No Escape - You sink or swim with friends & enemies - Australia too
DiscussionX4 Saturday, 4 July 2020 11 am to about 1:30 PM (end time flexible)
Venue: Brunelli Cafe 187 Rundle Street, Adelaide
About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding
1. How should the Australian government manage Australia's relationship with China? USA and the PRC have taken a hostile stance towards each other. Now Australia is suffering some spillover effects as a proxy target.
2. The first law of conflict (and of business) is to know your opponent. Most Australians have a very shallow understanding of other countries and cultures. This is risky. How can Australians be motivated to learn more about countries which are potential friends or enemies?
3. What languages will you and your children learn (yes, you may have to)? International power balances are changing. Language follows power. This is called linguistic imperialism. People in many countries put enormous effort into learning English. English has been an international lingua franca for a couple of generations, but maybe not forever.
4. If a population is a herd, how can the Australian herd be turned in a positive way to strive for new goals and a new identity in the world? We are facing more difficult times, not only locally, but internationally. Australia has been called the lucky country. Maybe it should be called the complacent country. Is complacency enough to save us from a declining standard of living and fewer freedoms?
5. What is the evidence that the political groundwork is being laid to scare Australians into voting for 'safe hands' and protect us from a foreign bogeyman? Elections are often won or lost on the fear factor. Internationally that often means finding an enemy which is little understood but inspires fear (e.g. remember the 'boat people' refugee scare, or 'domino theory' of the Vietnam war era).
6. If USA is no longer a reliable ally (and many governments, including Australia's, have decided this at the moment) what potential allies might Australia turn to? What are the strengths and weaknesses of those allies? What is the best way to manage such alliances?
7. How can Australia, Australian companies, and individual Australians, encourage the PRC to evolve in a manner which is tolerant, cooperative and of benefit to all of us? China (like India) contains about 20% of the world's population. China (unlike India) has become impressively organized (far more organized than America). Mass organization offers enormous scope for progress (e.g. China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in a generation). Mass organization also has terrifying potential for abuse, both internally and externally, and we have seen evidence of this happening.
8. If you were crafting and managing Australia's diplomacy viz a viz the PRC, What approach would you take? At the moment China's leadership under Xi Jinping has taken a far more aggressive approach to the world than other PRC leaders since 1978. There are both personal and institutional factors in play here. China has both huge problems and huge ambitions.
9. What is the prospect of Australia declaring itself strategically neutral or non-aligned? What are the other alternatives? Since the Korean War of 1951-53 and still unsettled, America has been involved in many wars with an almost unbroken record of failure (except for the interests of armaments companies and military careers). Australia has been a faithful companion in these enterprises. Now China has been declared the enemy by both American Republicans and Democrats. There is pressure on us to "choose sides". We are uncomfortable with turning to the PRC which for good reason has no real friends, and nervous about being the fall guy for American misadventures.
10. How should Australia manage its relationships with countries of the South Pacific? The South Pacific is a vast area with many tiny island countries. Historically Australia (and New Zealand) have played a large part in education and development in these countries; (Thor has professionally been part of this). The countries are small but strategically important. The PRC has been working hard to draw these small countries into its orbit with grants, development projects, educational opportunities, and bribing influential officials. For small countries, the contest for influence between East and West can be beneficial in the short term. Long term risks are another matter.
Extra Reading, Comments and Links
Daniel Hurst (30 June 2020) "Australia to acquire long-range missiles as PM warns of dangerous post-Covid-19 world". Brisbane Times @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/30/australia-to-acquire-long-range-missiles-as-pm-warns-of-dangerous-post-covid-19-world
Greg Jennett (1 July 2020) "The hundreds of billions being poured into Defence shows Morrison's done with the old world order". ABC @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-01/defence-spending-scott-morrison-miliatry-strategy-jennett/12410464
Laura Tingle (4 July 2020) "Our relationship with China has become a complexity of its own, and Scott Morrison knows it". ABC News @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-04/australia-relationship-china-complexity-of-its-own-scott-morriso/12421320
Francesco Sisci (3 July 2020) "Planned leadership" Settimana website @ http://www.settimananews.it/informazione-internazionale/planned-leadership/ [Quote: "The written rule is that the US president rules America, yet de facto, the unwritten rule is that he rules the world. The world is made of written and unwritten rules, and the latter are more important than the former... Yet in the gap between de jure and de facto, there is a risky imbalance of representation. Americans vote for their president; non-Americans don’t vote for him but will suffer or enjoy the consequences of the American choice. Still they do take part in the public debate, and can have some influence with ideas and money."]
