Oceania’s past & future depends on us now
Stories from our new year: 2007-09

Sovereignty, China, PNG & Australia

| The Yegiora Files

MADANG – It’s well known that China has the largest population of any country and that its people have been mobilised as the driving force behind China’s rapid growth and transformation.

To ensure its population remains stable, content and healthy, the Chinese government needs to undertake massive development projects.

Apart from domestic activity, China needs foreign policies to complement what it is doing domestically.

To assist this, China has applied a foreign policy of non-interventionism based on five principles of peaceful coexistence:

mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity

mutual non-aggression

mutual non-interference in internal affairs

equality and mutual benefit

peaceful coexistence

China's policy of non-intervention is aimed at creating a peaceful international society.

Cordial relations with other countries will ensure it can sell products to them and buy from them.

The logic of peaceful co-existence stems from the Chinese concept of datong (harmony).

Confucius stated that a morally cultivated person upholds harmony.

Confucius’s dictum: “Let a ruler be a ruler, the subject a subject, a father a father, and a son a son,” also guides China.

China has never forced any country to follow its hybrid system of government.

It has not secretly funded any political group or politician in any country to push for a one-party system of government.

It has not condemned any country for giving too much freedom to its citizens.

That said, the recent trade tension between China and Australia is an important case.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment this began but it clearly has deep connections to the trade war between China and the USA which started in 2017 under president Trump.

The decision by Australia’s Turnbull government to ban Huawei from participating in the roll-out of Australia's 5G network could be identified as a starting point.

This decision, said to be based on national security concerns, was imposed in August 2018 when Huawei and ZTE were blocked from providing equipment for the 5G network.

Hong Kong has also become a sore point. China, under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model, allowed Hong Kong to operate as a democratic municipality with little intervention from Beijing.

In July 2020, Australia’s prime minister Morrison expressed deep concern about China's imposition of the national security law in June.

According to Australia, and other democratic countries, this law posed a threat to Hong Kong’s democratic system of government.

Amnesty International said the law allowed various state organisations to undermine the international covenant on civil and political rights.

The new law enabled state national security apparatuses to mount prosecutions, meaning citizens must be mindful of what they say in public – whether in face-to-face conversation, on mainstream media or on social media platforms.

Australian foreign minister Payne consequently made a formal statement in which she discussed the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

Ironically, Australia has yet to make a formal statement about the rights and freedoms of the Melanesian people of West Papua, on Australia’s doorstep.

China views Hong Kong as an internal matter and it expects Australia to respect its sovereignty.

This sentiment was clearly outlined by the Cuban representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, who said: "This is not a question about human rights and should not be discussed at the human rights council".

She reminded delegates that non-interference with a sovereign state's internal affairs is the basic principle of the UN Charter and international order.

Papua New Guinea supported Cuba's view, deciding to look at the issue from a different perspective than Australia.

It was argued that the issue was not related to human rights but to concerns about China's domestic system of government. PNG respects the sovereignty of China.

The same respect is viewed in the case of PNG-Indonesia relations.

Different governments, including that of PNG, have reiterated they respect Indonesia's sovereignty and its stance that West Papua is an internal issue.

PNG police superintendent, Philip Mitna – who has a doctorate in politics and international relations from the Australian National University - made a similar observation when he said that "successive governments have refrained from condemning the human rights abuses and have often claimed that it was Indonesia's domestic problem".

However, Mitna also talked about former prime minister Peter O'Neill's rhetoric in relation to the atrocities committed against the Melanesian people in 2015, saying O’Neill’s statement signalled a change in PNG's non-interference policy.

But later, in 2018, then foreign minister Rimbink Pato nullified O'Neill's rhetoric when he met with Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi saying the media misreported PNG's position and that PNG sees West Papua as an integral part of Indonesia and there is no intention to ever change this view.

Another example of PNG's non-interference stance is seen in its approach to the One China policy. Since independence in 1975, PNG has maintained that Taiwan is an integral part of the People's Republic of China.

The chequebook diplomacy used by Taiwan over the years has not been successful in influencing PNG to switch diplomatic recognition.

The principle of mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs features prominently in both China and PNG's foreign policies.

Both countries are very careful not to interfere in a patronising way into the internal affairs of their bilateral partners which they understand would only strain their relationship.


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Lindsay F Bond

Once more unto the breech? But to be sure, I make no comment on behalf of this blog or any other agency.

This note is from my seeing a news item attesting: "Hundreds of them stopped paying their mortgages - a radical step for China, where dissent is not tolerated."


From which it seems to me, pragmatism does 'rule' among folk in China.

William Dunlop

Machiavelli's most famous work, The Prince, was described by Richard Mulcatty, then chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army 100 years ago, as, 'A teddy boys handbook'.

The Prince originated in 1513 as a way of exerting influence and even gangsterism on one of the many then autonomous city-states of Italy.

Emon De Valera had recommended to Mulcatty that he read and follow the ancient handbook that De Valera held in high esteem.

De Valera was 59 by the time he became Taoiseach or Prime Minister of Ireland. He was eventually prised out after many years by making him President.

I wonder if El Presidente Trump has this little handbook close to his heart, That's if he has the latter.

The late Chairman Mao and his Russian counterpart Stalin certainly had their bloodthirsty versions.

Once again we see the great wheels of State turning. But to where?

Bernard Corden

The following links provide access to International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and protocols, which have not been ratified by the USA, China and Australia:




Chips Mackellar

Nothing, Harry, compared to the calamities which await us in our northern frontier when the Chinese establish their fishing project at Daru.

Given their propensity to ignore treaties, imagine what they will do with the Torres Strait Treaty with its four separate borders.

