Australia’s Taiwan nightmare

Feb 6, 2023
Map puzzle Asia Pacific view.

Australia has been persuaded, enticed and strongarmed into taking gravely dangerous decisions. But Australia is a sovereign state and its fingerprints are, ultimately, all over the formation of its terrible abdication of national independence.

We need to pay particular attention to a definitive insight advanced by Paul Keating: Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. In fact, it is an entity that could help unravel decades of remarkable, positive development in Australia, if we allow this to happen.

We know that the US is now a deeply disturbed super-power. Last year, the respected American commentator, Tom Plate, writing in the South China Morning Post, emphasised the “unseemly primal lust” with which the US jumped into the Ukraine war converting a “regional crisis into an increasingly global one”. Plate added that only the US had been able to parlay “its exceptional brand of American exceptionalism into a preposterous permanent innocence”.

The profound dangers arising from Australia’s far too close association with Washington’s global-control agenda have been stressed for over 50 years, first by Gough Whitlam, as he became Prime Minister in 1972, and even more emphatically by his once arch-rival, (former Prime Minister) Malcolm Fraser, who published a lengthy book in 2014 arguing that, “[G]iving America the power to say when Australia goes to war is the most dangerous position that Australia can bear.” He added that, “If America [unilaterally] uses forces deployed out of Australia, how can an Australian Prime Minister say we are not involved?”

Sensing the rising risk of grave danger, former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, around two years ago, argued with customary clarity that: “Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. We have no alliance with Taipei”.

The former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell said, in 2004, that: “Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation”. Almost 20 years later, Taipei enjoys dwindling recognition, now in the low-teens, from a handful of smaller states. Beijing is recognised as the sole, ultimate sovereign of China (including Taiwan) by the vast majority of nation-states, some 170 of whom recently reaffirmed their commitment to this centrally important One China principle.

Keating stressed that Australia should not be drawn into a military engagement over Taiwan, “US-sponsored or otherwise”, and said Taiwan was “fundamentally a civil matter” for China. These comments, predictably, were not well received in Taipei. If anything, the distressed nature of this response implicitly confirmed the position Keating outlined. Taiwan has been an intrinsic part of China for over 300 years, at least, since well before the French Revolution and the creation of the US and long before Australia was first settled by Europeans.

As for Japan’s leaders, Keating calls them the Bourbons of the Pacific – they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, we’re still trying to find our security from Asia rather than in Asia. Furthermore, Professor Ravina, from the University of Texas, reminded us last year that, “Japan looks a lot like a one-party state” adding that, “the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has governed Japan almost exclusively since the end of World War II”. Declassified CIA documents, Ravina says, have confirmed that the LDP was covertly supported by the US “with millions of dollars” after it was established.

Japan is now avidly re-militarising at great expense, with a malevolent eye fixed on China yet again. Canberra has recklessly adopted Japan as a new primary military ally, despite the active veneration of Japan’s military history – which embodies an almost unparalleled record of military barbarism – by certain influential elite-factions.

Meanwhile, the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership in Taiwan refuses to endorse the One China principle (unlike the main opposition Kuomintang Party (KMT)) and it keeps testing how far it can push a pro-independence stance short of moving audaciously in that direction. This is combined with much mutual cross-strait political glaring – even as the economic coupling continues to deliver outstanding reciprocal benefits, year after year. Within the DPP, the more extreme faction is anxious to keep pushing the independence project. Any sort of candid negotiations with Beijing over this fraught relationship are simply off the agenda for the DPP. There is at least an even-chance that the DPP will retain power, at the expense of the KMT, at the next Presidential Election in January, 2024.

Although the US ritually claims it still supports the One China principle it does so within the context of persistent, Taiwan-separatist dog-whistling. This was highlighted in a recent Common Dreams article by the prominent peace activist, Joseph Gerson, who insisted that the US should “cease encouraging Taiwanese independence”.

