| 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-interference in internal affairs
equality and mutual benefit
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.