It’s Easy to Kowtow to the CCP

There is no place for wishful thinking about the CCP. It is not about to change.
It’s Easy to Kowtow to the CCP
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (L) meeting with Australian journalist Cheng Lei (R) on arrival at Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 11, 2023. (Supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT))
Kevin Andrews
Most Australians do not read the Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Australians have never heard of the newspaper, published online by the regime. 
They would be surprised to learn that the publication devotes regular space to criticism of Australia, often citing “experts” on a range of issues concerning relations between the two countries. The editorial reinforces the views of CCP officials. 
The tone is often belligerent. Any criticism of the CCP is condemned as “anti-Chinese,” unhelpful, pro-American, or war-mongering: sometimes all of the above. 
Legitimate questions of the regime are treated as an insult to the Chinese people.  
The latest example concerns the dangerous actions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy activating a sonar system close to Australian divers. 
Accused of activating the sonar system close to the naval personnel who were attempting to disentangle fishing nets from the propeller of their vessel in Japanese waters, the Chinese responded with indignation. How dare you raise this matter?  
Whether it is a call for cooperation about tracing the origins of the CCP virus, or concerns about the regime’s continual breaches of international law, the response is the same: we are always correct and you have no right to even ask questions. 
The reasons are usually linked to threats about how Australia is damaging good relations, peace, and prosperity. 
Take last week’s Global Times articles. 
According to Liu Jianchao, a Chinese official, the sonar incident arose from Australia’s behaviour in the region that gave “Chinese people a message that Australian naval vessels are there to contain China. What would happen if a Chinese naval ship came to your waters or waters near Australia? Naturally you send your ships to monitor and identify.” 
No mention of Japanese waters, or even the dangerous use of sonar. Just the usual dismissive rhetoric.
Mr. Liu goes on to claim that Australia should not think it can freely “provoke” the CCP with U.S. support and that Canberra should “avoid confrontation” with Beijing in exchange for regional stability and security.
He adds that “serving as a U.S. hatchet man” would harm Australia’s national interests. 
On other occasions, these comments are often linked to international trade, with threats of retaliation for raising any inconvenient issue, that is, any view other than praise for China.

How Australia Should Play Its Hand

How should countries like Australia respond to the communist regime? 
In a recent opinion article, Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was capriciously detained by the CCP for three years on flimsy grounds, suggested that Australia should defer criticism of the CCP.  
She wrote in The Australian newspaper that: “China sees itself as having been a doormat in the early 20th century; it carries a chip on its shoulder. ‘Our spines are tougher now. We’ve taken calcium supplements.’ This half-joking phrase, heard among the masses, is a mixture of propaganda rhetoric and heartfelt pride. 
“We hear a lot about how dealing with China takes a ‘nuanced’ approach. But what does that really mean and how might that apply to recent incidents? It means knowing when, where, and how to communicate and, crucially, to whom. It is between hard-line and kowtow.”
Cheng continued: “Australia should and does have principles. But, as with all relationships, to live and die according to principle all the time is unreasonably rigid—you’d clash an awful lot and be quite unpopular. It doesn’t work in families, businesses, or politics. The problem with standing solely on principle is twofold. One, you can fail to see things from others’ point of view; and, two, you are never open to the possibility that you might be wrong.”
Yet she concedes, “What happened to me strengthened the case for a hard-line attitude because it highlighted China’s regression in citizen freedoms and heightened security paranoia.” 
Apart from seeming to associate with the Labor Party’s approach to the CCP—perhaps because it was the current government that secured her release—the difficulty with her argument is that it plays into the CCP narrative and its expectation of subservience. 
Australia has three options.
First, it can accept the CCP narrative of events, but this will encourage a more strident approach from Beijing—not a realistic scenario. 
Instead, it can hold a firm and principled response to issues, and express our national interest without the faux outrage the CCP often deploys. 
These principles include respect for a rules-based order and human rights, and the rejection of unfounded propaganda and naked aggression. 
In addition, it can push back firmly from time to time, especially when our national security is jeopardised. It should respond in a timely and consistent manner. 
There is no place for wishful thinking about the CCP. It is not about to change—but we don’t need to agree with it.
We don’t have to accept the CCP narrative—nor their claims to saving face.
A firm line with Beijing, as the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe demonstrated, is even more necessary now. 
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
The Hon. Kevin Andrews served in the Australian Parliament from 1991 to 2022 and held various cabinet posts, including Minister for Defence.