Tuesday, 14 September 2010 00:00
Sydney Morning Herald correspondent John Garnaut asks, 'The seeds of democracy, so well fertilised in Egypt, are
now blowing all the way to China'.
To see an edited version of the below that was published in the Wall Street Journal Asian click here
To see an edited version of the below that was published in the Australian, click here
The history of the past century has been the history of the rise and fall of successive authoritarian and totalitarian empires.
Germany under the Kaiser, then under Hitler, Japan under its militarist generals, and the Soviet Union under Stalin then under Brezhnev. All threw up military and ideological challenges to the liberal democratic states. All were ultimately defeated.
Along the way, however, all these regimes found no shortage of apologists in the western democracies. Legions of academics and writers spent the 20th century wringing their hands and telling us that the weak, decadent, declining democracies could not possibly hope to resist the virile power of the dynamic, efficient totalitarian states, and should not even try.
Their warning was always that we should accommodate the rise of totalitarianism, that we should betray our friends and allies to the dictators, and that we should cut whatever deal we could with the dictators to save our own skins. Winston Churchill's famous advice was that appeasers hoped by feeding the crocodile, the crocodile would eat them last.
The ultimate symbol of this betrayal of western interests and ideals is Munich - the 1938 Munich conference where Britain and France sold out their allies the Czechs to Germany in the hope of avoiding conflict, but whose certainty they only accelerated.
But call it a Canberra ‘Munich Moment', for that is what Hugh White of the ANU, whose Quarterly Essay Power Shift, Australia's Future between Washington and Beijing, has produced: a masterly statement of the case for appeasing the newest manifestation of the totalitarian challenge, the People's Republic of China.
Hugh White Professor of Strategic Studies and Head of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies: Advocates US & Australia accommodating China's military
Hugh White's "explanations" of China's recent aggressive manoeuvres, both military and verbal against the long established presence of the US navy, and for that matter the Japanese, South Korean and even Vietnamese presence, will buttress the increasingly confident military-political commissars of the Communist party in Beijing. White even insists that democratic Australia in effect abandon its own values, by adopting his policy of disengaging from America and accommodating China. This is what White means when he say's in his Quartley Essay(pp34) : "no more lecturing China about dissidents, Tibet (follow the link to a report on China's end game with Tibet) or Religious Freedom."
No serious analyst equates China's communist regime with Hitler or Stalin. China is and deserves to be a great power, and we welcome the enormous economic and social progress China has made since 1976. Australia, like the Asian region as whole, must find a way to live in peace and mutually beneficial co-operation with a newly powerful and prosperous China.
Beijing's Pearl Harbour: Satellite image of new Chinese Navel base at Sanya on Hainan Island. (Follow the link to read 'Rapid Chinese build up disturbs Asain power balance' )
But these considerations do not alter the fact that China is run by a regime whose sole priority is the preservation of the power and privilege the China's Communist Party (CCP) ruling caste. The CCP is ruthless in the methods it uses, both internally and externally, to preserve itself. China is not an expansionist power in the traditional sense, but it is a totalitarian power which seeks to extend hegemony over its neighbourhood as a means of protecting itself. For both strategic and economic reasons, it supports and protects another club of dreadful authoritarians, such as North Korea, Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
North Korean 'Dear Leader', Kim Jong Il
Burmese Leader, Gen. Than Shwe: Another Chinese satrap
The principal counterweight to Chinese hegemony in our region is the United States and its system of alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia. It is Australia's most vital strategic interest that the US presence in our region in not weakened or undermined. This is not because we seek to thwart China's legitimate aspirations and interests. It's because we are a liberal democracy whose interests are best served by a stable, prosperous region in which all countries evolve towards more democratic forms of government, as is indeed happening - most notably in Indonesia. That is an ambition which the US shares and which China does not.
It maybe unworthy of consideration by the Canberra mandarins like White, but the United States , for all its faults, is after all a democracy like us. Ultimately, most Australian's have no difficulty in clearly seeing the fundamental difference between a vibrant pluralist democracy like the United States and a authoritarian one party state with its 20,000 internet police, one which summarily jails both Catholic Bishops and HIV activists.
Like Sovietologists of the past, with their analysis of an inevitable triumph of the USSR, White can imagine nothing better for the Chinese people. Rather then merely bowing to a resurgent one party state, shouldn't we look to a process of China transforming into a non belligerent liberal democracy?
Recently, General Liu Yazhou, a two-star Chinese General, warned the Chinese Communist Party that China must embrace a liberal democracy or accept a Soviet-style collapse. Mr Liu is the political commissar of the National Defence University and claimed that ‘if a system fails to let its citizens breathe freely and release their creativity to the maximum extent, and fails to place those who best represent the system and its people into leadership positions, it is certain to perish.' To read General Lui's full comments on the Sydney Morning Herald website, click here. It is encouraging and courageous that some in Chian still believe in this path.
Son of the Chinese nomenklatura: 2 star Chinese General Liu Yazhou: a protected species from one of the Communist Party's dynasties.
Hugh White says that the US should abandon its primacy in the region. Presumably he wants the US to eventually abrogate its treaties with Japan and Australia, withdraw its troops from Korea and its navy from Asian waters and stop Taiwan acquiring the means to defend itself.
Any one of these would be a disaster for our region. Together, they would amount to an Asian Munich. They would lead to the "finlandisation" of Asia as each country sought to protect itself by doing a deal with Beijing at the expense of its neighbours. They would be a betrayal of all the region's people, including the Chinese people. Ultimately such a betrayal would fail anyway, because appeasement never actually appeases dictators: it only makes them more confident and aggressive. The maintenance of the US Alliance system in Asia is vital for the continuance of Australia's security as expressed by Prime Minister's Hawke and Keating: "security in Asia not from Asia."
Australia certainly needs to find a way to live alongside a powerful and prosperous China. We do that best by building our mutually advantageous economic relationship, by staying loyal to our friends in the region, by assisting the US to maintain its role in the region, and by standing by our belief in democracy and human rights for all countries including China. We don't serve anyone's interests by trying to appease the current regime in Beijing.
Michael Danby is a member of the Australian Parliament and was chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. Dr Carl Ungerer is Director of the National Security Program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Peter Khalil is an Adjunct Associate professor at the Center for International Security Studies at Sydney University.
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