Radical Aussie MP seeks selfish gains by playing Taiwan card

By Xu Shanpin Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/16 23:18:36

China Australia Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


George Christensen, a member of the Liberal National Party of Queensland, suggests Australia to "officially recognize Taiwan as a nation" to put an end to ongoing disputes with China, Sky News reported on Tuesday. "If China wants to play hard ball, Australia can too," Christensen said. 

His remarks scarcely represent the mainstream views of Australian politicians, as Canberra has always distanced itself from Washington over the latter's dangerous Taiwan policy. 

Unlike the US, Australia has been relatively cautious over issues regarding China's core interests such as the Taiwan question and South China Sea disputes. Contrary to what Christensen said that "Australia can play hard ball," it actually can't. 

Australia knows well that provoking China over these issues could bring huge risks and serious consequences. While the US can bear such consequences, Australia can hardly afford them. That's why Canberra has been provoking Beijing verbally all the time with a low-risk tactic. It is merely displaying its loyalty to Washington and seeking as many profits as it can get in order to garner US strategic attention and support. 

Australia's strength is limited in term of either economics or military muscle. But it inherited the imperial mind-set of the British Empire. It has always hoped to establish a sub-empire and regional hegemony in the Southern Pacific. Due to its grand ambitions yet limited strength, it can only rely on the endorsement of its strong Western allies - previously the UK and currently the US. Today, it can merely realize its goal without Washington's hard support. 

Moreover, Canberra also wishes to raise its bargaining power with both Beijing and Washington through verbal provocations. This allows it to turn the tables of its declining position amid the major power games. 

At the time when China-Australia ties are sharply turning sour and when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is highly concerned and even vigilant toward Beijing, certain individual Australian politicians, such as Christensen, obviously hope to attract political attention by tossing out radical views. Catering to Morrison may elevate their political status. The Australian government is also indulging such boxing kangaroo hype. 

Unfortunately, the logic of those "eye-catching" politicians is full of loopholes. Take Christensen. He suggested ending the ongoing trade disputes with China. But his approach - recognizing the island of Taiwan as a nation - will only lead to the termination of diplomatic ties with China. This means that all economic and trade exchanges between the two countries will be completely cut off. Did he mean to end the trade disputes or to end all trade? 

Some Australian politicians, especially local personnel, are not really qualified. Some members of parliament are not sitting on their position after being elected, but as a result of political compromises. When the ruling party wants to establish a coalition to consolidate its influence, it will exchange its votes with certain right-wing parties, drawing them over to its side. Therefore, extreme views can be heard from local politicians from time to time. There is no need to attach much importance to them. 

But there is a cause for concern: The unhealthy political atmosphere in Australian society. This is a troubling trend. Australia advocates freedom of speech. However, Australian media outlets are mostly under the control of Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Murdoch, an Australian media mogul who became a US citizen, is not a fan of China himself. His media outlets are thus very conservative about China. Combined with the Morrison administration's China policy, the anti-China slogan has become a "political correctness" among both political parties and media circles. Forces which uphold such "correctness" can capture not only eyeballs, but also political benefits. 

However, related behaviors and the promotion of this trend are extremely irresponsible. The constant anti-China noises are poisoning the atmosphere of bilateral relations, and creating endless obstacles for diplomatic interactions. The Australian government is certainly capable of reversing this trend. But whether it is willing to do so is a question yet to be answered. 

Previous friendly exchanges between China and Australia came from long-term joint efforts from politicians on both sides. Yet some individuals show no hesitation to abandon their political heritage - they jeopardize the bilateral relationship in pursuit of personal gains. What a shame. 

The author is an adjunct researcher at the Center for Australian Studies, China University of Mining and Technology. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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