Author Topic: Australia  (Read 13498 times)

Crafty_Dog

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Australia
« on: May 25, 2012, 07:00:58 AM »
As is its wont, Stratfor ignores the matter of shared vales, but the main point here about sea lanes has merit.
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Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, ranked in the top 10 in gross domestic product per capita. It is one of the most isolated major countries in the world; it occupies an entire united continent, is difficult to invade and rarely is threatened. Normally, we would not expect a relatively well-off and isolated country to have been involved in many wars. This has not been the case for Australia and, more interesting, it has persistently not been the case, even under a variety of governments. Ideology does not explain the phenomenon in this instance.

Since 1900, Australia has engaged in several wars and other military or security interventions (including the Boer War, World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq) lasting about 40 years total. Put another way, Australia has been at war for more than one-third of the time since the Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901. In only one of these wars, World War II, was its national security directly threatened, and even then a great deal of its fighting was done in places such as Greece and North Africa rather than in direct defense of Australia. This leaves us to wonder why a country as wealthy and seemingly secure as Australia would have participated in so many conflicts.

Importance of Sea-Lanes

To understand Australia, we must begin by noting that its isolation does not necessarily make it secure. Exports, particularly of primary commodities, have been essential to Australia. From wool exported to Britain in 1901 to iron ore exported to China today, Australia has had to export commodities to finance the import of industrial products and services in excess of what its population could produce for itself. Without this trade, Australia could not have sustained its economic development and reached the extraordinarily high standard of living that it has.

This leads to Australia's strategic problem. In order to sustain its economy it must trade, and given its location, its trade must go by sea. Australia is not in a position, by itself, to guarantee the security of its sea-lanes, due to its population size and geographic location. Australia therefore encounters two obstacles. First, it must remain competitive in world markets for its exports. Second, it must guarantee that its goods will reach those markets. If its sea-lanes are cut or disrupted, the foundations of Australia's economy are at risk.

Think of Australia as a creature whose primary circulatory system is outside of its body. Such a creature would be extraordinarily vulnerable and would have to develop unique defense mechanisms. This challenge has guided Australian strategy.

First, Australia must be aligned with -- or at least not hostile to -- the leading global maritime power. In the first part of Australia's history, this was Britain. More recently, it has been the United States. Australia's dependence on maritime trade means that it can never simply oppose countries that control or guarantee the sea-lanes upon which it depends; Australia cannot afford to give the global maritime power any reason to interfere with its access to sea-lanes.

Second, and more difficult, Australia needs to induce the major maritime powers to protect Australia's interests more actively. For example, assume that the particular route Australia depends on to deliver goods to a customer has choke points far outside Australia's ability to influence. Assume further that the major power has no direct interest in that choke point. Australia must be able to convince the major power of the need to keep that route open. Merely having amiable relations will not achieve that. Australia must make the major power dependent upon it so that Australia has something to offer or withdraw in order to shape the major power's behavior.

Creating Dependency

Global maritime powers are continually involved in conflict -- frequently regional and at times global. Global interests increase the probability of friction, and global power spawns fear. There is always a country somewhere that has an interest in reshaping the regional balance of power, whether to protect itself or to exact concessions from the global power.

Another characteristic of global powers is that they always seek allies. This is partly for political reasons, in order to create frameworks for managing their interests peacefully. This is also for military reasons. Given the propensity for major powers to engage in war, they are always in need of additional forces, bases and resources. A nation that is in a position to contribute to the global power's wars is in a position to secure concessions and guarantees. For a country such as Australia that is dependent on sea-lanes for its survival, the ability to have commitments from a major power to protect its interests is vital.

Deployment in the Boer War was partly based on Australian ideology as a British colony, but in fact Australia had little direct interest in the outcome of the war. It also was based on Australia's recognition that it needed Britain's support as a customer and a guarantor of its security. The same can be said for the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia might have had some ideological interest in these wars, but its direct national security was only marginally at stake in them. However, Australian participation in these wars helped to make the United States dependent on Australia to an extent, which in turn induced the United States to guarantee Australian interests.

There were also wars that could have concluded with a transformation of the global system. World War I and World War II were attempts by some powers to overthrow the existing global order and replace it with a different one. Australia emerged from the old political order, and it viewed the prospect of a new order as both unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Australia's participation in those wars was still in part about making other powers dependent upon it, but it also had to do with the preservation of an international system that served Australia. (In World War II there was also an element of self-defense: Australia needed to protect itself from Japan and certainly from a Japanese-controlled Pacific Ocean and potentially the Indian Ocean.)

Alternative Strategy

Australia frequently has been tempted by the idea of drawing away from the global power and moving closer to its customers. This especially has been the case since the United States replaced Britain as the global maritime power. In the post-World War II period, as Asian economic activity increased, Asian demand increased for Australian raw materials, from food to industrial minerals. First Japan and then China became major customers of Australia.

The Australian alternative (aside from isolation, which would be economically unsustainable) was to break or limit its ties to the United States and increasingly base its national security on Japan or, later, on China. The theory was that China, for example, was the rising power and was essential to Australian interests because of its imports, imports that it might secure from other countries. The price of the relationship with the United States -- involvement in American conflicts -- was high. Therefore, this alternative strategy would have limited Australia's exposure to U.S. demands while cementing its relationship with its primary customer, China.

This strategy makes sense on the surface, but there are two reasons that Australia, though it has toyed with the strategy, has not pursued it. The first is the example of Japan. Japan appeared to be a permanent, dynamic economic power. But during the 1990s, Japan shifted its behavior, and its appetite for Australian goods stagnated. Economic relationships depend on the ability of the customer to buy, and that depends on the business cycle, political stability and so on. A strategy that would have created a unique relationship between Australia and Japan would have quickly become unsatisfactory. If, as we believe, China is in the midst of an economic slowdown, entering into a strategic relationship with China would also be a mistake, or at the very least, a gamble.

The second reason Australia has not changed its strategy is that, no matter what relationship it has with China or Japan, the sea-lanes are under the control of the United States. In the event of friction with China, the United States, rather than guaranteeing the sea-lanes for Australia, might choose to block them. In the end, Australia can sell to many countries, but it must always use maritime routes. Thus, it has consistently chosen its relationship with Britain or the United States rather than commit to any single customer or region.

Australia is in a high-risk situation, even though superficially it appears secure. Its options are to align with the United States and accept the military burdens that entails, or to commit to Asia in general and China in particular. Until that time when an Asian power can guarantee the sea-lanes against the United States -- a time that is far in the future -- taking the latter route would involve pyramiding risks. Add to this that the relationship would depend on the uncertain future of Asian economies -- and all economic futures are now uncertain -- and Australia has chosen a lower-risk approach.

This approach has three components. The first is deepening economic relations with the United States to balance its economic dependencies in Asia. The second is participating in American wars in order to extract guarantees from the United States on sea-lanes. The final component is creating regional forces able to handle events in Australia's near abroad, from the Solomon Islands through the Indonesian archipelago. But even here, Australian forces would depend on U.S. cooperation to manage threats.

The Australian strategy therefore involves alignment with the leading maritime power, first Britain and then the United States, and participation in their wars. We began by asking why a country as wealthy and secure as Australia would be involved in so many wars. The answer is that its wealth is not as secure as it seems.

George Friedman is chief executive officer of Stratfor, the world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence. This article has been republished from the Stratfor website.


Crafty_Dog

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Rowdy protests.
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2012, 12:37:35 PM »

DougMacG

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Re: Australia - Conservatives sweep out labor down under
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2013, 10:49:49 AM »

ccp

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Re: Australia
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2013, 12:33:00 PM »
The World Turns

By  Mark Steyn

September 7, 2013 7:57 AM

 A few moments ago, Kevin Rudd conceded, so, in a day or two, after the usual prompt eviction that occurs under the Westminster system, Tony Abbott will become Australia’s Prime Minister. I’d like to second John O’Sullivan’s wise words on Mr Abbott’s conservatism: we’re not talking about a Cameronesque trimmer and opportunist here.*

If you’re interested, here’s me with the new Aussie PM (and Britain’s Dan Hannan) in Melbourne last year. I was the warm-up act, so, after I’d chilled down the room with my usual doom-mongering, it fell to the then Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to restore jollity and optimism, which he did brilliantly – and extemporaneously. He has a confident swagger when he walks up to a podium – he enjoys the rough and tumble of politics, and he’s a natural at it. I remember wishing the GOP could produce a few more chaps like that, instead of risk-averse over-managed money guys who can afford to buy up the previous loser’s most expensive consultants.

But I digress. Here’s the campaign video of Bill Glasson, the world’s second most famous political ophthalmologist (after Bashar Assad), who ran against outgoing PM Kevin Rudd by channeling Les Miz. My old pal Julie Bishop, Australia’s new Deputy Prime Minister, has a stirring, emotionally harrowing cameo.

*(although, even by that dismal standard, it’s worth noting that Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain now all have prime ministers to the right of the US president. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism the world could do without.)


 



DougMacG

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Re: Australia
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2013, 10:45:11 AM »
"it’s worth noting that Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Britain now all have prime ministers to the right of the US president. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism the world could do without."

Leading from behind, we now call it.  Hopefully this movement away from left governance, that arguably started in Sweden(?), will find its way over to the American colonies.

(Sweden's economy booms with cautious turn to the right, http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/14/frum.sweden/index.html)

ccp

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Sweden
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2013, 11:15:14 AM »
Fareed "the" Zakaria was touting Sweden today as a capitalistic model for America, and Obama should learn from his visit there.   :lol:

Ironic Obama's Harvard pal whose network programs appear to be coordinated with the WH propaganda talking points is now touting a country that has turned right and moved away to some extent from socialism.   Yes it is doing better.  :wink:

Why doesn't he just tacitly admit the left is wrong.  :wink:



« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 11:20:11 AM by ccp »

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Chinese infiltration in Australia
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2018, 09:50:59 AM »
Australia: Amid fears of growing Chinese infiltration or influence in the country, Australia is conducting a large-scale review of its spy agency. Is this routine, or is there something specific that’s spooking Australia?

•   Finding: The review stems from an investigation ordered by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull into foreign interference in 2016. It also comes as a slew of new anti-foreign influence laws, such as a ban on overseas political donations, is being debated by the Australian government. Completed last year, the top-secret report reportedly found that attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence all levels of government have been going on for a decade, and it described China as the country of highest concern. Last week, Australia’s spy chief said the scale of foreign intelligence activity in Australia has become unprecedented, requiring an updated legal framework to protect the country.

DougMacG

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"Liberals" win elections in Australia
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2019, 06:25:19 AM »
if I understand this correctly, translated to American politics, that means conservatives won over the Labor party..
https://www.smh.com.au/

ccp

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Re: Australia
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2019, 08:02:50 AM »
" . if I understand this correctly, translated to American politics, that means conservatives won over the Labor party.."

Doug,

In trying to see if I can find anything to answer this I pulled this up from Wikipedia

It sounds like "conservatism " might be defined differently in Australia .

I don't have the stamina right now to go through this as it is not to me at least a bit a brain challenge trying to figure it out but here it is if this helps

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatism_in_Australia

G M

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Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: China bullies Australia
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2020, 08:50:32 AM »
Stratfor Worldview
ASSESSMENTS

COVID-19 Tensions Place Australian Farmers in China's Crosshairs
Evan Rees
Asia-Pacific Analyst, Stratfor
6 MINS READ
May 13, 2020 | 10:00 GMT

An aerial photo shows villagers sowing highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery in the fields in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on April 22, 2020.

Villagers in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, sow highland barley seeds with agricultural machinery on April 22, 2020.

(Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi via Getty Images)

China's threat to heavily tariff Australian barley exports will not alone keep Canberra from pushing to investigate Beijing's role in the COVID-19 pandemic. But it will increase the stakes of doing so by making life all the harder for Australia's already struggling farmers. On May 10, Australian grain producers issued a joint statement warning that China has made a provisional decision to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Australian barley imports of up to 80.5 percent, effectively shutting down their exports to China. Sources within the Australian government say the timing of these tariffs is linked to the recent uptick in Chinese tensions over COVID-19, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has publicly since said he does not believe the two are related. Depending on Australia's response, China is expected to make a final decision on the tariffs by May 19. On May 11, Chinese authorities also suspended products from four Australian beef slaughterhouses that comprise 20-35 percent of the country's total beef exports to China, citing health and labeling issues.

On April 22, Morrison announced he had been consulting with U.S., German and French leaders on an independent international investigation into China's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, although he has said there is "no evidence" of the virus leaking from a Chinese lab.

