Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Australia continues its attempt to stamp its presence on the Taiwan question. Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday that a conflict with China over the island of Taiwan “should not be discounted,” adding that Australia wants to continue being “a good neighbor in the region” that works with its partners and allies.
This is another move of Dutton, a far-right politician, to show loyalty to the US on behalf of Australia. Dutton’s position is typical in Australia: By claiming to maintain peace and stability in the region, Canberra is actually hyping disputes and trying to rope in countries that may have conflicts of interests with China.
Australia has had discussions on the Taiwan question over the past few decades. Canberra’s position on the Taiwan question has swayed and sailed with the wind, which depends on China-Australia relations and China-US relations. Some Australian politicians would hype intervening in the Taiwan question especially when China-US relations are tense.
In 2004, then-Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer said that Australia would not be obliged to assist the US in a military defense of Taiwan. But now, China-US relations and China-Australia relations are tense. And as Washington and Tokyo hype the Taiwan question and reach a so-called consensus on underscoring the “importance of peace and stability” in the Taiwan Straits, Canberra wants to chime in.
“In the past, people may assume that some of Australia’s tough actions were caused by the Trump administration’s pressure. But after US President Joe Biden assumed office, it seems that Australia is making its independent decision, trying to please the US and follow the US on questions such as the Taiwan Straits,” Guo Chunmei, an expert on Australian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times on Monday.
But can Australia really be “a good neighbor in the region?” Obviously not. Canberra does not even care much about its local state’s interests, and even places them below geopolitical purposes. For example, Australia recently tore up agreements signed between Victoria state and China on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). After that, Australia is now scrutinizing the 99-year Port of Darwin deal with China. Dutton said on Sunday that Australia “will act” if the deal “is not in our national interests.”
The original intent of the BRI and the Port of Darwin was to promote regional economic development and infrastructure construction. However, Australia’s moves and statements have disregarded the interests of local states and governments. They need economic development. However, Canberra is depriving local states of their autonomy. Australia may tear up the Port of Darwin deal in the future as well, but its local states and people will have to bear the consequences.
“If Canberra does not even care about local interests, how can it take overall regional interests into account or be a ‘good neighbor’ in the region?” Guo asked.
Australia tore up the BRI agreement signed between Victoria state and China, dealing a heavy blow to the already freezing China-Australia relations. Now, Canberra is trying to muddy the waters on the Taiwan question, seeking geopolitical gains by toeing the line of Washington. PLA’s firm will to safeguard China’s territorial integrity is fully demonstrated. If Australia uses force against China, China will definitely deal a heavy blow to Australia.