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Keating’s Reservations

November 24, 2011

It has taken Paul Keating to place on the record serious, national-interest reservations about how the too-ready embrace by Australia of America’s hostility towards China. Keating on ABC’s Lateline last night made the point that the American President – in the Australian Parliament – delivered himself of “basically hard rhetoric” against China. For that, read hostility.

Like me, the former Prime Minister does not object to a rotating troop presence on Australia’s north but is concerned about how it gets wrapped up in an unmistakable anti-China stance. Why is it remotely in Australia’s interest to take that course ?

Anyway, I can do no better than to share the Keating transcript:

Yes, well, I think what we saw this week was the president in Australia saying that – to the American audience, really; it was a speech for the American audience, “We’re getting out of the Middle East. We’re renewing our interest in the Asia-Pacific and we’re sticking it to China.”

Now, I think that was the context of the speech. Where we got wrapped up in the speech is of course in it was the announcement of a modest increase in troop movements through Australia. This would have been otherwise unexceptional had it been announced, say, after the AUSMIN meeting between Australian and US ministers in San Francisco six weeks ago, but it got wrapped up in the US kabuki show, and in a sense we’ve got brought into it, perhaps verballed to be part of what looks like the stringing out of a containment policy…

I think the Americans are quite ruthless about this. Of course that’s what they were up to. But just – look, some of the things the president said – just remember this. He predicted that the model of a country ruled by a committee would fail. He said communism and a country ruled by committee would fail.

In other words, he’s saying that the Chinese model he’s predicting will fail. But he’s saying it in our Parliament House.

He goes on to say things like, “With every element of American power, our new focus is on this region.” Well I always thought they were there. I think it’s a good thing they’re there. I did everything in my political life to see them there. But he says, “With our new focus on this region …. We’re here to stay. … History’s on the side of the free. … By upholding core principles, we partner with democracies.”

I mean, this was a diamond-hard speech delivered by a master deliverer, you know, a very engaging person, able to deliver a message, but a rock-hard speech. And that speech was basically saying that the United States is back and you could be excused for thinking that the commentary in the week was about the old Soviet Union.

I mean, China is not the old Soviet Union. And we would make of course a huge mistake seeking to contain it…

This was a speech that really would have been better made in Washington or elsewhere. The fact that it was made here and wrapped around a small increase in troop movements, 2,500 through Darwin, just added the military spice to the big rhetorical speech.

Well here we are in our Parliament – not in the American Parliament, our Parliament. The American president gets up and says, “The Chinese model will fail. It is bound to fail.” And then all the speech’s basically hard rhetoric against China.

  1. Paul Heath permalink
    November 24, 2011 4:12 pm

    Mr Keating’s comments are very appropriate.

    I recall in early days of the Bush Administration (2000 – mid 2001) there was also an increasing degree of hostility towards China.

    I remember Richard Armitage visiting Australia and making the same sort of sounds that President Obama made on this trip.

    Ultimately the issue early last decade faded when the attacks of 9 /11 took place and the USA became embroiled in the middle east.

    Now that the middle east is winding down the USA seems to have turned again to focus on China and is talking up a ‘China threat’.

    While there are legitimate concerns to be held about China but mostly to do with the extent that the CCP administers the country well and in their interests of all Chinese citizens, including those living in Tibet, it is questionable that it is in Australia’s interests to be joining the United States in some sort of Chinese containment strategy that may have more to do with domestic US concerns.

    If for no other reason than ‘external threat’ is just the excuse the CCP needs to shut down internal debate and political development in China.

    • Kerry Wright permalink
      December 3, 2011 8:10 pm

      ‘all Chinese citizens, including those living in Tibet’ is not appropriate and a truth sellout.
      The truth is that everyone is afraid of China, and too afraid (or too greedy) to stand with Tibet.

      Tibet needs to be negotiated between China and Tibet, maybe via the Karmapa as they historically ‘hate’ The Dalai Lama with such a passion (or even just to save face after so much propaganda). Or maybe it all just needs to go to UN Courts.

      Either way, Australia can and should play a significant role, if there is to be any peace on this threatened planet. If China listens to no-one, then everyone take note of our ‘friendship’ quality!

      Always remember, Tibet was one of China’s ‘friends’.

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