Thor May (2014) "What will be the dominant ideologies of the 21st Century?". The Passionate Skeptic website @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/Ideology21stCentury2.htm
Karen Middleton (5 July 2020) "Cold War: ‘Grey zone’ to define relations with China". The Saturday Paper @ https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/defence/2020/07/04/cold-war-grey-zone-define-relations-with-china/159378480010056
Thor May (2016) "Politics and Politicians : a volatile mix?" The Passionate Skeptic website @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/Politicians.htm [Quote: "Politics is like medicine: sometimes useful, even necessary, in small amounts, but fatal if taken in an overdose. Politicians can be a useful species but are prone to going feral. Democracies often elect either mediocrities or confidence tricksters because large numbers of electors share similar qualities. In practical terms, is there a better way to manage national affairs?"]
Thor May (2014) "Multicultures – communities of familiar strangers" The Passionate Skeptic website @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/Multicultures.htm [Quote: "Australia is already a salad bowl, and nothing is going to change that, even if there are individuals who wish to return to a pre-1947 “golden age” of relative cultural homogeneity. In the real world, Australia’s diversity today adds greatly to its potential strength and resilience, if we can manage to take a ‘glass half full’ (not half empty) view of our place in the world. Everyone here has links to other cultures and countries, and a quarter of Australians were born overseas. Used wisely, those links are of immense value to all of us. We can get by perfectly well with core pan-human values like "do no harm", which we can insist everyone abide by. You can still go to your favourite Irish pub or mosque."]
Thor May (2013) "Democratic societies are less likely to make war than dictatorships (?). What is the evidence? The Passionate Skeptic website @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/Democratic%20societies-and-wars.htm [Quote: "There is no uniform pattern defining what a “democratic society” is. Therefore blanket statements about the relationship between “democratic societies” and war are incoherent... All wars, without fail and throughout history, have been characterized by the deployment of “weapons of mass deception”. That is, the leadership on both sides invariably claims to have God, Fate, Luck, righteousness, history, economic or political necessity .. and every available virtue on their side. It is hardly ever the case that any of this is the real engine for war, but is usually mobilizes enough public support to enable leaders to prosecute war without immediate revolt (though that may come later)]
Thor May (2010) "Somebody Else's Problem - Decision Making in China". Thor's New China Diary @ http://thormay.net/ChinaDiary2/archives/38 [Quote: "A land-of-no-responsibility generates certain cultural behaviours, and makes others impossible. The desperate urge not to be the patsy guarantees that before anything, even the smallest thing, is allowed to happen, there must be a marathon meeting involving as many people as possible. The purpose of the meeting is not to exchange ideas and hammer out a consensus. .. Every citizen of the PRC knows in their bones that offering ideas or considered opinions in a public meeting would be suicidal. Moreover, the protocols of 2000 years of rigid hierarchy would never allow it. No, the public meeting is purely to allow the titular head of, say, The Room Allocation Committee (there is a committee for everything) to claim, if there is any stuff up later, that ‘the institution’ decided XYZ after proper deliberation. XYZ was actually scribbled on the back of an envelope in an off moment when the Chair of the Committee for Room Allocations wasn’t having his back scratched by the girl who wanted promotion from licking envelopes to opening envelopes."]
