Morrison digging a grave for Australia


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has launched a series of initiatives against China. PHOTO/AFP via Getty

I can’t remember the movie’s name. It was about 30 years ago that I saw it, and I don’t remember the names of the actors, the director or the writer. To be honest, I don’t even remember the trajectory of the plot.

But I do remember one scene from that Hollywood film vividly, and I still find it frightening whenever that memory pops up in my mind.

In the scene, a soldier of the war’s victorious side forced a counterpart of the defeated side to dig a grave. After the grave was dug by the enemy soldier, the commander ordered his troops to bury him alive, in the pit he had dug himself.

That horrifying scene is an analogy of what I see today in Asia-Pacific geo-strategy, with one critical difference: In the film, the man buried alive was the enemy. But in real life at this moment, the grave is being dug at the behest of a friend and ally.

In this modern scene, the gravedigger is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and it is his own country that is to be buried alive.

It is US President Donald Trump who is getting Morrison to dig the grave. Whether or not Morrison knows that Australia is to be buried in that hole, such an outcome is inevitable. 

Chinese embargo

The Sino-Australia relationship has been at a historic low since April. Consequently, China has been applying economic sanctions against Australia. The economic embargo is the result of Australia’s series of provocations against China, which Beijing is certain were undertaken by Canberra at the behest of the US. 

Morrison has been announcing more and more stringent measures against China since 2018. In August of that year, Australia was the first OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country to announce a ban on Huawei and ZTE providing equipment for a 5G (fifth generation) telecom network.

This year, Morrison called in April for an independent inquiry into the origins and spread of Covid-19. And in May, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne joined a meeting with counterparts from Canada, the UK and the US in which they issued a statement of “deep concern” over Beijing’s proposal of new national-security law in Hong Kong. 

Similarly, Australia and India agreed to strengthen the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue during a bilateral virtual summit in early June. Also in June, Australia announced more stringent measures to block or overturn new foreign investments deemed to compromise its national security, believed to be aimed at China. 

In July, Australia announced that in its view, Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis. 

Australia is planning to rejoin the Malabar naval exercises with India, the US and Japan. It is also planning to join a ministerial meeting of with those three countries in New Delhi to transform the Quad into an Asian NATO as part of a strategy to “contain” China. 

Thus Australia has taken one initiative after another against China, none of which will have any direct benefit. It is not doing this at its own will but because it has not been able to resist US pressure. 

Whenever Canberra has tried to resist such pressure, Washington has forced it to bow down. For instance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the US could complete a “disconnect” from Australia over the Victoria state government’s Belt and Road deal with China.

Why has China chosen to retaliate against Australia? There are many reasons.

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