Avoiding the China trap: how Australia and the US can remain close despite the threat


Charles Edel, University of Sydney and John Lee, University of Sydney

Ask nearly any politician in Canberra or Washington and they will tell you Australia and the United States have a long and storied history as close allies.

The two nations have fought side-by-side in every major conflict for the past 100 years and remained treaty allies since 1951. On the economic front, the United States is simultaneously the largest foreign investor into Australia and the largest destination of Australia’s foreign investment.




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Australian and US cultures are complementary, and as two democratic nations, their values – shared commitment to the rule of law, religious liberty, free speech and debate – provide the foundation for their prosperity and security.

But while the two nations have been close for so many decades, there exists a growing set of frustrations between Canberra and Washington. The source of these frustrations? China.

For it to continue to succeed and remain relevant, the US-Australia alliance needs a plan to navigate the challenges ahead. Such a plan requires analysing Chinese objectives and the emerging American and Australian responses.

The China challenge

Hopes that China will emerge as a “responsible stakeholder” in the regional and global order are fading.

China’s main strategy to gain regional power is to undermine the United States’ alliances in the region. This might be achieved through economic incentives to draw a country away from the US and closer to China (as is occurring with Thailand), or punishing countries economically to compel them to slow down military cooperation with the US (as has occurred against South Korea).

The United States and Australia should not fall into that trap.

This is leading to a growing appetite in Washington to challenge China’s “unfair” trading policies, military growth, worsening human rights record, coercive economic practices, and drive to dominate the key technologies and industries of the future.




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But in Australia, opinions on what the appropriate response to the increasing power of China are more diverse.

Within government circles, the challenges Beijing presents are being addressed by the introduction of anti-foreign interference legislation, banning Huawei from building Australia’s 5G infrastructure and tightening foreign investment screening.

But in business and tertiary education circles, there is less desire to consider the more negative outcomes of Chinese policies and behaviour, and instead a sole focus on taking advantage of economic opportunities that Xi Jinping’s China presents.

Australian and American policymakers need to realise that these differences in attitude, left unattended, could weaken the alliance significantly.

What do Washington and Canberra want from each other?

As two sovereign states, Australian and US interests will never perfectly align. But, looking only for areas of overlap inevitably leads to a “bare minimum” approach to the alliance.

However, there are many ways the US and Australia can be better allies to each other, given their shifting perspectives.

Washington wants Canberra to be more vocal and proactive when it comes to common alliance objectives, and more explicit about countering Chinese policies we disagree with.




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This includes being more willing to call out China’s destabilising activities – such as conflict in the South China Sea and South Pacific – and even lessening Australia’s commercial dependence on China.

The differences in tone between the two countries’ official documents, such as the 2017 National Security Strategy and Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, demonstrates Washington’s more assertive mindset.

Canberra, on the other hand, would like Washington to clarify its objectives, strategy and resources in greater detail, and be clearer about what it would like Australia to do.




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It would also like the United States to refrain from counterproductive actions, such as picking fights with allies over issues that could be resolved quietly and behind closed doors.

Coordinate better with allies

When the United States fails to communicate with allies on decisions, it can blindside those allies, because it affects their ability to determine what consequences these decisions will have.

Such coordination with allies could mitigate the challenges of China’s well-known tactic of economic coercion. For example, if Beijing were deliberately to reduce the number of Chinese students or tourists it sends to Australia as a way of putting pressure on Canberra, the United States should consider cutting the number of tourist and student visas it gives to Chinese visitors.




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Australia should recognise that the United States is prepared to accept a large disruption to its own markets in an attempt to re-balance the global trading relationship with China. And the US will look to Australia to support these efforts, even if not to the same scale.

Investing to compete with China

Without more government support for domestic education, research and development, technology, and infrastructure, both societies will be ill-equipped to thrive in 21st century industries.

Assessment of military spending, for instance, should be guided by ensuring the burden is shared between the allies. And they will need to assess how they can develop a wider set of security relationships with countries in, and beyond, the region, such as Japan.

Both Australia and the US must decide which new initiatives would advance their objectives, and which will prove to be a distraction or even counter-productive.

For example, how much should we invest to develop the Quad arrangement – an informal partnership between the US, Japan, India and Australia? Of the multiple countries with whom we have “strategic partnerships”, which ought to be prioritised?

Without investments in upgrading regional security and trade architecture, Australian and American defence budgets and domestic resilience won’t be equipped to deal with an increasingly repressive, powerful, and aggressive China.




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Washington will expect more from Australia, but it will need to follow through on its own resource commitments, refrain from using punitive measures against allies and resolve differences behind closed doors.

Both Washington and Canberra will have to work to ensure that differences in approach to China’s growing power do not put them at cross purposes. Their success in doing so will determine the alliances’ relevance in the the future.


This piece is based on their recently published report “The future of the US-Australia alliance in an era of great power competitionThe Conversation

Charles Edel, Senior Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney and John Lee, Senior Fellow (non-resident) at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Pressure builds with more protests in Hong Kong, but what’s the end game?



