Author Topic: Australia  (Read 8862 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Australia
« on: May 25, 2012, 07:00:58 AM »
As is its wont, Stratfor ignores the matter of shared vales, but the main point here about sea lanes has merit.
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Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ranked in the top 10 in gross domestic product per capita. It is one of the most isolated major countries in the world; it occupies an entire united continent, is difficult to invade and rarely is threatened. Normally, we would not expect a relatively well-off and isolated country to have been involved in many wars. This has not been the case for Australia and, more interesting, it has persistently not been the case, even under a variety of governments. Ideology does not explain the phenomenon in this instance.

Since 1900, Australia has engaged in several wars and other military or security interventions (including the Boer War, World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) lasting about 40 years total. Put another way, Australia has been at war for more than one-third of the time since the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. In only one of these wars, World War II, was its national security directly threatened, and even then a great deal of its fighting was done in places such as Greece and North Africa rather than in direct defense of Australia. This leaves us to wonder why a country as wealthy and seemingly secure as Australia would have participated in so many conflicts.

Importance of Sea-Lanes

To understand Australia, we must begin by noting that its isolation does not necessarily make it secure. Exports, particularly of primary commodities, have been essential to Australia. From wool exported to Britain in 1901 to iron ore exported to China today, Australia has had to export commodities to finance the import of industrial products and services in excess of what its population could produce for itself. Without this trade, Australia could not have sustained its economic development and reached the extraordinarily high standard of living that it has.

This leads to Australia's strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia's economy are at risk.

Think of Australia as a creature whose primary circulatory system is outside of its body. Such a creature would be extraordinarily vulnerable and would have to develop unique defense mechanisms. This challenge has guided Australian strategy.

First, Australia must be aligned with -- or at least not hostile to -- the leading global maritime power. In the first part of Australia's history, this was Britain. More recently, it has been the United States. Australia's dependence on maritime trade means that it can never simply oppose countries that control or guarantee the sea-lanes upon which it depends; Australia cannot afford to give the global maritime power any reason to interfere with its access to sea-lanes.

Second, and more difficult, Australia needs to induce the major maritime powers to protect Australia's interests more actively. For example, assume that the particular route Australia depends on to deliver goods to a customer has choke points far outside Australia's ability to influence. Assume further that the major power has no direct interest in that choke point. Australia must be able to convince the major power of the need to keep that route open. Merely having amiable relations will not achieve that. Australia must make the major power dependent upon it so that Australia has something to offer or withdraw in order to shape the major power's behavior.

Creating Dependency

Global maritime powers are continually involved in conflict -- frequently regional and at times global. Global interests increase the probability of friction, and global power spawns fear. There is always a country somewhere that has an interest in reshaping the regional balance of power, whether to protect itself or to exact concessions from the global power.

Another characteristic of global powers is that they always seek allies. This is partly for political reasons, in order to create frameworks for managing their interests peacefully. This is also for military reasons. Given the propensity for major powers to engage in war, they are always in need of additional forces, bases and resources. A nation that is in a position to contribute to the global power's wars is in a position to secure concessions and guarantees. For a country such as Australia that is dependent on sea-lanes for its survival, the ability to have commitments from a major power to protect its interests is vital.

Deployment in the Boer War was partly based on Australian ideology as a British colony, but in fact Australia had little direct interest in the outcome of the war. It also was based on Australia's recognition that it needed Britain's support as a customer and a guarantor of its security. The same can be said for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia might have had some ideological interest in these wars, but its direct national security was only marginally at stake in them. However, Australian participation in these wars helped to make the United States dependent on Australia to an extent, which in turn induced the United States to guarantee Australian interests.

There were also wars that could have concluded with a transformation of the global system. World War I and World War II were attempts by some powers to overthrow the existing global order and replace it with a different one. Australia emerged from the old political order, and it viewed the prospect of a new order as both unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Australia's participation in those wars was still in part about making other powers dependent upon it, but it also had to do with the preservation of an international system that served Australia. (In World War II there was also an element of self-defense: Australia needed to protect itself from Japan and certainly from a Japanese-controlled Pacific Ocean and potentially the Indian Ocean.)

