Political debate on foreign policy between Australia-China in conjunction with Australia-US relations is an important issue for the 1.2 million Chinese Australian community. It is also an important issue for Australia as this will dictate our future prosperity and leadership role in the Asia Pacific. It should not be trivialised by name calling and political posturing. In the current vernacular, we should put “Australia First”.
On my first reading of the article by Prof John Fitzgerald “How Bob Carr became China’s pawn”, my initial impression was that Prof Fitzgerald believes and supports the US policy on containment of China whereas Prof Bob Carr does not. In the Chinese Australian community we respect their views. However, name calling gets us nowhere in an honest intellectual debate between two high profile and learned gentlemen.
On subsequently readings of the article, I found the article highly polarizing and too personal. The criticism of Prof Carr by Prof Fitzgerald seems to be a bit “below the belt” and that makes it difficult for the reader to assess Prof Fitzgerald arguments objectively.
China’s rise in economic prosperity in the world and her claims in the South China Sea have been a serious concern for the US for it challenges the supremo status of US in the world. Whilst it is a natural reaction of the world No. 1 superpower to react to challenges, it may not be that suitable for medium powers to take sides if they have economic/trade ties with US or China.
The opening up of China to the world under the Nixon Administration saw China enter the world stage and the creation of beneficial bilateral economic ties with many nations, particularly Australia which has prospered with China being our No. 1 trading partner. There are tens of thousands of Chinese students studying in Australia with booming Chinese tourism. Now, the US sees China growing too quickly and successfully and a potential challenger on the world stage and is eager to “contain” China. It is also natural for US to “lean” on Australia to be on the US side.
Australia is wedged between the “devil & the deep blue sea” with her old military ally putting pressure on the issue with the threat of losing economic benefits from China.
The China Panic in Australia since late 2016 is real enough and is frightening Chinese Australians . It has been followed by increased xenophobia, racial vilification and hate speech being experience by 1.2 million CA; and in particular, with their loyalty to Australia being questioned.
A debate about the Australia-China relations with close reference to Australia-US relations in terms of Australia’s security, sovereignty and economic wellbeing should be welcomed by the general public.
However, the rules of the debate should be friendly, objective and constructive and “no punches below the belt”. Debates based on the “superior or better political systems” and “unsubstantiated allegations” are not helpful.
Prof Fitzgerald and Dr Clive Hamilton have an opinion on the subject and we want to hear them with an open mind. Prof Carr also has an opinion and he is also entitled to voice it. However, we lose objectivity, when an opinion of a speaker is trivialised and identified as “China’s pawn”, “Panda Hugger”, “US Deputy Sheriff” or “Yankee Bear Hugger”.
We appeal to Prof Fitzgerald for a calm, rational, scholarly and gentlemanly debate so that we may objectively analyse his arguments.
If domestic political systems are used as a debating point, then the stories about how the CCP , the PLA or United Front operates should not be “admissible” without discussing the US domestic equivalent eg race and guns.
The Chinese Community Council of Australia is aware of the western media report on the “million people can be placed in detention in Xinjiang, the President of Interpol can disappear, media stars, journalists, and religious pastors can be arrested and jailed on spurious or non-existent grounds” mentioned in the article. Until solid evidence is produced to back up these claims, they remain western media speculations.
Prof Carr is known to the Chinese Australia community since his days as Premier of NSW and later as Australian Foreign Minister. As correctly pointed out in his article with the AFR about Chinese Australians as silent majority, we can confirm that our independent Chinese Australian organisations has never lobbied Prof Carr on behalf of China or the CCP. Since the China Panic began in 2016, Prof Carr has been empathetic to our feelings of being ‘put through the wringer’ .We feel he is a friend of Chinese Australians.
On the other hand, we lobbied Prof Carr on many issues relating to Australian issues affecting the community while he was the NSW State Premier. We may not have got everything we wanted, but at least we had a sympathetic ear.
The Chinese Australians community lives in hope that an independent Australian foreign policy will emerge that will include security, co-prosperity and peace in the Asia Pacific region. If we value these issues, we will have warmer Australia-China relations which will include maintaining our military ties with the US.
Dr Anthony Pun OAM, is the current National President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia Inc.