According to organisers, two million people marched Sunday in Hong Kong, with many shifting focus away from a controversial extradition bill to the resignation of the Beijing-backed chief executive, Carrie Lam.
Jerome Favre/AAP

Caitlin Byrne, Griffith University

The latest protests in Hong Kong on Sunday, which organisers said brought some 2 million people to the streets, represented yet another striking show of “people power” in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s efforts to bring calm to Hong Kong included an uncharacteristic about-face on her position over the weekend, a rare apology and the indefinite suspension of the proposed changes to the city’s extradition laws, which sparked the initial protest against the government last weekend.

But laden with qualifications and a subtle rebuke of the protesters, Lam’s repositioning of the issue has had limited impact, suggesting that she may have seriously underestimated the anger and determination of her constituency. The protesters are now calling for nothing less than her resignation, making her the “lightening rod” for public anger in the face of growing resentment towards Chinese influence in Hong Kong.

As the people of Hong Kong continue to take to the streets, one wonders whether the real struggle has only just begun.

How the fight over the extradition bill mushroomed

For many, Lam’s controversial extradition bill represented the “thin edge of the wedge” of Chinese control. If passed, the proposed law could have seen local and foreign criminal suspects sent to mainland China to stand trial in a judicial system that is opaque and vastly uncompromising.

But there’s much more at stake for the people, identity and prospects of Hong Kong. For those concerned about China’s rising influence in the city, the legislation represented a dangerous break in the firewall that has preserved civil liberties for the people of Hong Kong within the “one country, two systems” framework.




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While its proponents claim the bill has a narrow application, many fear it would enable China’s leadership to target political opponents, entrepreneurs and activists as part of its wider strategy for exercising control over the region. The implications for Hong Kong’s reputation as a vibrant global financial, business and transit hub would be significant.

Of course, the latest demonstrations cannot be viewed in isolation – they are the latest chapter in Hong Kong’s longstanding tradition of public dissent. And there have been some notable successes in the past, including the indefinite suspension of plans to implement a national security law in 2003 and the reversal of a proposed comprehensive national curriculum in 2012.

Yet, as the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests revealed, the mood in Hong Kong appears to be taking on a more sombre tone. Much of this reflects the changing mood within China.

Protesters in Hong Kong wore black on Sunday night, a striking change from the white apparel worn last week.
Roman Pilipey/EPA

Under President Xi Jinping, civil protests — even those organised in the special autonomous region of Hong Kong — are increasingly fraught. Xi himself set the tone with a particularly hard-line speech during his 2017 visit to the city for Lam’s swearing-in.

Flagging new levels of intolerance for activities that might be interpreted as encouraging Hong Kong independence from China, Xi noted:

Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government … or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible.

Despite the efforts of China’s state-run Global Times newspaper to lay blame for the “uncontrolled street politics” on “Western forces” and “malice from afar”, however, Chinese political authorities have remained relatively quiet on the Hong Kong protests this week.




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This is unsurprising. Coming just a week after the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, China was never likely to take an openly provocative stance against the protesters.

But it is clear Beijing is keeping a close eye on the situation, pushing back on criticisms from abroad and now possibly wavering in its support for Lam. Ever sensitive to external critiques that relate to questions of sovereignty, the Chinese government may decide to take a harder line should the protests continue to gather momentum.

Lack of foreign pressure

Thus far, the response to the protests has been relatively muted. The European Union has called for the rights of the Hong Kong people to be respected, noting its concern for the “potentially far-reaching consequences” of the extradition bill. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, meanwhile, has called on authorities to ensure the extradition arrangements “are in line with the rights and freedoms” set forth in the joint declaration when the British handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

US President Donald Trump has remained ambivalent so far, saying only last week, “I’m sure they’ll be able to work it all out.” But according to his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Trump is now expected to raise the issue when he meets Xi at the G20 Summit at the end of the month. This is only significant insofar as it reminds us of Trump’s transactional interest in the region.




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As for Australia, Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a fairly neutral statement in support of the Hong Kong people’s right to protest. It left many, including those in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere who protested in support of Hong Kong last week, somewhat underwhelmed.

Beyond the protests, how the current tensions unfold will have serious implications for Australia’s engagement in the region and our ongoing relationship with China. The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper reinforces the core values underpinning our international engagement, including support for political, economic and religious freedoms, liberal democracy and the rule of law.

How and when we articulate our commitment to these values, and reinforce their place in our region, will be the key test of our diplomacy going forward.

As protesters turn their ire on Carrie Lam, the Chinese government may retreat from its support for her.
Roman Pilipey/EPA

Where do the protests go from here?

Lam’s decision to suspend consideration of the extradition bill offers a necessary moment for pause. But it hasn’t taken the heat out of the protests.