Alternative Strategy

Australia frequently has been tempted by the idea of drawing away from the global power and moving closer to its customers. This especially has been the case since the United States replaced Britain as the global maritime power. In the post-World War II period, as Asian economic activity increased, Asian demand increased for Australian raw materials, from food to industrial minerals. First Japan and then China became major customers of Australia.

The Australian alternative (aside from isolation, which would be economically unsustainable) was to break or limit its ties to the United States and increasingly base its national security on Japan or, later, on China. The theory was that China, for example, was the rising power and was essential to Australian interests because of its imports, imports that it might secure from other countries. The price of the relationship with the United States -- involvement in American conflicts -- was high. Therefore, this alternative strategy would have limited Australia's exposure to U.S. demands while cementing its relationship with its primary customer, China.

This strategy makes sense on the surface, but there are two reasons that Australia, though it has toyed with the strategy, has not pursued it. The first is the example of Japan. Japan appeared to be a permanent, dynamic economic power. But during the 1990s, Japan shifted its behavior, and its appetite for Australian goods stagnated. Economic relationships depend on the ability of the customer to buy, and that depends on the business cycle, political stability and so on. A strategy that would have created a unique relationship between Australia and Japan would have quickly become unsatisfactory. If, as we believe, China is in the midst of an economic slowdown, entering into a strategic relationship with China would also be a mistake, or at the very least, a gamble.

The second reason Australia has not changed its strategy is that, no matter what relationship it has with China or Japan, the sea-lanes are under the control of the United States. In the event of friction with China, the United States, rather than guaranteeing the sea-lanes for Australia, might choose to block them. In the end, Australia can sell to many countries, but it must always use maritime routes. Thus, it has consistently chosen its relationship with Britain or the United States rather than commit to any single customer or region.

Australia is in a high-risk situation, even though superficially it appears secure. Its options are to align with the United States and accept the military burdens that entails, or to commit to Asia in general and China in particular. Until that time when an Asian power can guarantee the sea-lanes against the United States -- a time that is far in the future -- taking the latter route would involve pyramiding risks. Add to this that the relationship would depend on the uncertain future of Asian economies -- and all economic futures are now uncertain -- and Australia has chosen a lower-risk approach.

This approach has three components. The first is deepening economic relations with the United States to balance its economic dependencies in Asia. The second is participating in American wars in order to extract guarantees from the United States on sea-lanes. The final component is creating regional forces able to handle events in Australia's near abroad, from the Solomon Islands through the Indonesian archipelago. But even here, Australian forces would depend on U.S. cooperation to manage threats.

The Australian strategy therefore involves alignment with the leading maritime power, first Britain and then the United States, and participation in their wars. We began by asking why a country as wealthy and secure as Australia would be involved in so many wars. The answer is that its wealth is not as secure as it seems.

George Friedman is chief executive officer of Stratfor, the world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence. This article has been republished from the Stratfor website.


Crafty_Dog

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Rowdy protests.
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2012, 12:37:35 PM »

DougMacG

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Re: Australia - Conservatives sweep out labor down under
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2013, 10:49:49 AM »

ccp

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Re: Australia
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2013, 12:33:00 PM »
The World Turns

By  Mark Steyn

September 7, 2013 7:57 AM

 A few moments ago, Kevin Rudd conceded, so, in a day or two, after the usual prompt eviction that occurs under the Westminster system, Tony Abbott will become Australia’s Prime Minister. I’d like to second John O’Sullivan’s wise words on Mr Abbott’s conservatism: we’re not talking about a Cameronesque trimmer and opportunist here.*

If you’re interested, here’s me with the new Aussie PM (and Britain’s Dan Hannan) in Melbourne last year. I was the warm-up act, so, after I’d chilled down the room with my usual doom-mongering, it fell to the then Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to restore jollity and optimism, which he did brilliantly – and extemporaneously. He has a confident swagger when he walks up to a podium – he enjoys the rough and tumble of politics, and he’s a natural at it. I remember wishing the GOP could produce a few more chaps like that, instead of risk-averse over-managed money guys who can afford to buy up the previous loser’s most expensive consultants.

