China’s Arrogance, Belligerence and Bullying of Australia Continues
There are times when China’s actions just make me laugh. This response is not entirely appropriate given the seriousness of tensions between China and countries all around the world. However, I laugh because Xi Jinping is such a ridiculous dolt. He seems to be fundamentally unable to grasp that he can not bully and intimidate the world in the same way that China bullies and intimidates its own citizens. In this respect Xi Jinping is politically and diplomatically immature. He knows of only one way to assert his will. Through intimidation and threats. Australia has long been in China’s sights with China making veiled threats against Australia and then following through on those threats. For example, China has made threats against Australia’s exports and followed through on them all. Now, however, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, China has given up the pretence of not bullying Australia. In Canberra, a Chinese embassy official produced a list of 14 grievances against Australia and warned, “‘China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy‘”.
The article from the Sydney Morning Herald reports Rush Doshi, the director of the Brooking’s China Strategy Initiative in Washington. Doshi says that, “The deployment of coercive economic leverage to shape [Australia’s] internal behaviour is a kind of illiberal order-building. This list is a partial guide to the norms of that illiberal order“. In other words China is now openly seeking to tell Australia how it should order its country in order to be acceptable to Beijing. This is frightening stuff. Furthermore, as Doshi points out, China is being incredibly hypocritical. For example, China has grievances against Australia for blocking Chinese investment and for news outlets reporting negatively on China. However, China “limits foreign investment, foreign involvement in its politics, erects visa barriers, treats journalists far worse, condemns other governments, has antagonistic media and limits provincial foreign policy freelancing”. There is a most wonderful adage in English, “The pot calling the kettle black“. We have a totalitarian and repressive regimen telling Australia that the country is at fault for treating China unfairly.
To Really Understand China You Need to Understand the Diplomatic Language
An Australian news story reports the same story on China’s list of grievances against Australia. However, the report makes one very important additional point, “China’s wolf-warrior diplomats are big on demanding respect. For themselves“. This is true not just of the diplomats but of the whole Chinese leadership because from Beijing’s perspective China is due respect and deference and Australia is not showing China the respect that it deserves. Respect is paramount and the very worst thing that you can do is to make someone senior lose face. Losing face is even worse when it is public and Australia has made Xi Jinping and China lose face through not bending to Beijing’s rule. Now to some of the language that is used to try to bring Australia into line. A Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman has said, “We have said many times that the root cause for the deteriorating China-Australia relations is Australia’s repeated wrong acts and remarks on issues concerning China’s core interests”. The spokesman has also said, “The Australian side should own up to the crux of the matter, take China’s concerns seriously and adopt concrete actions to correct their mistakes“. Finally, Australia has “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”. Note the very strong emphasis on “wrong acts” and “mistakes”. This is not just quaint language. It is the Chinese perception of having been slighted and Australia should apologize for embarrassing Beijing.
Whilst I might just be talking language, there is a very real danger to Beijing’s idiosyncratic and outdated cultural norm for demanding respect and for not being embarrassed. Arguably the Covid-19 cover up was driven by Beijing not wanting to have to own up to yet another virus originating in China. In other words, Beijing was trying to save face. Now, feeling slighted, Xi Jinping, Xi Jinping is aggressively asserting himself. Staying with the Australia news story he has adopted the title of “helmsman” – once reserved only for the great founding father Chairman Mao Zedong. He has also named national police chief and has ordered an “extraordinary” number of military exercises. According to the Australian News story, Xi Jinping is seeking to reshape the international order in his own image. And that, apparently, is where Australia is a thorn in his side because Australia will not kowtow. Even worse, for Beijing, Australia is “fighting back”. For example, as reported by ABC News, Australia has signed a new defence pact with Japan, a fact that has not pleased Beijing. Furthermore, Australia and its Five Eyes intelligence partners — the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada — have issued a statement condemning the disqualification of pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong. This has also annoyed Beijing with a Foreign Affairs Spokesperson saying, “No matter how many eyes they have, five or ten or whatever, should anyone dare to undermine China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should be careful they don’t get their eyes poked blind“.
First Published November 21st, 2020