At this stage, Lam hasn’t backed away from her intent to revive the bill at a later stage. It’s also likely the Chinese government will continue to press towards that outcome, though perhaps in a different form and even under different leadership. Much hangs in the balance.

Hong Kong’s protesters appear galvanised by their cause. But whether they can sustain the necessary momentum for the long game — where crossing red lines may come at a cost — is another matter altogether.The Conversation

Caitlin Byrne, Director, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China: Persecution News Update


The links below are to reports relating to the persecution of Christians in China (The most recent articles are at the top).

For more visit:
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/13/jailed-pastors-wife-released-prison-china/
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/13/china-slates-24-village-churches-destruction/
https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/china-installs-surveillance-cameras-in-churches-to-monitor-christians.html
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/11/priest-flees-chinese-province-church-demolition/

Hong Kong in crisis over relationship with China – and there does not appear to be a good solution


Mass pro-democracy demonstrations over recent days have underscored the fact that Hong Kong residents are fearful of creeping mainland control.
AAP/EPA/Vernon Yuen

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

When Britain ceded its control of Hong Kong in 1997 – after its 100-year lease expired – concerns were raised that a 50-year “one country, two systems” formula would be insufficient to protect citizens’ rights.

Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, was among those warning about the risks to the territory’s autonomy under Chinese control.

However, it was argued at the time the “one country, two systems” deal was the best outcome that could be struck under the circumstances.

Twenty-two years later, not quite halfway through a 50-year transition to a notional end to a “two systems” arrangement, it is clear that the relatively benign outcome envisaged in 1997 is under unusual stress.

Mass pro-democracy demonstrations over recent days have underscored the fact that Hong Kong residents are fearful of creeping mainland control that will obliterate their relatively unfettered rights under the 1997 formula.

Their immediate concern is an extradition bill, before Hong Kong’s legislature, that would enable Beijing to extradite alleged criminals. The legislation invites understandable concerns that it could be misused to secure the extradition to the mainland of China’s critics under the pretext these individuals had engaged in criminal activity.

Hong Kong’s relatively free media are alarmed at threats to press freedom inherent in the bill.

Beijing has done little to assuage these concerns. It has accused “foreign forces” of misleading Hong Kongers as part of an attempt to destabilise China.




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Thirty years on, China is still trying to whitewash the Tiananmen crackdown from its history


In China, authorities have blocked foreign news sites to prevent the dissemination of reports and images from the streets of Hong Kong. This is no doubt out of concern that street demonstrations might become contagious on the mainland.

The fact these demonstrations coincided with the 30th anniversary of the June 6 1989 Tiananmen massacre in which hundreds, if not thousands, died in a government crackdown will have fuelled Beijing’s nervousness about developments in Hong Kong.

What distinguishes the latest mass protests against Chinese attempts to circumvent its 1997 “one country, two systems” undertakings from protracted disturbances in 2014 is that this time it reflects increasing alarm about Beijing’s stealthy attempts to extend its control.

In 2014, demonstrations against Beijing’s violation of its commitment to autonomous local elections lasted months. This was the so-called “umbrella movement”, distinguished by the symbolic carrying of umbrellas by demonstrators.

In 2019, and judging by events characterised by fairly heavy-handed use of tear gas, water cannons and other methods to break up the demonstrations, the authorities have resolved to try to nip in the bud this challenge to Beijing-dominated Hong Kong rule.

Whether this works remains to be seen.

The disturbances pose a challenge to Western governments at a particularly fraught moment in global affairs. Relations between the US and China are on a knife’s edge over trade and other issues. This includes sales of sophisticated weaponry to Taiwan, tightening sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, moves to bar the telecommunications supplier Huawei from building 5G networks of US allies, including Australia, and a confrontational approach to China in Washington more generally.

Ill will over Hong Kong will not be helpful.




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From Australia’s standpoint, the Hong Kong disturbances come at an awkward moment as a newly elected government in Canberra wrestles with China policy.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s initial response to events in Hong Kong was too meek. Through a spokesperson, she said:

The Australian government is taking a close interest in the proposed amendments […]

Australia’s interests in Hong Kong deserve something more forthright than this.

Not only does Hong Kong absorb A$11 billion worth of Australian merchandise exports annually, services trade at A$3 billion is significant, and total investment in Australia of A$116 billion puts the former British territory in the top 10 foreign investors.

On top of that, about 100,000 Australians are resident in Hong Kong. This is not a small number in a population of 7.5 million.

While it is true Hong Kong is less important economically than it was in 1997, when its GDP was 16% of China’s (it’s now 2%), it still remains an indispensable financial conduit and testing ground for financial reforms.

Hong Kong provided the financial platform for China’s cautious experimentation in its move towards making the yuan a global currency. Hong Kong’s stock exchange is an important vehicle for capital-raising for Chinese companies.

The events of recent days have placed Beijing’s woman in Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, who was selected by Beijing as chief executive two years ago, in an invidious position. If she yields to the protesters and withdraws the extradition law, she will run foul of her controllers in Beijing.