These are the land border which extends across the Strait giving Australia jurisdiction over all the islands in the Strait with the exception of Daru and Bristow and a few other islets, then there is the fishing border which gives most of the fishing to Australia, then there is the seabed border which runs more or less across the middle of the Strait, then there is the social border which gives free access to all Torres Strait Islanders on both sides, access to the other side for 'traditional' purposes.

Imagine if the Chinese fishing boats offer to assist PNG nationals to access their traditional right to settle in the Australian islands. How many Chinese will come along for the ride, do you suppose?

Harry Topham

Everyone seems to forget that 2021 will be the year the Antarctic treaty is revised and it could be that new players may enter the arena with objectives that may not meet the noble expectations of the original architects of that document.

I read recently that China had previously been given permission by Australia to conduct scientific research on some of our far distant lands in Antarctica.

One of their first experiments was to conduct core drilling tests ostensibly into the ice packs but strangely they keep digging deeper into the earth’s mantle.

As part of that agreement with Australia was that China would be subject to scrutiny by the Australian authorities to check out that they were following the strict scientific guidelines permitted.

Strangely, it is reported, Australia has not done any checks on what the Chinese government has been doing there for well over the past 2 years.

Why is this so, one might ask?

And given China’s recent refusal to accept any ruling by the World’s governing body the UN, what unfortunate calamities may lie ahead for our southern lands.

William Dunlop

And Chris, not forgetting Niccolo Machiavelli's little handbook, 'The Prince'.

Bernard Corden

"War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength" - George Orwell


The Big Lie:


Chris Overland

Bernard's article is mere propaganda.

That said, Australia is an easy target for criticism in relation to human rights, especially relating to asylum seekers and West Papua.

The world has changed in 2020 and a new world order is emerging. What it will ultimately look like is not yet clear but it will certainly be different.

Bernard's article harks back to the hypocritical tosh once served up by the USSR and its fellow travellers, including Cuba and Mao's China.

Those of us old enough to remember know that authoritarian regimes always try to cloak themselves in a cloud of sanctimonious rhetoric which is, in practice, simply bullshit.

That is the CCP's modus operandi today: straight out of Goebel's or Stalin's or Mao's handbook.


Ross Wilkinson

There are several aspects of this narrative that overlook fact.

You note the Chinese five principles of peaceful co-existence and non-intervention yet with each one we see regular evidence of the breach of them in their actions.

In the United Nations Police Action that became more commonly referred to as the Korean War we saw evidence of direct military assistance to North Korea by way of the supply of arms and troops entering on Korean territory.

Then you blithely pass off the Hong Kong issues as Chinese internal government matters ignoring that Hong Kong was subject to an International Treaty.

Up to 1995 Hong Kong was a territory of the United Kingdom. Then, under the oversight of the United Nations, China and the UK entered into an agreement ratified by the United Nations whereby the UK would relinquish its territorial rights and handover to China subject to the terms of the agreement.

The principal term of that agreement is that it will exist as a self-governing entity unless the government and people of Hong Kong vote otherwise. However, under the guise of a “national security” law China is actively trying to impose its will on Hong Kong contrary to the agreement and to suppress free speech. This is akin to the Federal Government of Australia passing a law to prevent me expressing fair criticism of its relations with my home state of Victoria.

Then we look at its actions in relation to recognised international waters and the exclusion zones of its nearest neighbours such as Vietnam, Philippines and Japan. It has claimed uninhabited reefs and atolls and converted them into military bases and when other nations attempt to maintain rights to free access to international waters for carriage of goods or fishing, they are subjected to overt military aggression.

And we get to Papua New Guinea. By accepting easy “loans” and business “investment” we have seen the expectation and delivery of “obligations” with the right of access demanded by Chinese companies and their workers. We saw the reaction of the Chinese when a planeload of Chinese workers were not allowed entry under the PNG Covid rules.

So what’s next? I’m expecting that after China’s moon-landing and collection of moon minerals its government will now claim exclusive mineral exploration and mining rights despite the existence of the International Space Agreement.

So Bernard, please remove those lovely rose-coloured glasses you appear to be wearing and look at the real world. Oh, and by the way, some time back I wrote to my local State MP and the responsible minister to object to Victoria’s actions in signing up to China’s Belt and Road program. Am I in jail yet? No, but if I was in Hong Kong or China I would expect to be!

Ed Brumby

Well said, Bernard. The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves along ...

Lindsay F Bond

Apart from some right to opinion, Bernard, there is some responsibility to readers (intended and others) that less harm is brought, and better, no harm is brought in any adjustment they may initiate following their reading.

If it may help, perhaps you might yourself read report of the person Zhang Zhan, of whom by the reporting, folk are led to think Zhang Zhan has been accorded stricture of State for what many might think was her concern for humanity at large and so had alerted accordingly.

See: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/citizen-journalist-zhang-zhan-jailed-for-four-years-after-she-reported-on-china-s-covid-19-crisis-from-wuhan

By the way, this blog entertains words from folk who are little impressed by 'leaders' of religious push, and though it may not have been all too apparent, that might extend to example of an earlier human known as Confucius.

As do you, Lindsay, Bernard has an absolute right to his opinion. He does not deserve to be patronised for it. And you should not purport to speak for PNG Attitude. That is the sole province of the publisher and editor - KJ

William Dunlop

Complete and utter bollocks.

Harry Topham

Bernard - The Chinese government's current belligerent actions towards its neighbours and anyone who dares criticise their policies would suggest that it is not following the five principles outlined in your essay.

Without wishing to enter into a futile debate, the philosophies outlined would seem to be more at home to those contained in that country’s general political manifestos.

I am sure Confucius would not be at all amused that later political adventurers have taken his belief systems out of context to suit their own ends.

The Communist government of China is an ideal ringmaster when it comes to pushing propaganda as the truth.

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