China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian recently stated that China is not interested in compromise with Australia in their relationship because the “crux of the deteriorating bilateral ties” is “Australia’s repeated wrong acts and remarks…as well as its provocative and confrontational actions.” Further he asserted that “Whoever hung the bell [on the tiger’s neck] must untie it”, meaning that those who have caused problems should be the ones to solve problems.
The latest presentation on China by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the country’s national broadcaster funded by the Australian government and its official mouthpiece, indicates that the Australian government is determined to tie more bells around China’s neck.
Currently prominently featured in the ABC’s website analysis section is a patently anti-China piece by its China correspondent, titled “China had a three step strategy: The Taliban followed it to the letter” (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-08-19/taliban-return-power-afghanistan-mao-zedong-us-lessons-history/100386792).
Claiming that it was Mao Zedong who “wrote the playbook for the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan”, the article asserted that “Mao can be seen as the father of modern insurgencies: his teachings inspiring the FARC movement in Colombia, al Qaeda and Islamic State, among others”.
The article also repeated the accusation of Guillaume Beaurpere, a US Army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and studied al-Qaeda ideology, that “the Mao template for endless warfare” was currently being used by Islamist terrorist groups.
Following a facile case made to support the assertion of the Taliban’s use of Maoism in taking back Afghanistan, the presentation calls for what some in Australia would consider a lap dog appeal for the United States to rally Australia, NATO, the Quad and other nations to counter the autocracy and brutality that the correspondent sees at the heart of the Maoist doctrine and China.
Perhaps the story was also written to counter the disapproval of some Australians to the efforts of their government in tying more weights around China’s neck to strangle it.
A discerning commentator in response to an article decrying the now daily slanted coverage of China in the western media has pointed out:
China is at last standing up assertively and calling out the West’s threats, bullying and lies. Most in the West only see the victim’s response, not the bully’s provocation. They are totally unaware of the extreme lengths to which the US has over many years sought to contain and provoke China. O’Bama’s Pivot to Asia in 2012 was nothing short of a call to arms against its biggest rival. The US has now surrounded China with over 400 military bases and is provocatively and illegally entering its waters and airspace. It’s arbitrarily imposing sanctions on China and deliberately fomenting civil unrest over Hong Kong, Taiwan, XinJiang and any other opportunity it senses it can exploit in order to destabilise its rival. The US would never stand for another country doing this to America, but it sees itself as having the God-given right to antagonise and contain China or any other country it considers a threat to its self-appointed role as the world’s hegemon. And when China finally stands up and decides to push back and call out the lies, it’s the one that gets branded as the bully!
See comment in “How low can western media go” , https://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=21577)
Can this be in the ABC’s future China coverage
Factual and balanced presentations on what many Australians may not know – but the Chinese have never forgotten – of China’s recent past would be helpful. It is especially necessary to jog the European memory of the period when China was invaded and exploited by Western powers including Britain, the US, France, Germany and Russia. The period of Western aggression against China began from the opium war period in the mid 19 century. Western powers were joined by Japan in seeking to carve up China to become their colony. Millions of Chinese were killed or suffered during the century of western and Japanese aggression and attempts at subjugation that followed, and which continued until the second world war.
Today’s renewed attempts to bring down China in the bid to continue western supremacy and impose the United States interpretation of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ has a completely different China to contend with
Firstly it is not an undeveloped or disunited China on the world stage. When the Chinese Communist Party came to power on 1 October 1949, it not only restored the country’s honour. The party has overseen a socio-economic miracle in which a country that could not feed itself has been turned into an economic powerhouse within a few decades .China is now the biggest engine of global economic growth and by the end of the decade will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.
At the same time more than half a billion people have been lifted out of poverty. In 2000, China’s middle class was just three percent of its population. By 2018, this number had climbed to over half of the population, constituting more than 700 million persons.
Secondly, President Xi Jinping has vowed to complete the rejuvenation of China and to restore it to global power. Although an authoritarian leader by western standards, Xi and the Communist party enjoy the popular support of the great majority of the Chinese population. 2020 polling data from the Ash Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government revealed 95% satisfaction with the Beijing government among Chinese citizens. The CPC has made it clear that the road for future Chinese development is through peaceful socialism with Chinese characteristics. This will be different from western liberalism or authoritarian capitalism – a point missing from most western analysis. It is also different in that it will not seek the ruinous wars waged by the United States and its allies to impose their version of ‘international norms’, ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ on the rest of the world.
The Other China
The reality is that China today by any measure is a global power. Although a global power, China has not thrown its weight around but has been a responsible world citizen. It has joined in a global rules based order and is a supportive member of the World Trade Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the UN’s Security Council. It is a signatory to global compacts including the Paris Climate Accords and engages in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. On regional and global issues including the present pandemic crisis, climate change and nuclear and arms control China is a good international citizen playing a constructive role in finding multilateral solutions. The latest example of China using its soft power is its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth.
Of course, the BRI is also to strengthen Beijing’s economic leadership. Many western analysts focusing on this initiative through a narrow anti-China lens have condemned it as Beijing’s attempt to exploit its neighbours. However, an alternative explanation is that the BRI is motivated by China’s concerns to upgrade the nation’s industry and to export China’s technological and engineering services and products. The ultimate goal does not appear to be to impose Chinese dominance but to generate win-win outcomes for participating nations.
What Next in the Asian region
US domination of the global economy and geo-politics has ended or will soon be ending. Instead of acting as the US’s sheriff in the Asia Pacific region, Australia needs to acknowledge the legitimacy of China’s national aspirations. That means coming to terms with China’s concern with its boundaries which include Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan where a peaceful resolution can take place at some point in the future if there is no foreign intervention or instigation. Also not undermining China’s attempts aimed at protecting its economic lifeline in the South China Sea.
Perhaps the most serious of Australia’s anti-China moves are the recent efforts to persuade Japan, India and other Asian countries to join in a larger military and economic front against Beijing. The latest rebuff by Vietnam to US Vice President Kamala Harris’s recent visit and blatantly obvious overtures to China’s neighbour to join the Quad should serve as a salutary reminder that ASEAN nations value China as a peaceful partner, and are not so easily bribed by offers of special assistance and ‘strategic partnership’.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian media, ABC and others, should drop the megaphone and stop treating China as the enemy. This can provide a first step back from a conflict in which all will be losers but Australia will be the bigger loser if the relationship continues in free fall.
The other important political certitude that Australia and the western world needs to take from the Taliban return to Afghanistan is that it is a homegrown victory that does not draw from any other nation’s playbook, strategy or agenda. Until they recognize and come to terms with the deep nationalist credentials of the Taliban that has been soaked in blood and sacrifice, they will be fighting a futile war.
*Lim Teck Ghee, a former graduate of the Australian National University, is a political analyst in Malaysia. He has a regular column called, ‘Another Take’ in The Sun, one of the nation’s print media.