Several days later, China's ambassador to Australia warned that Canberra's call for an international investigation could result in a boycott of Australian goods, citing beef and wine exports in particular, as well as Chinese students enrolling in Australian universities.

China's anti-dumping allegations against Australian barley first surfaced in 2018 and there has been an anti-dumping investigation open for 18 months, partly motivated by Australia's own measures against Chinese steel. Observers, however, had believed the case would eventually be dismissed.

In 2017, China shut down imports from the same four meat processors in addition to three others over similar issues, which took months of diplomacy to resolve.

By weaponizing its crucial agricultural exports, China is trying to influence the rural supporters of Australia's ruling conservative bloc. China already accounts for one-third of Australia's total exports, but has recently become an even more vital market due to China's early COVID-19 recovery amid sluggish global demand elsewhere. A record wildfire season and drought have made Australia's agriculture sector, in particular, all the more dependent on Chinese exports.

Australia's agricultural sector is highly dependent on international markets, exporting 70 percent of its total produce by value between 2014 and 2017. China is also Australia's top agricultural export destination, accounting for one-fifth of its total produce exports.

Decreased barley exports to China would acutely impact Australian farmers, particularly in rural areas of Western Australia. Barley is Australia's largest single grain export to China and its second-largest agricultural export (overshadowed only by wool), accounting for over 11 percent of Australia's $8.06 billion in agricultural exports to the country in 2018. In 2019, China alone received 56.5 percent of Australia's total barley exports.

The 2019 drought has also badly hurt Australian barley exports, causing shipments to plunge 56 percent. The recent recovery in rainfall, however, had raised hopes of a rebound in barley production.

China's barley buyers, by contrast, will feel less of a pinch from a drawdown in Australian shipments given higher domestic availability of barley and alternative feeds in 2020 as the Chinese government halts a stockpiling program in place since 2007. Canada, which supplies 26 percent of China's barley, can also help offset any shortfalls.

Australia has fewer international options to appeal the anti-dumping measures given the current paralysis of the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism over the U.S. refusal to appoint new appellate judges.

China’s threat to heavily tariff barley exports won't keep Australia from pushing to investigate Beijing's role in the pandemic, but it will make life even harder for Canberra's already struggling agricultural sector.

China's economic pressure, however, would have to expand beyond barley and the small group of beef slaughterhouses to compel Australia to reconsider its support of U.S. efforts to counter Beijing's rise. If Beijing threatens more sweeping measures against Australian beef, or starts targeting wool exports, Canberra may be prompted to change its approach. But as things stand, barley producers in Australia have other options.

Barley is less than 1 percent of Australia's overall exports, meaning a Chinese squeeze on the product would not have wide-ranging economic consequences.

Anecdotally, Australian farmers are already adjusting their ongoing planting plans in favor of wheat instead of barley in preparation for the potential Chinese tariffs, although a great deal of barley acreage has already been sown.

Australian barley farmers can also soften the blow by reorienting their products toward the domestic beef producers on the country's east coast, who have been struggling amid recent shortages and increased prices of feed barley.

China will also struggle to expand its economic threat against Australia.


Chinese wool imports may already be down because of slowing textile demand at home.

Mineral exports will be needed for China's economic rebuilding and infrastructure push, and given Australia's proximity and relative cost, China can't realistically afford to add major restrictions.

Virus travel restrictions will depress rates of Chinese tourists and students for some time regardless, so the threat of their removal/boycott also carries less weight.

Given the political stakes of caving to such overt Chinese pressure, the Australian government will continue to push back against Beijing, while still being careful not to alienate one of its most crucial trade partners. Canberra has long been trying to balance its close economic ties with China against the risk of Beijing's rising influence within Australia and its encroachment within the greater Asia Pacific. The uptick in U.S.-China tensions amid the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this ongoing trend, presenting a stark choice for Canberra.

Australia has become an important participant in U.S. efforts to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, most recently joining U.S.-led military exercises in the waterway on April 23.

In March 2020, Australia's government imposed heightened scrutiny on foreign takeovers of domestic companies to defend against potential increasing Chinese influence amid the COVID-19 downturn. This followed a move in February 2018 that saw Australia put in place intensified scrutiny on Chinese investment into its domestic agriculture and electricity sectors.

Australia has been increasingly involved in efforts to economically and diplomatically compete against China in nearby Pacific islands as well, particularly in Papua New Guinea, to maintain sway over the strategic region.

In April 2018, Australia's government banned Chinese company Huawei from providing equipment for its 5G network project.
Canberra also tightened its foreign agent and espionage laws with an eye to increasing scrutiny on entities and politicians with links to China, including media groups and Confucius Institutes.

But even before the reported barley tariff threat, Canberra had distanced itself from U.S. allegations that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan — a sign that it is still trying to strike a balance between maintaining Beijing's economic ties and
countering its rise as a global power.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Australia
« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2020, 08:58:59 AM »
GPF

Mutually assured destruction in Sino-Australian trade?

On Monday, Beijing said it would impose an 80 percent anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariff on Australian barley, one of the country’s top three annual agriculture exports, about half of which typically goes to China. Australia said it would respond to the barley duties with a challenge at the World Trade Organization, which works slowly in normal times and has nearly ground to a halt lately. This follows Chinese suspensions of imports of beef from four Australian slaughterhouses, or some 35 percent of Australian exports of the commodity to China. And Beijing may not be done yet. Chinese officials reportedly have measures targeting Australian seafood, oatmeal, fruit, wine and cheese locked and loaded. Chinese state media in recent weeks has also warned of consumer boycotts.

China is apparently upset about Australia’s perfunctory calls for investigations into the source of the coronavirus outbreak. But, as we’ve argued in the context of the U.S.-China trade war, tariffs often end up hurting a country’s own businesses and consumers as much as or more than those in the country they’re targeting. And given that Australia and China entered a free trade agreement in late 2015, these actions may hinder Beijing’s goals for striking other trade pacts. So it’s unclear just how long Beijing may be willing to strike a hard line.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Australia
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2020, 06:01:26 AM »
June 10, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF



    China Threatens Australia Because That’s All It Can Do
Beijing has a lot of leverage over countries that rely on it for trade, but it’s hard to translate that into anything more meaningful.
By: Phillip Orchard

As cases of COVID-19 resurge elsewhere in the world, it’s worth remembering that Australia whipped the coronavirus into submission with relative ease, reducing the number of new daily cases to single digits by mid-April. Yet, the pandemic has left Australia with an acute case of economic and diplomatic whiplash anyway, not because of its public health shortcomings but because of its uneasy codependence with China.

The country’s astonishing 29-year run of economic growth is set to come to an abrupt end, thanks in part to flagging demand from China, whose soaring commodities purchases helped keep Australia out of a recession after 2008. And Beijing, upset with Canberra over (among other seemingly trivial matters) its pro forma support for an international investigation into the origins of the virus and Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization, is going the extra mile to ensure Australia doesn’t take Chinese buyers for granted. Over the past month, China has halted shipments of Australian beef, imposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, warned of consumer boycotts targeting Australian winemakers and dairy farmers, and urged the more than 200,000 Chinese university students in Australia to consider studying elsewhere.

Beijing, in other words, is becoming less and less subtle about its capacity for coercion. And Australia – at once dependent on the Chinese economy, strategically located on the periphery of what China sees as its natural sphere of influence, tightly allied militarily with the superpower China sees as hellbent on halting its rise, and yet wary of the U.S.’ own turn away from its multilateral international architecture – is a tempting place to make the case that regional powers are better off with Beijing. But China’s recent actions suggest that it’s under no illusion that Australia’s loyalties can be won, nor that a strategic rivalry can be avoided.

Chinese Leverage

The Australian government has grown increasingly uneasy with its dependence on Chinese money – and thus Beijing’s ability to turn Australian states and business communities against Canberra – for years. Australia, for example, became the first member of the Five Eyes intel-sharing alliance to ban Chinese firms such as Huawei from its 5G buildout, leading to tacit Chinese restrictions of imports of Australian coal and wine. Concerns over large-scale Chinese purchases of Australian land and investment in Australian infrastructure, particularly near sensitive military and intelligence facilities, compelled Canberra to override state governments and block certain foreign investments. In 2018, the Victoria state government defied Canberra by signing onto Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. A series of high-profile corruption and disinformation operations scandals that allegedly exposed widespread Chinese influence over Australian politics, media and academia sparked something of a red scare and prompted the government to restrict foreign political donations. These concerns, in fact, include the entire region, with the government launching a host of initiatives to counter Chinese influence in South Pacific island nations.

Two things are striking about this trend. One is just how much leverage Beijing has over Canberra. The Australian economy is indeed beholden to Chinese buyers and investors. More than 38 percent of Australian exports of goods in 2019 went to the Middle Kingdom. This included some $55 billion of iron ore, natural gas and coal and $8 billion in agriculture products. Chinese investors, meanwhile, sunk more than $44 billion into a range of sectors from mining to agriculture to infrastructure. (Inbound Chinese investment was estimated to have dropped by more than half last year as bilateral tensions rose.) There were nearly twice as many tourists from China than any other country (except New Zealand) in 2018; they spent more than $8 billion.

Nearly one in 10 university students in Australia is now Chinese, generating another $8 billion in tuition and fees each year. Australia’s highly decentralized power structure – in which states and independent senators wield immense power over legislation, leading to legislative gridlock, strategic paralysis and strikingly frequent changes in leadership – opens up countless avenues of influence to foreign powers.
 
(click to enlarge)

Second is how quick China has been to threaten Australia, putting Beijing at risk of exhausting its leverage and triggering political blowback for marginal gains at most. Australia has relatively few ways it can truly threaten China. The main one – its longtime military alliance with the U.S. and budding partnerships with regional powers like Japan and India – only matters if China makes a push to dominate the South Pacific, which China is still decades away from attempting. Indeed, while Australia would play an instrumental role in “the Quad,” Canberra has been reluctant to do anything that deepens Beijing’s perception that the coalition is intended to blunt China’s rise. This reflects both its desire to keep bilateral relations focused on mutual commercial gain and its view that the Chinese navy does not pose an imminent threat.

The other issues in Australia that have provoked Chinese retaliation realistically only threaten China’s international reputation.

Its souring image abroad is a real diplomatic problem for China with real economic and strategic costs. But to address them by becoming more overtly coercive would seem counterproductive, particularly in a place already primed to see Chinese money as increasingly threatening to Australian sovereignty.

How to Buy Friends and Alienate People

China’s reactions can therefore be explained, in part, by its internal political sensitivity. To Beijing, calling for an investigation into the origins of the pandemic is the same as calling for a probe into all the ways the ruling party’s rigidly centralized, censorship-obsessed model of governance contributed to the massive loss of life and livelihoods at home. This is still an existential threat to the Communist Party’s hold on power.

It can also be explained by the fact that Beijing realizes that Australia won’t abandon the U.S. – that the only future in which Australia “chooses” China is one in which Australia doesn’t really have a choice. To be sure, throughout its history, Australia has periodically seen times of fierce debate on whether to decrease its reliance on U.S. security guarantees – thereby limiting its exposure to policy swings in Washington – and deepen military integration with emerging Asian powers (first Japan and now China). Still, Canberra has remained perhaps the U.S.’ most steadfast ally – even routinely sending Australian troops to take part in U.S.-led conflicts of marginal Australian interest to ensure that the alliance remains robust. This is partly the result of Australia’s view of itself as a Western power, with deep cultural affinities and historical ties to the U.S. that would make it politically difficult to break away. It’s also because Australia’s economy has always lived and died by free and open sea lanes – that is, Australian strategy has always been tied to the dominant global maritime power of the day. Before the U.S., it was the British. China wants to dominate the Western Pacific, but it has little appetite for the responsibilities that come with the global role, and will not have the capability to do so anytime soon.
 
(click to enlarge)
To pull Australia firmly into its orbit, Beijing would have to overcome a combination of strategic imperatives and political forces tying Australia to the U.S. It’s a tall order. There’s not much China can do about this short of abandoning its strategic ambitions, overhauling its internal authoritarian system, waging a decadeslong effort to shed its newfound reputation of political interference and debt-trap diplomacy, and hoping the U.S. loses interest in the region. Its material and strategic needs are too immense, and its domestic sensitivities too acute, to put much hope in a strategy focused on winning friends through charm and mutual interest. This is a fundamental challenge for China across the Indo-Pacific and beyond. What Beijing evidently can do, though, is make countries think twice before opposing it, whether on matters big or small, international reputation be damned.   




Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: China vs. Australia
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2020, 11:13:15 AM »
Down Under Doubles Down on Checking China
Trump challenges allies to pull their weight, and Australia steps up with courage and resolve.
By John Lee
July 27, 2020 6:42 pm ET
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U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds in Sydney, Aug. 4, 2019.
PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds will meet their American counterparts Tuesday in Washington for annual meetings known as Ausmin. Then they will fly home to Australia and quarantine for two weeks to minimize the spread of Covid-19—a requirement for those arriving from abroad.

It is extraordinary that the Australians are willing to tolerate two weeks of inconvenience to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Virtual meetings are the norm. The decision to travel to the U.S. says something about how important America is to Australian security and prosperity—and about the threat China poses to both countries.

It is also evidence that the Trump administration’s managing of allies, at least in Asia and the Pacific, has more to commend it than critics concede. It is true that staunch allies such as Japan and Australia find the president’s unpredictable style deeply unsettling. But if the objective is to persuade allies to step up and carry their weight, then that is exactly what Australia is doing.

Like many countries in the Indo-Pacific mugged by reality, Australia has been on a journey with China. The pandemic has focused minds on what must be done. The Communist Party under Xi Jinping is nothing if not a devotee of the Leninist precept: Probe with bayonets and if you encounter mush, proceed; if you encounter steel, withdraw. Good will has little currency. Timidity will only invite Beijing to demand greater subservience.

It is in this spirit that Australia released its 2020 Strategic Defense Update earlier this month. The commitment to spend roughly $400 billion (in U.S. dollars) on national defense over the next decade, including almost $190 billion earmarked for capability enhancements, is eye-catching. But as important is what Australia plans to spend the money on: long-range and hypersonic missiles, unmanned combat vehicles and cyber capabilities. This can be explained only by a desire to counter the People’s Liberation Army. The goal is to make China think twice about expanding its martial reach and presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Far from retreating into isolationism, Australia is reaching out of its comfort zone—defending the continent—and looking to help alter the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. But this is possible only if America takes the lead, from strategic posture to developing offensive capabilities and operating the military assets jointly. Australia can’t push back against China alone. In other words, Australia has doubled down on the alliance as its best option.

Moreover, it is significant that Canberra is choosing to do this when relations between Washington and Beijing are more hostile than at any point since before Richard Nixon went to China in 1972. China has also turned up the pressure by imposing trade sanctions on products such as Australian barley. Regardless, Australia and Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have emerged as the southern and northern anchors of the American regional alliance system.

As someone who served in the Australian government during the last year of President Obama’s administration and the first year of the current one, I can attest that the obstacle to greater Australian courage wasn’t a lack of faith in U.S. power but doubts about American resolve. Canberra wouldn’t contemplate such bold moves and risk punishment from China if America were likely to leave Australia fluttering in the breeze.

Mr. Trump might lead an unpredictable administration, but his determination in this fight is not in question. There’s also a growing consensus among allies that the pandemic has changed the relationship between Washington and Beijing in ways that will last longer than any one administration.

All of this suggests that this week’s meetings will be one of the most important in many years. There will be differences between the two countries, as is expected between a superpower and a smaller one. For example, Australians lament diminished American influence in regional institutions such as the East Asian Summit, which Mr. Trump didn’t attend in 2019. That provided a pulpit for Beijing to bully its neighbors and extend its narrative of American absence.

Chinese diplomats frequently mock and dismiss the 1951 security treaty Anzus as a relic of the Cold War. But provocations by the Communist Party in China have given the alliance renewed purpose. Messrs. Pompeo and Esper and Ms. Payne and Ms. Reynolds will discuss a common objective: ensuring that the Communist Party meets collective steel whenever it probes and pushes.

Mr. Lee is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the U.S. Studies Centre in Sydney. He was senior national security adviser to the Australian foreign minister, 2016-18.


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Australia-China
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2020, 07:32:11 AM »
Australian Bill's Passage Would Turn up the Heat With China
6 MINS READ
Dec 3, 2020 | 21:18 GMT
HIGHLIGHTS
The impending passage of a new law meant to limit Chinese government deals with subnational governments in Australia portends an even greater deterioration in ties....

With Australia-China relations at a low point and diplomatic tensions bleeding into the trade realm, Canberra's impending passage of a new law meant to limit Chinese government deals with subnational governments in Australia shows Canberra's continued resolve to confront China — spelling an even greater deterioration in ties. Australia's Federal Parliament is nearing passage of a controversial new law that would allow the Foreign Ministry to strike down agreements by states, territories, public universities and local governments with foreign governments or government entities. This law, currently the Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020, was directly motivated by federal government concerns about current and potential subnational-level agreements with the Chinese that could undermine the Commonwealth government's ability to counter Chinese domestic influence.

In contrast to the federal government's policy to keep Australia out of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Victoria state government has moved forward with several unilateral moves to join the infrastructure initiative. In November 2018, Victoria state government Premier Daniel Andrews signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with China to formally join Belt and Road following his 2017 attendance at the Belt and Road forum. Victoria established a working group with plans to release a roadmap on partnership opportunities by mid-2020, but that has yet to materialize.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the "veto" law plans in late 2020, with the bill put before parliament in September after a rushed process. The bill has enjoyed relatively strong bipartisan support, with both the ruling Liberal-National Coalition and opposition Labor Party favoring more federal powers to shape Chinese influence.

Some in the opposition, however, have called for limits to the law to prevent Foreign Ministry overreach. In the Senate, Labor Party members aligned with Greens and crossbench senators to amend the law to include judicial review. The Senate is the weaker body in the Australian system, and the Liberal-National Coalition will now work to garner one more vote in the House of Representatives in hopes of forcing it through without the change.

The new law would increase federal government scrutiny on a host of lower-level agreements as part of an overall hard-line policy toward China. This will augment several new laws put in place in recent years by the federal government to restrict foreign influence in the form of political donations, influence peddling and even investment, using these powers to investigate Chinese journalists, Australian politicians, and investment deals in infrastructure and agriculture.

In terms of the veto law, while Victoria state's Belt and Road memorandum of understanding will be in the crosshairs, Morrison has said over 130 deals with 30 countries could be reviewed. In addition to regional governments, this will open up the possibility that the federal government will strike down deals between universities and Chinese entities such as Confucius Institutes.

Also in 2018, Australia increased restrictions on foreign investment into farmland and the electrical grid in response to Chinese-owned companies gaining ground in these sectors, requiring mandatory reviews by the treasurer, Foreign Investment Review Board and the Department of Home Affairs. This formalized increased scrutiny by the federal treasurer followed a high-profile 2015 deal granting a 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin and a controlling share in the port operator to a Chinese company.

Australia recently used its 2018 National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Act for the first time to counter alleged Chinese domestic influence. In November, the government charged a leader in the ethnic Chinese community. In June, authorities reportedly searched the homes of Chinese journalists from state-run Xinhua, China Media Group and China News Service linked to an investigation into a New South Wales politician.

Australia's rapid efforts to pass the veto legislation point toward a long-term, hard-line China policy unlikely to be derailed by ongoing Chinese economic pressure on Canberra. Although Australia-China tensions have been mounting since at least 2017, 2020 has seen them reach new heights with diplomatic spats and Chinese trade restrictions. Like those of the United States, Australia's concerns about China are long-term and strategic. In addition to fears of economic and political influence from China, Australia also fears that China's regional expansion will jeopardize Australian defense by eroding Australia's standing in its near abroad, namely in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Over the long term, Canberra also fears that China's rise will hinder the ability of the United States, Australia's key ally, to protect Australia in the event of conflict and ensure the free flow of commerce, which is vital to the Australian economy.

Over the course of 2020, China has engaged in increasing restrictions on the import of Australian products, taking advantage of the fact that 33 percent of Australian exports go to China. China has hit out at Australian barley and wine most aggressively, slapping barley with over 80 percent tariffs in May 2020 and in November 2020 hitting many wine exporters with major tariffs as well. It has also put informal bans in place on shipments of copper ore, copper concentrates, lobster, coal, timber and sugar.

To a degree, however, China has remained restrained in its trade pressure on Australia. An all-out trade war could significantly hamper Australian growth, but China's actions have fallen short of that. While barley and wine are pain points for key Australian regions and these tariffs have a longer shelf life, the informal ban on Australian exports may not be sustained in the long term as Beijing's appetite for these commodities rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, China has avoided limitations on Australian iron ore exports, which are essential to Canberra and account for 40 percent of all commodity exports.

Given its need to link into the lucrative and growing Chinese market, however, Australia will pursue a balanced foreign policy. Even as it works to gain powers to counter Chinese influence, it will also work to deepen trade links with China and the rest of the region, something the recent completion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership confirms. At the same time, Australia will cooperate with U.S.-led initiatives to counter China as it has done previously by joining the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, banning Huawei from its 5G network and criticizing China's COVID-19 response, South China Sea expansion, and conduct in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

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GPF: Australia getting squeezed by China
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2020, 03:39:44 AM »
Australia expects more trouble with China. Australia’s economic forecaster is expecting China to continue to tighten the screws on Australian industry as bilateral relations sour. According to a new report, Canberra is girding for China to expand its list of import restrictions to include Australian wheat. Altogether, the value of Australian shipments to China is expected to decline 7 percent in the upcoming year. Beijing is becoming less and less subtle about its capacity for coercion.

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Re: GPF: Australia getting squeezed by China
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2020, 05:54:51 AM »
Australia expects more trouble with China. Australia’s economic forecaster is expecting China to continue to tighten the screws on Australian industry as bilateral relations sour. According to a new report, Canberra is girding for China to expand its list of import restrictions to include Australian wheat. Altogether, the value of Australian shipments to China is expected to decline 7 percent in the upcoming year. Beijing is becoming less and less subtle about its capacity for coercion.


And now Australia stands (almost) alone against China as the US prepares to become Xi's puppet.

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GPF: Australia's role in America's war with China
« Reply #20 on: March 03, 2021, 06:12:09 AM »
Australia’s Role in America’s War With China
By: Jacek Bartosiak
March 3rd, 2021
Australia’s Role in America’s War With ChinaJacek BartosiakMarch 3rd, 2021

Analysis

In U.S. plans for a war with China, Australia serves as a base for peripheral operations in the Indian Ocean and in the Indonesian Straits.

Of course, there are voices in the Antipodes against America’s use of Australia in a war, but for now the Australian government stands firmly with Washington. It is therefore quite possible for Canberra to participate in a war with China, should it ever come to that.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A sea state whose navy is weaker than that of the enemy may try indirect methods – peripheral raids or military campaigns far from the conflict’s center of gravity and the enemy. The ability of a maritime state to “wait” in conflict and disperse the continental state’s power through the horizontal expansion of the theater of operations is a significant advantage for the U.S. and Australia over China – one that will fade as the Chinese achieve the status and capabilities of a maritime power.

Perhaps this should be the overall strategy of both countries in a potential war with China: an attack on distant communication lines. The Chinese economy is very sensitive to the smooth, free and timely flow of goods and merchandise by sea, the lion’s share of which flow from Africa and the Middle East across the Indian Ocean.

A division of tasks is also possible. The U.S. Navy would operate in the Western Pacific, and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), somewhat in the rear, would carry out diversions on the periphery of the Indian Ocean, taking advantage of the convenient geographic location of its west coast. The RAN would have to strike against China’s naval forces in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, operating from Gwadar in Pakistan, in order to eliminate the enemy’s naval forces at the beginning of the conflict. The Indian Ocean is, from the point of view of military geography, larger than the Western Pacific, and has no advanced counter-combat structures like the South China Sea or the Western Pacific. In the future, however, the northern part of the ocean will become more frequented by enemy forces and infiltrated by its reconnaissance, making RAN operations difficult.

At the same time, analysts in Australia realize that in the event of a war with China, Australia will not be able to count on quick and adequate military aid and supplies. The planning leaves no doubt: The conflict will last many months, if not years, and will involve a great effort by the U.S. to replenish its own weapons and ammunition, especially precision ammunition, so the allies’ needs will be served on stretched communication lines threatened by intersection from China.

The greatest challenge to any operation in the Indian Ocean is its sheer size. There are 1,864 nautical miles between the Australian ports of Perth and Darwin. Another 3,266 nautical miles lie between Perth and the U.S. base at Diego Garcia. The conventional Australian submarine fleet will find it difficult to maintain more than one or two ships in the war area on longer patrols in the Indonesian archipelago, much less far out in the Indian Ocean.


