Monday, April 16, 2018

When will Australia find the courage to challenge China?

When will Australia find the courage to challenge China?

Mar 13, 2018
While the world stands transfixed by the daily Donald Trump soap opera, there is less focus on an equally powerful man who will cast an even longer shadow over Australia.
China’s rubber-stamp parliament has struck down a decades-old rule that set term limits on its presidents, allowing President Xi Jinping to rule for as long as he wants.
Of 2964 delegates, only two brave souls voted no and three abstained. But, let’s face it, Xi’s rule is so absolute that the hardy few dissenters were probably also under orders. A clean sweep might look a tad contrived.
Image result for When will Australia find the courage to challenge China?The move was just Xi’s latest step in a long dance towards absolute power.
The Communist Party trumps executive government and Xi already leads the all-powerful seven-man Politburo. He is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, which means he runs the People’s Liberation Army. There are no term limits on either of those jobs.
Xi leads every policy group that counts and has even had his political philosophy, ‘Xi Jinping Thought’, written into the Communist Party’s Constitution.
Keen observers might spot a pattern.
The Communist Party is at the centre of all things in China and it now exists to support Xi. This latest move puts beyond doubt that the president has the disposition of an emperor. He is settling in for a long reign and his goal is to see China reassert its rightful place as the ‘Middle Kingdom’, bridging the gap between heaven and earth.
In this world order, other nations will be no more than tributaries before the imperial throne – and you upset the emperor at your peril.
Don’t expect to read any criticism of this breathtaking power-grab coming out of China.

Image result for When will Australia find the courage to challenge China?Unlike Trump, Xi does not have the irritation of an unruly media because the state owns or controls every publication and watches over the Internet through a nation-wide network of censors.
In the lead up to the vote on abolishing presidential term limits, a long list of words and images were banned. These included pictures of Winnie the Pooh, apparently because the unkind see a resemblance between the rotund bear and their portly President.
There also won’t be much criticism from Australia’s politicians or most of its business people and academics. Our politicians are terrified of upsetting our major trading partner and China is easily displeased.
There was a recent breakout when Australia objected to China’s overt meddling here and the Government drafted laws aimed at cracking down on foreign political interference. 
That sparked threats of retribution from China and there are signs that the relationship has suffered. So there is little appetite in the political class to buy into another fight with Beijing.
Most of Australia’s business leaders are so bewitched by China’s rivers of cash that some of them praise Xi as running the best government in the world.
They clearly don’t mind that their favourite president runs an oppressive regime that jails peaceful protesters and human rights lawyers, arrests foreign nationals in front of their own diplomats and holds the dubious honour of being the first country since Nazi Germany to have a Nobel Peace Prize winner die it its custody.

Image result for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody
Imagine the outcry if Trump did anything similar.
Australia’s universities are as bad because they are utterly dependent on full-fee-paying Chinese students. So many of our leading academics turn a blind eye to the fact that the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations are a front for the Communist Party and ignore serious concerns that have been raised about allowing Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes on campuses.
Our politicians, businesspeople and academics have good reason to fear that criticism will be followed by punishment.
Norway’s relations with Beijing were put in the deep freeze for six years after it awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to democracy advocate, Liu Xiabobo.
And China battered South Korea’s tourism industry by banning group tours to the country after it agreed to deploy a US missile defence system on its soil.
But if our political, academic and business leaders quake at the idea of criticising Beijing now, how will they fare with the larger tests which surely lie ahead?
There is one obvious example.
Beijing says it has no territorial ambitions, but that is only true if you accept its illegal claim over most of the South China Sea. Their reclaimed islands are being turned into a necklace of military bases.
Much of Australia’s trade passes through those waters. So how much imagination does it take to conceive of a time when it might suit Beijing to slow that trade down – or stop it – particularly when it has already shown it punishes countries that annoy it?
Image result for The US military maintain frequent patrols of the South China Sea in an attempt to keep China's territorial ambitions at bay
Image result for Many in the Philippines believe their nation also has a claim to the contested South China Sea
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If Australia is ever to take a stand on challenging those claims by asserting its freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea, it should act now rather than wait. But that will take a courage and strength of will that is clearly in short supply here.

Because if not now, when?
Time is not on our side. It is probably already too late.

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