May 19th 2018


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The real cost of institutionalised child care

EDITORIAL AGL dismisses $250m bid for Liddell Power Station

GENDER POLITICS As Queensland transgenders birth certificates, 300 women quit UK Labour Party

CANBERRA OBSERVED No pressure on Malcolm to call election this year

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Can Greens regenerate, or are they mulch?

POLITICS Conservative shift in the Victorian Liberal Party

OPINION No fairytale ending from the Land of a Fair Go

LAW REFORM The Nordic Model: proven to curtail sex trafficking

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Committal hearing dismisses main serious charges against Cardinal Pell

GENDER AND ETHICS Transgenderism and the dissolution of identity

PHILOSOPHY The supercharged cheetah

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One Belt, One Road: China's new empire

HUMOUR

MUSIC Business as usual: The sweet tinkle of falling coins

CINEMA Avengers: Last Flag Flying and Infinity War

BOOK REVIEW A hungry beast that ate up 4 million lives

BOOK REVIEW Skewed analysis of republic in crisis

POETRY

LETTERS

CANBERRA OBSERVED Bill Shorten's Budget-Reply speech: for what ails you

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
One Belt, One Road: China's new empire


by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, May 19, 2018

In 1992, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama speculated that history was over and that Western democracy, combined with free market liberalism, had triumphed. His book, The End of History and the Last Man, was an unlikely best seller.

How far away that now seems. The United States has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was intended to anchor America to the economies of Asia; minus, of course, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump have deliberately likened his policies to those of President Andrew Jackson (1828–36). Jackson was prepared to go to war to prevent South Carolina from nullifying a tariff increase. South Carolina argued that tariffs made their manufactured inputs more expensive and impoverished their customers, who would no longer be able to afford the South’s cotton. Trump’s program resembles Jackson’s nativist policies. Trump, as did Jackson, acts to protect the interests of the native born against those of immigrants.

Fukuyama showed once more that “the prophet is a fool”. Few would have predicted that China, a producer of low-quality manufactured goods, would soon rival the United States as the world’s largest economy. And as for those who opined that China would inevitably democratise as it grew wealthy, quite the reverse has happened. China has grown more authoritarian and menacing.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–76) was an exercise in mass lunacy, manipulated by Mao Zedong to defeat his Communist rivals. Now China has Xi Jinping, who is at least Mao’s equal. China has abandoned the “steady as you go” policies of Deng Xiaoping and his successors, and adopted an increasingly militant and expansionist ideology.

China and the empires that preceded it – Britain and the United States – can be compared to families. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina (Moscow, 1873), “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The Western alliance, despite its doubts about some of President Trump’s policies, is, as Fukuyama pointed out, relatively cohesive.

China is sui generis: that is, it is unique and one thing, of itself. China has never pretended to be the equal of any other power. China has always demanded tribute from all other powers and the acknowledgement that China is politically and culturally superior. If other powers’ ambassadors and merchants brought tribute and would kowtow to the emperor, they could trade. China has no allies, only vassals.

It is in this context that we must see the PRC’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The PRC wants, by a network of land and sea routes, to revive the Silk Road of ancient times, by which China sold the West luxury goods. The Venetian merchant, Marco Polo, carried back scarcely credible tales of China’s wealth and sophistication during the Yuan Dynasty. Today, lured by visions of China’s immense market, 68 countries have signed up for the One Belt, One Road scheme, including our neighbour, New Zealand.

China, said by some to be the largest economy in the world, doesn’t assist or donate to countries that need medicine or food. Indeed, the PRC is lending enormous sums of money to poor countries so they can build palaces for their rulers and useless sports stadiums.

The PRC knows that countries such as the small island-nations in the Pacific will never be able to repay the loans. If we needed a comparison, experts speculate that the economy of Canberra is larger than that of the entire South Pacific.

The PRC is a loan shark. Its loans are made at commercial rates and, when nations fall into arrears (as they inevitably will), the PRC will call in its loans. Of course, you can’t repossess a wharf or a presidential palace, so you make an agreement: the PRC will generously take a 99-year lease over the wharf, with which it will do as it sees fit.

The latest news is that the PRC is building a wharf in Vanuatu. This small island-nation denies that it is for military use. In this connection, Beijing claims that the South China Sea belongs to China, and has constructed military facilities there, disregarding international law. It has told other nations, including the U.S., to butt out of any disputes with the littoral powers.

Xi Jinping will now be “President for Life”. He is effectively an emperor. He is a very ambitious man. He wants to reunite Taiwan with the mainland. He wants China to have its own empire.

From the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the British ruled though commerce and diplomacy. The Royal Navy ruled the oceans for two centuries and enforced Admiralty Law. Britain had a relatively small professional army, used for overseas deployment. Britain, impoverished by two world wars, relinquished its role as world policeman to the United States, which ruled by military force, commerce and most importantly, soft power, similar to a feudal overlord.

The U.S. Navy enforces the right of free passage for international trade. Will the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy challenge the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, which the PRC has illegally fortified? Some 20 per cent of world trade transits the South China Sea. The U.S. is determined to assert right of free passage to keep the trade routes open.

There are Chinese people all over the world. Some are loyal to Beijing, some are not. Almost all regard themselves as hua ren, that is, ethnic Chinese. It is commonly believed that all Han Chinese are descended from the Huang Di, or Yellow Emperor. The Han Chinese are the world’s largest ethnic group, constituting 18 per cent of the world’s population. The Chinese are diligent and hard working. Their entrepreneurial talents are legendary.

The One Belt, One Road initiative will cost $10 trillion. It will, if successful, give China an empire unlike any dreamed of before. The empire will be founded on commerce, loan sharking and military force. Xi Jinping has decided that he will make China dominant again.




























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