In the wake of Albanese’s meeting with Xi Jinping, some absurdly triumphalist commentary has emerged in Australian media. SMH and Age commentators claim a great power has ‘capitulated’ due to middle power ‘resistance’, and said the White House could take notes from the Australian approach.
Such takes could hardly be further from the truth. They presume foreign policy is separate from domestic politics and ideological stances, and instead they treat each country as monolithic.
This is of course not the case. With the Albanese government, the pointless sabre rattling of Peter Dutton has been sidelined. In is Foreign Minister Penny Wong talking about engaging with our neighbours.
The Peter Costello-run papers wish to vindicate the Morrison government’s bravado, attributing China’s shift to this ‘strong stance’. In reality, the change of government has meant everything here.
Throughout history, great powers have always sought to sway the domestic politics of weaker countries. The Royal Navy blockaded Buenos Aires to throttle protectionist government and ensure the country’s leaders supported ‘free trade’. The US grants visa privileges to Third World elites for holidays to New York and Miami, but it will withdraw those privileges if their countries legislate resource rents that affect US multinationals.
Disgracefully, even vaccine access has been modulated according to governments’ stances regarding Western capital. Pfizer vaccines magically flooded into Ecuador right after the country elected a neoliberal banker president
In general, powerful countries want their own commercial interests to operate unchecked in smaller countries, and generally seek to stymie governments who focus instead on endogenous development. This creates a climate that favours neoliberal politics in peripheral countries.
Now, it seems, China is going to favour Australian exporters under the Albanese government. This could end up being a policy specific to Labor governments being in power, or alternatively just whilstever Australia federal governments of any persuasion shy away from hostile rhetoric towards China.
Whilever China refrains from the kind of aggression that would prove Dutton right, this is a good bargain for Australia.
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