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Nuclear submarines are much more operational in the Indian Ocean. Australia does not have them, so in the Indian Ocean, it will have to rely on the air force, including long-range unmanned patrol systems. Fleet Base West (HMAS Stirling), in Perth, is conveniently located for the operation of U.S. Navy nuclear submarines and would be the third in the Indian Ocean theater of war alongside Guam and Diego Garcia. (It is also possible to build a small spare port for submarines in the Cocos Islands near Indonesia, after the lagoon is partially drained, which would also improve the logistics of the allies during the conflict.)

An Indispensable Ally

Essentially a continent-sized island, Australia lies on the fringes of the Asia-Pacific routes and is the southern anchor of the entire Indo-Pacific operational area, which is fundamental to the United States. In recent years, U.S. and global attention has shifted east toward Asia, and Australia – a distant continent during the defining conflicts of the 20th century – has found itself near the center of the strategic contest between the world’s two largest powers. For the U.S., Australia and their alliance became a priority. It could become America’s most closely allied relationship in the 21st century.

At the same time, for Australia itself, China is a major trading partner. China buys huge amounts of natural resources from Australia, in particular iron ore and natural gas, but also agricultural produce. As a result, the previously poorer Western Australia is growing rapidly. In 2013, China accounted for 35 percent of the country’s exports, double the share from just five years earlier. Australia is more economically dependent on China than it ever was on the United Kingdom, not to mention the United States.

For two decades, the Australian economy has grown every year, despite the 2008-09 financial crisis. It is the only developed country to achieve such a result. According to analysts, only South Korea is more dependent on fluctuations in Chinese markets. Mandarin is Australia’s second most important language, and Chinese tourists spent more money there than tourists from any other country before the pandemic.

From the point of view of military geography, Australia is located at the junction of the Pacific and Indian oceans and has an ideal location that allows control over the sea and air communication routes connecting both waters. Due to its location and its modern infrastructure and strategic depth, determined by the vastness of the territory, Australia is an indispensable ally for the United States.

The United States, wishing to dominate the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean militarily, will have to use Australian bases, ports and airports, provide logistics, train and rotate units, and maintain military stocks and equipment repair centers. Australia is an excellent base for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, by both sea and air. Its proximity to the Indonesian and South Asian “bottlenecks,” the main arteries of world trade, enables it to exercise operational control over the Sunda and Lombok straits. Australia is also a great base for all operations in the Indian Ocean and for the control of Asian countries’ sea routes from resource bases in Africa and the Persian Gulf.


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Until recently, U.S. domination in the waters surrounding Australia was stabilizing and comfortable. Australia could trade with whomever it wished in Asia, benefiting from the military and political protection of American power. When, after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit in 2005, the head of the Australian Foreign Ministry described the alliance treaty with the U.S. as merely “symbolic,” it led to genuine panic in Washington. The Chinese believed that Australia could play a role similar to that of France in Europe (in the Western camp, but with a distance to the United States). Economic relations with China flourished in the following years, but the Australian government chose to strengthen its political ties with the U.S.

This decision met with criticism from many analytical centers and business circles in Australia, which were of the opinion that a position should not be taken directly on the American side in the impending conflict for domination in this area of the world.

Australia is familiar with the strategic dilemmas related to the rise of an Asian power, particularly when Australia depends for its security on a weakening and departing power. Beginning in 1921 and with the denunciation of the Anglo-Japanese naval treaties, the Australians began to fear Japan and stopped believing that their geographic remoteness kept them safe. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Australia did not openly condemn the aggressors’ actions and avoided confrontation. Australian politicians feared a Japanese invasion and doubted British guarantees, including the ability of the British navy to come from a base in Singapore to aid Australia. They also did not believe that the United States would be able to provide significant assistance in the event of a war with Japan. Regardless of these sentiments, Australia benefited greatly from trade with Japan and recorded a positive trade balance with that country, very similar to the current Chinese case.

The Rivalry Moves Closer

Australia’s military role in a possible war with China is closely related to where a possible conflict would take place. If it erupted far away in Northeast Asia or around Taiwan, Australia would not be able to make a significant contribution, but it could provide key logistical and base facilities as well as reconnaissance and intelligence services for U.S. forces, especially in the event of the destruction of U.S. infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the conflict.

In the event of a conflict in the South China Sea, Australia’s role would be huge, given the proximity to its ports and infrastructure, including military airports. Then, most likely, Australian forces would assist in launching strikes against Chinese forces in order to prevent the capture of strategic locations around the Indonesian islands and straits, and to try to gain control and access to key maritime crossings in the Indonesian archipelago to protect the traffic of ships and allied warships while destroying Chinese communications.

However, it is likely that in the coming years and decades, the strategic U.S.-China rivalry will gradually move to the Indian Ocean. There will be competition if China builds a real ocean fleet and finally gets access to the ports it is building in the Indian Ocean basin (in Gwadar, Djibouti, Ceylon, the Seychelles, Kenya and East Africa). Especially if China tries to control the lines of communication from the Persian Gulf, Africa and Europe, crucial to keeping the Asian economies alive, Chinese bases in the region will be a threat to Australia. In connection with the above, the basic roles for the Australian armed forces in a possible future war can be distinguished: providing strategic depth, operation of the submarine fleet, reconnaissance tasks and force projection into the Indonesian Straits.

An Important Advantage

Australia’s most important advantage is its strategic depth, far as it is from the Asian mainland. As U.S. bases in the Western Pacific become more vulnerable to destruction by Chinese attacks, including missile strikes, Australia will play a larger and more important role as a technically well-developed logistics center and sanctuary free from enemy combat.

China’s growing reliance on missiles would indeed make Australia, which is outside China’s effective combat range, very attractive for allied air operations. And while Chinese submarines may threaten Australia’s communication lines and targets, it is likely that most of the Chinese submarine fleet will be occupied with more important matters within the second island chain. However, Chinese subs could be expected to conduct mining operations and missile attacks on ports and coastal infrastructure, and Chinese special forces may be secretly deployed to sabotage operations at military bases in northern Australia. To defend against these threats, Australia needs to strengthen coastal surveillance and security procedures around bases, ammunition and fuel depots.

China's Perspective
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In that sense, Chinese forays in the north would resemble the Japanese sabotage operations in Sydney and Newcastle during World War II – operations that were psychologically effective but ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the conflict.

Moreover, distance and maritime geography mean that Chinese conventional submarines would have a hard time in the shallow waters to the north and east of Australia. They would have to surface frequently, and their noisy nuclear subs would be easily tracked by the well-equipped Australian coastal listening stations. The United States could help with its long-range reconnaissance, nuclear submarines and strike aviation operating from Australia.

Currently, Washington’s bomber aviation and submarine fleet rely heavily on a small number of bases in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. In the Western Pacific, the main base is Guam, located 1,800 nautical miles off the coast of China. Guam may soon be within range of Chinese ballistic missiles and is already within range of submarine-fired maneuvering missiles and aircraft. U.S. aircraft are also stationed in the Indian Ocean, on the British island of Diego Garcia, 3,900 nautical miles away from China. A significant distance means an extension of the time of arrival to the place of conflict, which significantly limits combat capabilities by shortening the time of effective patrolling and reducing the weight of the combat load.

Australia, on the other hand, provides the U.S. with a relatively safe sanctuary for air operations beyond the reach of Chinese forces. The airbases in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, Cape York, Queensland and Western Australia lie approximately 2,700 miles from the Taiwan Strait and “only” 1,700 nautical miles from the South China Sea. In addition, Australia has islands in the Indian Ocean. The runway on the Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean is even closer – 700 miles to the narrow straits of Sunda and Lombok. From the military port of Stirling, the distance to the South China Sea is comparable to the distance from Guam. The use of the naval port in Stirling by U.S. nuclear submarines significantly diversifies the deployment of U.S. forces in theatre while enhancing operational accessibility both in the Indian Ocean and in the Persian Gulf. Unlike Guam, all of these locations are beyond the reach of conventional Chinese missile forces, including those in development.

Added Benefits

Notably, air bases in northeastern Australia increase the strategic mobility of the United States, especially in terms of reconnaissance and performance of tasks by long-range strike aviation and for tanker aircraft, which will be crucial given the vast expanses of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Of course, fuel storage facilities would be essential in this regard. Tanker planes will be needed to provide an air bridge for tactical aviation operating over the South China Sea and for bombers operating from Diego Garcia. Australia currently has only one squadron of airplanes stationed in Tindal, in the north of the country. The Darwin base is the only one in the north of the country that can accommodate American heavy tanker aircraft and bombers, and is therefore the center of allied air operations.

In the north of Australia, there are three more bases that are currently empty: Curtin, Learmonth and Scherger. All of them have lanes of little more than 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), which is not enough to accommodate U.S. Air Force tankers and heavy bombers. In addition, more planes mean more parking. Airports in the north have shelters for 10-20 multi-role fighters, but all except Tindal are close to the sea and require shelters to protect from the elements. Finally, investment in rapid refueling facilities for combat operations will be required to be able to operate more aircraft at one time and plan intensive combat operations.

Another island that could prove useful is Christmas Island, located in the Indian Ocean close to the Indonesian Straits. Its role as a detention center for migrants limits its martial effectiveness, and in any case the island’s runway is located at the top of a mountain and ends with a cliff that slopes steeply into the sea, making it impossible to extend it to the minimum required 11,000 feet for the stationing of American tankers and long-range bombers.

Developing the Cocos Islands would require even more infrastructure investments. There are no shelters and hardly any place to park aircraft. The fuel depots are far away and insufficient, and the runway is only 8,000 feet long. Moreover, flight control and guidance systems are outdated. However, if developed correctly, the airport on the Cocos Islands would be ideal for stationing long-range maritime patrol aircraft. Learmonth Airport is closer to the South China Sea than Darwin and has good logistical links to the rest of the country.

Notably, there are oil resources and refineries in southern and western Australia, but there are too few oil pipelines throughout the country. Raw materials such as oil are transported by ships, and ships and tankers would be the first targets of a Chinese attack. From ships, oil and other raw materials are transported by trucks and local pipelines. During rainy seasons, access by heavy trucks to some air bases is difficult in the north. (Officials are considering plans to transport by train in the future.) Therefore, the priority should be the improvement of railway infrastructure and its protection, as well as fuel storage facilities, refineries, storage facilities for weapons and ammunition, rockets and precision weapons. Australia will have to provide for its own protection to eliminate the possibility of attacks by special forces.

The airport network described above enables the U.S. and Australia to have a tactical aviation presence over the most important sea routes in the Western Pacific, the South China Sea and Southeast Asia. It strengthens U.S. strike capabilities in the event of a conflict with China, and it discourages the Chinese from carrying out a preemptive strike. This, in turn, could allow Washington to control the escalation of conflict.

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Australia's role in the war with China
« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2021, 06:04:28 AM »
Australia’s Role in America’s War With China, Part 2
The country would have plenty to do aside from housing U.S. forces.
By: Jacek Bartosiak

Perhaps America’s greatest operational advantage over China – should a war ever start between them – is the superiority of its submarines. Submarines are great for breaking China’s anti-access/area denial strategy. Especially in the early stages of the conflict, nuclear submarines and cruise missile carriers would be Washington’s first option; they would be deep in Chinese-controlled waters, and they could hit inland targets such as ports, communications facilities and air defense systems. Even so, submarines have an inherent operational limitation: ammunition, which obviously can’t be replaced underwater.

Geographic Advantage

Enter Australia, whose importance can’t be confined to just one analysis. Northern Australia would be the ideal location for U.S. bases in theory, but inclement weather, great tides, moving floors and reefs make it too treacherous. The best option, then, would be Western Australia’s Stirling naval base. It’s beyond the range of China’s current conventional missile force, and unlike in Guam, Australia has conventional submarines stationed there. Its access to the Indian Ocean also allows U.S. vessels to eliminate peripheral Chinese raids and to cut through Chinese communications or block military ports in the Indian Ocean. (Not for nothing, Stirling would need some upgrades: a new harbor for nuclear ships, a deepened port at the Cockburn Sound canal, and so on. All of which would require things like ammunition stores and massive construction equipment that would make this a huge undertaking.)

Notably, Australia already has massive ship, warship and aircraft traffic reconnaissance capabilities far north of the Australian coast. For example, the off-horizon observation system, based on the use of radio wave reflection in the JORN (Jindalee Operational Radar Network) ionosphere, monitors sea routes and straits at a distance of 1,000-3,000 kilometers (620-1,900 miles) from the northern coast. The system detects planes, rockets and ships. After a planned upgrade, it will detect ballistic missiles as well as stealth planes and cruise missiles. Its data is interchangeable with Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft, HALE-class drones and P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes. Australia may soon ask other countries in the region to host the system, which would only strengthen it further.

