Episode 255 – China China China

Due to history and culture, the Chinese think differently to us. In this episode, we look at the background events and influences that have shaped the Chinese.

Why do a podcast on China?

From John Menadue blog

Recent articles in Pearls and Irritations, …  have highlighted the nonsensical nature of much analysis, reporting and opinion, particularly in relation to a trenchant and sustained bias against China. A fascinating question is to ask what is behind this trend.

Several answers on different levels are possible. One is outlined here.

As in many instances of prejudice, three interrelated underlying forces can be identified: fear, ignorance and projection. 

Whilst ignorance is not a direct cause of fear, it certainly feeds it. We all know people vehemently against some group, who abruptly change tack when they come to know more about members of that group, through sharing the workplace for example. It is simply human nature.

… Dispelling ignorance about China is a major problem, not the least because Chinese culture is so different from Western culture. 

When people are ignorant, there is a tendency towards projection. If we don’t know about others’ motives, in the absence of alternative information we tend to assume that they must be similar to ours. In relation to anti-China, there are now commentators questioning why we automatically assume certain things. We may ask ourselves certain questions. For example, why does China’s positioning of its naval forces directly off its own coast imply aggression or military posturing and not simply securing safety of shipping lanes or defence? Why is a warning from a Chinese ambassador about possible consumer backlashes in China a threat and not a piece of friendly advice?

The Guardian reported a few years back that America dropped more than 25,000 bombs in 2016, mostly in Syria and Iraq, and had special operators in 70% of the world’s nations. If that’s how powerful countries operate, then surely China must operate that way as well, right? For people projecting their own values, the answer must surely be yes.

It is tempting to think that these personal factors could not be so dominant in professional commentators, such as personnel in the mass media, academia, bureaucracies or public policy advisory circles. In my opinion, there is no reason to assume that fear, ignorance and projection aren’t equally prominent there, especially when they are swept along through public discourse.

So what can be done to counter fear-based narratives based in ignorance and projection? It is positive to note that there are commentators attempting to disrupt these narratives, … Perhaps ignorance is the central factor in the above argument, but it is hard to see how such a deficit of understanding could be broached.

The Fist: one way would be to listen to this special podcast on China

 

Geography, size, climate, neighbours, population, demographics

 

1.4 billion people

China has the longest combined land border in the world, China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14.] China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan[r] in South Asia; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Ancient and Modern History since 1850 – esp how this shaped modern-day China

1839-42 – Opium wars.

First in 1839.

Opium had been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a long time before the British came, mostly to treat disease. British merchants began selling opium to China in the 18th century. At that time, opium was produced in India, but not China. The Chinese Jiaqing Emperor passed many decrees/edicts making opium trade illegal in 1729, 1799, 1814, and 1831, but smuggling still occurred as the British paid smugglers to take opium into China, causing the population to become more and more addicted. The illegal trade, however, continued. In 1839, the Lin Tse-Hsu Letter—pleading for a halt to the opium contraband—was sent to the British monarch Queen Victoria but ignored. Subsequently, the Emperor issued an edict ordering the seizure of all opium in Canton, including that held by foreign governments, and placed matters in the hands of High Commissioner Lin Tse-hsu. China initially attempted to get foreign companies to forfeit their opium stores in exchange for tea, but this ultimately failed. Then China resorted to using force in the western merchants’ enclave. Forces confiscated all supplies and ordered a blockade of foreign ships to get them to surrender their illegal opium supply. The smugglers lost 20,000 chests (1,300 metric tons) of opium without compensation. The war was concluded by the Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) in 1842, the first of the treaties between China and foreign powers.[17] The treaty forced China to cede the Hong Kong Island with surrounding smaller islands to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, and it established five treaty ports at Shanghai, Canton, Ningpo (Ningbo), Foochow (Fuzhou), and Amoy (Xiamen).[18] The treaty also demanded a twenty-one million dollar payment to Great Britain.

Second

Then in 1853. In 1853 civil war broke out in China with a rival Emperor establishing himself at Nanking. In spite of this, a new Imperial Commissioner, Yeh Ming-Chen, was appointed at Canton, the principal trading port of foreigners; he was determined to stamp out the illegal opium trade. In October 1856 he seized the British ship Arrow and threw its crew into chains. The war resulted in the Treaty of Tientsin (26 June 1858), which forced the Chinese to pay reparations for the expenses of the recent war, open a second group of ten ports to European commerce, legalize the opium trade, and grant foreign traders and missionaries rights to travel within China.

