World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Gillard in China: When Rocinante was Mounted

Gillard in China: When Rocinante was Mounted

What happens to Australian delegations when they go overseas? They whimper, whine or fawn; they stumble into positions of prostrate foolishness. They resemble, as Malcolm Muggeridge described British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s meeting with the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev, Don Quixote mounting Rocinante, with Sancho Panza by his side. In this instance, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has several Panzas – the foreign minister Bob Carr, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten. It is a true fools cast, and one fitting for a secondary power which is only relevant by the speed it digs up its resources and sends them to imperial powers, current and future.

A previous visit by the current prime minister went wrong. It seemed like an afterthought, clumsy, ill-executed. Her speech was appalling. As with her visit to the United States, the current leader of Australia is incapable of finding gravitas. She is, however, able to hit the hidden shallows. The latest is her insistence on pressuring China to “rein in” North Korea’s belligerent stance, a view that shows how ill-informed the Australian delegation is by the influence Beijing can exert over Pyongyang.

Aside from the usual blunders, Gillard’s press briefings have been slightly better, though the size of this Australian delegation comes across as overcompensation. The Australians want to make their small presence felt at the Boao Forum, a premier trade gathering that hasn’t previously figured too highly on the current government’s list of priorities. No high level representatives went last year.

The Australian opposition has been happy to mock the Gillard government’s approach to China, taking it to task for seeing Beijing as both provider and threat. The critics have a point. The Defence White Paper from 2009 saw China as an emerging power that could be, in time, a problem. In bland prose, the authors assert that the “pace, scope and structure of China’s military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained”. The view, as expressed so forcefully by Australia’s high profile China “expert” Kevin Rudd when he was foreign minister, is that China had to be “managed” lest it become dangerous to US-Australian interests.

This position shows how neurotic Canberra has been to its powerful trading partner. Ever since the creation of the Australian state in 1901, China has been both bogeyman and trader, industrious and terrifying. It is simultaneously a purchaser of Australian resources while posing a security or, in some cases in history, a cultural threat. This tendency must be on a loop, given the Gillard government’s promise of future joint military exercises and links. It is also striking that this is the same government that has made such a fuss about the skilled migration program and the 457 visas, which have given the impression that the government in Canberra is more populist than pragmatic.

Last December, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop led her own “fact finding” trip to the country for a three day tour to see the Communist party heavies. Was this was more for the benefit of China’s Communist Party, casting an eye over the future stewards of a state that follows rather than leads, or for Bishop’s crew, keen to see what they are getting themselves into? Certainly, it was more of the former, given that the Party itself funded the entire trip.

Besides, the opposition had some patching up to do, given that its leader, Tony Abbott, was on record as saying that, “It would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business.” In some circumstances, this might come across as sensible, but it sent shivers down the spines of watchers of the Australia-China relationship.

As Michael Sainsbury explained in Crikey (Dec 4, 2012), “The trip was cooked up by Bishop and the party’s emissary to Canberra Chen Yuming – the latest in a long line of savvy ambassadors that count amongst their number Madam Fu Ying, Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister.”

Bishop is also worried by the shifting plates of power. Having visited China regularly, she fears that Australia is looking less alluring to the Chinese market. Australia plays the role of the established geisha of foreign policy, a performer who fears being shunned at any given moment for seemingly more attractive powers that can provide commodities at a cheaper price. For a country that has little in the way of alternative industries, this would be a calamity.

According to Bishop, Chinese investors see Australia as a “sovereign risk,” by which she means that they won’t put money in something less economical than an African state. African states are not impeded by such matters as carbon and mining taxes. For Bishop, the decision of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Tanzania, Republic of Congo and South Africa so early in his term is not merely a surprise but troubling. As she observes in a post on her site (Apr 4), “China is seeking to develop mineral and energy resources on the continent and the substantial investment is part of China’s long-term strategy of securing supply lines of critical commodities.”

China is the business power with a large wallet keen to spend money without unnecessary encumbrance. What matters is that those “states” are intent on stealing a march on Australia’s feted role.

The Australian opposition will not do much better should they win in September’s elections. The schizophrenic way Australia engages with China is genetic and total. An Abbott government will likewise mount its own Rocinante, just in different posture. One of their first acts, no doubt, will be seeking a free trade agreement that has been in the doldrums since 2005. Given that the Australian market is swamped with “China made” as it is, the moves are laughable. But then again, so much about this relationship is.
ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Preliminary Results: MH17 Investigation Report

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. More>>

ALSO:

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news