Cui Bono – who benefits from the current decline in China/Australia relations?

The dramatic decline in Australia China relations has paralleled the rise in the anti-China rhetoric from the Trump administration, capped by its naming of COVID as “the China virus”. Who benefits from this situation? Hint: it’s not China and it’s not Australia.

A recent article in The Australian by Paul Kelly, hailed as insightful by China Matters (the consultancy  defunded by the Morrison ministry as too pro-Beijing) pointed out that while Kelly agreed with almost every step that the Government had taken, the consequences were a mess and boded ill for the future. The reason Kelly proposed lay in its incapacity to articulate a clear set of goals other than an inchoate “national interest”.

Ten years ago  I argued that immigrant societies always face tensions for the loyalty of newcomers (for instance, from China) between their identification with their origin countries, and their commitment to their new country. In receiving societies (for instance, like Australia) with a history of racism and race hatred, people of colour may be attracted by the willingness of their new country’s government to actively protect their human rights, especially in relation to any continuing racism. In Australia this willingness by government has been declining.

As well, China I suggested would be anxious to maintain the loyalty of Chinese immigrants to the greater transnational community of Hua Ren, led by the vision of Beijing – today guided by Xi Jinping thought. In his speech of 2015 marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the global Anti-Fascist War  Xi proclaimed that China was dedicated to peace while noting “an ancient Chinese saying goes, ‘After making a good start, we should ensure that the cause achieves fruition’.” Fruition for Xi is a developed society which can never again be threatened with disruption, foreign invasion, or the horrors of regional war-lordism. It does not, he claimed, seek any hegemony nor desire to impose on other societies the horrors that China endured during a hundred years of foreign incursions and invasions, from Europe, the USA and Asia.

In order to achieve this peace, China in 2015 announced a sequence over fifteen year for expanded rings of influence and security. The first “ring” encompassing the South China Sea, has reached initial fruition, with the seeding of the southern waters with Chinese land bases, frustrating its neighbours and causing regional powers to push back, somewhat ineffectually. The current year marks the beginning of the next phase, pushing into the Pacific, and the implementation of the next five year economic plan, announced in May.  The lock step between foreign policy and economic policy is no accident, reflecting the sense of imminent threat that China has experienced for nearly two hundred years. This explains its strategic use of economic capacity to bind partner nations in the next zone in ways they cannot avoid.

Australia has noticed the effects of these plans on the Pacific nations which it had previously assumed sat comfortably under its own hegemonic umbrella. When China butts up against the USA zone of influence in the Pacific (as Japan did in its attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941) current tensions are likely to become even more inflamed than the Trump administration’s calling out of China’s economic hooks into America has achieved over the past four years.

However the warnings are clear – as Yale University’s Jason Stanley noted in his discussion of contemporary fascism on the UTS VC’s Democracy Forum (1 October 2020), fascism is a process of ensemble practices rather than a thing. So all the players in Venn diagram in which Australia is trapped use some fascist and anti-humane practices to advance their regime position. Australia’s finesse in holding asylum seekers at arms length in torturing situations has psychological reverberations with earlier regimes’ intimidation and torture of people they wished to deter or expel – Jews in pre-war Nazi Germany for example. That doesn’t make Australia a fascist state though to some Australians (many young Indigenous men or asylum seekers) it may be experienced as exactly that.

If we step back a bit and review the current apprehensions constantly stoked by the conservative elites (both prompted and echoed by some leftist nationalists such as those at the former Fairfax press), the Trumpets in security and defence, and the stalwarts of the Institute of Public Affairs, China has been construed an appalling though rational fascist state seeking to extend its hegemony over populations which wish to escape its grasp. Some escapees wish to pursue religious alternatives to the state ideology – including Muslims in the North West and Christians and democrats in Hong Kong. Others are democrats willing to put up with the more chaotic life offered by Western societies while hopefully prospering in less authoritarian regimes. Many immigrants from Communist China in Australia are seeking a degree of freedom, clean environment and economic opportunity hard to find in the old country. Others though are apparently potential spies, saboteurs and agents of the malign forces based in Beijing. Those forces, we are told, have infiltrated everywhere, watching us, influencing our views and seeking to erode and corrode our fierce sense of independence and autonomy that is the essence of Australian identity and morality.

