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Australia and the US: Don’t Go All the Way

November 15, 2011

Stationing marines on a rotating basis in Darwin is one thing. And it’s hard to say no to your ally when that’s what they want. It’s the same argument for accepting visits by nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed American vessels. If you’re in an alliance there are things you have to accept, and the alliance works in Australia’s favour.

But Peter Hartcher makes a very astute point in the Sydney Morning Herald today. He argues that Canberra should not sign up to the next US agenda item, “which is to threaten China over its managed currency, accusing China of currency manipulation to win unfair export advantage.”

The under-valued Chinese currency is an American fetish.

Hartcher points out that the US itself has manipulated its currency, although it’s done it in a more subtle manner. Besides, Beijing has allowed the renminbi to appreciate by 30 percent against the US dollar in recent years. And this has solved none of America’s problems. Nor will further appreciation save US manufacturing. Hartcher argues, “The US campaign against China’s currency policy is misguided. Australia has remained aloof so far and should remain so, even under the hypnotic power of the high-beam smile of a US president in person.”

Hartcher says, “We are an ally, not an accomplice.”

My advice to the Prime Minister is this: feel under no pressure to prove you are not the left-winger of yesteryear. Don’t be dazzled by a US president in the way other Prime Ministers have been. Your ambassador Kim Beazley will remind you of heated disagreements between Australia and the US in the 1980s in the context of an overall warm and robust relationship. America is a natural ally, but it has a political system loaded with pathologies. Witness the round of Republican candidate’s debates.

Prime Minister, you don’t have to prove a thing. Tell the president politely we are not signing up to a mindless anti-China campaign.

The alliance does not require it.

7 Comments
  1. John Tait permalink
    November 15, 2011 1:43 pm

    I think it is a great idea to have the US military stationed/rotated in Australia. I am paticularly thinking submarines.

    Using the existing HMAS Stirling base in WA, we could support patrolling US nuclear submarines. This gives Australia the experience of supporting/maintaining/crew-exchange on these boats and provides a entry into the eventual replacement of the disaster struck Collins Class by the world-class Los Angeles boats.

  2. Brian Everingham permalink
    November 15, 2011 7:16 pm

    hi Bob,
    It’s worth listening to the panel discussion on Late Night Live when Adams had both Hartcher and Sheridan discussing the US base story.

    I am unclear yet whether this is a US base or a base where US troops will be rotated through and have a presence, though under Australian command (as in Pine Gap since the Hawke Government decision). That might make a difference, especially if the types of troops stationed there are rapid deployment troops able to go to trouble spots and not an obvious exercise in containment of China.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      November 15, 2011 9:16 pm

      Yep, heard them. Thought Hartcher today even more challenging.

  3. kerry permalink
    November 18, 2011 6:47 pm

    ‘America is a natural ally, but it has a political system loaded with pathologies.’ And China doesn’t?

    Tell that to Burma, Tibet and Mongolia, among others.

    We are complicit if we don’t stand our ground, with truth – for wealth. And this is the time to stand and be counted, as others battle brutality and genocide- with accomplices.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      November 18, 2011 9:23 pm

      Er, pardon me, but who said that the Chinese don’t suffer political pathologies? I didn’t.

  4. Paul permalink
    November 20, 2011 10:43 pm

    What I don’t understand is the polarization of opinion when it comes to China. Why must one be for or against? Surely it would be best to try and understand individual circumstances and events rather than make hasty judgements that cut across all such things.

  5. Peter Pando permalink
    November 21, 2011 10:50 am

    Dear Mr Carr,

    These questions all turn on matters of Chinese psychology. Are they like everyone else, or are their minds and hearts radically different from the rest of the world population? Are they readable, or impenetrably mystical? Increasingly empowered by emulating Western missions and technologies, do you expect them to be satisfied with international disempowerment, or would you expect the head rush of power and wealth to seek further reinforcement? Those benefitting from China’s economic rise will do well to keep in their minds Lord George MacCartney’s description of the imperial China that he visited in the late 18th century. China has learned enormous amounts from European imperialism and industry, and there is now doubt that many of its traditionalist culture guardians believe they have a lot of face-saving to do, even if only by supplanting Western populations. Perhaps there are now enough Chinese loyalists in situ to skew Australia’s traditional aims from within, but you can be sure that there are many here who will back the USA to the hilt over a rival entity. Everyone knows that China is playing a stealthy game of build-up and parallel-ism, shadowing Westerners in almost every conceivable way. Chinese dreams have been taken over by Western dreams in nearly all but racial and human equality – the most important dreams of all, and the dreams which made the West the object of oriental aspiration.

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