It used to be reds under the bed now a poll finds 42 percent of Australians think the Red Army is about to come over the top and attack our nation. Do they think that way because of what China says or because of what some Australians are saying?
“Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act 3, Scene 1
15 July 2021 | Marcus Reubenstein
(APAC Digital Image/Christoph Schmidt/US National Archive)
China is a rapidly growing economic power, seeking to exert considerable influence in its region and beyond. And like every great power it is a bully which tries to entice, cajole or intimidate other nations into adopting its view of the world.
How is this such a difficult concept for Australians to embrace?
Since Federation we’ve tied our fortunes to two great powers, the declining British Empire then the rising, and rising even more, US global hegemony.
Surely the considerable failures of the Morrison government hammer home the reality that democracy is far from the greatest system of government—it is simply the best option among some very poor choices.
In the name of democracy Britain set about colonising foreign lands; while in the name of that same ideology the United States set about invading them, with tanks, artillery, missiles, warships, jet fighters, bombers and, almost always, with Australian armed forces in tow.
Who is threatening who?
A new report from the Australia Institute begins with the following words:
“In April this year, Australians were warned by no less an expert than the former Minister for Defence, Christopher Pyne, that they may need to engage in a ‘kinetic’ war with China in the next five to ten years.”
Perhaps, in the realm of China policy, ‘no lesser expert’ better describes his authority on the subject.
The same Pyne famously discussed his role as a defence industry consultant with EY whilst he was a sitting member of the Federal Cabinet, a matter which prompted a Senate investigation.
He still works for EY, sits on the board of defence contractor XTEC, is Chair of the Advisory Board of another defence contractor NIOA, and in June last year Arawa Capital announced him as Chair of its Advisory Board and Investment Committee for a fund investing in weapons systems.
In heralding that appointment Arawa specifically referred to the, still unsubstantiated, Scott Morrison announcement of a malicious cyber attack by an unnamed “state-based” actor. Arawa trumpeted Pyne has “unrivalled knowledge of the cyber, intelligence and national security landscape.”
With Pyne on board, Arawa said it “anticipates closing out the initial $50mil capital raising swiftly.” It transpired there was a swift “closing out”, ASIC records show six months later Arawa Capital Pty Ltd was deregistered as a company.
According to research from Michael West Media’s “Revolving Doors” series, Pyne’s numerous board memberships and consultancies put him in direct, or indirect, contact with more than a dozen weapons makers and contractors.
Clearly talking up a war with China is of “no financial benefit” to these companies.
Why would China attack Australia?
Should Australia go to war with China in defence of Taiwan? is the title of the Australia Institute report and 42% of its six hundred respondents think China is poised to attack Australia.
How and why?
Those in Australia beating the “drums of war” point to Taiwan as the flashpoint for the next major global conflict. To what end does a first strike on Australia achieve China’s goals in relation to Taiwan?
What kind of naval assets would China need to employ to launch an attack on Australia? Almost certainly all of its assets, thus redeploying its South China Sea military fleet and leaving its crucial maritime trade routes wide open to attack from another power.
And what could China possibly secure from Australia?
It is highly doubtful the People’s Liberation Army would coming over the top to grab our reserves of the Pfizer vaccine—perhaps they might be in search of our resources?
However, reports this week reveal China is buying Australian resources in record numbers. In the first six months of this year, the total value of exports to China surged 36% beyond the previous record half in 2019.
The United States, just like the Soviet Union before it, invaded Afghanistan. It spent two decades and $US2.26 trillion on a failed campaign in a third world nation with no standing army opposing US coalition forces.
China’s current leadership is presiding over a great deal more diplomatic disasters than triumphs but, if nothing else, the Chinese are pragmatic.
Australia’s rabid China hawks will no doubt dismiss such assessments, saying China doesn’t need to deploy military assets it would simply launch a nuclear strike—those who’ve already made this argument ignore the fact Australia is home to 1.2 million ethnically Chinese people.
My counter argument?
This survey’s inconvenient truth
The same number of respondents were polled in Taiwan and only a few more (49 percent) expressed fears of an attack from the mainland. Bear in mind the Taiwanese are of the same Han ethnicity as the majority of Chinese, who moved over from the mainland in the 1680s; the PRC has never given up its claim to what was once part of China; and the island sits just 161 kilometres off the coast of China.
That four in ten Australians should think Beijing—a mere 9,000 kilometres from Canberra—is gearing up for invasion is staggering.
Report author Allan Behm noted, “Given Australia and Taiwan’s historical and geographical differences, it is astounding that Australians could be more fearful than Taiwan in anticipating an attack from China.”
This anticipation is undoubtedly fuelled by Australia’s China hawks, all with close ties to US-funded research groups and patronage from US weapons makers.
However, they should not be too smug in thinking their “drums of war” are resonating.
73 percent of Australians regard the United States as an aggressive nation, while only six in ten Australians believe the US would come to our aid in the event of war with China.
Totally at odds with Prime Minister Morrison and Foreign Minister Maris Payne’s unquestioned support of the US antagonism towards China, 75 percent of Australians think it is in our interests that China and the US “work together towards world peace”. Of concern to the spin merchants inside the government an even higher number of coalition supporters, 79 percent, think peace with China is a good idea.
Despite the US, and Morrison’s, rhetoric of Taiwan being a like-minded democracy of shared values, 76 percent of Taiwanese rate America as an aggressor. Should the US come to Taiwan’s aid in a war with China, only 18 percent of Taiwanese people think they would win.
How reliable are drummers?
By any sensible strategic logic, the dogs of war should remain in their box. Let the drums of war continue to drum up business for the China threat industry and their death-merchant patrons.
In my twenties I enjoyed a very short career as a singer in a pub band and an even shorter career as a drummer. The standing musical joke has always been: “What do you call somebody who hangs around musicians?” Answer: “A drummer.”
Anybody can beat a drum and, for the drums of war, it’s very easy to find someone who’ll buy you a drumstick.