Will the hawks swoop or soar?

Is AUKUS the window of opportunity for China to prove itself?

7 October 2021 | CCCA (Image: Karo Kujanpaa)

AUKUS has brought Australia inadvertently into the international limelight. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton have come into the spotlight of ASEAN nations. Whether this exposure leaves a good impression on our Asian neighbours is still unclear.   

The announcement of the AUKUS alliance and its associated transfer of nuclear technology, viz. nuclear submarines, and the perception that sooner or later, it will carry nuclear missiles; has raised several eyebrows in ASEAN countries.  

The criticism from ASEAN quarters has a two common theme: the trilateral announcement will promote a destabilizing arms race through the elevating Australia to the nuclear power clubu, and this will see an end southeast Asia as nuclear free zone.  

The other obvious displeasure came from France, whose foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the cancellation of the, already signed, $90 billion submarine deal a “stab in the back” from Australia.

At home, former prime minister Paul Keating wasted no time admonishing the coalition leadership on the issue.  The perception from his remarks imply that we spend huge amount of money buying the submarines and have no control of its use.  

In discussing geopolitical consequences of AUKUS, Professor Mark Beeson presented an unusual proposition, writing, “Somewhat counter-intuitively, it’s possible that the PRC could actually turn the creation of the AUKUS alliance into the proverbial window of opportunity. After all, the last thing the world needs at the moment is a throwback to the Cold War that is designed to contain and isolate China from a region in which it has become the most consequential part.”

As we read the article closely, we sensed that Prof Beeson message was that China should not spend time on countering AUKUS, QUAD, or Five Eyes because the time spent on these negative activities are wasteful.  Instead, China should use its positive energy and money to do the things that can bring good results and benefit the world,  

In particular,    

(1)   using BRI, China’s soft power,  to eliminate poverty, raise the standard of living of people in third world and developing countries  

(2)  Go into countries where US has tried and failed, and provide economic assistance without domestic interference on their politics – Afghanistan,  

(3)  Go help those countries currently sanctioned by the US: Iran and DPRK  

(4)  Resolve the South China Seas territorial claims with her neighbours and reduced tension between them resulting in lesser influence of the US using these issues as a wedge,  

(5)  Outreach to Japan and lessen her paranoia  

(6)  Take a leading role in global climate change, and other global issues  

(7)  Cool the tensions with Taiwan by direct dialogue and peaceful negotiation with whoever in government  

As Prof Beeson suggested, the window of opportunity exists for China to show herself all the good things they have done for humanity and let the wider world judge for themselves against all the propaganda some of the Western tried to demonise her. Many nations have benefited from trading with China last 30 years especially the neighbours and all other developing nations. China is not a “monster enemy” as the US, UK and Australia wanted them to believe as Prof Beeson implied. 

In conclusion, we wish to share with the thoughts on the US-China relations of the late Professor Dennis Etler of University of California, Berkeley: “All the China-bashing serves multiple purposes but one of the main reasons is to make sure that people in the West do not get to hear about or see what the real China is all about because if they did they may get ideas that the Western elites don’t want them to have, such as socialism works for the betterment of the 99% while capitalism works primarily to enrich the 1%.”

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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