But I digress. Here’s the campaign video of Bill Glasson, the world’s second most famous political ophthalmologist (after Bashar Assad), who ran against outgoing PM Kevin Rudd by channeling Les Miz. My old pal Julie Bishop, Australia’s new Deputy Prime Minister, has a stirring, emotionally harrowing cameo.

*(although, even by that dismal standard, it’s worth noting that Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain now all have prime ministers to the right of the US president. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism the world could do without.)


 



DougMacG

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Re: Australia
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2013, 10:45:11 AM »
"it’s worth noting that Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain now all have prime ministers to the right of the US president. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism the world could do without."

Leading from behind, we now call it.  Hopefully this movement away from left governance, that arguably started in Sweden(?), will find its way over to the American colonies.

(Sweden's economy booms with cautious turn to the right, http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/14/frum.sweden/index.html)

ccp

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Sweden
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2013, 11:15:14 AM »
Fareed "the" Zakaria was touting Sweden today as a capitalistic model for America, and Obama should learn from his visit there.   :lol:

Ironic Obama's Harvard pal whose network programs appear to be coordinated with the WH propaganda talking points is now touting a country that has turned right and moved away to some extent from socialism.   Yes it is doing better.  :wink:

Why doesn't he just tacitly admit the left is wrong.  :wink:



« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 11:20:11 AM by ccp »

Crafty_Dog

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Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Chinese infiltration in Australia
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2018, 09:50:59 AM »
Australia: Amid fears of growing Chinese infiltration or influence in the country, Australia is conducting a large-scale review of its spy agency. Is this routine, or is there something specific that’s spooking Australia?

•   Finding: The review stems from an investigation ordered by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull into foreign interference in 2016. It also comes as a slew of new anti-foreign influence laws, such as a ban on overseas political donations, is being debated by the Australian government. Completed last year, the top-secret report reportedly found that attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence all levels of government have been going on for a decade, and it described China as the country of highest concern. Last week, Australia’s spy chief said the scale of foreign intelligence activity in Australia has become unprecedented, requiring an updated legal framework to protect the country.

DougMacG

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"Liberals" win elections in Australia
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2019, 06:25:19 AM »
if I understand this correctly, translated to American politics, that means conservatives won over the Labor party..
https://www.smh.com.au/

ccp

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Re: Australia
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2019, 08:02:50 AM »
" . if I understand this correctly, translated to American politics, that means conservatives won over the Labor party.."

Doug,

In trying to see if I can find anything to answer this I pulled this up from Wikipedia

It sounds like "conservatism " might be defined differently in Australia .

I don't have the stamina right now to go through this as it is not to me at least a bit a brain challenge trying to figure it out but here it is if this helps

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism_in_Australia

G M

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Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: China bullies Australia
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2020, 08:50:32 AM »
Stratfor Worldview
ASSESSMENTS

COVID-19 Tensions Place Australian Farmers in China's Crosshairs
Evan Rees
Asia-Pacific Analyst, Stratfor
6 MINS READ
May 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT

An aerial photo shows villagers sowing highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery in the fields in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on April 22, 2020.

Villagers in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, sow highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery on April 22, 2020.

(Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi via Getty Images)

China's threat to heavily tariff Australian barley exports will not alone keep Canberra from pushing to investigate Beijing's role in the COVID-19 pandemic. But it will increase the stakes of doing so by making life all the harder for Australia's already struggling farmers. On May 10, Australian grain producers issued a joint statement warning that China has made a provisional decision to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Australian barley imports of up to 80.5 percent, effectively shutting down their exports to China. Sources within the Australian government say the timing of these tariffs is linked to the recent uptick in Chinese tensions over COVID-19, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has publicly since said he does not believe the two are related. Depending on Australia's response, China is expected to make a final decision on the tariffs by May 19. On May 11, Chinese authorities also suspended products from four Australian beef slaughterhouses that comprise 20-35 percent of the country's total beef exports to China, citing health and labeling issues.

On April 22, Morrison announced he had been consulting with U.S., German and French leaders on an independent international investigation into China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, although he has said there is "no evidence" of the virus leaking from a Chinese lab.

