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Australia’s 2018 geopolitical choice between the USA or China

Canberra has always deftly balanced between Beijing and Washington but it may soon need to choose one over the other.

Alex Christoforou

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Australia is certain to stress how it can walk the line between the United States and China.

With Trump’s White House win and China’s certain ascension as the world’s new, number one economy, Australia may be forced into making some tough decisions as to where its geopolitical future lies.

“Australia’s Hard Choice Between China and US” via The Strategic Culture Foundation…

Australia has always believed that it doesn’t have to choose between its economic relationship with China and its defense alliance with the United States. But 2018 is already shaping up to be the year of the hard choice.

It would be convenient for Australia if it was able to maintain its balancing act, but a confluence of global factors has stripped away the fiction that it can separate the economic benefits it gets from China and its post-World War II position as one of America’s closest strategic allies.

There is a lot at stake, including potentially Australia’s ongoing prosperity.
China is clearly not happy with Australia’s adherence to the US alliance and if it follows through on veiled threats to boycott Australian exports and limit investment, Canberra’s loyalty to Washington could come at the expense of significant economic pain.

China’s hawkish Global Times newspaper, widely viewed as a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, spared no niceties in an op-ed last week that warned Australia against “interference” in the South China Sea (SCS) territorial disputes.

Australia was “kissing up” to the US and risked “poisoning” its relations with China, which could “adopt strong countermeasures which will seriously impact Australian economic development.” Australia hasn’t taken a position on SCS spats, but has said it favors “freedom of navigation” in the area, echoing the US’ position.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, taking around a third of Australia’s exports. The two countries signed a free trade agreement (FTA) which came into effect at the end of 2015 and two-way trade now exceeds US$110 billion a year.

Chinese students comprise 38% of foreign students in Australia and prop up the university sector with their fees, bringing in US$18 billion per year.

The number of Chinese tourists is also booming. In 2005, 4.9% of foreign visitors to Australia were Chinese, a number which had risen to 13% by 2016. Chinese investors are key players in commercial and residential property markets, and are major investors in sectors such as agriculture and mining.

So when Australia congratulates itself on avoiding a recession for the last 30 years, it owes a major vote of thanks to China.

Despite this, Australia’s position on China is often schizophrenic. While the business and financial community continue to see China as Australia’s future, the defense and intelligence establishment in Canberra take a different view.

They see China as manipulating its global networks, including via the Chinese diaspora in Australia, in support of its global ambitions which are at odds with Australia’s traditional alliance with the US.

From these agencies comes innuendo about Chinese “interference” in Australia, a country which has for years hosted one of the most significant US surveillance facilities at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory.

A recent ban imposed on foreign donations to Australian political parties was squarely aimed at China, and friendships with Chinese donors cost a rising star of the opposition Labor Party, Sam Dasyari, his job in December.

Driven by fear of espionage and cyber-intelligence, successive Australian governments have blocked Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei from participating in the rollout of the country’s National Broadband Network.

In December, Canberra was also poised to kill a deal for Huawei Marine Networks to lay a 4,000-kilometer submarine cable from Sydney to the Solomon Islands.

Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who as Communications Minister was expected to overturn the Huawei ban, referred to China as a “frenemy” in comments at a public dinner last year.

Such paranoia about Chinese telecommunication companies does not extend to New Zealand, where Huawei has been a big player in new national infrastructure or in the United Kingdom, where the company is a big player in rolling out 4G wireless networks and fixed rural phone connections.

Meanwhile, Australia has spent more than US$10 billion on weapons and military equipment from the US in the last four years, according to a recent Australian National Audit Office analysis.

With Australia set to spend around US$150 billion on defense in the next decade, with big outlays earmarked to build a next generation navy and air force, that figure can be expected to rise as it further integrates into the US military supply chain with projects like the J-35 Strike Fighter.

American foreign policy, however, is fast changing under US President Donald Trump. As the US appears to shrink from the region, including through its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, it is creating a vacuum which poses a major dilemma for Australia.

