In a paranoid move, Australia is speeding up plans to build a naval base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea(PNG). The move is aimed at countering China's presence in the Pacific region.
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT.
When PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill visited Beijing in June, he spoke well of China-PNG relationship, emphasizing, We have no competing interests over geopolitics or political issues. His remarks reflect the reality that China has been involved in aid, investment, and infrastructure building in the South Pacific, which in Prime Minister O'Neill's words, have been to the effect to improve the standard of living for our people and to do the best deal.
Amid the recent hysterical anti-China brouhaha in Australian media and among some government officials in Australia, fueled by America's unyielding desire to contain and suppress China's rise, a flurry of nervous activities has been unleashed Down Under to compete with China in the Pacific. After edging China's telecommunications giant Huawei out of the project to provide an Internet cable system linking the PNG, the Solomon Islands and Sydney, Australia is going to further interfere in PNG's domestic affairs by trying to coax the island nation not to engage Huawei in its domestic cable project on the dubious grounds of so-called security issues. In today's wireless cyber age, scaremongering myth becomes Reds in the air. It seems that Australia is now set to commit itself to the rivalry in the South Pacific with the world's second largest economy.
The Labor Party's defense spokesman Richard Marles was right when he recently repudiated Australia's current Pacific policy to strategically compete with China and advocated that Canberra needs to earn the right to be the natural partner of choice. The South Pacific is not any country's backyard and nations in the region have their own political and economic wisdom to make their decisions. As Patrick Kaiku, an academic at the University of PNG said, Australia conveys a patronizing image of the Pacific when citing the China threat. Labeling the islands as 'our patch' or 'our sphere of influence' is an unproductive message. A condescending attitude and hypercritical concerns have been paired together with the recent rise in Australian aid and loans - a typical club and carrot policy attempting to scare and smear, and entice the island nations to Canberra and Washington's sphere of influence.
When speaking about China-Africa cooperation at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in September, President Xi Jinping stated China's five-no approach, which also applies to China's relations with the Pacific countries. China respects other countries' decisions and supports their self-determination and self-reliance, imposing no political conditions and attaching no strings in economic exchanges. China preaches a win-win policy and believes that a zero-sum contest is beneficial to none.
US President Donald Trump won't fly to Port Moresby for the APEC summit on November 18. Australia's new Prime Minister Scott Morrison will go, and will treat the leaders of the Pacific island countries with a barbecue in the Australian high commissioner's residence. However, apart from attending this important event, President Xi hopes to pay a state visit to PNG prior to the summit, and to host a special conference for the Pacific island leaders. China and PNG are also said to be negotiating a free trade agreement, along with other mutually beneficial undertakings and development ventures. The Belt and Road initiative will channel the much-needed funds and technology to the country and the region.
At the Davos Economic Forum held in Tianjin recently, Premier Li Keqiang reiterated China's determination to uphold globalization and multilateralism. Under a free trade framework with China, Australia is continuing its development and economic success, with a GDP growth of 3.4 percent. China regards all humanity as a community with a common future, which Australia and the Pacific island nations are welcome to share.
The author is Chen Hong, a professor and director of Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University.
Source: GLOBAL TIMES