Several days later, China's ambassador to Australia warned that Canberra's call for an international investigation could result in a boycott of Australian goods, citing beef and wine exports in particular, as well as Chinese students enrolling in Australian universities.

China's anti-dumping allegations against Australian barley first surfaced in 2018 and there has been an anti-dumping investigation open for 18 months, partly motivated by Australia's own measures against Chinese steel. Observers, however, had believed the case would eventually be dismissed.

In 2017, China shut down imports from the same four meat processors in addition to three others over similar issues, which took months of diplomacy to resolve.

By weaponizing its crucial agricultural exports, China is trying to influence the rural supporters of Australia's ruling conservative bloc. China already accounts for one-third of Australia's total exports, but has recently become an even more vital market due to China's early COVID-19 recovery amid sluggish global demand elsewhere. A record wildfire season and drought have made Australia's agriculture sector, in particular, all the more dependent on Chinese exports.

Australia's agricultural sector is highly dependent on international markets, exporting 70 percent of its total produce by value between 2014 and 2017. China is also Australia's top agricultural export destination, accounting for one-fifth of its total produce exports.

Decreased barley exports to China would acutely impact Australian farmers, particularly in rural areas of Western Australia. Barley is Australia's largest single grain export to China and its second-largest agricultural export (overshadowed only by wool), accounting for over 11 percent of Australia's $8.06 billion in agricultural exports to the country in 2018. In 2019, China alone received 56.5 percent of Australia's total barley exports.

The 2019 drought has also badly hurt Australian barley exports, causing shipments to plunge 56 percent. The recent recovery in rainfall, however, had raised hopes of a rebound in barley production.

China's barley buyers, by contrast, will feel less of a pinch from a drawdown in Australian shipments given higher domestic availability of barley and alternative feeds in 2020 as the Chinese government halts a stockpiling program in place since 2007. Canada, which supplies 26 percent of China's barley, can also help offset any shortfalls.

Australia has fewer international options to appeal the anti-dumping measures given the current paralysis of the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism over the U.S. refusal to appoint new appellate judges.

China’s threat to heavily tariff barley exports won't keep Australia from pushing to investigate Beijing's role in the pandemic, but it will make life even harder for Canberra's already struggling agricultural sector.

China's economic pressure, however, would have to expand beyond barley and the small group of beef slaughterhouses to compel Australia to reconsider its support of U.S. efforts to counter Beijing's rise. If Beijing threatens more sweeping measures against Australian beef, or starts targeting wool exports, Canberra may be prompted to change its approach. But as things stand, barley producers in Australia have other options.

Barley is less than 1 percent of Australia's overall exports, meaning a Chinese squeeze on the product would not have wide-ranging economic consequences.

Anecdotally, Australian farmers are already adjusting their ongoing planting plans in favor of wheat instead of barley in preparation for the potential Chinese tariffs, although a great deal of barley acreage has already been sown.

Australian barley farmers can also soften the blow by reorienting their products toward the domestic beef producers on the country's east coast, who have been struggling amid recent shortages and increased prices of feed barley.

China will also struggle to expand its economic threat against Australia.


Chinese wool imports may already be down because of slowing textile demand at home.

Mineral exports will be needed for China's economic rebuilding and infrastructure push, and given Australia's proximity and relative cost, China can't realistically afford to add major restrictions.

Virus travel restrictions will depress rates of Chinese tourists and students for some time regardless, so the threat of their removal/boycott also carries less weight.

Given the political stakes of caving to such overt Chinese pressure, the Australian government will continue to push back against Beijing, while still being careful not to alienate one of its most crucial trade partners. Canberra has long been trying to balance its close economic ties with China against the risk of Beijing's rising influence within Australia and its encroachment within the greater Asia Pacific. The uptick in U.S.-China tensions amid the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this ongoing trend, presenting a stark choice for Canberra.

Australia has become an important participant in U.S. efforts to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, most recently joining U.S.-led military exercises in the waterway on April 23.

In March 2020, Australia's government imposed heightened scrutiny on foreign takeovers of domestic companies to defend against potential increasing Chinese influence amid the COVID-19 downturn. This followed a move in February 2018 that saw Australia put in place intensified scrutiny on Chinese investment into its domestic agriculture and electricity sectors.