Does Australia fill that vacuum as a local enforcer of the US alliance and forge stronger alliances with other countries such as Japan and South Korea to counterbalance Chinese influence? Or does it accept China’s increased power in the world and recalibrate 70 years of foreign policy accordingly?

The fragmentation of late 20th century geopolitics is reconfiguring the world, and as a mid-ranking nation Australia is yet to find its new place.

Perhaps the only upside to this dilemma is that the US appears to be moving away from any direct confrontation with China in the Pacific as Trump looks to forge alliances against North Korea.

If US-China tensions are heightened, including by allegations that China is not acting genuine in its stated intention to isolate North Korea, it would quickly bring the polarity of Australian policy into sharp focus.

The inconsistencies and contradictions, including in strategic areas, are already apparent. While Huawei is banned from major national infrastructure contracts, its handsets have been approved for use by top defense officials and diplomats, and several thousand have been distributed.

When a Chinese company, Landbridge Group, secured a 99-year lease on the strategic Port of Darwin in 2015, top US defense officials said they were “stunned” by the decision. Critics at the time contended it gave China a “front row seat” to spy on joint US-Australian naval operations.

Australian universities have received government grants to work on collaborative research with Chinese companies on technologies which could have military applications. The University of Adelaide, for example, is working with the Beijing Institute of Aeronautical Materials, a company which is a part of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

All of this shows that Australia’s new hardline on China is and will inevitably be compromised by burgeoning economic relations. While the economic threats from China may simply be posturing at a tense juncture, they have called out and exposed the unresolved contradiction at the heart of Australia’s 21st century identity.

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Don’t share this! EU’s new copyright law could kill the free internet

Under Article 13, platforms would have to install “upload filters”. YouTube could be shorn of much of its content. Big sites would probably survive but, smaller sites could easily be put out of business by “copyright trolls”.

The Duran

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Authored by Neil Clark, op-ed via RT.com:


It’s basically a battle between billionaires Axel Springer SE and Google. But it is ordinary internet users who will fall victim to the EU’s new copyright law, which urgently needs modification.

It’s good to share. But the European Parliament clearly doesn’t think so. Its new copyright legislation, passed last week, clamps down quite severely on sharing things online. The dynamism of the internet is at threat. When Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, warns us of the dangers the new law poses, we should all sit up straight and pay attention.

For a start, the legislation shifts the responsibility for the uploading of copyright material to the internet platforms themselves. Beforehand it was the job of the companies who thought their copyright was infringed to do this. Many don’t bother, and are happy to see their material uploaded to sites like YouTube as they know it promotes an artist’s work and boosts sales. But all that is likely to change.

Under Article 13, platforms would have to install “upload filters”. YouTube could be shorn of much of its content. Big sites would probably survive but, as ZDNet warns here, smaller sites could easily be put out of business by “copyright trolls”.

Not that there’s anything wrong of course, with sensible protection of copyright. As a prolific five-articles-a-week writer and author I can’t tell you how frustrated and angry I feel when I see my work “pirated”by a commercial website which hasn’t even asked my permission to reprint it, let alone offer me  payment. Copyright law needs reform for the digital age. There needs to be an easy way for creators of content to receive payment from those who have stolen their work. The trouble is, the EU has used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Look at the way the ability to link to, and quote from, other work without payment, is threatened by the directive.

Sites like RT’s ‘Op-ed’ section, which you are reading now, would be adversely affected and may be even put out of action. One of the advantages of writing an article for an online site over print is that links to articles mentioned can easily be inserted. This enables the reader to see for him/herself the original source. But Article 11 of the Directive raises fears that payment may, in certain circumstances, have to be paid to sites which are linked to. Being able to quote freely from other articles, so long as they are credited, is surely a good thing. It’s essential for instance when you are writing a piece dissecting another. But under the new legislation all but the very briefest quotes may have to be paid for. Think how much that would restrict quality journalism and hinder the free exchange of knowledge.