Indeed, Australia has a huge role to play in terms of space reconnaissance. The geographic location of the country on the edge of the Southern Hemisphere enables precise tracking of the launch and, later, the movement of bodies in orbit. Western Australia’s sparse population reduces radio interference of satellite signals, and the lack of cloud cover over the country’s western deserts is ideal for tracking Chinese satellites.

Responsibilities

In the event of a war with China, Australian forces would have several automatic advantages over Chinese forces in the Indonesian strait area. A blockade of the Malacca Strait would divert Chinese vessel traffic to the Indonesian straits closer to Australia. This would distance Chinese forces from their own coast, complicating logistics and effectively depriving them of air protection or at least seriously reducing it. The current naval and air systems of the Chinese army do not have sufficient range to conduct operations around the straits. Only Chinese cruise missiles can threaten surface ships trying to block the Indonesian straits. Chinese long-range reconnaissance will therefore have a very difficult task. The natural geography of the area favors Australia by channeling the movement of ships, which helps its armed forces to concentrate strike forces over and between narrow passages. Australia’s smaller naval forces have local control of key narrow sea passages closer to their own bases and ports that will be almost entirely beyond Chinese influence.

Strategic Points in the Indo-Pacific
(click to enlarge)

Australians would presumably be assigned the role of permanent control of the movement of ships and warships, and for this they would need sensors, drones and special forces located near the Lombok and Sunda straits. It would not be necessary to maintain a constant air force presence over all Indonesian straits, because Chinese planes have too short a range. Only Chinese H-6 bombers with stand-off missiles can operate in this area. And the Chinese can fight Australian aircraft only with their Luyang I, II and III-class missile destroyers. These ships would naturally be subjected to the first attacks by American (and Australian) forces at the beginning of the war, something best accomplished with a fleet of submarines intercepting Chinese ships on their way south from Hainan Island, or with long-range planes armed with hard-to-detect anti-ship missiles with a range greater than the sensors and radar of Luyang destroyers.

Another role would be to combat Chinese submarines traveling from Hainan Island toward the Indonesian straits to dislodge the blockade. In this case, the conventional submarines of the Australian navy – typically difficult to detect in shallow and acoustically noisy waters around the straits – would be even more important than U.S. nuclear ships. At the operational level, there would be a division of tasks between American and Australian ships, where American nuclear ships would fight the Chinese navy in the deeper waters of the South China Sea, while quiet, conventional Australian ships lying in the shallow waters of the Indonesian archipelago would be waiting for Chinese vessels trying to get out of the American trap.

An important aspect in all this is Indonesia’s response to the conflict. If Indonesia fought with Western powers, it would significantly change the balance of power. In the Sunda and Lombok straits, coastal missiles can be easily used against objects at sea with the help of special units or separate ground troops. The Sunda Strait, in particular, is exceptionally narrow – in some places only 15 nautical miles wide. Special operations forces equipped with rockets and hidden in the jungle at Cape Tua in Sumatra or Puja in Java, moreover, would help to effectively block traffic in the straits.

One last task Australia may have to carry out, and one that may prove to be its primary task with regard to establishing a blockade, would be to escort its own ships and warships. Doing so would require extensive use of warships and combat platforms as the main force. Given the daily number of ships passing through the straits, it will not be easy, and even using all Australian forces may not be sufficient in allied operations, given that the Americans also do not have the number of ships to do the job. To this end, the Australian armed forces should provide for the possibility of calling and replenishing war stocks in ports geographically close to the straits in Malaysia and Singapore, and in the Philippines.

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Anzac
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2021, 06:35:34 AM »
April 27, 2021
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Anzac Day, Memorial Day and the Geopolitics of a Friendship
By: George Friedman

In history, and in the history of my family, Memorial Day and Anzac Day are intimately bound. On Memorial Day, which comes next month, we remember Americans who died in war. On Anzac Day, which fell on April 25, we do likewise of Australians and New Zealanders.

I will remember friends I’ve lost, as my wife, who grew up Australian, will remember her grandfather, who spent two years in the trenches of France in World War I, and her mother’s closest cousin, who was shot down during a recon flight over France. Our daughter, while serving in Iraq, would head over to the Australian camps to share cups of tea, vegemite and rugby. So the day intermingles our countries and families in joint sadness, pride and camaraderie.

For those who may not know, Anzac is short for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The English were pressed hard in World War I and asked that a force be raised to join them. The Australians had a song (sort of) that said, “If England needs a hand, well here it is.” A couple of years later, the United States decided to lend a hand as well. Since then, the Aussies and Americans have fought side by side in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of these were desperate and necessary wars, others reckless and careless. In hindsight, we all know which was which.

Anzac Day is still remembered for the historic mission the group was given at Gallipoli. To break the impasse in WWI, Winston Churchill, the first lord of the Admiralty, decided that a flank attack on Turkey was needed. Turkey was allied with Germany, and knocking Turkey out would, in Churchill’s mind, change the dynamics of the war. We will never know if it would have changed everything. Churchill envisioned an amphibious assault on Gallipoli. There were more British troops there, but the Australian and New Zealand troops were a large percentage of their force. Gallipoli was a disaster, and those contemplating amphibious assaults should study Gallipoli for all that could go wrong. The irony was that the remaining Anzacs and Americans were safer in the trenches of France. That’s how bad Gallipoli was.

I have neglected New Zealand to this point in part to irritate my brother-in-law, who lives in Auckland, but also as the door to understanding the geopolitical imperatives of Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand participated in all of the wars that Australia participated in but inevitably with smaller forces commensurate to a smaller country. Over time, however, there was increased reluctance to participate. New Zealand was more cautious of the United States and also eager to show its independence. In the 1980s, New Zealand announced that it would not allow U.S. warships with nuclear weapons to enter New Zealand ports. Wellington knew that U.S. policy was to never indicate whether a ship did or didn’t have nuclear weapons on board. The New Zealand government did this for domestic political reasons, and because it was competing with Australia as to which country was better protecting its national sovereignty. And since the need for nuclear weapons in the region was practically nonexistent, it was a low-cost way for Wellington to assert itself and show that it’s not just Australia’s little nephew.

We are seeing a different and somewhat more serious divergence today. The Australians have aligned with the United States over China, with which Australia has poor relations. New Zealand, on the other hand, has adopted the opposite policy by openly maintaining close relations with Beijing. Its prime minister has made the point that if Australia followed New Zealand it too would be able to benefit economically and politically from the relationship.

To understand why this is perhaps more than just a policy disagreement, we have to understand why Anzac was willing to lend Britain a hand in WWI. Both Australia and New Zealand are exporting countries, Australia of minerals and food, New Zealand primarily of food. But both countries have a major strategic problem. They do not have the ability to guarantee access to their trade routes. If they lose those routes, they could lose their ability to export. Therefore, they need to have a relationship with the major maritime power. Until World War II, that power was Britain. When the war began, it was the Japanese, and then it rapidly became the Americans. After World War II, the Australians and New Zealanders shifted to a relationship with the United States.

It was vital to both countries that the U.S. see the protection of their sea lanes – and possibly their territory – as being in its strategic interest. There was a great deal of sentiment connecting them to Britain, and though that helps to explain why they came to London’s aid in World War I, they needed to make it abundantly clear that there was much in it for London through its guardianship.

The same was true with the United States. Securing the Pacific was important to American strategic interests, but protecting Australia’s and New Zealand’s interests might not be. Australia’s participation in U.S. wars and its support of the U.S. against China provides the U.S. with political and military benefits in a difficult situation and creates an American dependency on Australia.

And if the U.S. is protecting Australia against any potential threat, it is also inevitably protecting New Zealand. New Zealand does not have to pay for this because Australia does. New Zealand might think that China will become a dominant naval power in time. But it will still hedge its bets. For example, it recently chose to remain in the Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing program that it likely contributes more to than it gets in return.

Indeed, history connects the Five Eyes – the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It connects them through wars, literature, music and all the things that make us who we are. All are different, but all are linked. However, each has interests and fears, and as with a loving family, they can become vicious over the will of a dearly departed. The price Australia and New Zealand paid on Britain’s behalf at Gallipoli was great, and as the British Empire declined, they had to instead pay the U.S. for the benefits they gained.

The geopolitical benefits and necessities are all there, but the memories of Anzac Day and Memorial Day are there as well, blending them together as much as their history and culture does. The profound sadness of what was lost mixes always with the hard realities of how to survive. Sentiment is a powerful addition to necessity.



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GPF and Stratfor: US-UK-Australia deal
« Reply #26 on: September 16, 2021, 10:51:00 PM »

September 16, 2021
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Daily Memo: US, UK, Australia Forge New Security Pact
China is none too pleased about the deal.
By: Geopolitical Futures

Joining forces. British, Australian and U.S. leaders announced a new security partnership for the Indo-Pacific on Wednesday. The trilateral “AUKUS” program will focus on things like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity cooperation, as well as underwater defense capabilities. This last one is big, as the United States and the United Kingdom will apparently provide Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, ostensibly empowering Australia to play a much more robust role in any attempt to squeeze China in a conflict scenario along major maritime chokepoints across South and Southeast Asia.

Europe's response. The deal also marks a death knell for Australia’s 34.5 billion-euro ($40 billion) fast-attack diesel submarine deal with France, which had already been on the rocks for a number of reasons. Paris seems none too happy about it. The French defense and foreign ministers issued a statement expressing regret about the decision and claiming that France’s exclusion from the agreement shows a lack of consistency, given the growing challenges coming from the Indo-Pacific region. The EU foreign affairs chief said the bloc was not informed about the new deal prior to its announcement. Embarrassingly, the agreement came a day ahead of the EU’s launch of its own new Indo-Pacific strategy.

China’s response. China, as could be expected, is none too pleased either. Chinese state media on Thursday cried foul about the new pact, despite it involving three countries that were already staunch allies, accusing them of double standards and other sins. Notably, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered Chinese President Xi Jinping an “open invitation” for talks following the announcement.

==========================
The Strategic Implications of the New U.S.-U.K.-Australia Defense Partnership

undefined and Senior VP of Strategic Analysis
Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
5 MIN READSep 16, 2021 | 19:29 GMT



(USN Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine Ralliford/Getty Images)

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia on Sept. 15 announced the formation of AUKUS, bringing together three Anglo maritime democracies in a mutual multilayered defense partnership, focused primarily on the Indo-Pacific, and — though not explicitly stated — against China. As part of the arrangement, AUKUS is launching an 18-month program to accelerate Australia's acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, undercutting a French sale of conventional submarines to Canberra and ending a decadeslong Australian struggle with submarine development and procurement. As such, the United States is now granting Australia access to technologies previously only shared with the United Kingdom.

AUKUS is designed to bring together the U.S. shift to an Indo-Pacific focus, give some clarity to the idea of Global Britain and commit Australia to a proactive security role in the Pacific. Given the initial focus on nuclear propulsion technology, AUKUS is unlikely to be the nucleus of a larger grouping. Rather, it will remain a trilateral initiative that allows greater collaboration and strategic focus without the complexities of large coalitions, which often fall victim to diverging priorities and interests.

As AUKUS takes shape, here are some of the initial questions we are exploring.

How does AUKUS relate to the Five-Eyes partnership and the QUAD initiatives?

The ANZUS treaty has long fallen into disuse due to shifts in New Zealand's strategic policies, and the Five-Eyes partnership has seen strains from New Zealand-U.S. relations. Does the new AUKUS reflect a concern with New Zealand's foreign policy, or is it more an acknowledgment that Wellington has withdrawn from U.S.-led regional initiatives?

The United States had been working through the QUAD to define its multilateral approach to the Indo-Pacific, but AUKUS appears to be a much more focused, and Anglo-centric initiative. Will AUKUS diminish the QUAD, or does it represent a shift in focus, with AUKUS being a core security relationship while the QUAD takes a more multifaceted approach that ultimately allows for more regional powers to participate?
What are the implications for other countries in the region, particularly those balancing U.S. security assistance and Chinese economic connections?

One of the U.S. challenges in forging a new strategic path in the Indo-Pacific is the local fear of a new Cold War mindset. Most countries in the region (and even beyond) are reluctant to pick sides, and Washington has tried to reassure them that it is not necessary. Could AUKUS ease that concern by allowing other multilateral initiatives to slide away from a military focus?