Australia has been increasingly involved in efforts to economically and diplomatically compete against China in nearby Pacific islands as well, particularly in Papua New Guinea, to maintain sway over the strategic region.

In April 2018, Australia's government banned Chinese company Huawei from providing equipment for its 5G network project.
Canberra also tightened its foreign agent and espionage laws with an eye to increasing scrutiny on entities and politicians with links to China, including media groups and Confucius Institutes.

But even before the reported barley tariff threat, Canberra had distanced itself from U.S. allegations that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan — a sign that it is still trying to strike a balance between maintaining Beijing's economic ties and
countering its rise as a global power.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Australia
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2020, 08:58:59 AM »
GPF

Mutually assured destruction in Sino-Australian trade?

On Monday, Beijing said it would impose an 80 percent anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariff on Australian barley, one of the country’s top three annual agriculture exports, about half of which typically goes to China. Australia said it would respond to the barley duties with a challenge at the World Trade Organization, which works slowly in normal times and has nearly ground to a halt lately. This follows Chinese suspensions of imports of beef from four Australian slaughterhouses, or some 35 percent of Australian exports of the commodity to China. And Beijing may not be done yet. Chinese officials reportedly have measures targeting Australian seafood, oatmeal, fruit, wine and cheese locked and loaded. Chinese state media in recent weeks has also warned of consumer boycotts.

China is apparently upset about Australia’s perfunctory calls for investigations into the source of the coronavirus outbreak. But, as we’ve argued in the context of the U.S.-China trade war, tariffs often end up hurting a country’s own businesses and consumers as much as or more than those in the country they’re targeting. And given that Australia and China entered a free trade agreement in late 2015, these actions may hinder Beijing’s goals for striking other trade pacts. So it’s unclear just how long Beijing may be willing to strike a hard line.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Australia
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2020, 06:01:26 AM »
June 10, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF



    China Threatens Australia Because That’s All It Can Do
Beijing has a lot of leverage over countries that rely on it for trade, but it’s hard to translate that into anything more meaningful.
By: Phillip Orchard

As cases of COVID-19 resurge elsewhere in the world, it’s worth remembering that Australia whipped the coronavirus into submission with relative ease, reducing the number of new daily cases to single digits by mid-April. Yet, the pandemic has left Australia with an acute case of economic and diplomatic whiplash anyway, not because of its public health shortcomings but because of its uneasy codependence with China.

The country’s astonishing 29-year run of economic growth is set to come to an abrupt end, thanks in part to flagging demand from China, whose soaring commodities purchases helped keep Australia out of a recession after 2008. And Beijing, upset with Canberra over (among other seemingly trivial matters) its pro forma support for an international investigation into the origins of the virus and Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization, is going the extra mile to ensure Australia doesn’t take Chinese buyers for granted. Over the past month, China has halted shipments of Australian beef, imposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, warned of consumer boycotts targeting Australian winemakers and dairy farmers, and urged the more than 200,000 Chinese university students in Australia to consider studying elsewhere.

Beijing, in other words, is becoming less and less subtle about its capacity for coercion. And Australia – at once dependent on the Chinese economy, strategically located on the periphery of what China sees as its natural sphere of influence, tightly allied militarily with the superpower China sees as hellbent on halting its rise, and yet wary of the U.S.’ own turn away from its multilateral international architecture – is a tempting place to make the case that regional powers are better off with Beijing. But China’s recent actions suggest that it’s under no illusion that Australia’s loyalties can be won, nor that a strategic rivalry can be avoided.

Chinese Leverage

The Australian government has grown increasingly uneasy with its dependence on Chinese money – and thus Beijing’s ability to turn Australian states and business communities against Canberra – for years. Australia, for example, became the first member of the Five Eyes intel-sharing alliance to ban Chinese firms such as Huawei from its 5G buildout, leading to tacit Chinese restrictions of imports of Australian coal and wine. Concerns over large-scale Chinese purchases of Australian land and investment in Australian infrastructure, particularly near sensitive military and intelligence facilities, compelled Canberra to override state governments and block certain foreign investments. In 2018, the Victoria state government defied Canberra by signing onto Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. A series of high-profile corruption and disinformation operations scandals that allegedly exposed widespread Chinese influence over Australian politics, media and academia sparked something of a red scare and prompted the government to restrict foreign political donations. These concerns, in fact, include the entire region, with the government launching a host of initiatives to counter Chinese influence in South Pacific island nations.

