Sedition case: ‘Fiji Times’ executives acquitted of serious charges
‘Mai hebogahisigu ida, bamahuta’ (With sadness, goodbye)

Think we can stick it to China? Go whistle in the cemetery

Chinese embassy in PNG
The Chinese embassy in Port Moresby - never mind the graffiti, think of the money

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - It didn't really need the resources of the CIA to uncover the nature of China's grand strategy in the Pacific.

That said, I think it is a serious error to underestimate just how effective this strategy will ultimately become.

History tells us that big powers like to dominate small powers within their self-described sphere of influence and will do whatever it takes to achieve this objective.

So China is simply proceeding down a well-trodden path and one which is entirely consistent with both its history and its current ambitions.

It amuses me when the governments of tiny and penurious countries like Vanuatu proclaim they can and will resist pressure to allow China access to ports or airstrips. This is simply whistling in the cemetery.

The truth is that they will, eventually, do as they are told because they will have no other sustainable options.

If they imagine that simply reneging on their debts is a viable option, then they ought to look at Argentina as a guide to their likely fate.

Argentina is battling with 40% interest rates, a desperate shortage of capital and a great deal of social dislocation and misery.

In addition, the government is fighting off law suits from creditors who are determined to extract their financial due from the beleaguered country.

Countries like Vanuatu are ludicrously ill equipped to cope with the impact of any economic meltdown whereas the Chinese can weather global financial storms with relative impunity.

PNG logs & China
One-third of China's tropical logs come from the forests of PNG. If lined up, in 2014 alone the logs from SABLs would stretch from Port Moresby to Beijing

And make no mistake, the financial winter is coming.

Total world debt now exceeds $US200 trillion, or 300% of world GDP, interest rates are rising (notably in the United States).

Unless the rules of economics as we know them are entirely wrong, the day of reckoning for the over leveraged is coming.

It requires truly heroic optimism to believe that we collectively can somehow deleverage our enormous indebtedness without pain.

There is literally no example of such a painless transition in history: the usual pattern is an enormous economic implosion followed by widespread impoverishment and dispossession.

It requires even more heroic optimism to believe that the current crop of politicians around the globe possess the insight, judgement and resolve to actually manage a successful transition onto a more sustainable footing.

In this context, in the absence of any other plan, perhaps Vanuatu and the rest of us might as well continue to whistle in the cemetery.

Comments

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Arthur Williams

It was forecast before 2000 that 'The Next Century belongs to China'.

Really is nothing any other nation with possible exception of India can do about it.

Their massive population is undeniably their major weapon.

Even in sport. I was watching recent World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. Several Chinese players were involved.

The commentator told us that 'snooker is in some schools' syllabus and there are possibly hundreds of thousands playing the game.

Seems Oz has the geographic size but most of it is empty. Only answer - Back to bed!

Paul Oates

Exactly Phil. That and a lack of oil reserves and raw materials.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The saving face thing works in relations between PNG and Australia too.

PNG politicians seem to be hyper-sensitive to criticism, to wit O'Neill now talking about 'false news'rather than accepting constructive criticism at face value.

That aside, if you remember that it was ultimately 'face' that caused the Pacific war it would be wise to take the Chinese ego seriously.

Paul Oates

There is another very important issue in the obvious 'sabre rattling' that seems to be a continual background noise in our region.

Western concepts are sometimes able to overlook setbacks in their initiatives since that is often part of a negotiation and can therefore be expected.

Not so in the game of diplomacy if it is made public and there is a classic case of 'Loss of Face' in the Asian context. Denial of any desires for gain and expansion must be done behind closed doors and not aired in public.

The fact that the Chinese are saying they are surrounded by US bases is just not true. But it goes down well for public consumption. The USSR claimed the same circumstances when it was still an empirical power.

An accommodation of Chinese self determination needs to be mindful of the classic example of Chamberlain's 'Peace in our time' claim that Hitler considered just weakness in the opposition to his plans.

Australia and PNG need to find a way of resisting any overt or covert takeover without giving offence and yet conveying strong determination. Whether this can be done when the average person really isn't paying attention to world events is the real question.

Therein lies the responsibility of our leaders to keep their people properly informed while not giving offence to anyone. Some might say their scorecards are painfully short of notable success.

Clearly some in the recent news are now saying publically that unless we call a spade a spade we are not going to achieve anything but eventual capitulation.

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