Are we viewing Asia through the wrong prism?

Clear-eyed vision is far more important than a skewed and shattered look into the past

23 September 2021 | CCCA (Image: Marcus Reubenstein)

Continuing with our thread on Australia-US- China relations, three interesting articles appeared in P&I that accurately describe our relations with China. 

Henry Reynolds, an eminent Australian historian in his article “History repeats as Morrison provokes China hostility.” Reynolds described in detail the parallel events that is occurring now with China are repeating those events with Japan. 

The article draws a succinct perception about these events: 

  1. The fear of the Yellow peril remained steadfast in the colonial mindset in Australian leaders and race played an important role in the Anglo-Saxon world.  With Japan, Australia follows Britain and 70 years later, with China, Australia follows the US. 
  2. The White Australia policy of the 19th century is ‘re-invented’ in the new national security laws. 
  3. The rise of China stokes the same fears as the rise of Japan 70 years ago. 
  4. Australia did not really fully understand Japan and the same would apply to the understanding of China by current Australian leaders. 

Australia seems to have forgotten about why the Allies have fought against imperialist Japan.  It has also forgotten that Taiwan was annexed by Japan during WW2 and had to give it up after surrendering to the US and returned the island to the KMT (Kuomintang/Chinese Nationalist Party of Taiwan).

With the US tightening the lasso on the containment of China, it has pushed Japan into discarding her long standing “one China policy” and abandoning her long term “self-defence” policy into an active one, in preparation to defend Taiwan if China attacks Taiwan.  It is my believe that Japan has been waiting for an opportunity to discard the anti-war narrative and to re-emerge in East Asia as a strong military power.  

Australia’s siding with the US, no doubt will encourage Japan, once to rise up militarily.  

There is no right or wrong about Japan’s rise, but whether the final consequence would be an East Asian war ending in nuclear holocaust. 

Our message is China today is not Japan 70 years ago or USSR 40 years ago.

In the second article in P&I by Jack Waterford, an Australian journalist and commentator, “To protect its interests, Australia should be a better neighbour rather than a US lapdog”, the author analysis the QUAD and its usefulness as a military alliance.  It also analyses the relations between China and the Asian countries and in particularly, India. 

The ally’s withdrawal from Afghanistan gave China a golden opportunity to show the world that there are other means of controlling terrorism besides sending in the infantry and the bombs.  If China manages a good relation with Afghanistan, it would show the world that economic, social and political influence without interference in domestic policies, is a better strategy for peace (thumbs up to the US and Russia).  Secondly, it would give India the jitters (a) as the border countries Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan (all Muslim) countries are “too” friendly with China; (b) India has to deal with three aligned Muslim countries in her northern borders; and (c) currently Pakistan is nuclear armed, would the new order in Afghan go nuclear?  Australia should be aware of these scenarios, and could that necessarily make India a weak link in the QUAD? 

Waterford advice: It would be far better if Australia used active diplomacy, trade, educational tourism and general tourism, to maintain strong independent relationships with all of the nations in the region, including China, Japan, Korea, India and the other countries of South and East Asia. We are not helped by being seen as a lapdog, nor as one which will prefer the interests of another country at the expense of our own.  

The third article in P&I is Dr Teow Loon Ti’s article “The Singapore mouse that taught the China elephant”.  Dr Ti was a researcher in aquaculture; and a teacher- BSc.(Hon) in Zoology, an MA(Lit. & Comm.) and a PhD in Education. He wrote “Compare Singapore’s dextrous diplomacy with the clumsy manner in which the Australian government handles its relationship with China. 

Singapore, a small island state with a small population (5 million) is able to deliver good advice to China’s Chairman Deng and the Chairman took Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew’s advice and opened up China for free trade zone, and prospered. 

The articles by Dr Ti and Mr Waterford[ have a common thread, ie. they both promote diplomacy as a way to deal with a rising China rather than the confrontational policy which only be detrimental to the Australian economy and her standing with her Asian neighbours. 

The take home messages from these articles are: 

  • Learn from history and do not repeat those mistakes made in the past. 
  • Understand the history and culture of Asia and stand with them long term in the Asia Pacific with shared values of peace and prosperity but not war.  If Australia continues with its current policy, it could end up as the lonely man in the Asia Pacific. 
  • Invest in diplomacy to resolve problems and not rely on war to solve problems.  Australia has far more great potential to influence China than Singapore if she wishes to do so.  Rather than side with US and UK, Australia should persuade the US and UK to change their China policy. Be peace maker and not war monger. US, UK, EU, Russia and China all talk loudly regarding their excuses for arm race as protecting themselves against their enemies and for peace. But history showed that their actions only resulted in wars, deaths and miseries for their citizens, peoples of the nations they invaded and catastrophe for humanity one after another. 

Majority of Australians and for that matter the global citizens, if given a conscience vote will oppose the wars and their massive spending on arm races. Peaceful coexistence Yes! War No!

Who is to blame? Please look into the mirror and seek peaceful solutions. God Bless to all.

Principal authors, Tony Pun and Dr Ka Sing Chua. This commentary is supplied by the Chinese Community Council of Australia Incorporated: Founding President, Dr Anthony Pun OAM, President, Mr Kingsley Liu. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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