Two things are striking about this trend. One is just how much leverage Beijing has over Canberra. The Australian economy is indeed beholden to Chinese buyers and investors. More than 38 percent of Australian exports of goods in 2019 went to the Middle Kingdom. This included some $55 billion of iron ore, natural gas and coal and $8 billion in agriculture products. Chinese investors, meanwhile, sunk more than $44 billion into a range of sectors from mining to agriculture to infrastructure. (Inbound Chinese investment was estimated to have dropped by more than half last year as bilateral tensions rose.) There were nearly twice as many tourists from China than any other country (except New Zealand) in 2018; they spent more than $8 billion.

Nearly one in 10 university students in Australia is now Chinese, generating another $8 billion in tuition and fees each year. Australia’s highly decentralized power structure – in which states and independent senators wield immense power over legislation, leading to legislative gridlock, strategic paralysis and strikingly frequent changes in leadership – opens up countless avenues of influence to foreign powers.
 
(click to enlarge)

Second is how quick China has been to threaten Australia, putting Beijing at risk of exhausting its leverage and triggering political blowback for marginal gains at most. Australia has relatively few ways it can truly threaten China. The main one – its longtime military alliance with the U.S. and budding partnerships with regional powers like Japan and India – only matters if China makes a push to dominate the South Pacific, which China is still decades away from attempting. Indeed, while Australia would play an instrumental role in “the Quad,” Canberra has been reluctant to do anything that deepens Beijing’s perception that the coalition is intended to blunt China’s rise. This reflects both its desire to keep bilateral relations focused on mutual commercial gain and its view that the Chinese navy does not pose an imminent threat.

The other issues in Australia that have provoked Chinese retaliation realistically only threaten China’s international reputation.

Its souring image abroad is a real diplomatic problem for China with real economic and strategic costs. But to address them by becoming more overtly coercive would seem counterproductive, particularly in a place already primed to see Chinese money as increasingly threatening to Australian sovereignty.

How to Buy Friends and Alienate People

China’s reactions can therefore be explained, in part, by its internal political sensitivity. To Beijing, calling for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic is the same as calling for a probe into all the ways the ruling party’s rigidly centralized, censorship-obsessed model of governance contributed to the massive loss of life and livelihoods at home. This is still an existential threat to the Communist Party’s hold on power.

It can also be explained by the fact that Beijing realizes that Australia won’t abandon the U.S. – that the only future in which Australia “chooses” China is one in which Australia doesn’t really have a choice. To be sure, throughout its history, Australia has periodically seen times of fierce debate on whether to decrease its reliance on U.S. security guarantees – thereby limiting its exposure to policy swings in Washington – and deepen military integration with emerging Asian powers (first Japan and now China). Still, Canberra has remained perhaps the U.S.’ most steadfast ally – even routinely sending Australian troops to take part in U.S.-led conflicts of marginal Australian interest to ensure that the alliance remains robust. This is partly the result of Australia’s view of itself as a Western power, with deep cultural affinities and historical ties to the U.S. that would make it politically difficult to break away. It’s also because Australia’s economy has always lived and died by free and open sea lanes – that is, Australian strategy has always been tied to the dominant global maritime power of the day. Before the U.S., it was the British. China wants to dominate the Western Pacific, but it has little appetite for the responsibilities that come with the global role, and will not have the capability to do so anytime soon.
 
(click to enlarge)
To pull Australia firmly into its orbit, Beijing would have to overcome a combination of strategic imperatives and political forces tying Australia to the U.S. It’s a tall order. There’s not much China can do about this short of abandoning its strategic ambitions, overhauling its internal authoritarian system, waging a decadeslong effort to shed its newfound reputation of political interference and debt-trap diplomacy, and hoping the U.S. loses interest in the region. Its material and strategic needs are too immense, and its domestic sensitivities too acute, to put much hope in a strategy focused on winning friends through charm and mutual interest. This is a fundamental challenge for China across the Indo-Pacific and beyond. What Beijing evidently can do, though, is make countries think twice before opposing it, whether on matters big or small, international reputation be damned.   




Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: China vs. Australia
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2020, 11:13:15 AM »
Down Under Doubles Down on Checking China
Trump challenges allies to pull their weight, and Australia steps up with courage and resolve.
By John Lee
July 27, 2020 6:42 pm ET
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U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds in Sydney, Aug. 4, 2019.
PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds will meet their American counterparts Tuesday in Washington for annual meetings known as Ausmin. Then they will fly home to Australia and quarantine for two weeks to minimize the spread of Covid-19—a requirement for those arriving from abroad.

It is extraordinary that the Australians are willing to tolerate two weeks of inconvenience to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Virtual meetings are the norm. The decision to travel to the U.S. says something about how important America is to Australian security and prosperity—and about the threat China poses to both countries.

It is also evidence that the Trump administration’s managing of allies, at least in Asia and the Pacific, has more to commend it than critics concede. It is true that staunch allies such as Japan and Australia find the president’s unpredictable style deeply unsettling. But if the objective is to persuade allies to step up and carry their weight, then that is exactly what Australia is doing.

Like many countries in the Indo-Pacific mugged by reality, Australia has been on a journey with China. The pandemic has focused minds on what must be done. The Communist Party under Xi Jinping is nothing if not a devotee of the Leninist precept: Probe with bayonets and if you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw. Good will has little currency. Timidity will only invite Beijing to demand greater subservience.

It is in this spirit that Australia released its 2020 Strategic Defense Update earlier this month. The commitment to spend roughly $400 billion (in U.S. dollars) on national defense over the next decade, including almost $190 billion earmarked for capability enhancements, is eye-catching. But as important is what Australia plans to spend the money on: long-range and hypersonic missiles, unmanned combat vehicles and cyber capabilities. This can be explained only by a desire to counter the People’s Liberation Army. The goal is to make China think twice about expanding its martial reach and presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Far from retreating into isolationism, Australia is reaching out of its comfort zone—defending the continent—and looking to help alter the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. But this is possible only if America takes the lead, from strategic posture to developing offensive capabilities and operating the military assets jointly. Australia can’t push back against China alone. In other words, Australia has doubled down on the alliance as its best option.

Moreover, it is significant that Canberra is choosing to do this when relations between Washington and Beijing are more hostile than at any point since before Richard Nixon went to China in 1972. China has also turned up the pressure by imposing trade sanctions on products such as Australian barley. Regardless, Australia and Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have emerged as the southern and northern anchors of the American regional alliance system.

As someone who served in the Australian government during the last year of President Obama’s administration and the first year of the current one, I can attest that the obstacle to greater Australian courage wasn’t a lack of faith in U.S. power but doubts about American resolve. Canberra wouldn’t contemplate such bold moves and risk punishment from China if America were likely to leave Australia fluttering in the breeze.

Mr. Trump might lead an unpredictable administration, but his determination in this fight is not in question. There’s also a growing consensus among allies that the pandemic has changed the relationship between Washington and Beijing in ways that will last longer than any one administration.

All of this suggests that this week’s meetings will be one of the most important in many years. There will be differences between the two countries, as is expected between a superpower and a smaller one. For example, Australians lament diminished American influence in regional institutions such as the East Asian Summit, which Mr. Trump didn’t attend in 2019. That provided a pulpit for Beijing to bully its neighbors and extend its narrative of American absence.

Chinese diplomats frequently mock and dismiss the 1951 security treaty Anzus as a relic of the Cold War. But provocations by the Communist Party in China have given the alliance renewed purpose. Messrs. Pompeo and Esper and Ms. Payne and Ms. Reynolds will discuss a common objective: ensuring that the Communist Party meets collective steel whenever it probes and pushes.

Mr. Lee is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the U.S. Studies Centre in Sydney. He was senior national security adviser to the Australian foreign minister, 2016-18.