If she pushes ahead in the Legislative Council with the support of 43 pro-Beijing lawmakers out of 70, as she insists she will, she risks further disturbances.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China: Persecution News Update


The links below are to reports concerning the persecution of Christians in China (the most recent are at the top).

For more visit:
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/04/china-attempts-new-propaganda-efforts-christians/
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/03/chinese-marriage-scam-targets-foreign-christian-girls/
https://www.persecution.org/2019/06/01/hearing-held-chinas-xunsiding-church/

Thirty years on, China is still trying to whitewash the Tiananmen crackdown from its history



The official line in China is that the Tiananmen ‘incident’ was necessary for stability. This whitewashing of history has largely been accepted by many in China as the truth.
How Hwee Young/EPA

Chongyi Feng, University of Technology Sydney

General Wei Fenghe, China’s defence minister, surprised the world over the weekend.

In a speech at Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue — an annual Asian security defence summit – he said the Chinese government made the “correct” decision ordering a military crackdown on the student-led, pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989:

That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence.

Then, on Monday, the English-language Global Times newspaper, a mouthpiece of the communist government, ran an editorial further defending the June 4 Tiananmen massacre:

As a vaccination for the Chinese society, the Tiananmen incident will greatly increase China’s immunity against any major political turmoil in the future.

The June 4 crackdown has been one of the most sensitive and taboo subjects in China over the past three decades. So why is the government now justifying the brutal military violence against unarmed citizens in such an open fashion?

A harsh crackdown and immediate denial

The Chinese government has good reason to worry about open discussions about the Tiananmen crackdown. The 1989 pro-democracy protests were one of the largest and most peaceful social movements in modern world history. The students and other participants did not take violent actions or put forward radical demands. They simply appealed for the government to reform itself.

The protests involved over a million students and other citizens in Beijing (as well as other cities), but were so peaceful and well-organised that the protesters did not smash a single window along the capital’s streets during seven weeks of demonstrations.




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Why remember the past? The case of Tiananmen


The moderate wing of the CCP at the time, led by General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, accepted the movement as “patriotic” and the demands for reforms as legitimate.

The moderates supported the principle of “resolving the issues on the track of democracy and rule of law” and conducted conciliatory discussions with the protesters. They were also prepared to allow greater press freedom and independence in China, loosen the constraints on civil society organisations, and tackle corruption in the government.

It is a shame the hardliners, led by Army Chief Deng Xiaoping, dismissed Zhao and his followers and sent over 200,000 soldiers equipped with machine guns, tanks, cannons and helicopters to take lethal action against the protesters, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent citizens, if not more.

The order to shoot civilian citizens was so shameful that most soldiers defied it to reduce casualties. And despite two to three months of propaganda attempts to praise the soldiers as heroes, the CCP and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) later altered its description of the event from the “pacification of a counter-revolutionary riot” to the “Tiananmen disturbance” or the “Tiananmen incident”.

The Chinese government has also banned any discussions of the subject in classrooms, in print and online. This attempt to erase history prompted one author to call China the “People’s Republic of Amnesia.”

Whitewashing of history

Wei’s comments in Singapore and the Global Times editorial reflect the party’s longstanding line on the crackdown.

During and right after the military response, the CCP regime constructed a narrative that portrayed the peaceful protests as a conspiracy of hostile forces backed by Western powers to create turmoil and divide China. The government justified its crackdown as necessary for maintaining stability, paving the way for China’s rise and eliminating “the thought trend of bourgeois liberalisation”.

It also launched a comprehensive and sustained “campaign of patriotic education” to indoctrinate students from kindergartens to universities with this party-approved narrative, omitting any inconvenient facts.




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Rewriting history in the People’s Republic of Amnesia and beyond


Today, students are either taught nothing about the Tiananmen massacre or told the protesters were criminals. Some Chinese students in my university classes in Australia have even refused to consider readily available information about the event after several years of studying abroad.

Worse still, many Chinese immigrants coming to Australia after 1989 share the same wilful ignorance.

The Tiananmen crackdown is remembered every year with protests in Hong Kong. In mainland China, the event has been erased from the public consciousness.
Jerome Favre/EPA

In the modern world, repressive authoritarian rule is not a necessary condition for economic development and prosperity, and never should be. All stable and well-developed economies around the world are liberal democracies, including Australia.

The rapid economic growth in China over the last four decades did not result from the communist dictatorship, which condemned China to utter poverty for 30 years during the Mao Zedong era. The primary factor contributing to China’s rise was the evolution of the country from a totalitarian society to a more open one. This allowed for more personal autonomy and greater exposure to globalisation, including the transfer of capital, technologies, skills and new ideas.

Indeed, when the Tiananmen massacre took place, few could imagine the CCP regime would last another three decades, let alone become a superpower second only to the United States in economic and military might.