Then there’s the threat to memes, one of the most entertaining aspects of online life. It’s true that memes are often based on material which technically is copyrighted. But isn’t legislating against them taking it all too far? Article 13 states that “online content sharing service providers and right holders shall cooperate in good faith in order to ensure that unauthorised protected works or other subject matter are not available on their services.” That could mean you tweeting a GIF of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho showing great disinterest in a topic could fall ‘foul’ of the law.

via GIPHY

So to get over this, you might think of going to a football match yourself, taking a photo of the player, manager, team, or the stadium, and then tweeting that. Be careful, you could be “red-carded” under Article 12a, as Wired in their ‘Explainer’ piece points out here (do we have to pay them for the link, Ed?).

The overall impact of the legislation, if it becomes law in member states, will be stultifying. We’ll all be turned into nervous wrecks, worried that we have infringed the new laws in one way or another. Don’t we have enough stress already in our lives without the European Parliament adding to it?  What’s made the Internet so fandabidozi (will we have to pay The Krankies copyright to use that term?!), is that it has, up to now, been free to grow organically. Blogs that attract readers thrive, those that don’t go to the wall. But the very fact that it’s been a relatively free space, alarms the control freaks and brain-washers.

The EU legislation, bad as it is in its own right, must be seen as part of a wider attempt to clamp down on free expression and the free exchange of ideas in the West at a time when fewer people than ever before believe establishment narratives. This month a British MP by the name of Lucy Powell, launched a bill in Parliament entitled the ‘Online Forums Bill’ to ban private Facebook groups which promote “hate”, “racism” and “fake news”. But who defines what these terms actually mean?

The authorities, that’s who, and they will use their powers selectively and hypocritically to silence anyone who poses a threat to those living very comfortable lives inside the castle. Just look at how the ‘fake news’ debate has been framed in such a way to equate ‘fake news’ with ‘Russian news’, ignoring the promulgation of ‘fake news’ by non-Russian media about Iraqi WMDs which led to a war which killed over 1m people.

Powell’s bill comes on top of the enormous pressure that companies like Facebook have been placed under to toe the line and flag up content from non-approved providers. We were told that in July, Twitter had purged of about 70 million accounts. Censorship is coming back under the guise of “fighting extremism”,“countering fake news”, or “countering the scourge of anti-Semitism.” If they want to censor it they’ll find a noble sounding, virtue-signaling excuse. We need to resist this, and resist it strongly.

In free societies it should be up to internet users themselves to decide what articles and outlets they read, what Facebook groups they join (closed or otherwise), and what Twitter accounts they follow, and not Big Brother or any other kind of politically correct thought police. And the EU should be concerning itself not with trying to control the internet, through manufactured ‘concerns’ over copyright, but in solving the pressing problems affecting Europe’s economies. Youth unemployment stood at around 43 percent in Greece, 33 percent in Spain and 32 percent in Italy, the last time I looked.  What help will the Copyright Directive be to the young jobless?

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Every dirty Democrat trick shows in bid to oust Kavanaugh

American democracy truly is mob rule now, and the mob is stupid, with no one taking a moment to truly consider the situation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The most amazing thing about what is ostensibly the last minute “Hail Mary” smear campaign by the left against Judge Brett Kavanaugh is how utterly transparently partisan it is. Let’s look at the list of tactics used thus far in this very dirty escapade:

  • Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein sat on this allegation for three months, until after the confirmation hearings were over (and after no other barnstorming tactic during the confirmation hearings worked against the nominee).
  • The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is a registered Democrat, and a feminist. RT notes that she appears to have a strong interest in politics.
  • Reports of “death threats” against Dr. Ford have been reported. This is a common feature of any anti-Trump attack, to relate him to some sort of “right-wing” radicalism. This radicalism does not exist among conservatives, but the media is determined to say otherwise.
  • Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, naturally, believes Ford’s story.
  • Every Democrat senator is in agreement that this matter should table the confirmation vote. Some Republicans were at first but appear to be backing away.
  • A woman Democrat senator,  Mazie Hirono, went on record telling men to “shut up and step up.” It seems abundantly clear that this assumes that there can only be one “step” that the men are expected to do. A second lady senator , Patty Murray of Washington, gave all men a warning against stepping off the plantation by saying “Women are watching.”
  • The Senate Republicans offered a chance for Dr Ford to testify on Monday. She refused, but now she is offering to come “next Thursday” – this is ten days later, past the October 1 start date of the US Supreme Court, and closer to the November Midterm elections.

