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Fear of change (& China) is driving Australia’s Pacific frenzy

Ed Brumby
Ed Brumby

ED BRUMBY

MELBOURNE - The recent brouhaha amongst politicians and the commentariat about the escalation in China’s endeavours to wield influence in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific islands and Australia reflects the fear of China, long-held by many Australians, intensified more recently as it resumes status as a world power.

This fear is concocted from a fertile cocktail of three ingredients: ignorance and misunderstanding; a generic wariness of the unknown; and the enduring threat (originating in 19th century colonial Australia) posed by the so-called ‘yellow peril’.

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

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

But what is it, exactly, that we are afraid of?

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

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

Australia’s hegemony over the nations of the south-west Pacific is threatened by Chinese political and commercial forays into the region and we are shuddering somewhat.

Just as we loathed the rise of Japan as a post-World War II economic power and its impact on our material well-being, we now resent our economic dependence on China (Australia’s largest export market) for similar reasons.

This is compounded by the stark differences in political philosophies between China and Australia.

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.

This is a real test of Australia’s strategic calibre and diplomatic deftness.

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Bernard Singu Yegiora

This article reminds me of the article I wrote in 2010: http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2010/11/the-inevitable-growth-of-global-sinophobia.html
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A never ending story, eh Bernard? - KJ

Ed Brumby

Readers of my brief mini-essay could be forgiven for thinking that I might be some kind of Sinophobe, or Nihonophobe.

I am neither, and far from it.

Having spent most of the '90s working intermittently in Japanese universities, including a year at a national research institute I have what I would consider a decent understanding of, and great admiration for Japan and its people and culture.

Likewise, having spent 10 years visiting China (35+times), building business relationships and arranging 40+ professional education programs for around 2000 Chinese insurance executives I have a similar regard for China and its culture and people - if not for its political philosophy.

I have no respect for the USA's use of military and economic threats and actions in the maintenance of its empire and welcome such Chinese initiatives as the One Belt One Road project which aims to build infrastructure and foster economic development throughout Eurasia and beyond - in complete contrast to the USA's destructive record.

And, political considerations aside, I admire the way that the Chinese get things done: 30,000km of high speed rail links in around 10 years, for example. We Australians have none. (And don't start me about the lack of a rail link between Melbourne city and Tullamarine Airport.)

William Dunlop

Barbara - Right to the point. Very refreshing.

Barbara Short

Living in the Epping /Eastwood area, which is slowly being taken over by Chinese people, who no doubt want to be Australians, I see the world through different eyes.

Many of my old friends have died so I now have some good Chinese friends who help me along life's journey. I sometimes attend a bi-lingual Chinese/English service at St Peter's Presbyterian Church at North Sydney.

What "yellow peril"? They are my neighbours. I believe Australia is a multi-cultural country and the integration of these "new Chinese" people into the Australian way of life is the key to a peaceful future in Australia and hopefully in this part of the world.

Hopefully the government will see it this way. I think I could cope with a Prime Minister of Chinese racial origins, as long as he/she believed in Democracy. Surely it is the Totalitarian/Communist government that we fear.

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