GT Voice: Naïve Australia foots the bill for US gambit
Published: Sep 16, 2021 07:38 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Australian taxpayers have every reason to demand an answer from the Morrison administration as to why ordinary Australians always end up paying for America's cold war gambit.

The US, UK and Australia announced Wednesday the trio would form a new trilateral security system for "ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific." As part of the security pact, known as AUKUS, the US and the UK have pledged to provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, according to media reports.

While the Biden administration officials claimed that the new security partnership is not specifically targeting China, almost all the Western media analyzed the move is a major step towards countering China's growing clout in the region.

In response, the Chinese embassy in the US said Thursday that the three English-speaking countries should "shake off their cold war mentality and ideological prejudice."

While we have never had any illusions about the Morrison government's political inclination, it is still surprising to know that they could be so obedient and "selfless" in opening their own coffers to pay for and slavishly serve US interests.

Among all of the US allies, the decision Australia made to acquire submarine technology from the US is the clearest indication of Canberra's support for Washington's idea of an international system to contain China's economic rise. 

As an independent nation to become a pawn of the US, the stakes are just too high for Canberra. Australia could face the most dangerous consequence of being cannon fodder in the event of a military showdown in the region.

What's even more ridiculous is that Australia also needs to foot the bill for playing the role of cannon fodder, and trashing its relationship with France, whose leaders must be annoyed to suddenly learn that its $90 billion submarine contract with Australia may be cancelled. 

The contract Australia inked with French shipbuilder Naval Group in 2016 to build a new submarine fleet was considered one of the world's most lucrative defense deals. Now with the new AUKUS security alliance, the money will eventually go to the US. 

This is not the first time the US has thrown Morrison into an awkward position. For a time, Australia has been losing its Chinese market share to the US and other economies. While officials in Canberra have been accusing China of "economic coercion," it is Canberra that decided to abandon the previously friendly relations with Beijing, by discriminating Chinese investment, ousting Chinese companies, and meddling China's internal affairs.  

The most pressing issue for the Australian economy now is to diversify its economic development by focusing on technology and advanced manufacturing so as to create more jobs. Typically, lucrative defense contracts for American contractors would not be part of such a plan. But as Canberra falls into a well-set US trap, its industrial transformation and development plans will suffer while defense lobbyists in Washington reap the rewards.

The US cold war gambit is a trap that will deprive its allies that are naïve enough to fall for the illusion of receiving economic dividends from the US, while also hoping to retrain the benefit that come from China's development when it comes to economic and trade cooperation. There is no way for China to develop economic ties with a country that treats it as an enemy. There is no path to future prosperity for an Australia which chooses to isolate itself from the region's largest economy.