Malcolm Fraser told the ABC, in 2014, that he saw no difference between the Abbott Coalition Government in Australia and the Labor Governments led by Rudd and Gillard in their misguided, excessively pro-Washington policy setting, when he criticised the way Gillard had put American troops into Darwin. Fraser also forcefully highlighted the acute danger posed to Australia by the presence of US spy-bases in Australia in his book – especially Pine Gap.

In 2018, Prime Minster Turnbull, flicked the switch to serious China-thumping over Huawei (without any “smoking gun” evidence, in Turnbull’s later, own words). Since then, we have witnessed the desperately ill-conceived, uncertain and hugely expensive AUKUS nuclear submarine decision and the latest agreement to station nuclear-capable US bombers near Darwin. Very recently, the new Labor Government in Canberra has eagerly announced a plan to acquire an expensive set of the latest mobile missiles from the US.

Arguably worst of all, is the shocking Force Posture Agreement (FPA), signed with the US in 2014 by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, which provides the legal basis for, as Bevan Ramsden recently revealed, “the comprehensive US militarisation of Australia, especially the Northern Territory, thus setting up Australia as a US forward base from which to launch its next war”.

Meanwhile, Australia and its mainstream media outlets have happily played host to diplomatically disgraceful, ongoing levels of China-threat war-drumming from the Japanese Ambassador in Canberra. John Menadue recently told us that, “The Japanese Embassy in Canberra is leading the anti-China campaign in Australia.” While Allan Behm wonders if this particular Ambassador, who describes himself a former spymaster, aspires “to be a legend in his own lunchtime”. One can be forgiven for wondering if this Canberra-based, Japanese campaign may be part of a wider US-shaped project to guard against any back-sliding on China-glaring, following the change of government last year in Australia.

Then there is the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which maintains a constant focus on advancing the grand China Threat narrative. John Queripel recently argued persuasively that, when you follow the money you discover that ASPI is a “front for US propaganda”.

As one stands back from all of this, it become very clear that Canberra has completely ignored Malcolm Fraser’s vital warning that, “Giving America the power to say when Australia goes to war is the most dangerous position that Australia can bear”. And, in the course of doing so, they have made the severe geopolitical risk faced by Australia far worse. Canberra has now placed the essence of the decision on when Australia may go to war against China into the hands of the three least trustworthy, triggering-parties one can imagine: Washington, Tokyo and Taipei. In all three places, reckless Anti-Beijing elements enjoy inordinate influence.

What a catalogue of cringe-making, very expensive, immature belligerence Australia has racked-up. And let’s not forget that all of this, piled-on, antagonistic military activity and expenditure is primarily directed at Australia’s leading current and best-ever, long-term trading partner. It takes one’s breath away.

Any shooting war with China will very likely be a war that has ultimately been provoked by Washington to serve US interests. It is equally likely that the US will deafen us all with a propaganda onslaught claiming that any Beijing military action responding to provocations was unprovoked – and don’t dare think otherwise. Any such war will almost certainly visit extreme harm on the global economy and surely prove to be catastrophic for the Australian political-economy and devastating for Taiwan, just for starters. US arms suppliers can be expected to power onwards and upwards, however.

Australia has certainly been persuaded, enticed and strongarmed into taking the gravely dangerous decisions outlined above. But Australia is a sovereign state. It has agency. Australia’s fingerprints are, ultimately, all over the formation of this terrible abdication of national independence.

If matters are ever to be put right, we first must not forget that America is, as Professor Adam Tooze argues, addicted to greatness and haunted by its loss and it has crafted “an extraordinarily aggressive techno-military objective” to champion its superiority over China.

Next, we have to remember how, once-upon-a-time, 50 years ago, we began growing up as a sovereign state within Asia. We must recollect what we have been told so clearly by Whitlam and Fraser and avow that Australia’s national interest is our paramount concern. We can be entirely sure that Washington, Tokyo and Taipei are never going to tell us this: they will each work to advance their own dangerously tilted agendas.

Finally, we have to pay particular attention to the conclusive insight provided by Paul Keating: Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest. In fact, it is an entity that could very much help unravel decades of remarkable, positive development in Australia, if we allow this to happen.

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