1900 – Boxer rebellion. Villagers in North China had been building resentment against Christian missionaries who ignored tax obligations and abused their extraterritorial rights to protect their congregants against lawsuits. The immediate background of the uprising included severe drought and disruption by the growth of foreign spheres of influence. The Eight-Nation Alliance, after being initially turned back, brought 20,000 armed troops to China, defeated the Imperial Army, and arrived at Peking on August 14, relieving the siege of the Legations. Uncontrolled plunder of the capital and the surrounding countryside ensued, along with summary execution of those suspected of being Boxers. The Boxer Protocol of 7 September 1901 provided for the execution of government officials who had supported the Boxers, provisions for foreign troops to be stationed in Beijing, and 450 million taels of silver—approximately $10 billion at 2018 silver prices and more than the government’s annual tax revenue—to be paid as indemnity over the course of the next 39 years to the eight nations involved. The alliance was American, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian.

1911 – Revolution

1916-1928 – Warlord era

1925 – Sun Yat-Sen died and Chiang Kai-Shek took over the Kuomintang

1931 – Japan effectively seized Manchuria

1934 – The long march

1937 – Japan invaded properly. 3 way fighting between Communists, Nationalists (Kuomintang) and Japanese.

1937 – Nanjing massacre. Soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army murdered Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants who numbered an estimated 40,000 to over 300,000, and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.

WW2 – USA demanded that Japan give up China and that was the sticking point that stopped any political resolution. (Japan wanted resources and saw itself as a world power)

WW2 So the Chinese were allies

1949 – Mao wins the civil war. The Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan. The world recognises them (the Taiwanese outpost as the legitimate China in the UN until 1971)

1949 – Moa’s government called itself the “Peoples Democratic Dictatorship”

First target was landlords.

1955 – Collectivised landowning peasants. Famines. 20,000,000 deaths.

1958-60 – The great leap forward. Co-ops merged into huge communes including agriculture and industrial units. Chaos. Production plummeted. 30,000,000 deaths.

Deng Xiaping tried to reform. Moa thought he was bourgeois and betrayed the revolution.

Fun fact – Mao was a good swimmer (Krushchev)

1966-68 The cultural revolution. Akin to a civil war. Red guards denounced teachers, professionals and anyone in authority. Mao’s wife was a big player.

Forced Migration – Post cultural revolution, Moa turned on Red Guards and moved 20,000,000 (including Red Guards) into the countryside to be re-educated.

Deng takes control. So many vested interests disrupted by cultural revolution that Deng could make changes (unlike Soviet Union)

Deng reversed collectivisation which was easier than Soviet Union because the period of collectivisation was shorter. Easier to restart. Gorbachev said unfortunately, in the course of the last 50 years, the Russian peasant has had all the independence knocked out of him.

1986 – Tianenmen square

In early 2000’s they considered removing “Communist” from the name but it might encourage others to start a new communist party and create a competitor so the idea was discarded.

Today – The party today represents a de-facto political protection racket for those in private business.

1995 Taiwan Straight Crisis – and we wonder about the South China Sea activity?

 

Culture

It was traditionally a very closed inward-looking country.

Seclusion

For two millennia, the Chinese empire was one of the most advanced and innovative civilisations in the world. The dynasties had incredible cultural and military success, conquering and absorbing neighbouring societies into their own. An ethnocentric understanding of the world came to resonate with the Chinese, as their experience with foreigners was generally limited to confrontations with those who tried to invade them or those that they overpowered and assimilated into their empire. Given this, when European traders arrived in the 1500s, the population initially struggled to comprehend how they fit into a wider, modern nation-state system. The Chinese had considered themselves the epicentre of the world for centuries, so the dynasty initially showed no real interest in getting involved in global politics.

The empire eventually collapsed and became reimagined as a nation-state. However, the Chinese sense of cultural superiority led the country to isolate itself further. As the Western and Eastern worlds advanced trade and began to globalise, China continued to be a secluded and conservative country into the 20th century. Diversions from traditional conventions were strongly resisted. From the late 1940s onward, the sovereign government rejected globalisation, enforced national unification through a stringent communist regime. This regime was known to deny the traditional values of Chinese culture and embrace a new set of values and beliefs. Life was largely contained to the country’s borders with a closed economy (until 1978) and closed borders (until 1974).