Only the forces of Good can protect us, and anyone who resists is either a fool or an agent of the regime, even if they are not aware of their collaboration (Clive Hamilton on Jocelyn Chey as an example). In particular, anyone who suggests that the critique of the Chinese government and the Communist Party simply disguises a White Australia prejudiced loathing of the Mongol race, plays into the hands of the highly manipulative Beijing scriptwriters.

While this summary might be interpreted as a caricature of the real and subtle complexity of a constantly evolving situation, it does capture most of the talking points that pepper the rhetoric of the “beware” community.

There is a competing narrative that is given short shrift in the Australian media, well cowed by the trumpet players. China has dragged itself out of centuries of Euro-American imperialist impoverishment, and learned to play the games of global capitalist wealth accumulation through a state prism. One thing Chinese rulers have taken from their own detailed analysis of history – fed but not drowned by the insights of Leninist studies of imperialism – is that no one will look after their national interest (or their own place in the elites/ nomenklatura) other than themselves.

This lesson has been reinforced by the performance of President Trump, who correctly recognised that China had been playing the US economy as a rigged roulette wheel for years, to its advantage and the US’s real cost. China (and maybe also Trump)  recognises that capitalism without a state plan has been prone to massive fluctuations as the business cycle regularly pushes tsunamis of growth and contraction through the economy: dirigisme would most likely trump neo-liberalism over the medium to long term. Possibly the most important indigenous lesson learned was that the empire/Middle Kingdom would collapse if regional war-lordism were allowed to break out again (as experienced post 1842 and the Opium Wars and then 1912 to 1949). Taiwan for Beijing is a war-lord enclave not yet subdued, Hong Kong has been a war-lord enclave now being subdued, Tibet was a war-lord enclave well subdued, and Xinjiang was threatening to become such an enclave and there it’s all out to subdue resistance.

Moreover the alternatives of neo-liberalism offered by the West have been demonstrably incapable of handling the accelerating Gaia crises – COVID, global warming, water shortages, wildfires, hurricanes, ocean warming and rising,  and environmental pollution. Also Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are not exemplars of how democratic states successfully resolve the rise of irredentist religious anti-regime movements, the feared and not unrealistic potential outcome in China of Xinjiang Muslim autonomy movements. Boris Johnston and Donald Trump provide salutary lessons of what happens when under-educated self-interested socially-unaware populations “choose” incapable leaders who sacrifice their own populations (Brexit, COVID) due to their ineptitude and lack of social concern. It is not only China where the emphasis on Law and Order neglects the third key element – justice.

Throughout Chinese history a principal strategy of successful regimes has kept a buffer zone of dependent-supplicant economically-productive states/ cultures/ tribes/ regions between the heart of the empire and the barbarians beyond. The Belt and Road initiative reflects this world-view amplified through an appreciation of globalisation and its threats and benefits. In the Chinese view, collaborations between Chinese ingenuity, management and strategic vision, with subordinated or partner governments offering local resources, energy and logistics, would create a win-win with China on top while aiding a lot of other populations floating upwards to become extended consumers in a global Chinese supermarket.

Thus we have seen the Africa push, the Pacific push, the Europe push and indeed the Australia push. Pity though about Huawei, which freaked out the trumpets with its imaginative or imagined access into the heart of the Australian future; its banning means Australia will slip even further back into remaining a mine and pasture, with a rump of sheltered-workshops “making things because that’s what Australia does”, now that the two other industries – tourism and education – have been on the one hand wrecked by COVID and on the other trashed by the trumpets. 

So, who benefits from the current mess in Australia / China relations? It does China no particular good to have to keep swatting at the Australian fly buzzing at it. It is now clear that the ham-fisted raids in Australia by the trumpets on Chinese journalists led to the “please explain” interviews with the Australian journalists in Beijing. The Australian media accepted government advice to pull “our” journalists out of China, a sensible move in the short term, but now a guarantee we are without independent thoughtful analysis of the current Chinese situation. I would not like to trust the hysteria of the IPA to provide the nation with a compass into the future.

In Australia there were raids on an Australian politician, Shaoquett Moselmane, and his Chinese born advisor John Zhang. Moselmane’s career and reputation have been trashed, but he has been declared of no further interest, and no crimes have ever been alleged against him, let alone taken to court or proven: practices remarkably like those of other authoritarian regimes anxious to suppress internal criticism.  The trumpets then had the Australian government ban a number of Chinese academics who had specialist knowledge of Australia, just at the time this knowledge (rather than fevered propagandised prejudice) was needed in China – a really smart move (not). The Chinese had banned two trumpet politicians (not smart but hey, they are a pain) and two leading academics who are PRC regime critics. In the meantime a tit for tat series of dumping claims riddle the inter-nation trade situation.

