Anti-China threat porn: Antiquity’s antidote to its sophistry

Apr 20, 2021

If China is a threat to international peace and security, then the relationships outlined below approach the crime of trading with the enemy. 

The prevailing strategic discourse in Australia on the ostensible threat posed by China, demands a response that holds up its narratives critique and, thus, to consistency, and perforce to logic. It demands, therefore, that the ostensible threat and the actions recommended to counter it, be scrutinised for their presuppositions, acceptance of partial truths and falsehoods and their accordance with other beliefs and positions. This, in essence, is the Socratic method and arises from the philosopher’s imperative that we live an “examined life.”

Such a life is especially required when the dominant narrators on national security and defence are, through the favoured distribution of resources, prominent in the public realm and given to the practice of being arguers and experts for hire who are obligated to perform as persuasively as they can for their client’s best interests, irrespective of their moral, ethical or political standing.

In ancient times they were known as sophists – teachers whose profession was the art of persuasion. In contemporary Australia, the true modern sophists are found in the estates and most of the institutions which dominate public discussion (such as it is): thinks tanks, the media, and university “colleges” and “centres” which focus on defence and national security.

Their sophistry can be undone, intellectually at least, by adopting the same approach which the Greeks developed in the face of their predecessors. Specifically, the process is one of successive interrogations.

A first step is to ask this question, which is predicated on the intelligence relationship with the US and which has been described as the “jewel in the crown” of the alliance: if it’s the case that, as many commentators are proclaiming at present, war between the US and China has entered the realm of the probable, and if it also the case that Australia is bound to follow the US into that war, then why, does Australia not heed the denials of China-as-enemy which both the US and NATO have made?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has, to his credit, made the point that he wants the US to avert the turn from “great-power competition” to “great-power war” on the straightforward grounds that war would be a “disaster.” Moreover, he advocates “a high degree of sophisticated diplomacy” in the relationship. He also opposes using the term “enemy” in relation to China in any situation short of war, but that confuses the concept rather than clarifying it. He is joined in this ambiguity by, inter alia, the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg.

The situation, then, is one of confusions and contradictions – which paradoxically is a logical conclusion of China itself not being understood, as Bruce Haigh pointed out on this site just recently. Nor is that the end of it: the so-called “international order” that the US wants to both lead and dominate is an entity in itself that is not understood because, first, it is ill-defined, and second, the characters and vectors of the moving pieces are complex and unpredictable. All that seems relatively certain is that traditional theories and practices of comprehending the state of affairs are inadequate and extremely dangerous.

The second question follows from this: why, if the political complexion of China is a threat, should Australia be associated with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the QUAD) considering that within this grouping of four countries who harbour and/or espouse fascist, or neo-fascist ideologies and policies while a third is routinely but accurately described as an oligarchy/oligopoly which is currently being undermined by the distinctly fascist tendencies of its domestic far-right which, according to the law enforcement agencies, comprise its greatest internal security threat?

A corollary: if China is a threat warranting an array of alliances and arrangements to counter it, including Britain’s quest to once more experience the East-of-Suez Rapture by dispatching the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, then what is to be said of the following (which are indicative examples only):

  • In the period 2010-2019, the number of Chinese suppliers in the Pentagon supplier base expanded by a total of 420% to 655 across numerous critical industries;
  • The Pentagon blocking of the Trump Administration’s clampdown on Huawei in 2020 because of the adverse effects it would have on research and development in areas of high technology;
  • The US Air Force Special Operation Command’s purchase, in 2020, of 57 Chinese-made drones, for training and various operational purposes;
  • In 2020, the US surged its crude oil exports to China by 211%;
  • The current financial boom in Hong Kong which has seen Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley become the leading underwriters as the island set a record ($USD11 trillion) for the clearance of dollar payments;
  • On the Chinese mainland, the enthusiasm for multinational corporations – among them Apple, Starbucks and Siemens – to invest a record $USD163 billion in 2020, more than any other country; and
  • Australia’s continuing and lucrative ore trade with China and the construction of the RAN’s Cape Class patrol boats from aluminium imported from China.

It is appropriate, therefore, to ask what these practices, which are approved and/or embodied in government policy in the US and Australia, respectively, are based. Specifically, if China is a threat to international peace and security, then the relationships outlined above approach the crime of trading with the enemy.

Alternatively, they are the result of widespread confusions and contradictions in the definition of the national interest. Or perhaps, and realistically, they are the pragmatic acknowledgement that China is, rather, the catalyst for Threat-Porn and the intended heightened state of arousal, and that such a state is profitable for certain interests so long as no one seriously challenges its propositions for the dangers which follow from two holding sets of totally opposed beliefs.

If, by way of a Socratic flourish, the claims and propositions which lead to these contradictions are eliminated, the turn must be to an explanation of what is underlying them.

One way of achieving this insight is to revise the schedule of charges made against China in two simple ways: reduce all the alleged, specific crimes to generic offences found in various criminal codes, and substitute “the United States” for “China.” Mutatis mutandis, the similarity borders on congruence – the disqualification arising from the fact that the proven historical and contemporary record of the US is several orders of magnitude greater than those levelled against China.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the US, and its allies which share the former’s antipathy to China, are in reality projecting no more than a reversed and inverted image of their exceptionalist understanding of the US: dominant, supremely powerful, right, ruthless, and essentially the foundation of the West’s security and prosperity; hence, regardless of the travesties which follow from this indulgence, it is to be encouraged, affirmed, generally excused, and absolved. The mirror image of China which is produced through this camera obscura are anathema and betoken the collapse of the established order.

China’s threat status in this light, contrary to being seen through the lens of the Thucydides Trap (Sparta challenge to Athens), or the fall of the Greek peninsula to Rome, might perhaps be better understood as the reflex action of the corrupt 15th Century papacy to the nascent forces of the Reformation. That such a conclusion is unthinkable for the threat peddlers indicates just how much they have refused Socrates’ exhortation to live the “examined life”.

Share and Enjoy !

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

Receive articles straight to your Inbox

How often?

Thank you for subscribing!