By Jim Hayes
American investors own the lion’s share of the majority of big companies operating in Australia. This means the Australian economy is tightly bound to the economy of the United States. Given that the American economy is the world’s biggest, and Australia’s tiny by comparison, the former enjoys tremendous political clout over Australia.
It’s a relationship that underlies the fabric of Australia’s economic and political reality.
To justify this connection, we are being told that the Chinese are interfering in Australia. It is repeatedly claimed by some, that China is buying out the country. The sober fact is that Chinese origin investment in Australia is miniscule compared to that of the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, and a range of other countries. This extends to the ownership of land.
Australia’s Top 10 Investment Sources 2017
|Rank(b)||Country||Direct investment||Total investment(c)|
|5||Hong Kong (e)||25,972||116,602|
|Total all countries||849,098||3,266,431|
If the real goal is protecting economic sovereignty, surely the focus would be on the holdings of foreign interest that own the lion’s share? Failure to do this proves that foreign ownership and control is not the issue.
Together with the force of habit, this relationship has ensured involvement in United States instigated conflicts. It got us into Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. It got us to help police US policy through Asia and the South Pacific, earning Australia the unflattering tag of the deputy sheriff.
Involvement in the new cold war against China is the same unquestioning obedience to Washington.
It’s not as if the Chinese are threatening to invade. They have no armies or naval fleets anywhere near. Nor is there evidence that they intend to. But this hasn’t stopped the Australian government from taking part in military threats against China.
Last week, five ships joined American and Japanese counterparts for war games and were intercepted by Chinese forces.
Territorial disputes exist among the countries bordering this sea. They are a product of history, best resolved through dialogue and non-interference by outsiders. This is not what is happening. The fact that this is the world’s biggest trade route linking the Pacfic and Indian Oceans, makes it a hot spot.
Since the early days of colonialism, this route has been viewed as the property of the west, an attitude that continues today.
From the Chinese point of view, foreign presence brings back the memory of foreign occupation an humiliation, made worse by the perceived possibility of ship being blocked and causing harm to the nation economy.
Economic warfare and rising tension ensure risk escalating confrontation.
Add the ring of United States military bases with nuclear and conventional weapons aimed at China. This is not only about ships in the water.
In line with the tradition, involvement overseas is sold by its champions as necessary for Australia’s security. It is the same argument used at other times to justify sending troops to Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. In each case, time proved that our government had lied. So it will be for involvement in the cold against China.
Escalating economic and political war risks descent onto a new shooting world war.
There is a new element making the situation even more dangerous. Donald Trump’s political position has taken a dive this year. The mishandling of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lived Matter movement and its consequences, have created a need for a major distraction. The China issue serves this purpose, and it is a convenient mask to cover to build a social base for rising authoritarianism and militarisation of American society.
The Trump factor is itself a reflection of the deepening economic and political decay of the United States. This is a power that no longer dominates the global scene as it used to. Its economy is sick and internal political divisions are becoming more pronounced. Rising aggression is an outcome of these weaknesses.
Washington’s current China policy was made clear by Mike Pompeo last week, when under the cover of a tilt to defending democracy, he spelt out the goal of the internal political transformation of China.
Pompeo’s comments were steeped in the attitude of American exceptionalism, where the United States should have the sole right to arbitrate the future of any any, and be freed from accountability. The United States is now claiming the right to determine how China and by whom China will be government.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers anti China speech 0n 23 July
Video from U.S. Department of State
The point is that this is really a matter for the Chinese people and no one else’s business. Whether one likes a particular political system or not is beside the point. The real issue is respect for the right of peoples to make their own choices over the future of their nation, free from foreign interference.
China will not succumb to this plan. This is a nation with the capacity to fight back. If the push persists, China will find good reason to work out alternative trade arrangements with other nations. This is already beginning.
That the Australian government chooses to be cheer leader for American exceptionalism and dominance should be of grave concern. It does not only signal support for this on a global scale. This exceptionalism and dominance applies to Australia as well.
During the time of the Curtin government after World War Two, and the Whitlam government in the 1970’s, Washington interfered in Australia’s internal politics because it did not approve of policies of these governments. WikiLeaks exposures disclosed a line of would be Australian political leaders reporting to the US Embassy in Canberra in recent times, for American endorsement.
Australia can do much better than this. We would do well to free ourselves from this chain. To do so, requires greater independence and contributing towards scaling down confrontation and championing equality among nations.