The only interest that is served by the current state of affairs is that of the Trump regime, and its Australian trumpets, who show many of their own signs of being undeclared agents of a foreign power. In this case the USA (in its Trump incarnation) has undermined much of the Australian relationship with China. We know Trump uses disruption as a tactic while pursuing a more shaded longer term strategy: viz at even the inter-personal level his shouting over Biden in the first Presidential debate, the effect of which (until Trump was laid low by COVID and then returned resurrected and youthfully invigorated by the virus treatment) was potentially to reduce the interest of moderate US citizens in voting at all. A similar effect is emerging following the urging of the trumpets on Australia’s relationship with China, demonstrated through our disengagement, apprehension and reduction in real knowledge interactions. 

Hopefully the relation can be resurrected, but only if we recognise that both China and the USA are gaming us, and not for our benefit.  The basis needs to be a rational appreciation of the societal values that Australia espouses, the reality of how we actually implement those values, and the distances we need to travel to draw them together.

We should not have any illusions about the Chinese government and its ruling party, though we might be rather more respectful of their circumstances.  Similarly we should have no illusions about the USA, or the cabal that runs its government.   Empires have their own logics, which may work well for the metropoles but rather less well for the periphery. As a peripheral nation we will continue to be a small but precious (to us) circle in the Venn diagram of imperial contestation in the Pacific over the next century. 

Two Strongs don’t make it Right

During May 2017 two national inquiries were calling for public submissions to strengthen what an outsider might think sounded like the same policy challenge in a multicultural democracy such as Australia. On the one hand the Senate wanted to understand what action might be required to strengthen multiculturalism, while on the other the Government wanted to strengthen citizenship. The Senate inquiry is continuing and has taken public evidence, including for LyLy Lim  and myself, based on our written submission (Submission 8). The Government one barely stopped to take breath at the closure date, refused to make the submissions to its consultation public, and announced through Minister Dutton soon thereafter increased restrictions and constraints on gaining and retaining citizenship.

However the inquirers each defined “strengthen” in rather different ways, to the point where the word came to represent a totally opposing set of values, world views, and social priorities. In a period of political chaos, post-truth and Trumpet rhetoric, any claim to strength must necessarily suggest assumptions about the causes of the weakness to be supplanted, and the dynamic driving the moral erosion set to be removed.

The Senate inquiry dates from November 2016 when the Greens decided to push for a more robust multicultural policy, in particular one that would bring in national legislation to create a legislative basis for multiculturalism, a proposition last floated by the ALP in 1989 but never enacted or reintroduced by any government since the rise of the Howard opposition. The ALP went along with the Green’s initiative, as the reorganisation of the multiculturalism shadow policy was only starting to take shape. Meanwhile GetUp was moving towards its own firmer strategy on linking with culturally diverse communities, an initiative that would be first tested early in 2017 in the struggle to stop the proposed government changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Inquiry was launched on the International Day for the elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in Australia known under its vanilla alias as “Harmony Day”. Any publicity hoped for at the launch was overwhelmed by the Government’s own statement of Multiculturalism, which carefully bypassed all the issues raised in the Senate reference. The senators identified issues such as the adequacy of data on racially motivated crimes, the impact of vilification and discrimination, and the impact of media and political stigmatisation of minority communities on bigotry and harassment. It looked for ways that might improve public discourse and recognise the contribution of immigrant groups. Centrally it wished to consider legislative underpinnings for the currently rootless amalgam of provisions that count as Federal multicultural policy, last put into the public arena for (inconclusive) debate in 1989.

For the Senate then to strengthen multiculturalism appears to entail building a stronger legislative base, improving the information about the impact of xenophobia on minorities, and extending the human rights base for multicultural practice.