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Tiananmen 25 years on: CCP now fears the masses gathering online


However, as a “fragile superpower”, China is mired in a host of problems. These include systematic corruption, environmental degeneration, loss of public trust in government, enormous wealth inequality, burgeoning debt, and growing tensions between “stability maintenance” and the defence of human rights. Despite the government’s soft power moves abroad, the world also remains suspicious of its actions in the South China Sea and initiatives like One Belt, One Road.

The government’s defence of the 1989 crackdown demonstrates a paranoia that a “colour revolution”, or another popular uprising, will someday come to challenge the regime.

One can only hope this insecurity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the zeitgeist of the June 4 generation is one day breathed back to life.The Conversation

Chongyi Feng, Associate Professor in China Studies, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Blocking Huawei’s 5G could isolate Australia from future economic opportunities


Marina Yue Zhang, Swinburne University of Technology

Trade conflict between the US and China has accelerated towards the brink of trade war.

A recent Trump executive order preventing US companies from working with “adversaries” (China fits this description) was hammered home by a ban on selling US high-tech products to Chinese tech company Huawei.




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Blocking Huawei from Australia means slower and delayed 5G – and for what?


Australia too has put a halt on 5G infrastructure coming from China.

But this is about more than just which company’s poles and wires will provide internet for your phone and movie downloads in the future.

Choices the US, Australia and other nations make around how they set up 5G will determine how we use technology for collaboration, innovation and global business.

Huawei’s 5G is becoming a global standard

5G is the fifth generation network for mobile connectivity. It has been described as “game changing” due to high speeds and high capacity, and provision of superior service to high numbers of users.

5G relies on standardisation – the technical specifications used in mobile networks – supported by patents and licensing agreements.

In mobile networks, standard essential patents (SEPs) are those patents that any company will have to license when implementing 5G. History suggests companies holding SEPs benefit significantly from royalties.

Data from April 2019 shows China, collectively, owns over one-third of the world’s SEPs for 5G.

China lost its opportunity in 1G and 2G, learned an expensive lesson from its failed 3G standard, and achieved substantial catch-up in 4G. It is determined to lead in 5G.

Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE understand that transition to 5G opens a window of opportunity for them to achieve this goal. To do this they need to build followers – and momentum is already moving in this regard.

By the end of March 2019, Huawei had reportedly been awarded 40 5G commercial contracts from carriers around the world (including 23 from Europe, six from the Asia Pacific, ten from the Middle East and one from Africa).

The battle of radio spectra

In addition to standardisation, radio spectrum is another critical factor in 5G. Radio spectrum is a limited resource that is used for communications from Earth to space.

Spectrum allocation is at the heart of 5G competition.

Huawei’s 5G technology has been developed for mid-band spectrums which are available for commercial use in many countries, including Australia.

The best plan for Australia is that mid-band solutions be used to cover the bulk of 5G networks, with high-band technologies to provide complementary coverage in densely populated areas.

The US has limited access to mid-band spectrums for commercial 5G, as most in this range are for defence use. So the US developed its 5G technologies for high-band spectrums – which presents that country with a dilemma.

It is not easy for the US to switch from high-band to mid-band 5G in a short time. And it’s not likely the rest of the world will give up using mid-band solutions, which provide wider coverage and require less investment in infrastructure.

A short-term answer is for the US to push its allies to jointly exclude Huawei from their 5G networks. This might be sought to protect the US from 5G “isolation”, and perhaps have other commercial or political implications – or a combination of these factors.




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The consequence is that Australia, as one of those allies, would likely need to spend more money on base stations and the necessary infrastructure and wait a longer time for a fully operational 5G system.

For example, a Huawei 5G base station is only one-third the size of its 4G equivalents and weighs only 20 kilograms: it’s easier to install, and the technology is at least 18 months ahead of its competitors such as Nokia. This advantage is lost if Australia continues to block Huawei.

Australia’s fourth mobile telco, TPG, argues that there is “no credible case” to rollout its 5G as planned without Huawei.




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Fractured globalisation?

5G will support many applications such as industry automation, self-driving cars, massive machine-to-machine communications, internet of things, smart cities and more.

This means the growth of 5G will accelerate development of an ecosystem in which different countries can co-exist and co-develop, supported by interconnected and interdependent supply chain networks.

Such ecosystems are built on mobile network infrastructures, upon which are layered technology platforms for manufacturing, medical treatments and payments (for example) and then applications for working, studying and living.

For example, in the future this sort of system might be used by Australian and Chinese academics and industry experts to work together on innovations related to health care, environmental protection or industrial automation.

But this may fall down if the involved countries build their 5G infrastructures differently.

Australia’s final 5G plan could have profound implications for Australia’s economic development into the future.The Conversation

Marina Yue Zhang, Associate Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

As Morrison heads to the Pacific, our nearest neighbours will be looking for more than kind words


Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Scott Morrison travels to Europe for D-Day commemorations next week. While there, he may also hold talks with leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the G20 meeting in Japan in June.

