We’ll stand up for national interest despite the Beijing bluster

We’ll stand up for national interest despite the Beijing bluster, by Greg Sheridan.

Quite regularly, Beijing decides to test or punish Canberra. Beijing does this regularly with many nations. The ostensible cause might be some slight, or some alleged slip of courtesy or protocol by the offending nation, sometimes some arcane mis-reference to history that allegedly “hurts the feelings of the Chinese people”.

Most often the true cause is that the nation in question — Australia or the Czech Republic, Japan or France, Singapore or Britain — has taken some policy action in its own interest that Beijing doesn’t like, such as refusing some strategic Chinese investment.

Even that is not necessarily the real cause. Beijing simply asserts its will and checks if a nation will buckle. Nations that do buckle generally don’t buy a quiet life.

What would China be like with a different government?

Understanding that problems with Beijing are structural, not the consequence of any failure to sit up straight in class by the Morrison government, is critically important analytically. We cannot work out the best way to respond to these problems if we do not understand their true origins.

So here is a hard truth. There is nothing we can do to solve the China problem. We cannot build up structures, treaties, dialogue arrangements, people-to-people links, etc, that will ensure the relationship runs smoothly. We should do all those things. They are modestly helpful in their way.

But Beijing’s strategic ambitions contradict Australia’s national interests. Beijing has an ineradicable pattern of periodic bouts of bullying, intimidation and “teaching us a lesson”.

No Australian government could produce a smooth relationship with Beijing. A good government will manage the inevitable difficulties as well as possible. That’s as much as we can realistically hope for. And the beginning of wisdom is realism.

Character is destiny, for nations as much as people. China’s character is self centered and arrogant, at least under the CCP. Experience has shown that agreements with China are worthless, because they break them when convenient — a hallmark of communist governments everywhere. It is difficult to have friendly relationships with communist China.