The only reason China hasn’t destroyed Australia yet.
Shocking statistics: How much of Australia does China own? From land to airports, China’s controlling interest in Australian resources is on the rise.
There is a famous anecdote attributed to everyone from Woodrow Wilson to Winston Churchill but which is really just a dirty old joke.
A rich man asks a beautiful woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. After a pause, she agrees. He then asks her if she’d sleep with him for two dollars and she slaps him in the face.
“What do you think I am?” she asks, outraged.
“We’ve already established what you are madam,” the man replies. “Now
we’re just haggling over the price.”
This tells you all you need to know about international diplomacy and trade relations. Ultimately all nation-states are prostitutes. The only question is the price.
And it is the very uncomfortable truth that is descending on Australia as they try to figure out how to respond to China’s insult to their military and, through them, all Australians.
The first thing to accept is that no nation is pure. Even Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi had dark shadows in their lives and so how can any country composed of millions of souls ever hope to be holier than thou.
China knows this, which is why it recently started pressing the bruise with its theatrical tut-tutting about Australia’s human rights record. They were not necessarily wrong – there has, for example, be appalling mistreatment of and discrimination against Indigenous Australians.
Regimes ranging from the Soviet Union to Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East bat away criticisms by pointing to past colonial injustices or the latest US military disaster. The general message is basically: “We are no worse than you and even if we are, it’s justified because you started it.”
It is this kind of thinking that seems to be behind the meme depicting an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child. The message is: “How dare you call for an inquiry into our handling of the coronavirus outbreak when your troops killed civilians in the Middle East.”
China makes too many of the things Australians need.
In trying to find a way out of this rabbit hole both the Australian Government and Opposition have adopted more positions than the Kama Sutra. The Coalition has gone from incandescent rage to calling for calm while Labor is unsure as to which government it should be blaming – Australian or China. (Some free advice: It’s Australian)
And as usual, those on the hard edges of the left and right are entangled in their own hypocrisy. Some of the most fervent condemners of Islam are now loudly decrying the Chinese reeducation of Muslim Uighurs while pearl-clutching activists who spill tears into their chardonnay over Australia’s detention of asylum seekers take the side of a regime who makes our detention practices look like afterschool care.
Once more, as happened with the very coronavirus crisis over which this whole thing started, ideology has completely overtaken sense. There will be a practical and pragmatic resolution to this problem, and as with all practical and pragmatic resolutions, it will leave both sides unsatisfied but alive.
China needs our iron ore, which it is buying from us at record high prices. This is fuelling our borderline miraculous economic recovery from the COVID lockdowns. What it needs less are our food and our wine.
China is playing funny buggers with the stuff it knows hurts our farmers and puts pressure on the government politically. It’s doing something similar to coal, which hurts our workers.
Even so, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. The only reason China doesn’t want to toss Australia around like a mouse is that, just like the rich man and the pretty woman, both are all morally compromised.
No person and no nation are perfect. Australia should not demand a holy China and behave like a hypocrite.