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21 January 2018


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A balanced article from an expert.

The dormitories in the University of Goroka is a Chinese legacy that stands tall. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for the PMIZ.

To counter, Australia should place more emphasis on sports diplomacy. Apart from the PNG Hunters, the PNG NRL bid should be taken seriously and more PNG talents should be given an opportunity in the NRL. Instead of roads build rugby stadiums and support the domestic competition with NRL expertise. That is the way to win PNG hearts and minds.

It would not be too outrageous, Paul, to suggest that we are already a Chinese tributary state. China may not have demanded the provision of princesses, eunuchs and other 'hostages' as it once did, but key sectors of our economy: mining, agriculture and higher education, for instance, are already within its thrall.

In policy terms, our political leaders will be able to obfuscate for but a short while. A sense of reality will eventually prevail and, with it, short of military conflict between China and the USA, will come acceptance that China is the new Sheriff of the Asia-Pacific region.

China has a 100 year plan to return to its former glory, due to be achieved on or before the centennial of the foundation of the PRC in 1949. My bet is that it will be achieved well before then.

Ed, you are quite right to question the motivation behind some Ministerial indignation over Chinese influence in the South Pacific.

The background to that issue could be both overt and subliminal.

In the first instance, the parallels between the rise of the Japanese in the early 20th Century and now the Chinese are in many ways remarkably similar. That’s because any hegemony is based on empirical methodology. Does the growing Chinese influence in our region present a potential threat to our national security? The answer could be; No more than any other has in the past.

The fact that since the Second World War we are part of a security alliance with the US hasn’t stopped the Yanks in the past determining their own way and sometimes at our expense. Much the same applied to the British before 1939.

The real question that must first be addressed is ‘What is our national interest?’

Only recently it seems we have finally had our leaders begin to make public statements on just what this issue might mean for us and our regional neighbours and friends.

Under these circumstances, is it any wonder that other South Pacific nations have correctly decided to determine their own perspectives since we haven’t been too free to disclose what our own might be. Of course, that deafening silence may be because like the proverbial policy explained in the TV series ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, it was actually not to have a policy.

Ultimately, any ill-defined nihilism is like sitting on a barb wire fence. You can only do that for so long before you either give up or redefine your objective.

The "juvenilistic terra nullius" ideology rings hollow in an ocean and a land that have been inhabited by people well before the "territorial conquests" began .

This is the 21st century. The century, where the rights of each nation states, however perceived fragile and needy they maybe to decide on their own direction and relationships in whichever way and whomever they feel important themselves.

That can be a mixed one of so many sorts. It can take the form of a hybrid version, a multi-faceted one or even a universal and open one. That's none of any one or two other powers to decide. It's within the exclusive province of every nation to craft, decide and move on.

Why is it that there's this nagging notion that some higher guiding (earthly) power's permission be sought on all sovereign matters?

The recent brouhahas amongst politicians and the commentariat about the increase in China’s endeavours to wield its influence in PNG and Australia reflect the fear, long-held by many Australians, of China generally and, more recently, its resumption of world power status.

The fear is concocted from a fertile cocktail of ignorance and misunderstanding, a generic wariness of the unknown and ‘the other’, and the longstanding threat posed by the so-called ‘yellow peril’.

It has been exacerbated by China’s rise as an economic and military power and the concurrent questions as to how the USA and China’s neighbours, including Australia and PNG, will respond to the shifting power relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Whether, and to what extent our fear is warranted, and rational, remains to be seen.

But what, exactly, are we afraid of?

Change, of whatever type, invariably causes the pulse to race and the liver to quiver.

The comfort we’ve derived from the USA’s warm embrace and protective arsenal is dissipating as we observe its apparent withdrawal into self-centred isolation – its recent bellicose bombast towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea notwithstanding.

Our hegemony over the nations of the south-west Pacific is being threatened by Chinese political and commercial forays into the region.

Just as we loathed the rise of Japan as an economic power thirty years ago and its impact on our material well-being, we now resent our economic dependence on China for similar reasons – compounded by the stark differences in our political philosophies.

And, adding to our fears, our political masters, apart from railing about roads to nowhere, seem to be incapable of crafting and implementing any kind of coherent and sustainable response to the change that confronts us.

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