Sunday, July 3, 2022

China may be looking to capture Australia

 China may be looking to capture Australia

March 12, 2022

China wants Australia to be its vassal state, Intelligence Committee chair warns London: 

The chair of federal Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee says China wants Australia to be a vassal state like Belarus is to Russia.

Warning that “any of us could be on the receiving end of very traditional forms of hard power as we were in the 20th century,” Liberal Senator James Paterson said that if Putin does overthrow Ukraine’s government, it could inspire similar expansionism in Australia’s backyard.

Senator Paterson made his remarks in a speech to the Henry Jackson Society think tank in London following a two-week visit to meet intelligence figures in the United States and Britain.

He urged British MPs to follow Australia’s example in combatting foreign interference and pushing back in the so-called “grey zone” areas where foreign powers use a range of non-military methods to try to undermine another country.

He said that Australia had been pressured by its biggest trade partner, China, which in late 2020 delivered its list of 14 grievances with Canberra via a Chinese official to this masthead.

The list of disputes was reported at the time as a threat to Australia’s foreign policy settings and an escalation of tensions between the two countries.

But Paterson said it was much more.

“The 14 demands was really an invitation from China to Australia to become a vassal state - it’s an invitation we have politely but firmly rejected,” he told a London audience, in a speech titled Standing up to bullies: The lessons from Ukraine.

He said it put a lie to the claim that China was not seeking to export its ideology, something of which he said that Uighurs, Taiwanese and Hongkongers were already keenly aware.

“It also exposes the intellectual weakness of those who argued that economic engagement with China was the best protection we had against finding ourselves on the wrong side of their rise,” he said.

“For China, their economic power is just another tool of statecraft to be deployed against anyone they have leverage over, just like Russia uses energy dependence to weaken Europe’s resolve in confronting its malign activities.”

Paterson said that the way to confront this was not “endlessly more engagement” but by diversifying Australia’s international trade and supply chains away from authoritarian states.

Paterson said Taiwan needed to learn the lessons that the Ukrainians had in 2014 after Putin’s swift and relatively unpunished illegal annexation of Crimea.

The Ukrainians modernised and equipped their military, enabling their current resistance which has frustrated Putin’s attempts so far to take back the former Soviet territory.

“The fear I have for all of us is that we will not have a warning as stark as 2014 and we certainly do not have eight years to get ready,” he said. “None of us have a moment to waste.”

Paterson’s warnings follow the alarm sounded by Taiwanese politician Wang Ting-Yu, who leads the committee responsible for assessing the island’s defence policies and declarations of war, who told this masthead that the bombing of Ukraine “may cause a chain reaction” and that it was time to let “Beijing know there is a red line”.

Wang, the first senior Taiwanese official to call for the end of “strategic ambiguity”, said the tactic of working with but not officially recognizing Taiwan as a separate nation, was now outdated following Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.

“The most dangerous thing today is a misjudgement,” he said in an interview from Taipei. “Ambiguity may cause misjudgments, ambiguity can lead to catastrophe. Strategic ambiguity was useful once, but it is dangerous now.”

But in his speech, Paterson argued that strategic ambiguity did not rule out the possibility of a military response and could serve as a deterrent to China.

My hope is that China will learn the right lessons from Ukraine in relation to its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific [and] that China has noticed the world’s incredible resolve and its extraordinary determination to enact a very high cost against Russia for what it has done,” he said.

Penny Wong says diplomatic thaw with China possible if Coalition stops ‘playing politics’

However senator says whether the relationship ultimately becomes more productive is “a question for China”

Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong says Labor would not ‘play domestic politics with the China relationship’.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, says it may be possible for Australia to achieve a diplomatic thaw with China despite the substantial differences between the two countries – if Scott Morrison abandons his “desperate” pre-election weaponization of national security.

The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, this week met China’s new ambassador to Australia, who has made several overtures for dialogue since arriving in Canberra in January.

Subsequently, the shadow minister told the Guardian’s Australian Politics podcast that diplomatic engagement was important. But she said whether the relationship ultimately became more productive was “a question for China”.

“We can’t control how they behave,” Wong said. “If China chooses to continue to impose what are clearly coercive economic measures on Australia, then that’s going to have a consequence in terms of the relationship.”