We interrupt this list to make this point. The issues at hand are threefold.

First, the Democrats and other left-wing activists are terrified that they will lose the “Warren Court”, which is the name of the Supreme Court Justice who was a major left-wing judicial activist that enabled the Court to “legislate from the bench” along liberal policy lines since 1969. If Kavanaugh comes in, even if President Trump is somehow magically removed from office, his mark will remain on the Court for at least a generation. Of course, the removal of President Trump is predicated on the Democrats regaining control of the House, which actually looks somewhat likely if polling data is to be believed, and of course a Democrat Senate. (The actual tiny caveat that the President has done absolutely nothing which warrants impeachment will not be taken into consideration. He is to be eliminated. That is Democrat point number one, and make no mistake.)

Second, if the Judge is confirmed, it will look great on the President’s achievement list and energize his voter base even more than it already is. The result could be that the Senate expands its Republican majority, and gains Trumpian conservatives in its ranks, which would likely help the President continue his really great agenda. A defeat in the House that holds or expands GOP, again with Trumpian conservatives, would solidify this, and make it more difficult to stop Trump’s re-election and further solidification of reforms in 2020.

Third, and probably even more important, is that the possibility of a third seat getting vacated on the Court in the time period between now and 2024 is relatively high. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the oldest Justice on the Court, and she is a raving liberal. If she retires (which she promises not to do), or if she is retired by the processes of old age, Trump can score a three-peat and get a third constitutionalist justice into the Court and that will signal the closure of one of the biggest avenues of liberal activism.

To return to the list, some of the further characteristics that make this situation patently obvious are these:

  • As reported in The Duran, the smear job is looking a bit ragged around the edges as time goes by. President Trump called Dr Ford’s bluff by saying he is interested in having her come to testify and that it would be “unfortunate” if she didn’t do so. Ford’s response was as shown above, to try and delay this testimony.
  • The Hollywood “sisterhood” is on record defending Dr Ford. For them, she’s right. She said Kavanaugh did this, so she is right. And why? Because she is a woman, a feminist and a Democrat. She is one of them. It would very interesting to know if the sisterhood would stand behind a conservative woman raising such a concern against a Democrat, but we have President Clinton to show how well that all went.

This by no means concludes the list of characteristics, but as noted earlier here, anyone that does even just a little critical thinking about this can see that this issue is no moral outrage, it is strictly partisan hackery, making use of the greatest weapon against conservative men put in use over the last fifty years – the sexual allegation from a woman, who must always be believed, because the woman is always right. 

The unfortunate truth is that this tactic works. It works because most men are actually gentlemen. We honor women, and we are taught to defer to them in America, because that is what a gentleman does. Feminism takes this characteristic of men, especially in modern times who really want to make sure they treat the ladies right, and it throws it back in their face in contempt. It is so bad it even has a physiological effect on men, who are now marrying less, and having fewer kids. There are even physiological changes that result from this abuse.

Further, there is an appalling lack of critical thinking in our society. The British news site, The Independent offers a poll with questions about the Kavanaugh case. The astonishing lack of critical thinking is clearly evident as the reader votes his or her thought and then sees the results for that question. Going through the questions and observing their responses can be very illuminating.

