There have been many celebrations about the overthrow of tyrants. We always expect that when the tyrant has gone there will be a flowering of righteousness; that good people will step into the light, take the vacant helm and steer the ship of state onto the right course.
The right course always means our own – of course. In the Western World the right course is towards democracy, capitalism and individual rights. We felt cheated when China adopted our technology and business models, moved into our markets and grew rich, but failed to adopt our politics and morals. That wasn’t the deal! And what about Russia? Iraq? Libya? Myanmar?
Now we rejoice in Joe Biden’s victory. Another tyrant has been overthrown. Will we be disappointed again? Will the unhealthy miasma that produced the phenomenon of Trumpery be blown out to sea by the Bidon/Harris breeze? Or will it linger? Will the honest efforts of good people be brought to nothing by an infection that they barely understand and lack the tools to fight?
Let me change the subject, but only slightly. I have tried to think of an instance where bitter fighting has been brought to an end without a clear victory and decisive defeat. I cannot. Can you?
It was not the US presidential election that prompted me to think along these lines, but the outbreak of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is not a new fight. Wikipedia has a good account of its dismal history. Can generations of genuinely-felt grievance be ended at a conference table? Can some outsider mediate a lasting peace? Will a signed piece of paper stop the bloodshed?
I think not. I think one side must win and the other side must lose. Clearly and decisively. Like Donald Trump, the loser will have to surrender before the fighting can stop. Usually this means fighting until one side is too exhausted, broken and broke to carry on. Then a kind of healing can begin. Some of the closest allies were once the bitterest of foes.
And this brings me to a conclusion that surprises me. For all the things that Trump did wrong, history may judge him well for siding uncritically with the Rogue State of Israel, climaxing in a deal with the UAE. Much as one weeps for the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people, perhaps they have to accept and acknowledge defeat at their oppressors’ hands before they can heal and rebuild – helped by generous gazillions from Israel’s friends.
I like our MP and I hope he retains his seat at the next election. But this flyer, found yesterday in our letterbox, appals me. On the back it explains that Burnside Lacrosse Club has received a grant of A$154,000 from the Federal Government to upgrade their changing rooms.
What the hell is the Federal Government doing funding local sports clubs?!!
I want to know when we’re going to have an energy policy; radical measures to combat climate change; effective law enforcement in the finance sector; and a defence capability to deter a big aggressive neighbour.
Meanwhile the lacrossers of Burnside can change in the comfort of their own homes and travel to/from the ground in their gear.
There has been an exposé on Australian television about the extent of influence-buying that the Chinese Government has been engaged in. Evidently it includes making big donations to political parties and then exerting pressure to change policies – towards Chinese imperialism in the South China Sea for example. The donations do not come directly from the Chinese Government or the Communist Party, but through well-connected businesspeople.
Chinese students in Australia – numbering more than 46,000 at the last count – are subject to surveillance and ‘helped’ to participate in demonstrations of support for the party line. Educational and cultural institutes have been set up at tertiary institutions, financed and controlled by the Chinese Government with a plainly political agenda. Yesterday the Australian Broadcasting Corporation drew attention to ways in which the Chinese Government is using the Australian media.
When we embraced multiculturalism in the 1980s we thought it was just about accepting more ethnic diversity, having a new TV channel broadcasting in multiple languages, eating unfamiliar food and watching people dancing in the street in dragon costumes or embroidered peasant blouses. Good clean fun.
But ‘culture’ goes much deeper than that. We find ourselves confronted with halal and kosher slaughtering, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and dealings in the spheres of business and politics that look a lot like corruption. These and other practices that make us uneasy are probably here to stay.
I am indebted to the blog https://chinaicons.com/ for drawing my attention to the proverbs of the famous Chinese military tactician Sun Tzu, whose writings are still studied by military commanders the world over. I’ve borrowed this picture of his statue from the China Icons website.
Among the proverbs this one resonates with me particularly:
“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Isn’t this exactly how the Chinese leadership is making fools of the rest of us? Their creeping occupation of the South China Sea, consolidation of their hold over Tibet and suppression of political freedom in Hong Kong are all being achieved through persistent bullying and angry outbursts that fall short of provoking armed conflict. (See my earlier post ‘Trump, Tsai and Xi’.)
Again, one can draw parallels with those other rogue states Israel and Russia – and North Korea too, I suppose.
PS According to the WordPress computer, my fellow-blogger at China Icons found that earlier post of mine “awesome”. He or she writes well and is not given to extravagant hyperbole, so I guess I’m up there with Sun Tzu himself – and even Confucius! Or maybe WordPress is leading the charge towards degradation of the English language. OMG, that would make me s-o-o-o stroppy!
Why must we always be the ones to back down and compromise our principles? By ‘we’, by the way, I mean The Liberal Democratic West (LDW for short, not to be confused with LBW).
Taiwan is a country with its own government, socio-politico-economic system, policies and values. It suits many people to maintain the fiction that it’s a renegade province of the People’s Republic of China that will one day be reincorporated into the mainland Chinese polity, but for all practical purposes and for the foreseeable future it is a separate state.
Moreover, the so-called People’s Republic of China under Xi Jinping is going out of its way to behave badly. Whether it’s denying political rights in Hong Kong, flouting international law in the South China Sea, engaging in industrial espionage or dumping dodgy steel products on world markets, China is donning the clothes of a Rogue State.
And why wouldn’t it? It has observed that the LDW will always back down rather that risk a fight – unless its opponent is orders of magnitude weaker. Israel, Russia and Saudi Arabia have got away with murder, so why not China?
That’s why I applaud Donald Trump’s decision to talk to President Tsai of Taiwan (both pictured below, courtesy of AP). Let journalists and political advisors cringe and mouth the doctrine of appeasement. I say, “Enough! What’s the point of spending 4% of your GDP to build and maintain the most powerful military machine in the history of mankind if you always back off rather than risk hurting a few feelings?!”
Don’t get me wrong: On almost every issue I am at odds with both Donald Trump and John Bolton (tipped to become his Secretary of State), and I have no appetite for a Third World War. But in this one instance the Donald got it right and John’s endorsement was spot-on. We tried being nice to China and look where it got us. It’s time to try something different.
If Xi Jinping doesn’t like it, let him rant and act offended and threaten to cut off the supply of Barbie dolls.
Do you remember Tom Lehrer? He was a mathematician and satirist in the 1960s and 70s (Vatican Rag, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park…). When Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, Lehrer remarked that political satire was now obsolete.
I had the same feeling in 2015 when Tony Abbott, then Prime Minister, announced an Australian knighthood for Prince Philip. But the Government of the People’s Republic of China has gone one better by awarding the Confucius Peace Prize (the Chinese alternative to the Nobel-branded one) to Robert Mugabe.
Robert Mugabe. The one in Zimbabwe. Not a typo.