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Issue #1624      January 29, 2014


A dangerous posture

The former Labor government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper set out a strategy for Australian businesses to exploit Asia’s rapid economic development and growing prosperity, in particular in China and India. At the same time it set about strengthening the US and Australia’s military and political ties, in particular supporting the US’s military’s major realignment, the so-called “pivot” to Asia and the Indo-Pacific.

“Asia’s growth offers Australia tremendous potential to significantly increase our exports by utilising our competitive advantages as a nation – as long as we position ourselves so that we are ready to seize these opportunities and unleash Australia’s real economic potential,” the Liberal Party’s pre-election policy stated. “For example, estimates suggest that Asian demand could almost double our net energy exports over the next 20 years. And that comes on top of projections that the volume of our minerals exports could increase by 40 percent to 60 percent in the period to 2025,” the policy continued. Regardless of any differences with Labor their economic focus looked to also be clearly set on Asia.

Yet just days after the election, the process of pulling down the Asian Century began, both figuratively and literally. The website was removed and nothing was put in its place.

In an interview with the AFR Weekend last weekend, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop stated that, “in respect of who is our ‘best friend’ in economic terms, it is undeniably the US. While China is of course our largest merchandise trading partner, I would just make that point, as I am here in Washington.”

Bishop suggests that our economic future lies with the US. She does some simple arithmetic, adding the value of longstanding accumulated investments to the value of current trade and comparing US and China’s totals. The US comes out on top with a total of $1 trillion. Two-way annual trade with China is currently $130 billion compared with the US’s $60 billion. She plays down the relative economic decline of the US and rise of Asian economies.

Abbott is quite clear that he sees the US alliance as “the bedrock of Australian security”. His government is prepared to give the US everything it asks for, even if it is at the expense of Australia’s sovereignty or regional interests. At its first AUSMIN meeting of foreign and defence ministers with the US last November, Julie Bishop and David Johnston, signed a Statement of Principles providing ‘’a common vision for advancing the US force posture initiatives in northern Australia’’.

These initiatives are based on US global domination and in particular, preparing for war with China the main target, along with North Korea. The Principles were forthright, tying Australia into the US’s war preparations, supporting the militarisation of Japan contrary to that country’s Constitution. China would be quite justified in seeing them as offensive and a threat to its security.

The Principles went further in asserting the US’s intentions in our region than in more recent ASUMIN communiqués. “The United States and Australia have a vital stake in, and share a common commitment to, the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and are working together closely as the United States rebalances to the region.

“The United States and Australia affirm they will continue to enhance trust and confidence through dialogue with China on strategic security issues and will encourage China to play a responsible and constructive role in support of regional stability and prosperity, including through adherence to international law. They are dedicated to working with China to secure progress on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Labor recognised the complexities and contradictions of a capitalist economy whose economic interests lie in Asia, in particular with the People’s Republic of China, but whose foreign and military policies are scripted by the USA in the interests of the US imperialism.

It sought to boost economic relations with China at the same time as strengthening its involvement in the US’s attempts to contain China and assert its hegemony in the region. The Coalition’s stance, especially its dressing down of China when it set up Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea to guard against potential air threats, also suggests the Coalition are taking a more openly bellicose stand, a dangerous posture that reflects Australia’s subservient role to the US in the region.

Next article – Keeping your cool in workplace heat

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