The Citizenship inquiry, despite its wattle and gum tree green discussion paper, was framed by consultations initially managed by Sen Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and former Immigration minister and now human rights ambassador Phillip Ruddock. They reported that there was a widespread fear among older multi-generation Australians that potential terrorists and other ne’er-do-wells were finding it too easy to get citizenship, and that not only should the access be toughened, but the loss of citizenship should be more readily used to punish miscreants. The second of those measures, the cancelling of citizenship for terrorists with dual nationality was enacted early on. Raising the bar by lengthening the time people need to prove their commitment to Australia (by volunteering at school tuck shops among other proofs), increasing the level of English required to the equivalent of a year 10 school-leaver, and swearing to uphold a set of values yet to be defined, makes citizenship (and the voting rights that come with it) a much more challenging exercise for humanitarian entrants and both older and less well-educated applicants from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Thus strengthening citizenship is concerned not with bolstering the quality of the process of citizenship achievement for the applicants, but rather in quietening the concerns of the most xenophobic elements in Australian society. That is, the process in place is designed to increase the stigmatisation experienced by minorities, normalise low levels of racist discourse and moral vilification against immigrants, while increasing the sense of marginalisation and exclusion for wide sections of the community. Such concerns about exclusion were once voiced by former Liberal MP Petro Georgiou, who almost alone stood against the Howard government’s last round introduction under then Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews of the first Australian values and ‘strengthened’ English language test. He commented sadly that his parents, proud Greek Australians, would never have made it through the hoops then being applied.

By strengthening citizenship in the way it is proposed, whether intentionally or uncaringly, the sense of exclusion widens, the possibilities of achievement lessen, and the value of the future citizen is adduced from their class rather than their character (think perhaps Asian billionaire vs rescued Yasidi grandmother). Asserting a human rights perspective provides a more reliable basis for strengthening social cohesion than does an approach that merely toughens the rules. For loyalty to Australia will ultimately depend on the recognition and respect paid to its aspiring citizens, not their performance of ritualised elements of culture which is far more complex than Minister Dutton and his black shirts are able to recognise.

 

 

When it comes to Whiteness in Australian media, we are still telling the same story: Professor (((Andrew Jakubowicz))) on ABC News Radio with Tracey Holmes

First posted 19/12/2016 14:14:52 ABC News Radio

Settlement, opportunity, respect and creativity.

Forum “Critical Value of Settlement for Australia

Settlement Council of Australia
Originally delivered AGM Monday 18th November 2013
Revised and redated September 2014
Location: Parliament House, Senate Alcove

_____________

My first involvement in settlement as a process of social change took place for me in 1969, through the volunteer framework of the Good Neighbour Council, in the back streets of Redfern. By then it was already very clear that Australia was an immigration nation, a country whose whole mode of being in the world draws on continuing inflows of people. This means that the successful settlement of newcomers is crucial for every part of our society – not only for the immigrants themselves. Settlement has taken on new meanings though where we now have hundreds of thousands of long term residents who are not settlers, but whose “settlement needs” are never the less very real – including TPVs once more, 457s and their families, and international students.

In its exploration of settlement released in March this year the Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into Migration and Multiculturalism (Chap 9) identified the following issues: English language acquisition, Cultural competency in Service delivery, Access to Housing, “CALD Women”, Youth, Racism and discrimination, Government funding of services. All of these contribute to either undermining or enhancing equal opportunity. The Report deals with them in sufficient detail so I will focus on some other aspects.

Malcolm Fraser recognised the importance of settlement as a human rights process when he spoke, in 1981 at the inauguration of the Australian Institute for Multicultural Affairs, of a three-part dynamic through which newcomers are integrated into Australian society. The first of these is economic opportunity: nothing works if immigrants cannot find useful work. Secondly respect for self and other is crucial: immigrants cannot engage if they are socially excluded and culturally denigrated; but also the “hosts” cannot engage if they feel alienated or threatened from the newcomers. Thirdly the energy that comes from interaction produces a synergy that magnifies the capacities of both newcomers and established residents. Rupert Murdoch suggested much the same thing when he spoke a fortnight ago about Australia as a migration nation.

Settlement then underpins our capacity to face the future with confidence. A century ago in another immigration country and in its most dynamic migrant city, Robert Park of Chicago University charted the process of settlement (though he called it assimilation which is less politically correct today). Park argued that settlement was a four stage process, beginning with contact (and the shock of that moment), followed by conflict, then competition, then accommodation. With accommodation comes the possibility of longer term integration, specialisation, and reciprocal benefits.

Three years ago a rather decent public servant Andrew Metcalfe fled from the bureaucracy, hounded for speaking truth to power. Metcalfe had said, to paraphrase him, that Australia was storing up troubles as it fed thousands of wretched people into immiseration and trauma as “non persons”, asylum seekers condemned to a limbo of meaningless lives. Last year a senior police officer in NSW spoke to me of the unknown distortions of human lives building in the suburbs of Sydney among immigrants without jobs or expectation of meaningful work, of racisms that shatter human hope and drive young men in particular to choose outlaw lives. We know the violence that shivers below the surface in neighbourhoods where trust is frozen, where respect has become a distorted currency fed by threat and anger.