Dr Ford is demanding an FBI investigation, but she has no date, time or location attached to the incident she accuses now-Judge Kavanaugh of perpetrating. Rush Limbaugh did a great job at showing just how absurd this demand actually is, given these glaring areas of non-knowledge and we include some of that transcript below:

What would happen, let’s say — I don’t know — in the last 10 years up to last week if any woman had walked into any FBI office in the country and said the following: “Hi. I’m here to report that I was abused 35 years ago. I was — I was — I was at a party. Uh, I was 15, a little bit to drink, and a 17-year-old guy pushed me down on top of a table and laid on top of me. And then — and then and then I think — I think — a friend came in and did something and anyway they left and I was left locked in the room. And I want to you to investigate.”

Do you think if somebody shows up at an FBI office with that story, if they show up in person with that story, that the FBI is gonna give it any time whatsoever? The agents are gonna look at each other with kind of wary eyes and they’re gonna crack silent jokes to one another. I’m not kidding. You take this out of the realm of a letter to a crazed, partisan United States senator, Dianne Feinstein, and just move this into the victim walking into an FBI office, “It was 35 years, 34 years. I’m not sure where. But I know that when I was 15, I was at a party, and some guy jumped on top of me.”

So let’s say the FBI agent decides to actually take this further and in a very respectful way says, “Well, Miss, were you raped or injured?”

“Uh, no, not really.”

“Did you report this or tell anyone at the time, 36, 35 years ago?”

“Uh, no.”

“What year was this, again, that this happened?”

“Uhhh, I’m not — I’m not sure. I think it was 1982.”

“Where did this happen?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know. I was so traumatized; I don’t remember any of it. I just remember some guy jumping on me and I was drunk and — and I don’t know. But I want you to investigate it.”

“Okay. Ma’am, were there any witnesses?”

“Just the one friend of his that pushed him off, and then they left before he could do anything.”

What would the FBI do with this, if that scenario happened in one of their field offices? I will tell you what they would do: Zip, zero, nada. And the reason for bringing it up this way is to try to shine some kind of a different light on this and try to put this kind of allegation in some kind of context. The president is handling this in a quite fascinating way. He’s saying, “I hope she shows up. I want to hear what she has to say. I really hope she shows up. I’m very interested in what she has to say. We all are. And if she shows up and if she’s credible, why, then we’re gonna have to do something about that.”

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Russian Hierarch explains Ukrainian issue in detail (VIDEO)

A Russian Orthodox Hierarch explores the incursion of earthly politics into the life, pastoral activity and needs of the Orthodox Church.

Seraphim Hanisch

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RT’s “Worlds Apart” interview program recently interviewed Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), a hierarch who heads the Department of External Church Relations for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. The Duran has covered the crisis in Ukraine surrounding the activity of the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, of Constantinople, intended to create a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This effort falls completely outside the normal and authorized operating procedures of the Orthodox Church, but to the lay listener it is difficult to understand what the fuss really is all about.

Metropolitan Hilarion and Oksana Boyko do an excellent job with both the answers, but more importantly, the questions, since Ms. Boyko asks the questions that someone who knows nothing about the Church might ask. This situation is completely about politics and not about the true work of the Church, and Met. Hilarion answers these questions very completely and thoroughly.

One of the really interesting points that Met. Hilarion makes is the idea that the Ecumenical Patriarch seeks to bring about the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church from these four groups:

  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (which is canonical and which has not requested self-rule, called autocephaly
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Church “Kyiv Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko, which is a completely schismatic group. This group, and Filaret, are leading the charge.
  • The Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church – another schismatic group that is not in communion with Filaret’s church
  • The Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine – and this is truly interesting, because this group is not even Orthodox, but is an Eastern Rite group under the Pope of Rome, and is in fact Roman Catholic.

The notion of bringing together such a disparity of groups is stunning to the Metropolitan, and yet he understands the motives of the men driving this idea, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, Patriarch Bartholomew, and Filaret Denisenko.

While the United States is not mentioned in this interview in any prominent sense, it should be noted that this move also does have strong US support as the American political leadership has been advocating for the Poroshenko government in an effort to continue to surround and isolate Russia. As we have noted elsewhere, this series of moves may well create more problems for Russia, by design.

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