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No merit for Australia in jumping on US’ anti-China bandwagon

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No merit for Australia in jumping on US’ anti-China bandwagon

By Joseph Ho

Under the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments (from November 2007 to September 2013), Australia succeeded in anchoring its relations with China on mutually beneficial grounds. While reaping the economic benefits from the peaceful rise of China, Australia also hedged against a situation where an emergent China might mean political domination in the region that could be perceived as detrimental to Australia’s national interests. This strategy could be termed “accommodation with soft balancing” (Derek McDougall, Asia Pacific in World Politics (London, Lynne Rienner Publishers)).

But Sino-Australian relations have undergone an unfortunate metamorphosis in recent years. In 2021, the formation of the AUKUS pact, which is a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the US and the UK, means Canberra is leaning to the US side. Having fallen into lockstep with US geopolitical priorities, Australia will no longer be able to maximize its national interests by balancing Beijing’s and Washington’s strategic concerns in the region. The following discussion will show Australian policyholders that a hard containment policy against China does not serve the interests of Australia in the long term.

Thorniest of the geopolitical issues arising from the formation of the AUKUS pact is the strong message that Australia will see the world through Anglo-American strategic eyes. Under American leadership, the alliance is aimed at sustaining and enhancing deterrence against a perceived “Chinese threat” in the region. In addition to the nuclear submarine agreement, the pact also features broader security cooperation measures, including an agreement for Australia to explore hosting US bombers on its territory, the acquisition by Australia of long-range precision strike missiles, and joint cooperation on cyber capabilities, AI, quantum technology and additional undersea capabilities (Kevin Rudd, The Avoidable War (NY, Public Affairs, 2022)).

Last year, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong emphasized the importance of maintaining a regional order based on strategic equilibrium. Contrary to the above principle, the present generation of Labor leadership still retains faith in the idea of a US-led global order. Paul Keating, the former prime minister of Australia from 1991-1996, has been critical of the nuclear submarine program. Under Keating, there were attempts to integrate Australia more strongly with Asia-Pacific (Derek McDougall, op.cit.).

Having no room for retreat from the challenges posed by the provocative nuclear submarine agreement, China criticized the agreement for fueling an arms race and hurting peace and stability in the region (Ben Doherty, War of Words: Australia Can Expect a Hostile Response from China to Strategic Defence Review, in The Guardian, April 22, 2023). Like China, Indonesia is highly suspicious of the above program. In fact, no serious analysis supports Canberra’s assertion that conventionally powered subs will not be effective in the decades ahead (Hugh White, Can US Alliance and AUKUS Help Australia Secure its Future in Asia?, in This Week in Asia, April 23, 2023).

According to White, there are also serious concerns about the wider implications of AUKUS for the global regime which has done so much to help prevent the spread of nuclear weapons for 50 years. It’s worth noting that the uranium in the reactors of the subs will not be subject to the normal international standards used to enforce the Non-Proliferation Treaty, because a special provision allows them to be waived for non-weapons related military applications like nuclear propulsion (ibid.).

Meanwhile, the US, Japan, Australia and India have transformed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) from an informal framework of cooperation to a formal regional organization. If the QUAD is further institutionalized, militarized and expanded, an Asian NATO with China as its targeted adversary might be on the horizon in the prospective security architecture of the Indo-Pacific (K. He and H. Feng, International Order Transition and US-China Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific, in Pacific Review, March 2023). It will further destabilize the region.

What is clear is that Australia’s membership in the QUAD and the AUKUS pact has strengthened the contention that Australia is not only committed to but also effectively operating a US-led “collective deterrence” mechanism against a perceived “Chinese threat” in the region. But a cost-benefit analysis argues in favor of a less active role played by Australia in the “collective deterrence” mechanism. Besides, question marks still surround Canberra’s willingness and determination to become a military stronghold in a future potential war between China and the US in the region. Will Australia be willing to pay the unaffordable price of fighting an unnecessary war for the US?

It bears mentioning that other disputes are endemic to Sino-Australian relations. These disputes are: the new security agreement between Japan and Australia, the blocking of Australian exports to China after Canberra sought a “formal investigation” into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s unwillingness to support China’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, etc. In spite of these disputes, bilateral relations are improving.

In fact, both countries have started to resolve the previous puzzles through negotiation, rather than in a politicized manner (Global Times, March 3, 2023). Recently, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan led a business delegation to China to take part in a strategic dialog with Chinese business delegates. It is hoped that further steps will be taken by both countries to rebuild their mutually beneficial relationship.