Contemporary Chinese culture is heavily influenced by a unique combination of its embedded traditions and this recent, rapid modernisation.

Today, a clear divide in social attitudes is visible in the different mindsets between the young and old, as well as urban and rural dwellers. The older generation and rural Chinese tend to value traditional culture and try to preserve and uphold it. On the other hand, Chinese youths and city dwellers tend to be more accepting and enthusiastic about progressive ideals. There are also different opinions throughout the population regarding the importance of cultural preservation and modernisation.

Nevertheless, the country maintains a fundamental understanding of what it means to be Chinese. The Chinese cultural identity has been developed through centuries of shared history and customs

Confucianism

Confucianism is a guiding philosophy in China that emphasises the importance of healthy human interactions. It promotes the idea that relationships between people are unequal and that everyone should have defined hierarchical roles (for example, ruler and subject, husband and wife, father and son). It teaches that when this natural inequality is accepted and respected, it becomes easier to maintain harmonious, stable relations between individuals and, therefore, in society as a whole. The Confucian logic of obedience, responsibility and adherence affects many aspects of Chinese behaviour and attitudes about virtue. The Chinese sense of duty and societal cohesiveness is encapsulated in the principle of ‘Li’ (‘social cohesiveness’).

One may notice that within Chinese society, interactions are tiered and require a level of deference and respect from one party. Within the social hierarchy, a person’s position, occupation and level of education are essential to their status. However, age is often an overriding factor that determines the level of respect people should show. The importance of age is emphasised in Confucianism as ‘filial piety.’ This is the core concept that requires one to give parents and elders utmost respect and devotion. Filial piety is akin to the reverence of one’s ancestors and may entail unconditional obedience of seniors.

It is important to note that traditions and Confucian values are losing popularity in China. They still influence the way society functions; thousands of years of traditional education has deeply embedded Confucian concepts such as modesty, obedience, loyalty and filial piety into society. However, the more traditional tenets of Confucius’s teachings (such as sexist ideologies and rural land tenure) are increasingly viewed as relics of China’s feudal past. In fact, various aspects of Chinese culture have significantly evolved in the past few decades.

Unity and Interpersonal Interactions

 

China has one of the most collectivist cultures in the world. However, economic growth and increased financial independence is giving rise to more individualistic attitudes. People are encouraged to share the same mentality or goals as their family, workplace and government. In return for demonstrating loyalty and commitment to duty, an individual gains a sense of protection and unity. As such, the social organisation of China is characterised by people’s interdependence. Individuals are taught to keep to themselves and respect the law and authority to maintain societal harmony. The Chinese consider national unity and cooperation to be essential for society to function harmoniously. This is reflected in the most fundamental foundations of the culture. For example, all regions in China follow the same time zone despite the physical landmass spanning five geographical time zones. This provides for a national sense of belonging and equality.

 

The cultural emphasis on unity and harmony also means that the Chinese have a strong relational focus. Interpersonal interactions are approached sensitively, with an acute consideration of people’s feelings. All behaviour and communication in China are influenced by the concept of face. Face is the quality, embedded in most Asian cultures, representing a person’s reputation, influence, dignity and honour. Individuals usually act deliberately and with restraint to protect their self-worth and peer perception. Conservative conduct is the norm, as people don’t want to stand out and/or risk losing face by doing something that is considered inappropriate. Face is so intrinsic to Chinese culture that the government and business entities incorporate it into their decision-making processes. For example, a company may buy expensive equipment that is never used to improve their face.

Guanxi

Another important concept in interpersonal interactions is that of ‘guanxi’. The word ‘guanxi’ is a general term used to describe relationships that may also result in the exchange of connections or favours that benefit both people. The principle of guanxi commits friends, family and, at times, business colleagues to assist one another. Violating guanxi can lead to a loss of face or honour. Guanxi plays a large role in business interactions and relations. Guanxi often refers to ‘networking’, which is reflected in the Chinese saying, “nei wai you bie” (“insiders are different from outsiders”). Good guanxi can sometimes be necessary to creating opportunities that otherwise would not be accessible. Mutual trust is essential to guanxi. In turn, many Chinese will prioritise relationship building, particularly in a business context.