With the UK and US in the midst of internal and international repositioning –otherwise known as turmoil – and with China continuing to flex and grow, safeguarding Australia’s strategic and commercial interests has rarely been more complicated, nor more of a singular Australian responsibility.

Somewhat perversely, this may explain why Morrison’s first stop as a freshly re-elected prime minister will not be London or Washington, or even Berlin, but rather, the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara.

That is significant. Whoever won the May 18 election, the regional “backyard” was set to become a renewed priority for Australia.

Attention now turns to small and micro nations, who suffer in varying degrees from the effects of remoteness, narrow economies, endemic poverty, poor infrastructure, and, most existentially, rising sea levels. These countries are eager for assistance in securing their futures, whether sourced from old friends like the US and Australia, or new enthusiasts like China.




Read more:
For Pacific Island nations, rising sea levels are a bigger security concern than rising Chinese influence


China’s influence continues to grow

Labor’s new deputy, Richard Marles, has long championed improved development aid and other assistance to Australia’s nearest neighbours, arguing it is Australia’s moral responsibility. That’s a given, but so is the strategic case for a renewed presence. Namely, the expanding diplomatic and strategic reach of Beijing.

Morrison is alive to it too.

China’s influence across the region – particularly as an infrastructure and project financier – is growing. This is seen in Canberra as a serious threat, with both major parties looking for ways to strengthen ties with Pacific nations that had been allowed to fray.

Darwin-based Labor MP Luke Gosling told me he would make the Northern Territory capital the official base for Australia’s renewed regional extension.

“Whether it is responding to earthquake, cyclone, tsunami, or terrorist attack – it should be the hub for humanitarian, emergency and disaster assistance to the region, but more importantly involved in capacity building with our regional neighbours,” he said.

Valid though this is, success will turn not so much on a change of arrangements internally, as a whole new basis to Australia’s regional pitch.




Read more:
If there’s one thing Pacific nations don’t need, it’s yet another infrastructure investment bank


Australia needs to listen first

Experts say the key to closer relations is talking to smaller countries about their concerns, rather than the tendency we’ve had to date to talk about ours.

For Morrison, that is a political challenge with distinct domestic characteristics. It means acknowledging the contemporaneous real-world effects of global warming, including the direct contribution to carbon emissions from mining and burning coal.

For low-lying island countries including Kiribati, with a population of just 110,000, and Fiji, this is no abstract debate but rather one of life and death, here and now.

“It’s their top security priority,” Michael Wesley, Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University, told Sky News “whereas our top security priority in the Pacific is China”.

“Pacific leaders have made it very clear that they don’t see China in the Pacific as a threat, so we’ve got an immediate mismatch of what we perceive to be the problems between us and the Pacific Islanders.”

Wesley described global warming as an existential concern “happening to them right now”.

“We have to be extremely sensitive about how things like the Adani coal mine, [and] a new coal-fired power plant perhaps being opened, will play out in the Pacific, it goes down like a lead balloon.”

As with Mr Morrison’s visit to Honiara, the order of things matter when communicating internationally.




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Pacific nations aren’t cash-hungry, minister, they just want action on climate change


Taking climate change concerns seriously

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was among the first to congratulate Morrison on his surprise election win. The pair had struck up a warm relationship when they met earlier this year. But now, as then, the Fijian used the opportunity to seek stronger climate leadership from the region’s wealthiest economy.

His longer post on Facebook provided the kicker:

In Australia, you have defied all expectations; let us take the same underdog attitude that inspired your parliamentary victory to the global fight against climate change. By working closely together, we can turn the tides in this battle – the most urgent crisis facing not only the Pacific, but the world. Together, we can ensure that we are earthly stewards of Fiji, Australia, and the ocean that unites us. Together, we can pass down a planet that our children are proud to inherit.

It was a similar message from Samoa, where Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi welcomed the election result, but noted in an interview with The Guardian that “[Australia] has been lagging behind,” regarding the need for action on the climate emergency.

And it’s a fair bet the content will be the same in Honiara.

The finer points of diplomacy have not been a strength of Morrison, who, even after his recent electoral endorsement, is still less than a year in the top job.

A plainly cynical suggestion made during the Wentworth byelection of moving the Australian embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem caused nothing but embarrassment. More recent comments depicting the US as our friend and China as merely our client raised eyebrows in Beijing.

But a desire to succeed, a personable nature, and an avowedly conservative disposition, suggest the Australian prime minister does not envisage significant direction changes in Australia’s stance on either regional or global affairs. That is a reality likely to prove disappointing to Pacific Island leaders looking for a lot more than kind words as their citizens face inundation.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Partner or customer? Why China is Scott Morrison’s biggest foreign policy test



Scott Morrison is relatively inexperienced on foreign policy, but he’s certain to be tested by China in his first full term in office.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Euan Graham, La Trobe University

The 2019 federal election, unlike previous campaigns, did not feature a dedicated debate on foreign affairs or defence. The conventional cynicism – that there are no votes in foreign policy – does not adequately explain this. It seems Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten reached a shabby consensus that foreign and security policy questions were uniformly too hot to handle.