Wong said if Labor won the federal election in May, Australia would not be taking “a backward step” on any substantive points of disagreement with Beijing.

“We won’t be abandoning the positions that cause China concern – Australia’s position on the South China Sea, Australia’s right to determine who builds its 5G network and who is part of the NBN,” Wong said. “We’re not going to abandon our position on the UN convention on the law of the sea or human rights or foreign interference.”

But she added: “What we wouldn’t do is play domestic politics with the China relationship.”

“I’ve not seen [a prime minister] use terms like Manchurian candidate, or Beijing’s preferred candidate, ever,” Wong said.

“It is it is a demonstration of the extent to which Scott Morrison is desperate, but it is also a trashing of Australia’s national interests because one of the things that makes us strongest is our unity.”

Wong said the relationship with Australia’s largest trading partner was “complex and challenging and difficult” and is “only made harder, by the playing of domestic politics with that”.

Payne met China’s new ambassador, Xiao Qian, in Sydney on Wednesday. It is understood there was no diplomatic breakthrough in the meeting.

Although it is standard for the minister to meet with a newly arrived ambassador, it is believed to be the highest level contact between the two countries since Payne spoke with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, two years ago.

A spokesperson for Payne said Australia was “committed to a constructive relationship with China in which we can pursue areas of cooperation, while remaining consistent with our own national sovereign interests and focused on stability”.

“The minister for foreign affairs set out frankly Australia’s positions on a range of issues, including the importance of appropriate ministerial and other high level dialogue and engagement, stability in the Indo-Pacific, free and open trade, human rights and the welfare of Australians detained in China,” the spokesperson said.

“She also articulated Australia’s expectation that China use its influence to encourage and advise Russia to end the illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Xiao, who was previously China’s ambassador to Indonesia, said last month that China was “willing to work with Australia to meet each other halfway”.

He said the two governments should “jointly make efforts” to push the relationship back on “the right track”. While Xiao did not specify any tangible actions Beijing may take, he said: “The diplomatic channel is open.”

Australian ministers have complained since early 2020 they have been unable to secure phone calls or meetings with their direct counterparts in China – although contact has continued to occur at lower diplomatic levels.

The Australian government accused Beijing of engaging in “economic coercion” by hitting a range of Australian export sectors with tariffs, bans or other sanctions in 2020 – some of which are being challenged at the World Trade Organization.

China accuses Australia of being increasingly hostile to Chinese investment, including through the ban on Chinese telco Huawei’s involvement in the 5G network.

Both major political parties in Australia view the differences in the relationship as largely structural and therefore not something that can be fixed by adopting a different tone.

China is particularly sensitive to criticism about human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and Australia’s longstanding position against using force or the threat of force to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control. Beijing has also ramped up its criticism of new or renewed groupings such as the Quad and Aukus.

Still, Xiao’s comments signalled a more open approach to dialogue, and contrasted with a warning from his predecessor, Cheng Jingye, in April last year that Beijing would respond “in kind” if Australia followed other countries in imposing sanctions against its officials over human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

China’s diplomatic tactics have previously backfired. The embassy was rebuked by both sides of Australian politics in late 2020, after the release of a list of 14 areas of disagreement with Australia. The one-page document did not have a title but became known as a “list of grievances”, and it was reported that China was seeking concessions on those points in order to resume dialogue.

The list included “outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs” and “unfriendly or antagonistic” reporting on China by Australian media outlets.

Morrison showed the list to his international counterparts to make the case that Beijing was demanding policy changes that no liberal democratic government could accept.

Tensions flared again last month after Morrison accused China of a dangerous “act of intimidation” over a Chinese warship’s shining of a laser at a RAAF surveillance plane north of Australia. China’s national defence ministry, in turn, accused the Australian defence force of “spiteful and provocative actions”.

The defence minister, Peter Dutton, said on Thursday it would be wrong to assume President Xi Jinping’s ambitions were “restricted just to Taiwan”, as the Australian government announced plans for a major expansion of the Australian defence force over the coming two decades.'

China’s embassy was contacted for comment on the meeting with Payne.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments always welcome!