Amelia Lester (July 3, 2020) "When's it OK to call the cops? The new questions being asked in the US" Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/north-america/when-s-it-ok-to-call-the-cops-the-new-questions-being-asked-in-the-us-20200529-p54xtc.html [Thor, comment: This article is a reflection on the complexities and contradictions among people in the United States. In a way, the US can be any kind of country you want it to be because you can find people there, even lots of people, whose behaviour and ideas will justify your opinion. Politicians and their depravities are just one small corner of this kalaedoscope. I have included the article because while it showcases the USA, exactly the same sort of things could be said about life in China. In China there are not only fat people and thin people, but idiots and geniuses, thieves and saints, the brave and the fearful, conservatives and progressives ... in fact the whole circus of human types. We have to remember this as we get into the game of "realpolitik" condemning or praising who countries in the name of ideologies and "national interests"]
=> Mirjam Is that not true for all countries? If I will ever find a country with only good, educated people I know where I will move to!
=> Like ian beutler - most aussies now are so shallow they could drown in their own sick-bedpan-sewage. & if any body calls me "extremist" I may sue him/her/it for ruining my anonymity. & Down with "education" - it breeds herd animals for the sacrificial slaughter!
Daniel Hurst (5 July 2020) "How China's assertiveness led to Australia's defence overhaul" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jul/05/alarm-bells-how-chinas-assertiveness-led-to-australias-defence-overhaul
Simon Tisdall (5 July 2020) "Weak, divided, incompetent... the west is unfit to challenge Xi’s bid for global hegemony" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/05/weak-divided-incompetent-the-west-is-unfit-to-challenge-xis-bid-for-global-hegemony
Brian Toohey (July 7, 2020) "Drop the pretence when it comes to India" Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/drop-the-pretence-when-it-comes-to-india-20200706-p559ay.html [Quote: ""The US government-funded Freedom House says in its 2020 report, “The Indian government’s alarming departures from democratic norms under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could blur the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi.” Human Rights Watch paints a similarly bleak picture." ... Australians, however, trust India less than Morrison does. A Lowy Institute poll released last month shows only 45 per cent of the public trust New Delhi to behave responsibly, compared with 59 per cent in 2018. Trust in China has plunged further, as the Morrison government and the media highlighted its bad human rights record and alleged attempts to interfere in Australian politics..."
Reuters (7 July 2020) "China slams US as it joins global arms treaty snubbed by US President Donald Trump" ABC News @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-07/china-slams-us-as-it-joins-global-arms-treaty-snubbed-by-trump/12429260
Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian (8 July 20200 "FBI director says China aims to become "world's only superpower"". Axios news desk @ https://www.axios.com/fbi-director-china-superpower-93ba35f1-7ee9-4795-bc88-bf8e84b0e673.html
Ina Fried (8 July 2020) "Big Tech's Hong Kong bind". Axios news desk @ https://www.axios.com/big-tech-hong-kong-china-national-security-law-fcde1b8e-f8f4-4425-8705-e27ffc5170cd.html [Quote: "Big Tech companies are scrambling to figure out what China's imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong means for their businesses there. .. The big picture: Tech companies, like other multinationals, had long seen bases in Hong Kong as a way to operate close to China without being subject to many of that country's most stringent laws. Now they likely must choose between accepting onerous data-sharing and censorship requirements, or leaving Hong Kong. ... Under the new law, passed last week, companies doing business in Hong Kong are required to hand over a wide range of customer information and comply with censorship requests."
