The Japanese are hanging out for some Quad which has us, the Americans and the Indians in it. I mean, this is the kind of hopeless environment we’re in. China is simply too big and too central to be ostracised.
Let’s take Japan. Here they are, the Bourbon LDP, Liberal Democratic Party, the Bourbons of the Pacific. They learned nothing and have forgotten nothing. 80 years they’ve had to atone for the crimes committed by themselves in Manchuria and of course in the rape of Nanjing, then the Chinese capital in 1937. Fundamentally, they won’t do it. They should have reached a point of accommodation with China years ago. I mean, for years they should have seen China rising and understood the scale of it. There’s 160 million of them, there’s 1.4 billion Chinese. So, if you had a tuppence worth of common sense, and you’re a Japanese leader, you would be accommodating yourself to China, finding a point of accommodation. No, no, they’re hanging out for some Quad which has us in it, the Americans and the Indians in it. You know, I mean this is the kind of hopeless environment we’re in.
So Japan will not settle with China. It relies upon American presence and so I’ve taken the view always that engagement with China and its absorption into the region will establish a better frame for both China and the United States to work in, including Australia. And China is simply too big and too central to be ostracised.
And now, I want to quote something which I think is important. It’s Zbigniew Brzezinski. After Nixon had the meeting with Mao. Nixon lost the presidency and President Jimmy Carter followed him. And Zbigniew Brzezinski was Carter’s foreign policy advisor. He was the one left to do the Mao deal, right? Now, Brzezinski is a Pole. He was 11 or 12 years of age when Stalin and Hitler cut Poland into two. He would’ve been 15 or 16 when Warsaw was wiped out. And this was a guy, in terms of sort of hard-line ideologues, this was a guy who’s on the hard right of the American scene, Atlantic scene. He has this to say: America should tacitly accept the reality of China’s geopolitical pre-eminence on the mainland of Asia as well as its ongoing emergence as a predominant Asian economic power.
This was the coldest of the Cold War warriors. The coldest, right? America should tacitly accept the predominance of China’s geopolitical pre-eminence on the mainland of Asia as well as China’s ongoing emergence as a predominant Asian economic power.
America’s strategic policy strategy should not be to contain China, but to engage it in a larger hub of cooperative relationships that by themselves also help shape their own relationship between the US and China.
This is where the smart, hard guys are in relation to China.
Edited excerpt of a Q and A with Paul Keating and Laura Tingle, held at the National Press Club, 10 November 2021.
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