As tensions ratchet up between China and the US, Australia risks being caught in the crossfire


File 20181119 27767 1g4rqmc.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The APEC forum in Port Moresby may come to be seen as a pivotal moment when the US reasserted itself in the Pacific region.
AAP/EPA/Mast Irham

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Port Moresby may not be Yalta, nor, it might be said, is it Potsdam. But for a moment at the weekend the steamy out-of-the-way Papua New Guinea capital found itself at the intersection of great power combustibility.

When this latest chapter in America’s relationship with China is written, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Port Moresby in November 2018 may well come to be regarded as a moment when Washington exposed its determination to reassert itself in the region.

The failure of APEC leaders for the first time in the organisation’s history since 1993 to agree on a final communique, due to a standoff on trade between the United States and China, points to more trouble ahead.




Read more:
After APEC, US-China tensions leave ‘cooperation’ in the cold


Unless frictions on trade and other issues are eased over the coming months, Washington and Beijing will have embarked on a course that threatens to destabilise the whole region.

These are significant moments in the evolution of a fractious relationship between an established and a rising power.

The US has long wrestled with a workable approach to an ascendant China. It has oscillated between a hedging strategy, elements of containment, and a process of engagement.

None of these approaches has gelled.

Now, it appears to be moving towards a policy of strategic competition and economic confrontation. This is a combustible formula.

Competing worldviews were on show in Port Moresby as leaders of the two countries put aside diplomatic niceties.

US Vice President Mike Pence’s declaration that the US would not “change course” in its trade dispute with China until that country “changes its ways” could hardly have been more provocative.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, took a swipe at the US when he said countries that embraced protectionism were “doomed to failure”.

Failure to secure American and Chinese signatures to a leaders’ communique arose from differences over the need to reform the World Trade Organisation.

China dug its heels in on language that might have posed challenges to the role of state-owned enterprises, and also on the question of differential treatment of developed and developing countries.

China has long benefited under WTO rules from being regarded as a developing country.

Both Pence and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned loans to Pacific countries were being used as a “debt trap” to assert Chinese influence. Xi strongly rejected these assertions.

Whatever the upshot of these skirmishes, America’s posture in the Asia-Pacific has shifted to one in which it seems to be spoiling for a fight. Canberra should be wary.

The Barack Obama pivot to the Asia-Pacific ended up lacking substance and has been superseded by a combative Trump administration. Its approach has less to do with engagement than with confronting China’s regional ambitions.

The pressure point for regional competition lies in the South China Sea, where China is developing base facilities on disputed features. That strategic competition now extends to the southwest Pacific.

Pence’s announcement that the US would partner Australia and Papua New Guinea in the development of a naval base on Manus Island overlooking the Bismarck Sea is, arguably, the most significant American security initiative in the Asia-Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War. Pence said:

We will work with these nations to protect sovereignty and maritime rights of the Pacific Islands as well.

Thus, Beijing was put on notice that America would adopt a more forward-leaning posture in the Asia-Pacific. Where this leads is hard to predict, but what is certain is that trade and other tensions will have a security overlay.

American bases on the Korean Peninsula and in the Japanese archipelago will now stretch into the southwest Pacific. The Manus base will overlook maritime routes on Australia’s northern approaches.

From an Australian strategic perspective, this is a hugely significant development, and one that will test Canberra’s ability to balance its security relationship with the US and its commercial partnership with China.

Beijing will correctly view the Manus facility as a joint endeavour to neutralise China’s thrust into the southwest Pacific, where it has been cultivating micro-states as part of attempts to spread its power and influence across the region.

Belatedly, Canberra is responding to this Chinese assertiveness in its backyard by ramping up its diplomatic engagement, expanding its aid programs, and now partnering Papua New Guinea and the US in the development of a joint naval facility.

In the period ahead, Australian diplomacy towards China will need to be more nimble and subtle than it has been in the recent past.

Beijing will be watching.

Morrison was not understating the case when he said US involvement in the Lombrun base on Manus would elevate Australia’s relations with its ANZUS alliance partnership to a “new level”.

How this “new level” plays out will depend on careful management of relations with China by whatever government is in power.

A joint naval facility will inevitably make it more difficult to avoid being caught in an American slipstream in any confrontation with China.

Finally, in the lead-up to what is shaping as one of more important encounters between world leaders in years – the meeting between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires this month – Australian policymakers would be advised to read Pence’s October 4 address to the Hudson Institute in Washington.