Eryk Bagshaw (July 8, 2020) "Australia poised to offer Tiananmen-style visas to Hongkongers". Brisbane Times @ https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/asia/australia-poised-to-offer-tiananmen-style-visas-to-hongkongers-20200708-p55a5j.html
Lily Kwuo (9 July 2020) ""China's Great Firewall descends on Hong Kong internet users - Residents rush to erase digital footprints as law gives police powers over online activity" The Guardian @ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/08/china-great-firewall-descends-hong-kong-internet-users
Casey Michel, Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (7 July 2020) "The Dictator-Run Bank That Tells the Story of America's Foreign Corruption" Foreign Policy magazine @ https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/07/the-dictator-run-bank-that-tells-the-story-of-americas-foreign-corruption/
Tracy Wen Liu (7 July 2020) "China’s Second Wave of Coronavirus Censorship Is Here" Foreign Policy magazine @ https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/07/china-virus-censorship-death/
Alan Boyd (July 9 2020) "Australia shies from being HK refugee safe haven - PM Morrison scraps HK extradition treaty in response to city's new security law but will not create a special channel for those fleeing Beijing's persecution" Asian Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/australia-shies-from-being-hk-refugee-safe-haven/ [Quote: "About 12,000 Hong Kong people are living in Australia, including 10,500 students, will be able to stay after their visas expire. Holders of skilled and graduate visas will have their visas extended for a further five years, and existing or future students can stay on for five years after they graduate; both groups will then be eligible to apply for permanent residency. The fate of 5,000 other Hong Kong people in Australia, who are thought to be mostly tourists stranded by the Covid-19 pandemic, was not outlined in the announcement... a new visa category would be created to attract skilled migrants from Hong Kong. If they have skills that are needed in Australia they will get an initial five-year visa as a pathway to permanent residency... the Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times said that any moves by Canberra to resettle Hong Kong people would have a “huge negative impact” on the Australian economy and cause “immeasurable losses” to businesses... Canberra issued an updated diplomatic advisory cautioning Australians against traveling to or living in the city. .. There are an estimated 100,000 Australian nationals living in Hong Kong."
David P. Goldman (9 July 2020) "Rebuilding American industry: Devil is in the details - It's time to reshore key industries to protect America from economic shocks". Asia Times @ https://asiatimes.com/2020/07/rebuilding-american-industry-devil-is-in-the-details/ [Thor, comment: recommended article]
Matthew Cranston (10 July 2020) "Australia has trade avenues beyond China, CBA says" Australian Financial Review @ https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/australia-s-alternative-to-china-s-threat-on-trade-20200710-p55avd
[Quote: "... the bank's economists say the growth in exports to countries across several sectors such as education, tourism and commodities such as iron ore means Australia may not face as dire a future as some expect even though China makes up 38 per cent of our exports."]
Jed S. Rakoff (July 2020) "Why You Won’t Get Your Day in Court - Many Americans with ordinary legal disputes never get the trial they thought they were guaranteed by the law".
The New York Review of Books @ https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-you-won-t-get-your-day-in-court [Thor, comment: Ah, the notion of "shared values" comes up so often when we talk about choosing friends and enemies. When we conversationally compare the 'freedoms' offered by different countries, or the legal systems, we generally draw on hazy notions of them & us, built from primary school, and about as reliable for real situations as aTwitter feed. This a really important article (well, for those literate enough to read more than a meme). What it says is that the American legal system for ordinary people is broken beyond repair. Your chances of getting a fair outcome in both criminal and civil proceedings are close to zilch. Prosecutors, or in civil cases, private companies, essentially decide outcomes, not judges. In fact, as an ordinary schmuck with an ordinary case, you would probably be no worse off, maybe better off, in a court in, say, China. And yes, and America does jail more people than any other country.]
Michael Smith, China correspondent (July 13, 2020) "China's media portrays a kangaroo-culling, shark-infested hell-hole - Reading China's state-controlled newspapers and online news sites over the past week, you'd think Australia was a potential death trap of racist attacks and vicious animals". Australian Financial Review @ https://www.afr.com/world/asia/china-s-media-portrays-a-kangaroo-culling-shark-infested-hell-hole-20200713-p55bjo
James Kynge (14 July 2020) "Is Xi Jinping overplaying his hand against the world? - To many observers, it can seem as if China is picking fights with almost everyone. But what is its end-game?" Australian Financial Review @ https://www.afr.com/world/asia/is-xi-jinping-overplaying-his-hand-against-the-world-20200714-p55bsn
Zach Dorfman (16 July 2020) "The CIA's new license to cyberattack". Asia Timese @ https://www.axios.com/the-cias-new-license-to-cyberattack-43994d91-4717-4af2-b9e4-66aba36d3b0e.html
Index of past discussion topics & questions: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm
Convenor : Thor May firstname.lastname@example.org Personal website (legacy) http://thormay.net
Articles http://independent.academia.edu/thormay (.. about 147 articles by Thor)