No appetite for conflict

Most Australians have no appetite war with China

13 May 2021 | CCCA (Image: APAC News)

In October last year at the Lowy Institute, former chief of Australia’s Defence Forces, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Retd) declared, “China is our partner, China is not our enemy, let’s get that very straight.”

Two opinion pieces published last week in the Sydney Morning Herald by two prominent Australians, have spread the message of “No War” with China.

Kevin Rudd (former PM) 8 May 2021 wrote,  Ill-disciplined chest-thumping has put war at centre of what’s left of the Australia-China relationship: The Morrison government’s recent undisciplined commentary on the possibility of Australian military engagement in a future US-China war over Taiwan is both politically juvenile and potentially damaging to our core national security interests.

David Brophy, senior lecturer in Modern Chinese History at University of Sydney had earlier written an opinion piece “Australians don’t want a war with China. It’s time to raise voices against it” where he wrote: Dutton claims that “everyday Australians” support the government in its stand-off with Beijing. But the public does not support following the US into a war with China. 

The Lowy Institute’s 2020 poll showed that only a third of Australians support the idea of joining the US in a war over Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

Many prominent Australian scholarly authors have written “No war with China” articles which appeared in John Menadue P&I. Their views and readers’ comments are worth reading,

Garry Woodard, May 10, 2021: The role of strategic ambiguity in Australia’s China Policy   Our comment: Australia will benefit from a large consumer market in China and surrounding ASEAN countries who will have benefitted from their trade with China. When the ASEAN countries become wealthy, Australia will be richer.  An independent Australia in the Asia Pacific will bring mutual benefits and peace in the Asia Pacific when accommodating the rise of China,

Michael McKinley, May 10, 2021 Anti-China Threat Production in Australia: A redundant, out-of-control industry  Our comment: Other than to blindly follow the US policy, what benefits would we get for accepting a pre-packaged US foreign policy? At least the US has a clearly defined agenda (right or wrong) and we have never debated any collateral damage to our country when adopting these US policies.

New York Times May 9, 2021 Biden’s Taiwan Policy Is Truly, Deeply Reckless. Would the US allow Mexico to join a military alliance with Beijing? 

Our comment: Most western military officers are familiar with the old classic Sunzi Art of War. Putting my lateral thinking cap on, I suspect that President Biden’s policy on Taiwan is based on the application of Sun Tzu Art of War Stratagem 6 “声东击西” – Feign an attack in the east and attack in the west and Stratagem 29 “树上开花” – Deck the tree with false blossoms.

The US dresses up Taiwan as an important target. Stratagem 6 – the US uses this as a distraction with its ‘cold’ war with China on other fronts.

Guy Rundle May 7, 2021 We must say no to war with China – and understand the propaganda tricks taking us there. A hypothesis based on a wrong assumption has no foundation to stand on.

Godfree Roberts May 6, 2021 War with China despite their immense military capabilities?

Patrick Cockburn May 6, 2021 Focusing purely on injustices in China and Russia with a Cold War mindset damages human rights everywhere.

Politicizing human rights is a tool of the devil. Those who have most rhetoric about crimes against humanity always have something to hide. The belligerent criticism of others deflects any attention to their own misdeeds. Alternatively, the Chinese would say: 惡人先告狀 meaning – the guilty party files the suit / the thief cries thief (or the pot calling the kettle black).

A great conclusion on this war matter is given by DS (Killarney Heights) through a Letter to SMH Editor (11May2021) which can be summarised:

1.  We cannot compare militarily with China as our military capabilities are miniscule.

2.  The conflict will be between US and China over an armed invasion of Taiwan and would polarise the world with Russia-China vs US-Australia.

3.  Escalating conflict with China is likely to lead to the use of nuclear weapons with catastrophic circumstances. (WW3).

4.  The Federal government should not ignore major challenges such as China’s military build-up in the SCS. 

5.  However, instead of the drums of war rhetoric, Australia should work through international organisations to exert pressure on China.

6.  We should engage diplomatically and look for ways to build bridges, such as on climate change,

Bevan Ramsden 11 May 2021: article in John Menadue makes sense when he proposed an alternate way forward “Armed Neutrality: an alternative, principled defence policy to safeguard an independent Australia, keep us out of wars and promote peace- Part 1.

There is no free lunch even from our closest ally.

The participation fees, as Mr Ramsden put it is “Australian soldiers’ lives being sacrificed in U.S wars of aggression such as those in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, countries which posed no military threat to Australia or the U.S”.

I hope the anti-war sentiments are gaining traction as I was surprised such sentiments expressed by a reader was actually published in the SMH letters to the editor column. Bravo. For those who do not want war and do not want to be seen “kowtowing” to China, the armed neutrality is a good choice. A diplomatic approach on equal terms is the best,

Finally a few words of wisdom from Gareth Evans, a former Australian Foreign Minister who said: “It is never wise, in foreign affairs and defence policymaking, for emotion to trump reason, for politics to trump objectivity, or for sensitive judgment calls on major national interest issues to be made before they have to be. Talking up, as so many now are, the prospect of war with China — with Taiwan as the likely trigger point — runs the risk of offending all three prescriptions”.

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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