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« Belt and Road to nowhere: China’s incoherent aid in PNG | Main | Cyber ghosts & false hopes: Sam thought revolution would be easy »

24 February 2018


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I have been a China observer/watcher for many years, half a century at least.

My view on the late Chairman Mao equated to Emperor Mao particularly when he became dismissive of Stalinist'isim.

Both Phil and Chris are to be lauded for having given excellent summaries.

Mao was very impressed with Gorilla Ta-ticks of the Irish General Michael Collins. Murdered at the behest of Dev Elera.

I have deliberately misspelt De Valeria. Slante - WD

My contention that PNG is, or might become a lynchpin, in China's expansion into the Asia-Pacific is partly based on the theory that it is always best to wage a war, be it military or economic, in someone else's country rather than your own. This is a strategy that the USA and, it seems Australia too, has always embraced. That's why I'm suggesting that APEC and where it is being held are important.

Australia is in an invidious position. It gets, or will increasingly get, its trade from China and its military protection from the USA. If the USA and China are at odds then that creates an unsolvable problem. Unless, of course, we drop one of those alliances so we manage the other more astutely.

I would suggest that our military links with the USA is the logical one to drop. If China is going to invade us it will be through economic stealth and will be a whole lot less painful that outright war.

PNG had seemed to have made up its mind to go with China until the APEC thing came along. (At one stage Powes Parkop had even suggested that the harbour at Manus would make a great Chinese deep water base). Now PNG seems to be dithering and can't make up its mind who is pulling its strings.

We are all between the devil and the deep blue sea.

It is very easy to criticise the USA, our great and powerful friend, at the moment. It is having a pretty tough time, both at home and abroad.

Its serious vices have been on full display for some time now (guns, violence, crap health care, gross inequality, extreme religious views, etc.) and this has greatly obscured its many virtues (intellectual and technological innovation, a profound belief in individual freedom and democracy, a basic if sometimes misguided and ham fisted desire to do "the right thing", an apparently inexhaustible supply of energy and optimism, etc.).

My expectation is that, given time, it will once again confound the nay sayers and pessimists, by slowly and painfully working its way to a workable solution to its problems.

I doubt that it will be the perfect union that Abraham Lincoln strove to achieve. It is more likely to be a new variant of the current imperfect union that has persisted for more or less the whole of its history.

Remember, this is a country that twice managed to elected a black man as its President. Chances are that the current incumbent is an aberration, not a true measure of what the USA stands for. We can only hope so.

Those who do not regard the rising power of China with some degree of trepidation have failed to have proper regard for its history.

China is not now nor has it ever been a bastion of freedom or democracy or equality or fairness. It has always been a centralised state, governed by a powerful and ruthless elite. Now is no different.

In fact, I would contend that China is busily reverting into its traditional governance model as it moves away from even the pretence of being a communist state. President Xi Zinping is slowly but surely accruing more power and becoming more "imperial" by the day.

China's ambition is to use its formidable economic power to extend its influence over other states within what it regards as its legitimate sphere of influence. Right now, this extends well beyond the much discussed Spratly Islands and into the Pacific, Oceania and even the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Consistent with its long traditions, those states which fall within its economic grasp will, in due course, become its vassals and make annual tribute to it.

Unlike in the past, this will occur through the machinations of international financial arrangements rather than through sending an annual treasure ship of gold and silver, but the effect will be the same.

As the Police say, if you are bought once, you stay bought. Some of the leaders flocking to Beijing for money would do well to think about that.

We should regard China not with fear but with the same healthy scepticism that we now apply to our great and powerful friend. Failure to do so is likely to have unhappy long term consequences if, indeed, such consequences are not already inevitable.

The USA is the only country to go from barbarism to decadence and bypass civilisation - Gore Vidal

It is morally bereft and philosophically rudderless (not Ruddless)

Whenever there is conflict in the world you can expect the USA to show up six months late and bomb the crap out of neighbouring countries - P J O' Rourke

And heaven forfend, Phil, that China should want to’ displace the USA in the Indo-Pacific’ and ‘reorder the region in its favour’.

Might it have something to do with upwards of 40,000 US troops on the ground in its near neighbour, the Republic of Korea – where the US would also have control of Korean forces in the event of conflict with the DPRK, or China?

Or the 50,000 US troops in Japan?

Or the other US military bases on Guam and elsewhere in the region?

Are the Chinese being a mite too sensitive about having so many former, and potentially future enemy troops so close at hand – in the full knowledge that, as you say, ‘the USA has often used its military might to get what it wants’?

(Then again, given that the USA has not prevailed in any major military conflict since WW2, Chinese fears may well be unwarranted.)

And why shouldn’t China, like any other sovereign nation, want and be able to assert its influence and advance its political and economic interests throughout the region.

As I’ve said in previous commentary, I’m still not sure what we are afraid of, if, indeed we are afraid.

Do we not have faith in our own political and social institutions and our ability and commitment to protect and assert our own influence and interests?

Or, perhaps, that was your point: do we indeed have such faith?

Should we not also question our longstanding allegiance to and alliance with the USA?

After all, what values do we really share with a country where it’s easier to buy an assault rifle than to vote; where so many electoral boundaries and rules are rigged against people of colour; where children are shot at school; where, in states like Oklahoma, schools can open for only four days a week because the state government won’t raise sufficient taxes to pay for more; where the death penalty still prevails in some states – and the rate of incarceration is the highest in the world and where people of limited means cannot afford health insurance and so on and so on.

There's an easy answer to your astute summing up of the political and military situation to our near north.

Many years ago, I remember a local Kiap suggesting that when it all got too hard at the station, just go on patrol.

Maybe that's the answer that many PNG so called leaders have opted for? It's all too hard so why bother?

Diversions like spending other people's money are so exciting and self enhancing. Practical admonishments from us lapuns are just so 'yesterday' and clearly irrelevant.

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