Foreign affairs is in fact among the most important challenges facing the Morrison government. The simple reason: the status quo that has served Australia so well in the past couple of decades is fast coming to an end.

Australia has uniquely avoided recession among the developed economies because it has surfed a once-in-a-generation wave of Chinese demand for commodities. Australia’s security has also been assured through its longstanding alliance with the US, while its military commitments have been kept largely at arm’s length in the Middle East and Afghanistan.




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However, as Asia-Pacific scholar Nick Bisley has commented, Australia now finds itself caught between two different forms of revisionism: the strategic revisionism of Xi Jinping’s China and the economic revisionism of Donald Trump’s United States.

Trump’s trade wars and protectionist policies are likely to be a continuing point of friction with Australia, which remains heavily reliant on Asian markets (not only China) for trade.

But China is the most important external challenge Australia faces. It’s so all-encompassing that it transcends traditional foreign, trade and defence policy silos, and includes a significant domestic dimension in terms of political interference, as well.

Even though Morrison has already served the better part of a year in office, it’s hard to be sure of his convictions on China. With his mandate secured, he now has both the opportunity and obligation to show his true colours.

Caught between a rock and a hard place

In theory, the Coalition’s election victory should mean continuity in foreign policy, as signalled by Morrison’s decision to retain Marise Payne as foreign minister.

When China was – belatedly – raised during the campaign, Morrison repeated a well-worn mantra about not having to “pick sides” between the United States and China. The former he characterised as Australia’s “friend”, labelling China as a “customer”. While this description no doubt raised eyebrows in Beijing, Morrison was arguing Canberra could “stand by” both.

The Morrison administration has generally sought to position Australia somewhere in between its chief ally and its chief customer. His reticence thus far to make waves with the country’s number one customer may be borne of a desire to maintain Canberra’s room for manoeuvre as a middle power, though this is getting steadily harder.

Australia could find itself in an awkward position if the rift between China and the US deepens.
Roman Pilipey/EPA

If the prime minister truly believes Australia can play an intermediary role, few in Canberra’s foreign policy and defence circles would agree. To do so would only expose Australia to heightened risk, precipitating the kind of invidious strategic choices that Morrison wishes to avoid.

It also plays into the Chinese Communist Party’s objective of sowing discord between the US and its Pacific allies.




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In his first major foreign policy test, Morrison needs to stick to the script


If Morrison is privately more attuned to the strategic risks China poses – and after nine months of intelligence briefings he should be – then he has a duty to prepare the public for the likelihood of tougher times ahead. Should Australia-China relations take a darker turn, it may prove difficult for the government to persuade the public to back a significant adjustment in national security policy, including increased defence spending.

Moreover, there are risks to publicly framing US-China strategic competition as a destabilising factor for Australia’s security. Australians could judge the prospect of entrapment in a confrontational US policy towards China as potentially more threatening to Australia’s security than Beijing’s deliberate challenge to the “rules-based order” in the region.

This could undermine public support for Australia’s alliance with the US, which remains the bedrock of our security.

Stepping up in the Pacific

The Pacific is where the strategic interests of China and Australia clash most directly. Morrison’s most important security policy decision thus far, announced at last year’s APEC summit, was to establish a joint naval base with the US and Papua New Guinea at Lombrum on Manus Island. This was partly aimed at denying the location to China, as well as establishing a forward ADF presence in the Pacific.

It is also notable that Morrison will visit the Solomon Islands on his first post-election overseas trip. China is inevitably part of the subtext here, as Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is reported to be swaying towards switching allegiances from Taiwan to Beijing – yet another sign of China’s growing influence in the region.

Of course, there is more than geopolitics to the Pacific region and Morrison must be careful to demonstrate empathy and humility, given Australia’s patchy engagement with the region and the Coalition’s ambivalence on climate change – a major grievance for most Pacific nations.

Morrison’s appointment of Alex Hawke as both minister of international development and Pacific and assistant defence minister provides easy ammunition to critics, who will charge that the government’s Pacific “step up” is narrowly conceived through a geopolitical lens.

But Morrison appears to take the step up seriously, and a commitment to reversing the relative decline in Australia’s influence in its immediate neighbourhood (note: not “backyard”). A volatile political situation in PNG further demands a close watch on the Pacific.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made Australia nervous by courting Pacific leaders like PNG’s Peter O’Neill.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Other key alliances to shore up

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, Morrison has fallen on his feet now that friendly incumbents in Indonesia and India – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prime Minister Narendra Modi – were also returned in recent elections, making it easier for continuity to be maintained.

Morrison was quick off the mark to congratulate Jokowi on Twitter, who promptly replied that Australia is one of Indonesia’s “greatest allies.”

By pulling off an unlikely election victory, Morrison is in the fortunate position of being the first prime minister for some time who is not looking immediately over his or her shoulder for political assassins within their party.