Read more:
Australia and China push the ‘reset’ button on an important relationship


Assuming Pence’s speech represents an administration view, this should be regarded as a deeply antagonistic statement verging on a declaration of hostilities.

Pence accused China of: seeking to influence America’s mid-term congressional elections; engaging in cyber attacks against American institutions; stealing American property rights; and adopting ruinous trade practices:

When it comes to Beijing’s malign influence and interference in American politics and policy, we will continue to expose it, no matter the form it takes.

We will work with leaders at every level of society to defend our national interest and most cherished goals.

Some viewed the Pence speech as the forerunner of a new cold war. That probably overstates the case, but it is also true that relations between Washington and Beijing have taken a turn for the worse.

Watch this space.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.

Advertisements

After APEC, US-China tensions leave ‘cooperation’ in the cold



File 20181119 44261 xbekgw.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
US Vice President Mike Pence with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Australia’s Scott Morrison were among the leaders of the 21 economies making up APEC.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Nick Bisley, La Trobe University

United States Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks at the end of this year’s summit season just about blasted the word “cooperation” out of the APEC acronym. Amid ill-concealed US-China tensions, it had already been looking out of place.

Pence unveiled US plans to help Australia and Papua New Guinea – APEC’s host this year – expand a military base on Manus Island, which is in PNG. In September, Australia had already announced funding for an upgrade of the facility.

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans famously declared in 1993 that APEC was “four adjectives in search of a noun”. As one of APEC’s founding fathers, he could be forgiven for getting the parts of speech slightly wrong.

But 25 years on, “cooperation” is looking doubtful. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum set sail in Canberra in 1989. Two former prime ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, lay some claim to its parentage. APEC has grown to boast 21 member economies (where China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are listed as separate member economies).




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


APEC is part of summit season in Asia in November, and the one closest to Australia’s heart, given its origins in Canberra. Three other big set pieces are also held within this week each year and bring all the key players in the region together, ostensibly to talk about advancing cooperation, community building and grappling with common problems. Two others relate to ASEAN, the grouping of 10 South-east Asian nations – its annual summit, and the ASEAN Plus 3 meeting where they bring in South Korea, Japan and China. Then there is the East Asia Summit, which comprises the 10 ASEAN members, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States and Russia. These talk-fests give states and economies, great and small, the chance to advance a broad-ranging positive agenda.

But the many handshakes, photo ops and positive sounding joint-statements could not mask the reality of hardening US-China geopolitical competition. It is a cruel irony that a group of meetings created to advance cooperation became the platform for what amounted to a very public drawing of lines of great power competition.

Feelings were mixed when it was announced US President Donald Trump would go to Europe for the centenary of world war one’s truce this year, instead of Asia’s summits. The signal sent that the president does not prioritise the region is unmistakable.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison mixes exotic dress with his passion for rugby league team the Cronulla Sharks in his APEC diplomacy.

During his visit, Pence put on a stern face on US policy, and in his speech to the APEC CEO Summit he reinforced the United States’ wish to build a relationship with China, based on “fairness, reciprocity, and respect for sovereignty”. In earlier comments to the Hudson Institute he accused Beijing of stealing military blueprints, “and using that stolen technology, the Chinese Communist Party is turning ploughshares into swords on a massive scale…”.

Washington now sees itself in full spectrum competition with China for regional and global influence. Pence portrayed China as an aggressive and almost imperial power with a malign regional vision. In contrast, he emphasised that the US wanted to protect an open and rules-based system of genuine partnerships. He underscored the long-term nature of this commitment.

The problem, both for Washington and its partners, is that this new muscular approach to China is, as yet, not fully resourced, and does not align the military aspects with trade – notwithstanding the Manus announcement.

Trump’s economic nationalism jibes badly with the interests of its partners and its long term regional strategy. A free and open Indo-Pacific sits uncomfortably with America’s economic nationalism, imposing tariffs on allies and pleas for multilateral approaches being summarily dismissed.

New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and Canada’s Justin Trudeau share a laugh as Scott Morrison and other APEC leaders look on.

At the same CEO summit, Xi Jinping gave a rare major address outside of China. Like Pence, he sought to lay out a vision for the region that presented China as a force for economic openness, integration and development.

Continuing the themes first articulated at Davos in 2017, the unstated but obvious point of contrast was with America. Xi also rebutted criticism of the Belt and Road Initiative, declaring it was neither a trap nor a geopolitical gambit but an “open platform for cooperation”. But as with his earlier efforts to paint China as a defender of economic openness, the claims remain unconvincing.