The announcement of AUKUS is likely to be greeted with mixed views in the region. On the one hand, it is a concrete step demonstrating that the United States is finally making the shift to greater strategic attention toward the Indo-Pacific, something that has not been entirely certain. On the other hand, the clear strategic military focus of this initiative may lead to greater friction between the United States and China, and heighten Chinese efforts to force countries to slide away from cooperation with Washington.
How will China respond?

By creating a military partnership between three Anglo countries, China is likely to interpret this partnership between three Anglo countries as a clear challenge not only to China's regional role, but as running counter to Chinese ideology and an attempt to reinforce traditional U.S./U.K.-centric ideas of democracy and economic liberalism. This is likely to intensify the ideological component of strategic competition, not only in China's periphery, but across the globe.

China has often countered strategic or defense initiatives with economic tools. In regard to Australia, has Beijing nearly exhausted those tools, at least those that do not harm China's economy as well, e.g., iron ore imports? With the existing challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, are there levers China can pull to exert significant pressure on the United Kingdom, which conceptually has the least immediate interest in the Indo-Pacific? Where does China see the weak link in the tripartite arrangement?

Beijing has applied for membership in the CPTPP trade agreement, initially an economic grouping designed to coerce change in China or exclude Beijing from a larger economic partnership. How else may Beijing try and strengthen its relations throughout the Indo-Pacific in order to insulate itself and reduce space for U.S. strategic expansion and cooperation?

With a refocus on the "Pacific" part of the Indo-Pacific, how will AUKUS shape its interaction with the Pacific Island nations over the next decade or two?

One of the values of nuclear submarines is the ability to travel long distances relatively quickly while remaining submerged, making them less noticeable and less vulnerable. This is critical for Australia, which sits far from most things, and has interests and potential responsibilities stretching from the Indian Ocean to the North Pacific to the far reaches of the South Pacific. But even at the earliest, Canberra doesn't expect the first nuclear submarine until 2040. What are the ways AUKUS may increase its presence in the far reaches of the Pacific in the meantime?

China has expanded its cooperation with Pacific Island nations, reawakening Canberra's and Washington's interest and involvement, given their strategic locations. Are we likely to see an even more active competition emerge for influence in the Pacific Islands with the emergence of AUKUS, and do the strains in the Pacific Island Forum create greater opportunities for foreign interference?

Given France's comments on the abrogation of the submarine deal, will there be any ripple implications within NATO or the EU-U.K. relationship?

The French have been rather vocal in their disappointment over the canceled submarine deal, blaming the United States primarily, but clearly recognizing the role of Australia and the United Kingdom. Will this be just a passing moment of ire, or may this spill over into the French role in EU-U.K. relations (with many thorny post-Brexit issues still unresolved), or even into the balance between France's NATO commitments and its focus on its own interests or an EU defense initiative?

The French are also a Pacific nation, and have recently reengaged with their territories in the region. How deep is the French-Australian spat, and does that further strain space for cooperation among the Pacific Islands?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2021, 10:53:42 PM by Crafty_Dog »

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Gatestone on AUKUS
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2021, 05:22:59 AM »

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Stratf0r: Australia-Solomon Islands
« Reply #29 on: November 30, 2021, 09:18:04 PM »
ASSESSMENTS
The Solomon Islands Intervention Reveals the Challenges Australia Will Face in Securing Its Backyard
4 MIN READNov 30, 2021 | 23:04 GMT





A frame grab from video footage shows Australian Federal Police officers and local police monitoring a crowd in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on Nov. 26, 2021.
A frame grab from video footage shows Australian Federal Police officers and local police monitoring a crowd in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, on Nov. 26, 2021.

(JAY LIOFASI/AFP via Getty Images)

Australia’s weekend intervention in the Solomon Islands highlights the importance of the Pacific Islands to Australia’s national security, as well as the complex challenges Canberra will face in asserting itself in a region where local issues are so often intertwined with great power competition. Nearly 100 Australian Federal Police and Defense Force personnel arrived in the capital of the Solomon Islands on Nov. 26 at the request of the government after peaceful protests turned violent and overwhelmed local police forces. Protesters — predominantly from the more populous but less developed Malaita Island — called for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s resignation and attempted to storm his compound. Demonstrators also set fire to several government and police buildings, as well as shops in the city’s Chinatown.

Malaitans have longstanding grievances against neighboring Guadalcanal, where the capital is located; Malaitan rebels carried out a brief coup in 2000. Tensions were compounded when Sogavare shifted diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to mainland China in 2019, undermining several economic developments and aid projects that benefitted Malaita.
 

For Australia, the intervention presents a short-term contradiction of two strategic priorities. On the one hand, Australian security forces rapidly restored relative calm to the Solomons’ capital — something Canberra sees as important to avoid refugee flows and general regional uncertainty. On the other hand, the intervention drew critical remarks from Malaitan leaders, who accused Canberra of siding with Sogavare, who is responsible for the islands’ recent diplomatic shift to China. When the Solomon Islands broke ties with Taiwan in 2019, it was the last of the Melanesian states to do so. Stretching from Papua New Guinea through the Solomons to Vanuatu and Fiji, Melanesia is one of three subregions of the Pacific Islands and has long been seen as part of Australia’s defensive shield. But over the past 20 years, Beijing has been steadily encroaching on the subregion, strengthening economic and political ties and potentially challenging Australia’s interests and relations with its Melanesian neighbors.

In general, the Pacific Islands are not significant economic partners for Australia, the United States or China. The islands have, however, once again emerged as strategic locations in the broader regional and global competition. The island nations have large economic exclusive zones (EEZs), often with fishing and potential subsea mineral resources. The Pacific Islands also play an important role in international fora by bolstering their allies’ and partners’ votes. But what is perhaps more significant is the islands’ strategic location. Much of Australia’s trade from its more populous east coast also passes through Melanesian states. The Pacific Islands also sit along key routes between Australia and its top strategic partners, including the United States and Japan. The balance of influence in Pacific Island nations can alter the ease and speed with which the United States and its regional partners can coordinate during crises and collaborate on regional security issues. While no longer the likely staging grounds for military action between competing Pacific powers as they were in World War II, the islands remain critical components of any regional security framework, especially with the hardening of U.S.-Chinese competition.


Australia is reevaluating its security posture in the Indo-Pacific, with signs it plans to take a more active role in the region. Canberra has already focused on its Pacific Island neighbors, offering support amid the COVID-19 pandemic while using economic incentives and political pressure to counter Chinese construction and management of new subsea telecommunication. In addition, Canberra has been working with the United States and regional partners to offer development assistance and investments, though not to the scale that China has committed in the past. But the recent reinvigoration of the strategic “Quad” dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, along with the establishment of AUKUS — an even closer trilateral security arrangement between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom — suggest Australia is seeking to take a more active role in securing its backyard. This will likely see Canberra try to reinforce ties with the Pacific Island nations and push Australian political, economic and military influence well beyond its protective “shield” of near neighbors. The recent intervention in the Solomon Islands, however, showcases the complexity Australia faces in rebuilding its regional influence, with Canberra simultaneously seen as supporting the pro-China government of the Solomon Islands while quietly working with the United States and Taiwan to provide economic assistance (and by default political support) to Malaita.


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WSJ: Australia takes the initiative in the Pacific
« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2022, 12:07:27 PM »
Australia Takes the Initiative in the Pacific
The deteriorating security environment and more pressure from Beijing aren’t only U.S. concerns.
By Charles Edel
Jan. 28, 2022 6:02 pm ET

America’s alliance structure in the Pacific has traditionally operated like a bicycle wheel. Washington is the hub, and ties with Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand are spokes that keep the whole thing spinning. The key is that U.S. relationships in Asia, unlike Europe, tend to be bilateral—country to country, instead of herded through institutions like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the European Union.

Some U.S. partners in the Pacific worry about this structure’s long-term stability. It is being squeezed by China from the outside, and there are anxieties over Washington’s long-term reliability as the center. That leaves two options for U.S. allies: connect other spokes to reinforce the structure, or ditch Washington and find a different hub of support.

Australia in recent months has been trying the former approach—reinforcement—and it’s working. In addition to Aukus, the defense partnership with the U.S. and the U.K., Canberra has been busy negotiating new defense pacts, trade deals and strategic partnerships across the region.

In early January, Australia concluded a Reciprocal Access Agreement with Japan. That’s the most significant defense agreement Japan has signed with any country other than the U.S. The agreement will allow both nations to access each other’s military facilities, and it paves the way for closer military coordination, training and joint operations. In December, South Korea and Australia upgraded their bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and Canberra signed a $1 billion contract for self-propelled howitzers—reportedly the largest-ever military deal Australia has struck with an Asian nation.


It’s not only in the defense realm that Australia has been on the move. Canberra signed a free-trade agreement with London in December and entered the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asian free-trade agreement, at the start of the year. It deepened its security agreement with Indonesia at a Jakarta meeting in September, and held its first ever 2+2 meeting between India’s foreign and defense ministers and their Australian counterparts.

At the request of the Solomon Islands’ government, Australia recently sent police and defense forces in the wake of unrest in the island nation’s capital of Honiara. It also entered a $1.6 billion deal with the Australian telco Telstra to help provide service in the surrounding island nations of Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, Tonga, Nauru, Samoa and Vanuatu. One goal is to ensure that those nations don’t rely on 5G service from companies owned and operated by China. And on the multilateral front, Australia has deepened its efforts in the Quad, meeting for the first leaders-level summit in September alongside the U.S., Japan and India.

Along the way, Australia has given itself a range of new strategic tools—creating a Magnitsky-style regime of sanctions, increasing its defense budget 6% in 2021, and launching an annual government-industry conference in December on critical technologies and cyber threats.

Domestically, these actions have critics, but they mostly complain that Australia isn’t going far enough. The country is now entering election season, with a federal vote likely to be called over the next several months. Labor, the opposition party running neck-and-neck in the polls with the government, has consistently charged the government with underfunding its diplomatic and development efforts, not working more closely with its European partners, and not thinking broadly enough about its engagement with its partners in Southeast Asia.

Australia’s actions have effects beyond its shores. They show that the deteriorating Pacific security environment and anxiety over increasing economic, technological and military coercion from Beijing aren’t only American concerns. Aukus may be the most visible action Australia has taken recently, and it is certainly the one most intertwined with American interests. But Australia’s broader effort to bolster its ties in Asia shows how states under pressure from revisionist powers can multiply their alliances and move in several directions at once.

Strategic competition between the U.S. and China is accelerating, and in September President Biden declared that the U.S. “has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia.” The National Security Council’s Asia czar, Kurt Campbell, went further in comments at the Center for Strategic and International Studies this month, declaring that “moving forward, everything we do of consequence in the Indo-Pacific, we’ll do with Australia.”

But if Australia is playing an increasingly important role in U.S. foreign policy, it isn’t merely because of what it is doing with Washington. Rather, it is because of what it is doing on its own—and what it has done with other actors in the Indo-Pacific region—to strengthen a hub-and-spoke alliance structure under pressure from within and without. While U.S. choices matter enormously in the Pacific, the ultimate balance of power will be shaped not only by the center of the wheel, but by bilateral diplomacy among nations on the periphery.

Mr. Edel is the Australia chair and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served on the U.S. secretary of state’s Policy Planning Staff, 2015-17.

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Australia and China's Solomon Play
« Reply #32 on: April 27, 2022, 01:38:46 PM »
China’s South Pacific Power Play
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison draws a ‘red line’ on a possible Chinese military base in the Solomon Islands.
By The Editorial BoardFollow
April 26, 2022 6:32 pm ET


Barack Obama’s credibility never recovered after he failed to enforce an announced red line in Syria. It’s no exaggeration to say that whether a national leader keeps his word on such issues can change history. That’s why Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent remarks about Chinese power in the Pacific are worth noting.

“I share the same red line that the United States has when it comes to these issues,” Mr. Morrison said Sunday of China’s growing influence in the Solomon Islands. “We won’t be having Chinese military naval bases in our region, on our doorstep.” He declined to elaborate on how Canberra would respond if his red line is crossed.

The comments follow news last week that China has signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands. This is the latest win for Beijing in the small but strategically located nation, which welcomed Chinese assistance after domestic unrest last year. The final deal hasn’t been made public, but a draft leaked last month suggested the Chinese could eventually establish a foothold for troops and naval vessels only 1,200 miles from Australia.

The small nation’s prime minister has said the agreement “is not about China establishing a military base in Solomon Islands but is about supporting the state to address its internal hard and soft security threats.” China’s Foreign Ministry calls talk of a base “disinformation fabricated by people with ulterior motives.”