Morrison also has more bandwidth to devote to foreign issues than any leader since Kevin Rudd. He is disadvantaged, however, by his relative inexperience and the thinness of his front bench. That places a special burden on whoever will be advising Morrison on international security – a role sure to take on greater importance in his administration – to provide the counsel he needs and to wrangle the bureaucracy into line. For there will be no shortage of challenges ahead.The Conversation

Euan Graham, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Blocking Huawei from Australia means slower and delayed 5G – and for what?


Stanley Shanapinda, La Trobe University

The United States and Australia are deliberately restricting the place of Chinese telco Huawei in their telecommunications landscapes.

We’re told these changes will be worth it from a security point of view.




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But Huawei infrastructure is already ubiquitous in telecommunications networks, and we have other avenues available to us if we’re concerned about cybersecurity.

In the end, halting involvement of Huawei in Australia will be felt directly by customers. We will have to be satisfied with below-par 5G internet speeds and delayed service rollouts.

And we probably won’t be able to use Google Play on Huawei smart phones after 2020.

Huawei offers the best 5G

5G is a mobile phone network that promises top speeds, especially in highly populated areas. Australia has been expecting the network to be broadly up and running by around 2020 – there is limited availability in some central business districts right now.

Top 5G speeds can reach up to 10 gigabits per second, 20 times faster than 4G. This means movie downloads in a matter of seconds – as opposed to minutes with 4G. A mobile phone, gaming laptop or smart TV can communicate with a 5G network at a response speed of 1 millisecond, as opposed to 30 milliseconds with 4G.

Huawei, the world’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, is leading the 5G race. The Chinese company is around 12 months ahead of its competitors Nokia and Ericsson.

Huawei has been involved in providing 3G and 4G services in Australia since 2004 – reportedly working with Vodafone and Optus, but not Telstra or NBN Co. Huawei built a private 4G network for mining company Santos, and digital voice and data communication systems for rail services in Western Australia and New South Wales. This includes radio masts, base stations and handheld radios, but not the core network.

But Huawei was restricted from participating in future development of Australia’s and the US’s telecommunications networks from August 2018 and May 2019, respectively.

This stems from apparent Australian and US government concerns that Huawei infrastructure could allow the Chinese government to collect foreign intelligence and sensitive information, and sabotage economic interests.




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US ban on Huawei likely following Trump cybersecurity crackdown – and Australia is on board


Costs passed on to consumers

Australia’s telecommunications networks have already felt the impact of the Coalition’s Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms announced in August 2018.

These reforms “place obligations on telecommunications companies to protect Australian networks from unauthorised interference or access that might prejudice our national security”.

The guidance effectively put the companies on notice, implying that use of Huawei could violate cybersecurity laws. No company wants to be in such a position. Continuing with Huawei after being informed that the company may pose a national security risk could bring legal and reputational risks.

The result is companies such as Optus and Vodafone were left scrambling to re-negotiate 5G testing and rollout plans that had been in the works since 2016. Optus has already delayed its 5G roll out.

Most operators do use additional manufacturers such as Nokia and Ericsson for networks and testing. But it’s already clear from cases in Europe that such companies have been slow to release equipment that is as advanced as Huawei’s.

Costs incurred by such changes and the delays in rolling out high-quality services are absorbed by mobile phone companies in the first instance, and eventually passed on to the consumer.

Given existing frustrations with the NBN, customers will continue to wait longer and may have to pay more for top 5G services.

Customers who prefer to use Huawei-made phones could be hit with a double whammy. Recent actions by Google to suspend business operations with Huawei could prevent these customers from having access to Google Play (the equivalent of Apple’s app store on Android devices) in the future.

Huawei is already here

It’s no secret that China’s foreign intelligence-gathering over the internet is increasing.

But it’s doubtful Huawei has assisted such efforts. Technical flaws detected in Italy are reported to be normal in the sector and not due to a backdoor.

Germany has decided to introduce a broad regulatory regime that requires suppliers of 5G networks to be trustworthy, and provide assured protection of information under local laws.

A similar approach in Australia would require telecommunications equipment to be tested before installation, and at regular intervals after installation for the lifetime of the network, under a security capability plan the supplier is required to submit.




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What skills does a cybersecurity professional need?


More broadly speaking, the Coalition has pledged A$156 million to cybersecurity, aimed at developing skills to defend against cyber intrusions and to improve the capabilities of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC). These plans could reasonably be timed with the expected launch of 5G at the end of 2020.

Added to this, the 2018 Assistance and Access Act – commonly referred to as the Encryption Bill – already requires all telecommunications manufacturers to protect their networks and assist national security and law enforcement agencies to share information. Huawei is subject to this legal obligation.

If there are security fears about 5G, those same fears would exist in respect of 4G that has been installed and is supported by Huawei in this country for more than a decade.

It’s not clear what we gain by blocking Huawei’s involvement in Australia’s 5G network.The Conversation

Stanley Shanapinda, Research Fellow, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.