Politeness and Courtesy

Perceptions of politeness and courtesy (‘limao’) in China differ from those in Australia. Traditional Chinese courtesy rests on the lifelong hierarchical relationships reflected in Confucian ideology. These relationships are already clear, meaning that the Chinese do not feel the need for constant verbal reinforcement through courtesy words like ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’. Many Chinese feel that saying such terms in the company of elders, relatives or close friends creates formality and distance that should not exist. Moreover, some can feel that the repeated use of courtesy words in a habitual way can come across as lacking sincerity.

This tradition continues today whereby the Chinese way to show politeness and kindness is to shorten the social distance between one another. Thus, courtesy words act as a buffer or space that indicates formality and distance. From a Western perspective, the contrast between the politeness of what one does and the bluntness of what one says can seem confusing. For example, when at a restaurant among friends, a Chinese person will usually pour tea for everyone present at the table before pouring their own. Yet, they may not say ‘excuse me’ when asking for someone to pass them food. In this way, a cultural difference in manners can sometimes be perceived as rude. However, be aware that respect and courtesy are simply exhibited in different ways.

The CCP and Democracy – how much control does it exercise

Martin Jacques is an economist and author of When China Rules the World. Writing for the BBC

China and the United States are about to choose new leaders via very different methods. But is a candidate voted for by millions a more legitimate choice than one anointed by a select few, asks Martin Jacques.

This week will witness an extraordinary juxtaposition of events. On Tuesday the next American president will be elected. Two days later, the 18th congress of the Chinese Communist Party will select the new Chinese president and prime minister.

The contrast could hardly be greater.

Americans in their tens of millions will turn out to vote. In China the process of selection will take place behind closed doors and involve only a relative handful of people.

You are probably thinking, “Ah, America at its best, China at its worst – the absence of democracy. China’s Achilles heel is its governance. This will be China’s downfall.”

I want to argue quite the contrary.

You probably think that the legitimacy and authority of the state, or government, is overwhelmingly a function of democracy, Western-style.

But democracy is only one factor. Nor does democracy in itself guarantee legitimacy.

Think of Italy. It is always voting, but the enduring problem of Italian governance is that its state lacks legitimacy. Half the population don’t really believe in it.

Now let me shock you: the Chinese state enjoys greater legitimacy than any Western state. How come?

In China’s case the source of the state’s legitimacy lies entirely outside the history or experience of Western societies.

In my first talk I explained that China is not primarily a nation-state but a civilisation-state. For the Chinese, what matters is civilisation. For Westerners it is nation. The most important political value in China is the integrity and unity of the civilisation-state.

Given the sheer size and diversity of the country, this is hugely problematic. Between the 1840s and 1949, China was occupied by the colonial powers, divided and fragmented. The Chinese refer to it as their century of humiliation.

They see the state as the embodiment and guardian of Chinese civilisation. Its most important responsibility – bar none – is maintaining the unity of the country. A government that fails to ensure this will fall.

There have been many examples in history. The legitimacy of the Chinese state lies, above all, in its relationship with Chinese civilisation.

But does the Chinese state, you may well ask, really enjoy legitimacy in the eyes of its people?

Take the findings of Tony Saich at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In a series of surveys he found that between 80 and 95% of Chinese people were either relatively or extremely satisfied with central government.

Or take the highly respected Pew Global Attitudes surveys which found in 2010, for example, that 91% of Chinese respondents thought that the government’s handling of the economy was good (the UK figure, incidentally was 45%).

Such high levels of satisfaction do not mean that China is conflict-free.

On the contrary, there are countless examples of protest action, such as the wave of strikes in Guangdong province for higher wages in 2010 and 2011, and the 150,000 or more so-called mass incidents that take place every year – generally protests by farmers against what they see as the illegal seizure of their land by local authorities in cahoots with property developers.

But these actions do not imply any fundamental dissatisfaction with central government.

If the Chinese state enjoys such support, then why does it display such signs of paranoia? The controls on the press and the internet, the periodic arrest of dissidents, and the rest of it.

Good point. Actually, all Chinese governments have displayed these same symptoms. Why?

Because the country is huge and governance is extremely difficult. They are always anxious, always fearing the unforeseen. Anticipating sources of instability has long been regarded as a fundamental attribute of good governance.

The Chinese see the state as a member of the family – the head of the family, in fact

They do not view it from a narrowly utilitarian standpoint, in terms of what it can deliver, let alone as the devil incarnate in the manner of the American Tea Party.