Seen from the perspective of ordinary Australians, the most important thing is economic development. Instead of adopting a hard containment policy toward China, Australia should forge closer economic ties with China. As a defender of key global institutions like the WTO and WHO, as well as norms like sovereignty and nonintervention on which the current liberal order has been built (K. He and H. Feng, op.cit.), China is definitely not a threat to the global order. Nor does China intend to be a threat to Australia.

There is no merit for Australia in sacrificing its own economic development by subordinating its national interests to those of the US. ASEAN’s pragmatic approach to manage geopolitical competition between China and the US offers a lesson for Australia. Similarly, Jacinda Ardern, the former prime minister of New Zealand, has set an excellent example for its like-minded neighbor to follow. Under Ardern, New Zealand succeeded in building constructive and important relations with both superpowers. 

The author is a solicitor, director of Sino-Australia Relations of Chinese Dream Think Tank. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Joseph Ho:No merit for Australia in jumping on US’ anti-China bandwagon (China Daily HK Edition 13 July 2023)

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/340504#No-merit-for-Australia-in-jumping-on-US’-anti-China-bandwagon

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

中國夢智庫|中澳關係

2007年11月至2013年9月,陸克文與吉拉德帶領下的工黨,主政管理澳大利亞,成功鞏固中澳兩國互利共贏基礎性關係。隨著我國和平崛起之勢,澳不但掌握住經濟上升優勢之餘,在新興世界經濟體(中國)是否意味著在地區政治系統內獨大從而損害他國國家利益這個課題上,澳處理的那可是迎刃有餘,恰到好處。在學者的口中,澳政府所運用的策略是:「軟平衡節奏中的落腳點」(Accommodation with Soft Balancing)(註1)。

事與願違。近年來中澳關係不幸地發生質的蛻變。2021年,澳、英國與美國結盟,聯合宣佈成立軍事外交安全合作夥伴關係,《澳英美三邊安全伙伴關係》(AUKUS)出台(註2)。這意味著堪培拉已傾向美國。由於需要與美國的地緣政治優先處理方式同步,澳吹起的「軟平衡節奏中的落腳點」已經變調,她將不能夠通過平衡北京與華盛頓地區戰略關切點上再最大化本國國家利益。筆者撰文討論中澳關係,試圖解說一點給澳當權者們,運用霸王硬上弓式遏制政策對付我國不符合澳的長遠利益。

AUKUS能產生最刺眼的問題是澳將會通過英美戰略角度來看待世界地緣政治議題。在美國的帶領下,AUKUS聯盟着墨於維持與改進威懾網,來應對所謂的「中國地緣威脅論」。除買賣核潛艇協議外,AUKUS還包括更廣泛的安全合作措施,其中包括澳:允許在領土上存放美國轟炸機;購買遠端精確打擊導彈;在網路攻擊能力、人工智能滲透、量子技術與其他海底對抗能力的聯合協議(註3)。

去年,澳外交部部長黃英賢強調「策略均衡」(Strategic Equilibrium)是維持地區秩序至關重要的要素。但非常遺憾,現任工黨領導層仍然還是茶飯不思地依戀着一個錯誤思維,既:美國領導的全球秩序才是信念。保羅·基廷(Paul Keating)曾經擔任過澳總理(1991至1996),他一直對澳參與買賣核潛艇協議持批評態度。在基廷的領導下,已出現幾次試圖推快進程將澳與亞太地區更緊密地融合起來(註4)。

我國正面回應AUKUS聯盟買賣核潛艇協議所引發的嚴重挑釁,北京批評該協議不但助長全球軍備競賽,而且損害亞太地區的和平與穩定(註5)。印尼當局持相同立場,表示對該協議持高度懷疑態度。事實上,在沒有嚴緊分析資料支持下,堪培拉表明的傳統動力潛艇在未來幾十年內將會失效這個立場,純屬斷章取義(註6)。
根據戰略研究學教授休·懷特(Hugh White),在過去50年中,全球政權共同為防止「核擴散」做出了不懈努力。但是,AUKUS的横空出世為世人帶來廣泛性的嚴重關注。大家注意,潛艇反應堆中的「鈾」不受《不擴散核武器條約》(註7)明確列出的正常國際標準所約束,此國際條約清楚指出:在核推進、非武器相關軍事應用中,免除運用「鈾」的監管與限制(註8)。

