ERIK PAUL. Resurgent racism in Australia’s foreign policy.

Feb 22, 2019

Australia’s banning Huawei points to a resurgent racism in foreign relations. Australian foreign policy should disengage from the military alliance with the US and adopt a more sustainable economy and independent foreign policy. 

Australia’s Five-Eyes Western spying agency is targeting China as the greatest emerging threat to the neoliberal world order. Australia’s intense political campaign against Chinese telcos Huawei and ZTE providing 5G technology became policy when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 30 October 2018 banned both companies from the 5G rollout.

Banning China from supplying equipment for the next generation of the Five-Eyes nations is widely viewed as part of a global struggle among great powers for the control of markets and technology. The economic war being waged between the US and China in the growth of global markets and infrastructure is a clash of capitalisms, hiding the rise and struggle of great and nationalistic powers.

Western political and intelligence elites argue that China is a threat to world peace because it is hostile to freedom and democracy. The view that China is a danger to the US and should be dismembered is embedded in Washington’s policy to confront and control any power perceived as a threat to its national interest.

China’s rising global economic and military power, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, is a clear challenge to the US-led neoliberal global order. China will be the world’s largest economy by the end of this decade. What China wants is recognition of its rightful place in the world order as an equal power to that of the US.  US rhetoric is that it must maintain unilateral global power because of its ‘manifest destiny’ to bring freedom to the rest of world.

Australia’s confrontation with China is reminiscent of earlier times when Japan’s bid to include a racial equality clause in the Covenant of the League of Nations was defeated by the Anglo-Saxon solidarity of Britain, US, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada. Japan’s demand for racial equality at the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference was thwarted by US and Australian racism to support European allies’ colonial empires. Nationalist Party Prime Minister William Hughes’ deep hostility towards Asians publicly humiliated the Japanese government and the Chinese delegation at the Paris Peace Conference and played a significant role in Australia going to war against Japan.

The victorious Allied Powers’ peace terms of economic immiseration for Germany and a reordered world political map were precursors to World War II and some 50 million deaths. What fraternized these countries together was their incestuous fixation on ‘whiteness’ and their rights to dominate and exploit others. William Edward Dubois, a black American sociologist and human rights activist, described ‘whiteness’ as a new proprietorial religion, claiming ownership of the earth.

Both world wars and the cold war were indispensable catastrophes to construct a US empire of more than 1000 military installations spanning the world. Since President George W Bush declared war ‘on terror’, an Anglo-American solidarity is being reaffirmed in an increasingly bitter conflict with China. Brexit suggests a pronounced shift towards the US while Australia is more firmly configured in the US military alliance to defeat China’s existing regime.

While race has been toppled from its earlier eminence by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its toxicity is being reasserted in rising inequality between nation-states. Symptomatic of the conflict is the US military coalition with Britain and Australia to recapitulate an older Anglo-Saxon solidarity, reshaping the Middle East and planning for war against China.

China is an economic superpower and has gained a strategic right to oppose US containment policy in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. US opposition to China’s demand for equality in world affairs is reminiscent of US racial discrimination before World War I. President Trump is widely viewed as a white nationalist intent on furthering US military global dominance, confronting China as an evil nation, and redrawing the map of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Huawei’s drama signals Australia’s forceful engagement with the US policy for regime change in China and to dismember the country. The national culture war being played out in the media is a call for patriots to prepare for war.  Australia denies the right of China to share power with the West and remains committed to US global hegemony.

The US democratic regime is deeply flawed and its integrity increasingly corrupted by vested interests. Many US influential voices have been highly critical of US foreign policy in recent years. Chalmers Johnson, scholar and former national security adviser, wrote extensively on the threat of US militarism and imperialism to the republic and the world. He argued that a US imperial presidency was gathering strength ‘at the expense of the constitutional balance of governmental power as militarism takes even deeper root in the society’.

The US-China struggle for power is the epicentre of a world crisis. Globalisation has stalled, the global market is fragmenting. US democracy is not working for the public interest, and the biosphere’s condition for human existence continues to deteriorate. Climate change threatens the sustainability of global capitalism and the Australian neoliberal economy.

Australian foreign policy should disengage from the military alliance with the US and adopt a more sustainable economy and independent foreign policy. US unilateral power imposed on the rest of the world leads to corruption, racism and imperialism. There needs to be a concert of major powers, bringing together China, India, Russia and the EU, to balance the role of the US as the sole world power. A collaborative partnership is required to balance power and address the common threats to humanity.

Erik Paul is at the University of Sydney in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. He is a researcher specializing in Australia’s relations with the Asia-Pacific and issues of regional and world peace. His latest book is Australia in the US Empire, published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

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