Note the lack of a qualifier – Xi does not seek for China the “dominant position in Asia” or the “dominant position in the Indo-Pacific”. This speech was not released publicly by the party for six years, but since 2018 his intent has been plain – he seeks for China the dominant position in the world.
Is this realistic? It is indeed, according to the lead author of the 2018 US National Security Strategy. Only one country has the potential to dominate the US, Elbridge Colby told me last year. Only one country is amassing the power to be able to coerce the US economically, in turn positioning itself to be able to undermine its freedom and prosperity, he says: “The only plausible way that could happen is China and Asia. Asia is about half of global GDP, in fact, probably more than that pretty soon, and China is by far the most powerful other state in the international system. So, by deduction, our most important interest is denying China hegemony over Asia.”
Which is why Joe Biden says the US is “competing with China to win the 21st century”. The slow-dawning comprehension has spread worldwide so that even the European Union abandoned its unwary welcome to the CCP. The EU now classifies China as a “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance”.
So, as Rudd says, the response may be slow in coming. But it is under way. As the Defence Minister, Richard Marles, told the House on Thursday: “It is difficult to overstate the step that, as a nation, we are about to take. Australia will become just the seventh country to have the ability to operate a nuclear-powered submarine. We have never operated a military capability at this level before.”
He’s talking about the AUKUS plan, of course, an agreement conceived under the Morrison government and due for formal announcement next Tuesday. And why has Australia never operated a military capability at this level before? Chiefly because Washington would not have considered giving it to us. Even if it had, past Australian governments would have baulked at the astronomical cost.
So why now? Because Washington and Canberra share a rising fear of China’s plans. The US wants more allied help to deter China from aggression. “We can’t do it by ourselves” any more, as the White House Indo-Pacific co-ordinator, Kurt Campbell, told me last year.
By sealing the AUKUS plan, Australia marks the moment when it chooses between two worlds. One is the world that China is building with its “alternative models of governance”, more colloquially known as dictatorship. The other is the world that tries to preserve as many of its present freedoms as possible.
Both worlds, of course, are imperfect. But in the current world, Australia gets to decide for itself how imperfect it will be, and which imperfections it will try to fix. We get to debate, to protest, to think, to decide for ourselves.
In the world that China is building, Xi decides for us. What would that look like for Australia? Beijing already has given us an early blueprint of some of its ideas – the infamous 14 grievances or demands.
Remember that, at the same time China imposed its trade bans on Australia a little over two years ago, a pair of its diplomats handed the list of 14 to Nine reporter Jonathan Kearsley in the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra in November 2020.
Don’t remember them all? A quick recap of the main ones. First was that Australia had to accept foreign investment on China’s terms, not ours. Second was that we had to accept Huawei to run our communications systems. Third was that Australia had to accept foreign interference by China. Fourth was to grant visas to anyone China chose. Fifth was to drop the call for a COVID inquiry. And so on, with the final two demanding self-censorship – number 13 was that Australian MPs stop criticising the CCP, and last was that the Australian media do the same.
In other words, it was a demand that Australia reshape its laws and its liberties to suit the comfort and convenience of the Chinese Communist Party.
When Albanese on Tuesday announces the plan for the US and UK to help Australia get eight nuclear-powered submarines, it will be the moment that gives concrete expression to Australia’s choice.
Asked last year whether Australia had to choose between the US and China, Albanese answered “we’ve already chosen”. We’d made the decision in 1951, he said, when Australia signed the ANZUS treaty.
It’s true that it was the moment Australia and the US became allies. But no treaty is any stronger than the political will of its signatories. New Zealand effectively pulled out of the treaty in the 1980s over US nuclear ship visits. NZ has yet to make its real choice between China and the US.
For Australia, the contemporary choice will be next week when Albanese Labor commits Australia irrevocably to the Morrison Coalition proposal for AUKUS. It will not be a partisan policy. It will be a national decision.
Until now, Australia has resembled the proverbial frog in the pot as the water temperature rises. Like dozens of other countries, Australia has been under attack by Beijing’s undeclared “grey zone” warfare.
This brilliant strategy has used economic weight, elite capture through favours to members of the political class, cyberattack, political pressure and economic coercion to undermine national power and resolve around the world, making countries more pliable to Beijing’s influence.
If China’s foreign affairs minister tells us plainly that war is inevitable, we should take him seriously.
Australia, in what Marles this week called “a bipartisan moment of huge significance to our country”, has chosen the world it wants to live in and is prepared to defend. And is preparing accordingly.
The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.
Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.