與此同時,美國、日本、澳與印度已將非正式合作框架《四邊安全對話》轉為正式的區域組織。 如果此四國進一步制度化、軍事化與向東擴張,印太地區未來的安全架構中將可能出現一個以我國為目標對手的「亞洲北約」(註10)。這將進一步催化印太地區的不穩定進程。

誠然,澳在加强版《四邊安全對話》 AUKUS的角色進一步說明一點,為應對所謂的「中國地緣威脅論」,澳不僅全心投入而且有效地運作以美國為主領的集體,對我國造成集體威懾機制。話雖如此,從成本與收益分析,澳在這個針對我國的集體威懾機制中所能發揮的作用是弊大於利。此外,堪培拉在未來可能在亞太地區可能爆發的「中美大戰」中扮演軍事據點的意願與決心仍然存疑。大家想想,澳是否願意以損兵折將做為代價,不惜一切代價為美國打一場不必要的代理人戰爭?

值得大家再注意,中澳關係中還存在其他爭端,舉例說明:日本與澳之間的新安全協定、堪培拉要求徹查COVID-19大流行續而停止澳對華出口、有關我國所謂的開發南極野心與向太平洋國家區域擴張傾向行為、所謂的中國南海爭議與島嶼軍事化、澳全力支持日本的「高質量基礎設施投資」專案、澳拒絕支持我國加入《跨太平洋夥伴全面進步協定》(註11)與我國透過代理人在澳境內活動。 儘管如此,兩國雙邊關係也有呈現改善的跡象。

事實上,兩國已摒棄政治化分歧,開始以談判方式解決兩國現時共同面對的議題(註12)。近日,西澳州長麥高溫(Mark McGowan)已率領商務代表團訪華,與我國企業代表進行戰略性對話。兩國之間的煤炭貿易恢復呈緩慢狀態表明,恢復市場全面運作、物流與預期等等,一些受限產品貿易的全面開放進程需時,可能需時數月甚至數年。筆者真誠希望兩國採取進一步措施,重建互利關係。

從普通澳人民的角度來看,經濟發展是最重要的。澳不應採取硬遏制政策針對我國。她應與我國建立更緊密的經貿聯繫。作為「世貿組織」與「世衛組織」等關鍵全球機構以及當前自由秩序賴以建立的「主權原則」與「不干預原則」等規範的捍衛者(註13),我國絕不是全球秩序的威脅,我國也從未打算對澳施加任何威脅。

澳以犧牲本國的經濟發展,摒棄本國利益去臣服於美國,這是在唱那一家的戲?澳應效法「東南亞國家聯盟」管理中美地緣政治競爭所呈現的務實做法。同樣,紐西蘭前總理傑辛達·阿德恩(Jacinda Ardern)為志同道合的鄰邦們樹立了一個極好的榜樣。當時,在阿德恩的領導下,紐西蘭成功地與兩個超級大國建立了既重要又富建設性的多邊關係。

註 1: Derek McDougall「Asia Pacific in World Politics
London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc. 2016 at p 319
註 2: 維基百科《澳英美三邊安全伙伴關係》available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AUKUS
註 3: Kevin Rudd「The Avoidable War
NY: Public Affairs 2022 at p 218
註 4: 同前,第314頁
註 5: Ben Doherty「War of Words: Australia can expect a hostile response from China to strategic defence review
in The Guardian 22.04.2023 available at: https://amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/23/beyond-the-drums-of-war-why-australia-view-of-china-needs-a-wider-lens
註 6: Hugh White, ‘Can US alliance and AUKUS help Australia secure its future in Asia”, in This week in Asia SCMP 23.04.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3217859/aukus-gamble-can-australia-rely-us-alliance-secure-its-future-asia-amid-rising-china
註 7: 維基百科《不擴散核武器條約》available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/zh-hant/不擴散核武器條約
註 8: 同上,註 6
註 9: 維基百科《四邊安全對話》available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/四邊安全對話
註 10: K. He & H. Feng「International Order Transition & US-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific
in Pacific Review Vol. 36 No. 2 March 2023 at p 245
註 11: 維基百科《跨太平洋夥伴全面進步協定》available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/跨太平洋夥伴全面進展協定
註 12: Global Times「A US hidden hand beats drums of war crazily to reverse thaw in China-Australia ties
08.03.2023 available at: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202303/1286910.shtml?id=11
註 13: 同上,註 10

文:何澤群
事務律師
「中國夢智庫」中澳關係事務總監
文:丁煌
深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員
經民聯港島支部主席,「中國夢智庫」主席

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