain a sense of unity as the country pursues its path to capitalist dominance. It uses historic humiliations, meted out by Western imperialism, as motivation to promise a unified, “great” China.

The US is using Jinping’s refusal to bargain over Taiwan to bait the China. It is a dangerous game to be playing.

As the danger grows, the Labor government has pledged to continue a policy developed by the Coalition to spend $270 billion in the next decade on further militarising the region.

This is being sold to us as being essential to counter a Chinese threat. Living standards may crumble, but Australian workers’ growing impoverishment is a sacrifice to ensure US hegemony.

[Submissions to the Defence Force Review can be made here.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.