Hosting APEC in PNG was fitting, given the south-west Pacific has become a key site of US-China competition. The Manus announcement, along with another that a group of Western allies would collaborate to drive a massive electrification project in the country, gives a concrete sense of what this means for the region. As in the Cold War, when Soviet-American rivalry led to bidding wars in the developing world, today China and the US are competing for influence in the form of infrastructure and development funding.




Read more:
Pence visit reassures that the US remains committed to the Asia-Pacific


If the speeches laid down rhetorical battle lines, APEC’s conclusion showed the consequences of this competition. For the first time in the grouping’s history, APEC members were unable to agree on the wording of a final communique. While a new Cold War is not yet here, this is another worrying step toward a serious rift in the global economy and geopolitics.

The biggest loser of the summit season is probably ASEAN. Founded in 1967 to wall off the newly independent states of south-east Asia from Cold War competition as the Vietnam war escalated, the grouping’s principal purpose has been to ensure the region does not become the wrestling mat of great power competition. It had been crucial to ensuring this goal was met in the Cold War and its aftermath. Events of this past week show it is finding that much harder to achieve as the geopolitical temperature rises.

If there were any doubts, Asia’s summit season confirms that the region has entered a new phase. Great power competition is now Asia’s most important dynamic. Even though the set piece theatre is about community building and cooperation, the reality is that China and the US have irreconcilable visions for the region and its future.

The only question is how much they are willing to pay to prevail in the contest for Asia’s future.The Conversation

Nick Bisley, Head of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of International Relations at La Trobe University, La Trobe University

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

All eyes on November’s G20 meeting as tensions between China and the US ratchet up



File 20181014 109233 1xrgd0z.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Much attention will be on the next meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at the G20 in late November.
AAP/EPA/Roman Pilipey

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

When G20 finance ministers met in Bali last week to review economic developments in the lead-up to the annual G20 summit, they could not ignore troubling signs in the global economy driven by concerns about an intensifying US-China trade conflict.

Last week’s slide in equities markets will have served as a warning – if that was needed – of the risks of a trade conflict undermining confidence more generally.

China’s own Shanghai index is down nearly 30% this year. This is partly due to concerns about a trade disruption becoming an all-out trade war.




Read more:
The risks of a new Cold War between the US and China are real: here’s why


IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s call on G20 participants to “de-escalate” trade tensions or risk a further drag on global economic growth might have resonated among her listeners in Bali, but it is not clear calls to reason are getting much traction in Washington these days.

Uncertainties caused by a disrupted trading environment are already having an impact on global growth. In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF revised growth down to 3.7% from 3.9% for 2018-19, 0.2 percentage points lower than forecast in April.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has called on G20 members to
AAP/EPA/Made Nagi

The IMF is predicting slower growth for the Australian economy, down from a projected 2.9% this year to 2.8% next year. The May federal budget projected growth of 3% for 2018-19 and the following year.

Adding to trade and other tensions between the US and China are the issues of currency valuations, and a Chinese trade surplus.

In September, China’s trade surplus with the US ballooned to a record U$34.1 billion.

This comes amid persistent US complaints that Beijing has fostered a depreciation of the Yuan by about 10% this year to boost exports, which China denies.

These are perilous times in a global market in which the US appears to have shunned its traditional leadership role in favour of an internally-focused “America First” strategy.

So far, fallout from an increasingly contentious relationship between Washington and Beijing has been contained, but a near collision earlier this month between US and Chinese warships in the South China sea reminds us accidents can happen.

This is the background to a meeting at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires late in November between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. That encounter is assuming greater significance as a list of grievances between the two countries expands.

US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech last week to the conservative Hudson Institute invited this question when he accused of China of “malign” intent towards the US.

Are we seeing the beginning of a new cold war?

The short answer is not necessarily. However, a further deterioration in relations could take on some of the characteristics of a cold war, in which collaboration between Washington and Beijing on issues like North Korea becomes more difficult.

By any standards, Pence’s remarks about China were surprising. He suggested, for example, that Chinese meddling in American internal affairs was more serious than Russia’s interventions in the 2016 president campaign.

He accused Beijing of seeking to harm Republican prospects in mid-term congressional elections and Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. This was a reference to China having taken its campaign against US tariffs to newspaper ads in farm states like Iowa.

