Willing to be a US plugin? Canberra is playing a very dangerous game: the editors of the Global Times

Australian Defense Secretary Richard Marles Photo: AFP

Last week, Richard Marles made his first visit to the US as Australia’s deputy prime minister and defense minister. During the four-day visit, he repeatedly advocated that Australia and the US work together to contain China. Marles also said that Australia and the US “will move from interoperability to interchangeability. And we will make sure we have all the resources to work together seamlessly and quickly.” Marles’ comments suggest he is ready to serve as a US “forward theater commander.”

Judging by the strengths of the Australian and US armed forces, the so-called interoperability or interchangeability will undoubtedly be a one-way operation from the US to the Australian military, and the result will be greater integration of the Australian military into the US. global military system, powered by Washington. As some Australian media pointed out, Marles not only demoted himself but belittled all of Australia, amounting to surrendering Australia’s sovereignty to the US. The Australian Defense Force would then become a plug-in of the US, while Australia would become a forward base of the US military.

Even when Washington grudgingly insists it “does not intend to have a conflict with China,” Australia barely conceals its intention to view China as its greatest imaginary military enemy and has even acted more aggressively than Washington on several occasions.

In the process, the Australian Defense Minister has become one of Canberra’s most aggressive actors against China. Marles’ image as the new defense minister is now fading. From Tokyo to New Delhi to Washington, Marles’ string of comments on the so-called China threat makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish him from his extremely anti-Chinese liberal predecessor Peter Dutton. In less than two months, Marles has rushed to change the outside world’s impression of being “rational” toward China, and it has also raised further doubts about the new Australian government’s willingness to open up relations with China. improve.

Since the new Australian government took office, there have been many discussions in both countries about a possible “thaw” in bilateral relations. Some departments have also made contact gradually. However, the continuity of the two Defense Ministers Dutton and Marles in viewing China as an “imaginary enemy” is sufficient to indicate that the US influence on Australia, especially the Australian military, is very deep, which reflects complex challenges for improving China-Australia ties.

On the one hand, as a member of the Five Eyes alliance, Canberra gets much of its intelligence about the so-called China threat from Washington, meaning that a large amount of intelligence containing Washington’s “conspiracy theories” will inevitably affect Canberra’s perception of Beijing. On the other hand, it is not easy to change this system as Canberra’s defense procurement, intelligence services and cooperation with allies have been shaped in recent years to meet the so-called China challenge. In addition, the Australian military, which has special ties to Washington, clearly doesn’t want tensions between China and Australia to ease, which it sees as a step against Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

Since the Cold War, Canberra’s perception has been that Australia benefits from “great and powerful friends.” Therefore, it is easy to understand that Canberra considers maintaining, consolidating and strengthening the alliance between the US and Australia as its national interests. Australia also relies on how well it acts as the US’s “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific to assess its “value.” The problem now, however, is that Canberra’s obsession with ‘a great and powerful friend’ unnecessarily creates ‘a great and powerful enemy’.

That the US is Australia’s main geostrategic ally is a matter between Australia and the US. But it’s also undeniable that China will remain Australia’s most important economic partner for the foreseeable future. This means that it is in Australia’s national interest to avoid a conflict with China. Morrison’s government has seriously steered Australia in the wrong direction with a serious tilt in the balance between security and economy. At times like these, Australians should remember former Prime Minister John Howard’s warning that “hostility to and containment of China is not only harmful but also dangerous”.

Some of the first signs of danger are already visible. Amid the former defense secretary’s continued warmongering, a Lowy Institute poll published in June found that 75 percent of respondents believe China will become “very” or “somewhat” a military threat to Australia. In addition, Canberra’s increasingly frequent “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea, following Washington’s lead, have led insightful people, including politicians, business elites, intellectuals and members of the public in Australia, to become increasingly concerned. about the risk of a misfire.

To put it bluntly, Australia has made itself a strategic asset to Washington, leaving its comfortable position in the safe zone on the front lines of geopolitical conflict. Will this make it more important or safer? If Canberra really looks out for its own national interests, it should really recognize, as Marles herself said earlier, that “it would be a great mistake to define China as an enemy”, and that “talk of a new cold war is stupid.” and ignorant.”

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