They see the state as an intimate, or, to be more precise, as a member of the family – the head of the family, in fact. The Chinese regard the family as the template for the state. What’s more, they perceive the state not as external to themselves but as an extension or representation of themselves.

The fact that the Chinese state enjoys such an exalted position in society lends it enormous authority, a remarkable ubiquity and great competence.

Take the economy. China’s economic rise – an annual growth rate of 10% for more than 30 years – has been masterminded by the Chinese state.

It is the most remarkable economic transformation the world has seen since the modern era began with Britain’s industrial revolution in the late 18th Century.

Even though China is still a poor developing country, its state, I would argue, is the most competent in the world.

The competence of the state is little talked about or really valued in the West, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Indeed, since the early 80s, the debate about the state in Britain has largely been conducted in terms either of what bits should be privatised or how it can be made to mimic the market.

Now, however, we are in a new ball game. With the Western economies in a profound mess and with China’s startling rise, the competence of the state can no longer be ignored. Our model is in crisis. Theirs has been delivering the goods.

As China’s dramatic ascent continues – which it surely will – then China’s strengths will become a growing subject of interest in the West. We will realise that our relationship with them can no longer consist of telling them how they should be like us. A little humility is in order.

One of the most dramatic illustrations of this will be the state. We think of it as their greatest weakness but we will come to realise that it is one of their greatest strengths.

Beyond a point it would be quite impossible for a Western state to be like China’s. It is the product of a different history and a different relationship between state and society. You could never transplant their state into a Western country, and vice versa. But this does not mean that we cannot learn from the Chinese state, just as they have learnt much from us.

China’s rise will have a profound effect on Western debate.

Welcome, then, to the new Chinese paradigm – one that combines a highly competitive, indeed often ferocious market, with a ubiquitous and competent state.

For us in the West this is an entirely new phenomenon. And it will shape our future.

 

China’s economy – how much is private, how dependent is Australia?,

Modern-day China is mainly characterized as having a market economy based on private property ownership, and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism. The state still dominates in strategic “pillar” sectors such as energy production and heavy industries, but private enterprise has expanded enormously, with around 30 million private businesses recorded in 2008. In 2018, private enterprises in China accounted for 60% of GDP, 80% of urban employment and 90% of new jobs.

In 2015, China’s Middle Class became the largest in the world. By 2019, there were more Chinese than Americans in the richest 10% of the people in the world.

In 2019, China overtook the US as the home to the highest number of rich people in the world, according to the global wealth report by Credit Suisse. In other words, as of 2019, 100 million Chinese are in the top 10% of the wealthiest individuals in the world—those who have a net personal wealth of at least $110,000.

As of 2018, China was first in the world in total number of billionaires and second in millionaires—there were 658 Chinese billionaires and 3.5 million millionaires. However, it ranks behind over 70 countries (out of around 180) in per capita economic output, making it a middle income country. Additionally, its development is highly uneven. Its major cities and coastal areas are far more prosperous compared to rural and interior regions.

Chinese military – how big is it, it’s nature (offensive or defensive) and how worried should we be?

So far, China has concentrated on sea denial rather than sea control. The USA could not successfully attack China except with nuclear weapons (and therefore suffer retaliation).

From Reuters

A key message in the official coverage of Xi’s voyages: A vigilant navy under his command will guard against a repeat of the century of humiliation that began with the First Opium War in 1839, and during which European colonial powers and Japanese invaders took cruel advantage of a vulnerable China.

Every Chinese school child learns that China’s suffering arose partly because of the lack of a modern navy.

 

From Hugh White in The Monthly (not to be confused with Clive Hamilton)

Hugh White is a professor of strategic studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. Author of “How to Defend Australia”.

I disagree with his nuclear deterrent ideas. But on other matters …

The 1976 White Paper boldly predicted that the powers of Asia – India, China and Japan – would not pose any strategic problems for Australia, and that our defence policy could therefore afford to ignore them. “No more than the former Great Powers of Europe,” it stated, “can we expect these powers individually to play a large military role in strategic developments directly affecting Australian security in the foreseeable future.” True enough, none of the Asian powers was foolish enough to risk threatening a close American ally. With Asia’s main players off the board, we only had to be able to defend ourselves against our immediate neighbours – and Indonesia was the only conceivable adversary.

… the era of Asian stability based on uncontested American primacy has come to an end.

We can define a middle power as able to stand up to one major power without relying on another. So should we be one?