Soybean exports to China have been hit hard by retaliatory tariff measures applied by Beijing in response to a first round of tariffs levied by the US.

“China wants a different American president,” Pence said.

This is probably true, but it could also be said that much of the rest of the world – not to mention half of the US population – would like a different American president.

All this unsteadiness – and talk of a “new cold war” – is forcing an extensive debate about how to manage relations with the US and China in a disrupted environment that seems likely to become more, not less, challenging.

Australian academic debate, including contributions from various “think tanks”, has tended to focus on the defence implications of tensions in the South China Sea for Australia’s alliance relationship with the US.

This debate has narrowed the focus of Australia’s concerns to those relating to America’s ability – or willingness – to balance China’s regional assertiveness.

This assertiveness increasingly is finding an expression in China’s activities in the south-west Pacific, where Chinese chequebook – or “debt-trap” – diplomacy is being wielded to build political influence.

Australian policymakers have been slow to respond to China’s push into what has been regarded as Australia’s own sphere of influence.




Read more:
Despite strong words, the US has few options left to reverse China’s gains in the South China Sea


Leaving aside narrowly-focused Australian perspectives, it might be useful to get an American view on the overarching challenges facing the US and its allies in their attempts to manage China’s seemingly inexorable rise.

Among American China specialists, few have the academic background and real-time government experience to match that of Jeffrey Bader, who served as President Barack Obama special assistant for national security affairs from 2009-2011.

In a monograph for the Brookings Institution published in September, Bader poses a question that becomes more pertinent in view of Pence’s intervention. He writes:

Ever since President Richard Nixon opened the door to China in 1972, it has been axiomatic that extensive interaction and engagement with Beijing has been in the US national interest.

The decisive question we face today is, should such broad-based interaction be continued in a new era of increasing rivalry, or should it be abandoned or radically altered?

The starkness of choices offered by Bader is striking. These are questions that would not have entered the public discourse as recently as a few months ago.

He cites a host of reasons why America and its allies should be disquieted by developments in China. These include its mercantilist trade policies and its failure to liberalise politically in the three decades since the Tiananmen protests.

However, the costs of distancing would far outweigh the benefits of engagement to no-one’s advantage, least of all American allies like Japan, India and Australia.

None of these countries, in Bader’s words, would risk economic ties with China nor join in a “perverse struggle to re-erect the ‘bamboo curtain’… We will be on our own”. He concludes:

American should reflect on what a world would be like in which the two largest powers are disengaged then isolated from, and ultimately hostile to each other – for disengagement is almost certain to turn out to be a way station on the road to hostility, he concludes.

Bader has been accused of proffering a “straw man argument’’ on grounds that the administration is feeling its way towards a more robust policy, and not one of disengagement. But his basic point is valid that Trump administration policies represent a departure from the norm.




Read more:
Response to rumours of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu speaks volumes about Australian foreign policy


At the conclusion of the IMF/World Bank meetings in Bali, Christine Lagarde added to her earlier warnings of “choppy” waters in the global economy stemming from trade tensions and further financial tightening. She said:

There are risks out there in the system and we need to be mindful of that…bIt’s time to buckle up.

That would seem to be an understatement, given the unsteadiness in the US-China relationship and global geopolitical strains more generally.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.

Australian Politics: 19 July 2013


Compassion seems to have been lost in the asylum seeker debate in Australia, with the Kevin Rudd led Labor government taking a massive shift to a hardline position in refugee policy. The links below are to articles reporting on the new stance.

For more visit:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/rudd-surprises-with-hardline-boat-plan/story-fni0xqi4-1226682198196
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/19/christine-milne-day-of-shame



Leadership tensions developing in the Liberal Party perhaps?

Latest Persecution News – 18 February 2012


Turkish Christians Subject to Discrimination, Attacks, Report Says

The following article reports on the persecution suffered by Christians in Turkey.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/turkey/article_1400297.html

 

Priests Released Amid Wave of Abductions in Sudan

The following article reports on the continuing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, and the increasing numbers of abductions within the region.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/sudan/article_1402682.html

 

Accused Pastor in Kashmir, India Given Reprieve

The following article reports on a pastor accused of giving bribes to Muslim youths to convert to Christianity.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/india/article_1404258.html

 

Churches Forced to Stop Farsi Worship in Tehran, Iran

The following article reports on the continuing persecution of Christians in Iran and the latest efforts of the government to break up Christian worship services.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/iran/article_1406358.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.