Illustration: Chen Xia/GT
Australian Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo, one of the country’s top national security officials, warned “free nations” of “the beating drums of war” in his Anzac Day speech on Sunday. He also said Australia should “send off our warriors to fight the nation’s wars.”
Although such hyper-excited remarks did not explicitly name the target, the Australian media have turned to China, especially as Pezzullo’s remarks came not long after Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that a conflict between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan “should not be discounted.”
The zeal of some Australian politicians for war is running high. Pezzullo’s saber-rattling approach is currently representative of Australia’s top national security circles who are inciting the unwarranted threat of China. Pezzullo is tipped to become defense secretary. Public emotive communiques of his kind, which is supposed to be rare for officials with such a senior role, are gaining ground and could drag Australia into a highly risky scenario. The cabinet of this Australian government reminds us of the Trump team that competed for who was more hawkish toward China. But the outcome of those US politicians does not make people envy.
Australian politicians should understand that the Taiwan question is being exploited by the US to contain China’s rise and draw allies into its orbit to serve for its hegemonic objectives. Washington has never made the explicit commitment to defend the island of Taiwan in case of a war and it seems that it has no will to change its policy of strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan. But it is Australia that is jumping high and singing a tune.
For politicians like Pezzullo, what he cares is his political leverage and the length of his political life, rather than the interests of the Australian people and regional and international peace. Holding the US tight, finding fault with China and hyping a war is the easiest way to catch media attention, and Australian politicians are more than eager to use it.
In the China-Australia ties, it’s always the Australian side that took the initiative to undermine the relationship. It is eager to exploit the current tense China-US relationship to show its loyalty to the US. By claiming to maintain peace and stability in the region, reckless Australian politicians are actually hyping disputes and trying to rope in countries that have conflicts of interests with China.
These Australian politicians are to blame for the current icy China-Australia relationship. For them, Washington, rather than Canberra, dictates Australia’s foreign policy. As the long-held hysterical opinion in Australia has poisoned the atmosphere toward China, catering to such a twisted atmosphere and intimacy with the US can turn into political incentives of these politicians.
The Morrison government has already been struggling with the worsening China-Australia relationship. Australia thinks it could lean toward the US if it cuts cooperation with China. To its dismay, the US companies have taken up China’s market share that Australian companies used to take. The US lukewarm attitude toward India during its surging cases of COVID-19 should be a lesson for Australia.
Australia’s China policy has reached a cul-de-sac. China does not seek enmity with Australia, and Australia should avoid proactively turning itself into an enemy of China. If Australia resorts to provocative actions in China’s offshore areas, it is bound to face severe countermeasures from China.