To most of us, the idea that Australia could stand up alone against a major power seems far-fetched. Our experience as part of global coalitions in the two world wars makes us think that success in a conflict means vanquishing the enemy and occupying their territory. Against a major power, Australia is never going to be able to do that independently. The most we could hope to achieve would be to raise the costs and risks of attacking Australia to the point where it is not worth an enemy’s while. But, fortunately, that may not be as hard as we might think.

Here, we need to distinguish what naval strategists call ‘sea control’ from ‘sea denial’. Sea control is the ability to protect your own ships by preventing others from attacking them, and is needed to safely advance by sea. Sea denial is the ability to attack an enemy’s ships, and thus deprive it of sea control. The most crucial operational fact for the defence of Australia is that sea denial is much easier to achieve than sea control. This hasn’t always been so. Back in the days when Britannia ruled the waves, protecting your own ships and attacking the enemy’s were almost two sides of the same coin. Technology has now shifted the advantage to sea denial, and this trend shows no sign of reversing. This means Australia should be able to achieve sea denial against even a major power without too much trouble, if we focus our efforts on it single-mindedly.

Once we start to ask how Australia might defend itself with a sea-denial campaign, it becomes clear that we need at least double the 12 submarines currently being planned. At the same time, there is no need for the exotic and expensive options that are adding so much to the cost, risk and schedule of the proposal. What Australia needs, if we decide to invest in the capacity for independent defence over coming decades, is large numbers of good, quiet, lethal boats optimised solely for the task of sinking ships. And we need them soon.

A big fleet of submarines like this would cost a great deal of money, and would only be one element of a range of capabilities needed for the independent defence of Australia. Effective denial of our air and sea approaches would require a much larger air force than we have been planning – perhaps 200 front-line combat aircraft rather than the 100 being considered.

The Gillard government is currently building three air warfare destroyers (AWDs) at a cost of $8 billion. We simply do not need them. We do need smaller, cheaper warships, such as the Anzac frigates for low-level operations, but the AWDs are equipped at great cost for high-end naval battles. They are supposed to escort and protect the huge new amphibious ships in which our army, like US marines, might be deployed to assault the territory of an enemy in a major war. Yet this scenario is fanciful. Even with the AWDs, we have no chance of achieving sea control against a capable enemy. Just as it is easy for us to achieve sea denial against an adversary, it is easy for them to deny us. The amphibious ships would stand too high a chance of being sunk with all troops on board to ever be put to sea, and even if they went to sea and found their way ashore, a couple of thousand soldiers would have little if any strategic effect. In any major conflict, amphibious assault is simply not a credible option for Australia, and in low-level contingencies amphibious forces would not need AWDs to protect them.

This appalling waste of money and effort is happening because the Howard government ordered these ships, on the advice of Defence, without anyone apparently having thought through whether these would contribute cost-effectively to achieving Australia’s strategic objectives.

 

Belt and Road – what is it?

From the ABC

The US ambassador to Australia has played down a suggestion from his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that his nation could “simply disconnect” from Australia if Victoria’s trade deal with Beijing threatened its telecommunication security.

Key points:

  • Mr Pompeo said the Belt and Road project increased the Chinese Government’s ability to “do harm”
  • US ambassador Arthur Culvahouse said Mr Pompeo’s comments were in response to a “very remote hypothetical” and the US had “absolute confidence” in Australia’s ability to handle the issue
  • The Victorian Government said it would never agree to telecommunications projects under the deal

On Sunday morning, Mr Pompeo said while he was not aware of the detail of Victoria’s agreement, it could impact his nation’s Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership with Australia.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Pompeo warned the Belt and Road agreement with the Andrews Government increased the Chinese communist regime’s ability to do “harm”.

China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is a global infrastructure push aiming to recreate the glory days of China’s ancient Silk Road trade routes.

The highly controversial scheme has been panned by many Western democracies, including Australia.

But Victoria has gone it alone on signing up to the infrastructure initiative, with Premier Daniel Andrews inking a Memorandum of Understanding with China in 2018 and committing to deepen the state’s involvement in 2019.

The non-legally-binding agreement allows Victorian infrastructure experts to get access to the hundreds of billions of dollars of projects slated for the Belt and Road.

It also encourages Chinese infrastructure firms to establish a presence in Victoria and to bid for major infrastructure projects.

Predictions for China?

State power will be very effective in pushing China ahead


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