The Australian Government and our tame media complain continually about China’s ‘economic coercion of Australia. But the conflict with China has in many cases been provoked by Australia. The US, which has just appointed Kurt Campbell as its ‘Indo Pacific Coordinator’ has not looked at the facts and stumbles in blindly.
24 March 2021 John Menadue (Pearls and Irritations)
Just compare two accounts, in the SMH last Saturday our Foreign Minister gave us the usual spin as follows:
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne says the Biden administration has shown it has Australia’s back after guaranteeing it will not grant China any improvement in relations until Beijing stops its economic coercion of Australia.
Senator Payne also revealed she has again reached out to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in recent months to restart dialogue, but he has not responded. She reiterated Australia’s stance it will not trade away important principles and values to get talks started again.
The White House’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, this week said US President Joe Biden’s administration had told the Chinese government that ‘‘we are not going to leave Australia alone on the field’’.
Senator Payne said Mr Campbell’s intervention was a ‘‘very clear and unequivocal statement of the importance of allies and partners, and is very much acknowledged and appreciated’’.
‘‘We very much welcome the approach of this administration to its work with allies and partners,’’ she said. ‘‘So I absolutely acknowledge and welcome Kurt Campbell’s comments. We have been with the United States, and they with us.’’
Contrast this ‘be sorry for us, the victim’ with how, former senior public servant, Percy Allan described the dispute in Pearls and Irritations on January 22 this year:
Australia targeted China before it targeted us. After signing a free trade and investment agreement with China in 2015, we:
- Blocked more than 100 Chinese imports by using anti-dumping provisions that the Productivity Commission found were inappropriate under WTO rules
- Led the charge globally to ban Huawei from the 5G network
- Officially condemned human rights violations in China without shaming neighbouring countries (e.g. India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Pakistan, Myanmar and so on) for their transgressions or taking moral responsibility for our own Pacific Solution for refugees.
- Condemned China for breaching international law by seizing a disputed coral atoll in the South China Sea while ignoring Trump tearing up international agreements such as the Paris Climate Change Accord, NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Treaty and the Medium Range Missile Treaty
- Banned China, but not other nations, from promoting its interests and influence in Australia
- Publicly requested the World Health Organisation to investigate the origins of Covid-19 after talking to the Trump administration, but did not give prior notice to, let alone have any dialogue with, China
- Have now banned virtually any investment from China or any bilateral cooperation between state governments and universities and their counterparts in China.
To ingratiate himself with Donald Trump, Scott Morrison decided to poke China in the eye. Now he has the gall to attack China for reacting.
Take your pick on the facts about ‘economic coercion’.
John Menadue AO is an Australian businessman and public commentator, and formerly a Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Ambassador to Japan. He is the founding chair and board member of the Centre for Policy Development and publisher of public policy website Pearls & Irritations