Yet Beijing’s help always comes with strings, and deception is central to Chinese military strategy. President Xi Jinping promised Mr. Obama that China wouldn’t militarize artificial islands it claims in the South China Sea. Today the islands are militarized and capable of projecting power far from China’s shores.

The Biden Administration dispatched a delegation to the Solomon Islands last week. “If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the United States would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly,” a White House readout said. It doesn’t appear that Mr. Morrison’s comments were loose talk during an election campaign.

Foreign policy has played an outsize role in the campaign ahead of next month’s general election. Australia has been a model American ally under Mr. Morrison, who has been undeterred by Beijing’s bullying. He held firm on his call for an investigation into the origin of Covid-19 despite China retaliating by blocking significant Australian exports.

Accustomed to accusing the center-left opposition of being soft on China, Mr. Morrison is now taking heat for his failure to stop the new security pact. One opposition politician called it the “worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific since the end of World War II.” Messy as electoral politics are, it’s encouraging if Australia is developing a left-right consensus on China’s threat.

The strategic and military challenge to the U.S. and its allies is taking place across the world, and China’s advance in the South Pacific won’t be the last example of a country attempting to exploit the West’s preoccupation with Ukraine. Expect more turbulence as the war in Europe drags on.

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Australia Accelerates Its Military Development to Deter Chinese Encroachment
5 MIN READApr 29, 2022 | 21:35 GMT


Australia is accelerating its military development in response to China's growing presence in the Indo-Pacific. But Canberra's focus on mitigating the more direct threats posed by Chinese encroachment could ultimately enable Beijing to make further inroads in the region by leaving Pacific Island nations' other security concerns unmet. On April 19, China and the Solomon Islands ratified a security agreement that allows Chinese naval vessels to dock in the island nation to refit and repair. The deal also allows Chinese military forces to conduct security operations on the Solomon Islands, and for Chinese police to train local police forces. This base access is a grave security concern for Australia, as the Solomon Islands sits just off its northeast coast. The island nation can provide a strategic location for China to monitor regional maritime traffic and can also serve as a staging point for Chinese naval forces to threaten Australian waters. This is a major step for China as it seeks to expand its naval deployments into the greater Indo-Pacific.

On Feb. 22, Australia demanded a full investigation after a Chinese vessel in the waters between Australia and Papua New Guinea pointed a military-grade laser at an Australian military aircraft in flight over Australia's northern airspace border.
In recent years, Australia has adopted a more confrontational stance on Beijing's regional rise and involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic. In retaliation, China banned imports of Australian goods like beef and wine in 2020. Supported by the Chinese navy, Chinese fishing fleets also stepped up operations in Australian waters in 2020, aiming to disrupt Australian fishing activities and potentially deplete some of the fishing stock in the area.

Australia is seeking to quickly develop new military capabilities to reassert its presence in the region and, in turn, mitigate current and future Chinese threats. On April 5, the Australian government announced it had moved up its self-imposed deadline for rearming the country's fleet of fighter jets and warships with long-range strike missiles from 2027 to 2024. The following day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said Canberra would boost Australia's defense troops by roughly 30% to 80,000 personnel by 2040. This push to quickly ramp up the military's missile capabilities and manpower indicates that Australia is anticipating a need for a larger conventional defense force in the near future. And even if the May 21 general election unseats Morrison's ruling Liberal-National Coalition, Canberra remains highly unlikely to reverse course on these policies, as Australia's main opposition Labor Party also recognizes the need to rapidly develop domestic military capabilities.

In September, Australia announced plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom as part of the three countries' new AUKUS trilateral security arrangement. The move caused an uproar in France by undercutting a deal Canberra had made with Paris to purchase conventional French-made diesel submarines. The AUKUS arrangement, however, aligns much closer with Australia's strategic goals, as nuclear-powered submarines have greater range and arms capacity than diesel-powered submarines. The new trilateral defense pact is also primarily focused on securing the Indo-Pacific region and, in addition to the more advanced submarines, grants Australia access to new intelligence sharing, support and coordination with the United States and the United Kingdom.

On March 30, the Australian government announced a $9.9 billion budget over ten years to combat external cyber threats, develop artificial intelligence, and build up a robust cyber intelligence network to combat current and future Chinese cyber threats.

As it adopts a more assertive stance against Chinese encroachment, Australia's narrow focus on securing the waters of the Indo-Pacific risks overlooking its island neighbors' other, less conventional concerns (like climate change), which could create another avenue for Beijing to gain influence in the region. Australia is likely to utilize its new capabilities and personnel to address traditional security threats of interest to the West, including protecting commercial shipping, freedom of movement on the seas, and maritime territorial security. However, many Pacific Island nations place greater weight on non-traditional security concerns, such as climate change and rising sea levels, illegal fishing and piracy. Canberra's military plans can address some of these concerns simultaneously, such as illegal fishing or piracy. But others, like climate change, require different solutions that Australia is not prioritizing with its focus on traditional maritime security. If Canberra neglects these interests, it leaves an opportunity for China to step in, particularly if Beijing can present itself as a more capable leader in combating climate change, which many island countries see as an existential threat. China's recent unveiling of its new Cooperation Center for China and Pacific Island Countries on Climate Change, which aims to coordinate climate action between China and Pacific Island nations, could support this strategy.

On April 6, Morrison issued a joint statement with his U.S. and U.K. counterparts announcing that the three countries would work together to pursue hypersonic missiles and ''counter-hypersonics'' in an effort to keep pace with China's development of such weapons.

Australia has pledged to invest $500 million from 2020 to 2025 into on regional efforts focused on transitioning to renewable energy, combatting climate change, and disaster resilience in the region. But the investment per annum is small and is not enough to cover the many projects needed to harden the region's communication lines and other critical infrastructure against the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.

In 2019, the president of Kiribati — the island nation in the central Pacific Ocean — justified recognizing Beijing instead of Taiwan by referencing the former's pledge to help Pacific Island nations mitigate the effects of climate change.
image of globe

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Stratfor: Australia's energy crisis is a harbinger
« Reply #34 on: June 17, 2022, 04:28:28 PM »
Australia’s Energy Crisis Is a Harbinger of Things To Come
9 MIN READJun 17, 2022 | 20:39 GMT





Power lines are seen in the countryside of a town in New South Wales, Australia.
Power lines are seen in the countryside of New South Wales, Australia.

(Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Australia’s energy crisis is likely a preview of things to come amid worsening global shortages and market uncertainty. This will compel Canberra to make significant policy changes aimed at securing the country’s power supply, including boosting investment in renewables. On June 15, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) took the unprecedented step of suspending the wholesale spot market in all five eastern Australian states making up the National Electricity Market. The operator’s CEO said it was forced to intervene to direct 5 gigawatts of power generation to be available to supply power if needed in order to ensure “a reliable supply of electricity” for eastern Australia. AEMO’s drastic suspension, which it will review daily, comes after AEMO issued load shedding warnings and introduced price caps for Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

Australia’s electricity market is divided into several regional grids with little or no interconnectivity due to the large desolate deserts that encompass much of Australia’s interior.
The National Electricity Market operates in the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. These states — along with the Australia Capital Territory that surrounds Canberra and Jervis Bay Territory along the New South Wales coast — are home to almost all (88%) of Australia’s population.
Eastern Australia’s power crisis is the result of a combination of short-term factors, including an earlier-than-usual onset of winter weather, as well as a long-term energy strategy that has prioritized natural gas and coal exports. Southeastern Australia has suffered a series of cold fronts since mid-May that have led to an early start of winter temperatures for much of the region. In addition to the higher demand for electricity and natural gas for heating, a combination of planned and unplanned outages at several coal-fired plants took 25% of Australia's coal power capacity offline. AEMO did not directly blame coal and natural gas exports for the unprecedented suspension of the electricity spot market (Australia is the world’s second-largest coal and largest exporter of liquified natural gas, or LNG). However, the eastern Australian market is currently more integrated with global LNG and coal markets than it has ever been, making it more susceptible to price swings — like those being caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine — which can sometimes incentivize companies to export at higher prices. In 2017, the government introduced the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism, which forces LNG exporters to divert supplies to the domestic market if the federal energy minister declares a gas supply emergency. The current crisis, however, has not yet prompted Australia to trigger this mechanism, likely because it’s technically designed to address a supply shortage and not a price crisis, which appears to be the greater issue affecting the country’s natural gas market. The New South Wales government, however, invoked emergency powers on June 19 for coal producers in its state to divert supplies being exported to local power generators. When AEMO capped the price at A$300/MWh, some natural gas-fired and coal-fired power generators would have sold at a loss, which ultimately forced AEMO to direct 5 gigawatts of capacity to be available regardless of the cost and suspend the wholesale market.

In the first 7 days of June, Sydney failed to reach ​​18.5 degrees Celsius (roughly 65 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time since 1989.
Eastern Australia’s first LNG export terminals in Queensland came online between 2015-16, giving natural gas producers the ability to export LNG at global LNG prices, which have dramatically risen since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
Even prior to the recent crisis, Australian officials warned of potential shortfalls. In addition to the 2017 creation of the federal gas security mechanism, Western Australia introduced a rule in 2006 that requires LNG export projects to reserve 15% of supply for the local market. As a part of the gas security concerns and in an attempt to head off explicit local market supply volume requirements, Queensland’s LNG exporters also reached a Heads of Agreement with the Australian federal government in 2018 to offer all uncontracted natural gas production to the local market before offering it on the LNG spot market. According to the terms of the agreement, Australia’s gas producers must offer uncontracted gas to the domestic market with reasonable notice to potential buyers and on competitive market terms. In March, a commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission questioned some gas producers’ compliance with the agreement.
In the short term, Australian consumers will face sustained high electricity and natural gas prices, which will contribute to more inflation. This could also see more load shedding this winter as well, though this risk may decline deeper in the coming months as some generators come back online due to maintenance wrapping up. If there are more frequent cold snaps in the coming weeks, it will put more pressure on Australia’s electricity supply and AEMO’s ability to regulate it — particularly if there continues to be a large number of unplanned outages of generator units, even once the wholesale market’s suspension ends. Power generators that are being forced to sell at a loss because of the price caps and wholesale market’s suspensions may try to recoup any losses once the caps are removed and the short-term crisis subsides, which will lead to higher sustained prices, even if not crisis level. In a worst-case scenario, Australian power generators or gas companies may become insolvent. This would force Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s new Labor Party government to consider bailing out these companies, despite promising an energy policy more focused on renewables compared with former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party government. By exacerbating inflation, higher sustained energy prices will also force Australia’s central bank to continue tightening interest rates. While Australia's current 5.1% inflation rate is still lower than most developed countries, the Reserve Bank of Australia expects inflation to reach 7% by the end of the year.

The current crisis is showing some signs of subsiding, at least for now. As of June 17, about a third of the offline coal-fired power generation capacity had returned to service following the wholesale market suspension, but AEMO said the crisis was not over.
Beyond this winter, the crisis will play an instrumental role in how Albanese’s new government looks at natural gas and coal as a part of the country’s energy security. The governing Labor Party will put energy security at the front of its policy agenda in the coming years, especially after defeating the pro-coal and pro-gas Liberal Party in the May 21 general election. However, the Albanese administration will likely continue to rely on natural gas and increased domestic coal and gas consumption to ensure generation capacity, at least in the short term. Indeed, the Labor Party notably did not pledge to strictly abandon the “Gas-Fired Recovery” plan introduced by the previous government amid the height of the global COVID-19 crisis in 2020 (the Albanese administration, for example, supports developing the Beetaloo shale basin, which is one of the measures outlined in that plan). Still, the Labor Party is concerned about the issue of energy security, and has in the past taken a more active stance than the Liberal Party on ensuring natural gas and coal producers set aside higher volumes of coal and natural gas for the domestic market. One consequence of the gas crisis could be revisiting the Heads of Agreement with LNG producers and potentially restructuring the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism in a way that grants regulators more tools to divert natural gas to the domestic market. In addition to the short-term boost in natural gas infrastructure and capacity, Albanese’s government will probably emphasize renewable energy as a faster alternative in the medium term to natural gas (and other energy sources), putting more of an onus on renewables in Australia’s energy strategy.


