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Issue #1914      May 11, 2020


Australia’s relations with their largest trading partner China have hit fresh new lows, with the Morrison government joining Washington’s push to have Taiwan re-join the World Health Organisation. This push by the Trump regime, under the cover of humanitarian diplomatic assistance, seeks to undermine the One-China policy and ultimately China’s territorially sovereignty.

Cross-strait relations have been a defining feature of geopolitics in the Asia Pacific region since the Kuomintang retreated to the provincial island following their defeat in the Chinese Civil War. The United States, along with the major European powers, backed the Republic of China (ROC) as the sole legitimate government of the entire Chinese mainland, leaving the People’s Republic and the Chinese Communist Party at its helm out of international relations for the next two decades. This situation was resolved in 1971, when the legitimacy of the ROC’s claim was truly exhausted, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took their rightful position in various multilateral bodies, most importantly as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Whilst an independence movement in Taiwan exists and has entered mainstream local politics since the ’90s, it has hardly seen overwhelming support from the local Taiwanese people, with only twenty-eight per cent being in favour according to ROC’s own survey in 2019. The population of Taiwan is made up of Taiwanese Aborigines (circa two per cent), and various waves of Chinese migration over the last four centuries; most notably during the Manchu conquest of China (1618-1683) and the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950).

The push by Washington for the ROC to be re-admitted as an observer of the World Health Organisation (WHO) might seem innocent on the surface, yet it fits into their larger order modus operandi of applying maximum pressure to a fast-rising China at all costs. On top of that, it is an opportunity to deflect from the disaster that is the handling of the COVID-19 crises at home. As of 7th May, the US has over 1.2 million confirmed cases (the actual number is expected to be far higher), more than five times that of any other nation, and over 75,000 deaths. These numbers are continuing to rise at a rapid rate of more than 20,000 confirmed new cases per day, seemingly only limited by the numbers of tests they can carry out. The state of New York is of particular concern, with over 300,000 confirmed cases (more than any other country alone) from just over 1 million tests – a whopping thirty per cent positive rate. Comparing the performance of the world’s two largest and ideologically opposed economies could not be clearer as to which kind of political-economic system has the interests of ordinary people at heart.

Figure 1: Chinese and US per cent of Australian imports and exports. (Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity.)

Australian politicians, like clockwork, are falling over each other in their efforts to pronounce their alignment to Washington’s foreign policy. Whilst the US are Australia’s major defence partner (should accurately be better read as “Australia signs up for unequivocal support for whoever the US decides to bomb next” partner), the average Australian seems unaware of just how much the Australian economy is reliant on cordial relations with the People’s Republic of China:

Since 2013, China has been the destination for over a third of all Australian exports. This is up from a lowly three per cent as little as twenty-five years ago. US trade – both imports and exports – have reduced significantly as a proportion of total trade over the same period. Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye recently made the obvious remarks that at some point, the Chinese people may think “whether this place, which they find is not so friendly, even hostile, is the best place to send their kids to,” and “maybe the ordinary people will think why they should drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef.” This wasn’t so much the threat of a boycott, but rather a warning of what Chinese citizens may choose themselves should ongoing hostilities continues, when he made clear “So it’s up to the public, the people to decide.”

As long as the Australian government exists as a state to manage the affairs of the bourgeoisie/ownership class, a growing contradiction is emerging in Australia-US-China relations – that is, between US lobbies such as AUSMIN (Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation), who seek to align all emerging mainstream political leaders (from both major parties) with the Washington Consensus, and what’s left of our local / national bourgeoise that will see their own profits at risk should Australia-China relations deteriorate further. As of today, that appears to be a “when” not “if ” scenario.


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