Fraser helps us locate this first issue of equal opportunity:

No society can long retain the commitment and involvement of groups that are denied these [basic human] rights. If particular groups feel that they and their children are condemned whether through legal or other arrangements to occupy the worst jobs and housing, to suffer the poorest health and education, then the societies in which they live are bent on a path which will cost them dearly.

Let me then explore some of the work issues involved in settlement. I am drawn to the story of Luv-a-Duck, Nhill, the Karen, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Luv-a-Duck is a family business based in Melbourne, which along with its major competitor Pepe’s Ducks, has grown from a backyard enterprise a few decades ago to became a major employer and a producer of tens of thousands of ducks (and the focus of animal welfare investigations). AMES in Melbourne was trying to help a group of Karen refugees find work and self respect. Nhill, a small town in western Victoria, a key Luv-a-duck processing centre, needed workers and residents, housing was cheap. The Karen moved there and Luv-a-Duck employed them. The community has grown and this year the company received a settlement award from the Migration Council of Australia (about the same time it got a bullocking from the ACCC for misleadingly advertising that its ducks as open range). The Karen story in Nhill is almost an archetype of the Robert Park model – with many of the points of conflict and difficulty in Melbourne allayed by the move to the rural region. The situation in Melbourne was conflictual, with few opportunities, and a real difficulty in competing fairly with acceptable outcomes (their social capital was not recognised as valuable). They moved out into a situation where their skills and attitudes (their social capital) gave them an advantage, one which a settlement service believed might work.

Fraser continued:

The less constructively a society responds to its own diversity the less capable it becomes of doing so. Its reluctance to respond, fuelled by the fear of encouraging division, becomes a self fulfilling prophesy—the erosion of national cohesion is a result not of the fact of diversity but of its denial and suppression.

In July 2014 SBS broadcast the first of four episodes of Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl exploring the Lebanese stories of Sydney, successor to …Cabramatta and the Vietnamese. Puncbowl presents us with two narratives of settlement that exemplify Fraser’s analysis. On the one side we see the Middle East Crime Squad, Brothers for Life gang members, drive-by shootings, the inheritors of the madness of Cronulla 2005, and a vast criminal infrastructure of drugs, extortion, robbery, car re-birthing, and murder, tempered only by images of Sixth Pillar local jihadists charging off to fight for Al Qaeda in Syria. On the other side we see Punchbowl Boys High, once a breeding ground for violence and a nursery for drug gangs, now one of the most successful working class schools in the state, with good HSC scores and strong civic culture. Under the guidance of a tough love Lebanese Muslim headmaster, the School has replaced denigration and learning to fail with self-affirmation and the celebration of success. One narrative displays the dystopic consequences of failing to acknowledge the truths of Fraser’s reflections of thirty years ago (soon after he admitted tens of thousands of Christian and Muslim Lebanese refugees). The other narrative demonstrates the value of affirming people within their own cultural framework. Hard policy, but seriously effective.

The third dimension of why settlement is so important is contained by another project now in its pilot phase. In conjunction with the NSW Powerhouse Museum I am developing a project on cultural synergy. We are researching exemplars of creativity in settlement, looking for cases where someone from a non-Anglo society who is creative in the broad Design sense (from pottery to clothing design to scientific technology) and has a creative history from “before”, comes here and discovers a new expressive profile impossible in their country of origin, yet inconceivable without them in Australia. This, the beginning of a roadmap of contemporary Australian creative design (within the Powerhouse remit), shows how the components can be laid out, and then drawn together, stressing the interaction of cultures in producing a common and valuable outcome.

People create themselves every day of their lives, drawing on whatever palette they have to hand or through reservoirs of emotion such as extended family. Effective settlement re-energises the newcomer, re-kindles hope, and enlivens the networks of the everyday. Unfortunately we are moving into a period of increased tension around cultural difference – driven by the intensification of the constraints being applied to asylum seekers, including their renaming as “illegals”; and the push to license hate speech through reducing protection under the Racial Discrimination Act. Together these moves contribute to a potential undermining of civility that seriously damages the settlement process for those touched by these issues. Mr Metcalfe’s sensible insight will be sorely missed in the years ahead.

 

ENDS