The crisis will also factor heavily into Albanese’s pledge to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower,” which could potentially be reflected in a new national energy transition plan. On June 8, Australia’s federal and state energy ministers agreed on an 11-point plan to address the energy crisis. The plan includes a “capacity mechanism” that provides payments for energy producers that have energy available at any time in hopes of driving up investment into energy storage, which will support more investment into the renewable sector. The ministers also agreed on finally developing a national energy transition plan, which will likely serve as the blueprint to achieve Albanese’s promise to cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels (compared with the current 26-28% target). Natural gas is likely to be a key part of this strategy in the medium term as it can be a bridge fuel to reduce the country’s energy reliance on more emissions-intensive coal-fired power. Ultimately, however, the importance of the LNG and coal export sectors (and iron ore) will constrain some of Albanese’s ability to achieve its more progressive energy goals and adopt policies as aggressive as those in Western Europe. This is similar to the issues facing Canada’s current government, where the ruling center-left Canadian Liberal Party is also trying to balance the energy transition with the sheer economic requirements of maintaining oil, coal and natural gas production for export purposes.

The Labor Party’s “Powering Australia” plan entails $76 billion in investment, boosting renewable capacity to 82% of the National Electricity Market’s generation by 2030, and developing a National Electric Vehicle Strategy to reach 89% of new vehicle sales being electric vehicles by 2030.
Australia has not yet developed a national plan for transitioning to renewable energy. This is because of the powerful authority states and territories have over the energy sector and the previous Liberal Party’s government’s desire to let them take the lead on the energy transition in lieu of a more aggressive approach at the federal level.


DougMacG

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Australian lockdown leader stepping down
« Reply #36 on: September 25, 2023, 09:15:36 PM »
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-26/daniel-andrews-victorian-premier-press-conference-melbourne/102902188

Australian politics not getting much attention here.  Lockdown leader finally stepping down.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2023, 07:55:05 AM by Crafty_Dog »

DougMacG

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New Zealand elects conservative
« Reply #37 on: October 16, 2023, 12:19:38 PM »
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/new-zealand-elects-conservative-as-premier-after-6-years-of-liberal-rule/ar-A

New Zealand elects a conservative after 6 years of liberal rule. I wonder if it has anything to do with my post earlier today saying we need to organize against the global Left.   :wink:

The Lockdown Lady received 27% of the vote.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2023, 04:08:43 PM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Australia-China
« Reply #38 on: November 07, 2023, 11:06:44 AM »
Years of friction between Beijing and Canberra seem to be easing.
By: Geopolitical Futures
Reboot. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held talks in Beijing on Monday in another sign of easing tensions between the two countries after years of strained relations. According to Chinese media, Xi called for closer cooperation on trade, climate change and the green economy. The two countries also agreed to resume annual summits and work toward lifting remaining Chinese sanctions on Australian exports. Relatedly, the U.S. this week will send a delegation of representatives from the departments of defense, state and energy as well as the National Security Council to Canberra to discuss progress on AUKUS, a trilateral defense pact that has angered Beijing.

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GPF: Australia tests limits with China
« Reply #39 on: March 11, 2024, 11:49:41 AM »
March 11, 2024
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With China, Australia Tests Its Limits
Beijing isn’t happy about new security cooperation in the South China Sea.
By: Victoria Herczegh

Recent reports suggest that Australia is taking a more active role in supporting peace in the South China Sea. At a meeting organized for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Melbourne, Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced that $41.8 million would be available to ASEAN for regional security efforts. Though she did not specify who would receive the funding, much of Canberra’s recent attention has been focused on the Philippines; this week, the two countries signed an agreement to boost bilateral maritime security collaboration, efforts that would promote “respect for international law.” Manila has signed similar pacts with India and Japan, and while no one said the quiet part out loud, the agreements were made specifically with China in mind.

Australian relations with ASEAN are hardly newfound. Over the years, Australia has held occasional military drills with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but its relationship with the organization has always been primarily economic, focusing on investments in clean energy, infrastructure and trade. In 2022, Australia's two-way trade with ASEAN states amounted to around $178 billion – greater than its trade with Japan, the United States or the European Union. Australia’s two-way investment with ASEAN in 2022 was $289.7 billion.



(click to enlarge)

When Anthony Albanese was elected prime minister in late 2022, it seemed as though he would take a position to promote peace in the region and steer clear of conflicts like the South China Sea dispute. And for good reason: China remains Australia’s largest trading partner, accounting for 26 percent of Australian goods and services trade with the world in fiscal year 2022-23. Even though their political relationship has since cooled – they routinely accuse each other of human rights violations, and public perception of the other is notably bad – Chinese trade actually increased by 12 percent that year, bringing its overall value to $316.9 billion. Last year, Beijing imposed tariffs and restrictions on an estimated $20 billion worth of Australian goods – a reminder that business with Beijing was worth more than Japan, the U.S. and South Korea combined. Australian businesses and workers took a hit, and the Australian government decided to open up to dialogue and resolve their problems. Now that most of the sanctions have been lifted, Wong has officially invited her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to visit Canberra at the end of March, which Wang accepted. The two are expected to talk trade, but since many of the disputes have been resolved, those discussions will likely go smoothly.

What will be more contentious is security – namely, Australia’s recent support of ASEAN and the heightened defense preparations of AUKUS. AUKUS, a technology-focused cooperation partnership between the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia, was announced in 2021 with the goal of supporting the Australian navy's acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. The significance of this decision, which would have Australia become the first non-nuclear state to acquire such a capability, overshadowed a second initiative for the three nations to share other technologies to enhance joint capabilities and interoperability. The Australian government has admitted that the navy is operating the oldest surface fleet in its history. The new AUKUS plan, which will increase Australian public investment in the fleet to $35 billion over the next decade, is aimed at adding more missile power to the navy’s arsenal and introducing faster “shoot and scoot” ships.

However, there are doubts in the Australian defense community about whether nuclear-powered submarines are the best way to ensure the country’s defensive posture. Nuclear submarines are considerably more expensive, more difficult to build and more challenging to operate than regular ones, so even if things stay on track it will take several years to put them to sea. All told, the estimated cost of the program will be $368 billion over the next three decades. The plan is also extremely reliant on future decisions and assistance from the U.S. and the U.K. governments, making it subject to future and potentially more fickle administrations.

If the AUKUS deal goes ahead as planned, it essentially commits Australia to side with the U.S. against China if a war ever breaks out. Beijing has openly voiced its opposition to AUKUS from the start, accusing the U.S. and the U.K. of destabilizing the Indo-Pacific. There are rumors that at the upcoming foreign minister meeting Beijing will push for Australia to sign a new science and technology agreement meant to pull the country away from its AUKUS-related military research commitments and pursue military tech research with China – something that was halted exactly because of Australia’s AUKUS obligations.

Australia is clearly facing a security dilemma. While the increased security support to ASEAN and the involvement in AUKUS show that it wants to position itself as a credible regional partner, it would prefer not to be forced into the U.S.-China competition since it would lose the benefits of its ties to either of the two powers. Its relationship with China is only now recovering from its lowest period. The good news for Canberra is that Beijing is also reliant on Australia, especially for raw materials like iron ore and liquefied natural gas, to satisfy its vast economy. The fact that Wang accepted Wong’s invitation – despite Australia’s open partnership with the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute and its commitment to AUKUS – clearly signals that Beijing cannot afford to lose Australia as a trading partner. Nor does Beijing want to alienate American allies because its economy needs the kind of investment and trade only the U.S. and its affiliates can provide.

At this point, Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to take what it wants from both China and the U.S. But it needs to proceed cautiously; cozying up too close to one will forfeit the benefits from the other. Being dragged into a competition, let alone a potential war, is the last thing it wants.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Australia
« Reply #40 on: June 14, 2024, 08:53:41 AM »
June 14, 2024
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Why China and Australia Are Playing Nice
Pragmatic policy has trumped animosity.
By: Victoria Herczegh

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is set to pay a widely publicized and highly anticipated visit to Australia this weekend. He will be the first person in his office to do so since 2017, when tensions came to a head between China and U.S. allies over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, its growing influence in the Indo-Pacific and its cyberwarfare activity. As a result, bilateral relations between China and Australia reached historic lows over the past few years, culminating in a trade war in which Beijing imposed stiff and highly costly barriers on Australian goods. Li’s visit is expected to end with the final removal of those barriers and thus restore their relationship.

Even so, the two will need to address a number of security-related issues, including Australia’s increasingly active role in the AUKUS alliance and China’s recent provocations in the South China and Yellow seas. They won’t be able to solve all their problems, of course, but the fact that Beijing is willing to set their economic relationship back on track is a sign of future malleability and, potentially, mutual benefit.

It’s difficult to overstate the intensity of their recent diplomat spat. It started when China began increasing its military activities in its near abroad and when Australia joined the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a U.S.-led initiative expressly made to counter Chinese influence. This led to hardline anti-China policies by then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under whose leadership Canberra banned Chinese companies from participating in Australia’s 5G network construction over national security concerns and, later, joined AUKUS. In response, Beijing banned minister-to-minister communications with Australia and imposed trade barriers on products such as beef, barley, coal, wood and wine, costing Australia roughly $13 billion per year. In 2022, the United States – Australia’s closest ally – reopened communication channels with China, undertaking high-level talks meant to ease tension and improve bilateral relations. Meetings between Chinese and Australian officials also resumed. And though ties improved, they didn’t yield tangible economic success.

Meanwhile, the intense tit for tat that characterized Sino-Australian relations under Morrison continued under current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. As Chinese military activities intensified in the Indo-Pacific, other regional powers like Japan and India started to step up their game to contain Beijing, so Canberra followed suit by becoming a more active member in the U.S. security alliance. In March, Australian spy chief Mike Burgess shocked the nation with a statement about a Chinese spy ring operating in the country and selling state secrets, triggering an intense and ongoing investigation of Chinese espionage in Australia and making society even more wary of the threat China poses to national security. Then in May, Chinese and Australian fighter jets clashed over the Yellow Sea, leading to an exchange of accusations of dangerous aerial conduct. Just two weeks ago at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles expressed concern over Beijing's aggression toward the Philippines and its provocations over Taiwan. Chinese personnel there criticized Australia’s security conduct in the region, specifically its intensified activities in the AUKUS alliance.

China has every reason to monitor Australian activity in AUKUS. Though the federal government is still debating the utility of the nuclear-class submarines AUKUS provides for, the government of South Australia recently signed a deal with U.S. shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries that will allow companies there to enter supply chains for U.S. nuclear-powered vessels. The deal marks a new level of security involvement with the United States – something that would have been a nonstarter for China even just a couple of years ago.

AUKUS aside, Australia’s current national defense strategy places a strong emphasis on naval capabilities. In February, the government unveiled plans for the largest naval buildup since World War II, allocating more than $35 billion for the project over the next 10 years. The plan allows for eight nuclear-powered attack submarines, nearly two dozen frigates and destroyers, six missile-armed large optionally-crewed surface vessels, six offshore patrol vessels and eight patrol boats. This kind of project is clearly meant to counter Chinese maritime power and indeed would have resulted in some kind of retaliation not so long ago. Instead, Beijing is making gestures of goodwill, as evidenced by Li’s upcoming trip, to ease tensions.

It’s no coincidence that Li is heading a massive business delegation, or that their chosen destination is the state of Western Australia. Western Australia’s total exports to China reached $96 billion in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Some 85 percent of the state’s iron ore went to China, as well as almost all its lithium. For China, it is extremely important to strike more business deals during Li’s visit. Despite the strain on political ties in recent years, total Australian investment in China was valued at $49.7 billion in the first half of 2024. Indeed, Australia is still one of the few major nations that has a high number of businesses looking to expand their presence in China. (Banking and wealth management are leading sectors of Australian foreign direct investment.) Australia is China’s top supplier of iron, and going forward Beijing will be itching to buy rare earth elements and other important resources needed for the transition to green energy, even if it faces stiff competition from the West.

If China were economically more stable, it almost certainly would not be trying to smooth ties with Australia. But as it stands, its slowdown is forcing it to engage as many markets as it can, especially large ones like Australia’s. More important, it needs trade with Australia to be able to develop its electric vehicle sector, which is intended to be a pillar of its economic rebound. China and Australia complement each other economically, and that they are opening back up to each other shows they both understand as much. Of course, Australia will need to consider other factors before striking deals with China; South Korean and Japanese companies are also seeking lithium, and Australia cannot afford to alienate these large markets.

Still, Li’s visit demonstrates a pragmatic approach from both countries. They won’t solve all their security problems this weekend, and they will still find ways to verbally clash with each other going forward. But the world today is different from what it was in the mid-2010s, and China seems to be taking what it can get.