Australia would join US to defend Taiwan, defence minister says
- Peter Dutton said it ‘would be inconceivable’ for Canberra not to support Washington
- Secretary of State Blinken said earlier this week the US and its allies would take unspecified ‘action’ if Taiwan were attacked
I think the title speaks for itself, so I won't add more. Is this threat credible? If so, how should Beijing view and deal with Australia going forward?
For non-Australians, it's important to realise that Dutton is today the leading Anglo imperialist on the Australian political scene. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been in the headlines a bit recently, but he's really more of a marketing suit devoid of genuine ideological content. Dutton was undoubtedly instrumental in the dumping of the Attack-class program in favour of the AUKUS, and he's the one to watch going forward.
What is notable is that in recent days we have seen both "sides" of the Australian perspective re: China put forth by major figures in unusually blunt terms, from Keating on one side and Dutton on the other. And it is important to recognise that most Australians operate between these two extremes. The character of the rhetoric we have seen of late reflects the fact that public and substantive disagreements on foreign policy are rather unusual in the context of Australian politics. For the most part, foreign policy has been aloof from partisan politics, in the sense that both the Liberals and Labor agree on most matters, with disagreements limited to matters of perceived tone or emphasis.
Dutton and his All-Anglo uber alles faction have won a major victory in their struggle to determine the course of Australian foreign policy. But in doing so they have aroused a level of disquiet amongst the populace, of which Keating is the most unspoken voice. Keating is very much an outlier, more of an outlier than Dutton is, but there are many who are to a greater or lesser degree uncomfortable with recent developments and the trajectory of Australia-China relations. The point is: the debate continues. The question for China is how can it shape that debate to serve its interests? There are more productive, less productive and counter-productive paths available. China's restrictions on various Australian imports have been at best ineffective as a tool of foreign policy, and very likely counter-productive.
As for my own response to Dutton's comments, I would echo Hugh White: "Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's very important that, before you consider joining a war, you ask whether or not you're going to win."