On the Beach Redux

The week passed eventfully in the large ancient continent down under, ruled by a tin pot regime seeking not so much to punch above its weight as to insist on how important it could be if only the world would, well, notice it existed.

After eight years of Australian conservative prime ministers dashing about the world stage and pointing to themselves, spelling and respelling their names to reporters from The Times, etc., suddenly all international eyes were on Scott Morrison.

A nation that, as of this week, China officially termed a “running dog” was now, much to its relief, no longer just a dog running around looking for an owner.

Scotty’s irrepressible smirk extended ear to ear as his skin rapidly tanned by irradiance from the two big dogs, Boris and Joe. They were, he announced in the announcement to beat all previous announcements, going to give him, Scott Morrison, the key to the wine cabinet. The nuclear wine cabinet.

While several thousand global defence analysts plumbed the disturbing dissonance – that a non-nuclear power thought it could build, operate, maintain, let alone afford, nuclear submarines – the Australian government waxed enthusiastic in the pages of its official news agency, Newscorp.

Yes, at last, the Australian Navy’s submarine quandary was settled. Its first US or UK or Australian nuclear-powered underwater boat would launch in a mere 20 years hence – about the same time the defence budget would, too, be underwater – and just in time to join America in its war with China. At which thought it probably dawned on the jingoes polishing government benches in Canberra that the next seven or so Liberal Nationals governments might have to tone down their war rhetoric in case it worked too well and brought on the exciting conflict say, a decade or so before the first sub hit salt.

China feigned outrage, indignation even, while quietly sniggering about the military gnat down under that had notionally swapped its white ensign for the stars and stripes. It drew up plans to economically scrape the gum off the bottom of its shoe. Chinese state media (apparently they have an equivalent of Murdoch’s Newscorp) said TuAo was now an adversary of China and should prepare for the worst – unaware, apparently, that almost nine years of #LNP government had inured the backward, coarsely-spoken villagers so comprehensively that nothing much could worsen their misery.

Chinese Foreign Ministry “splokesman” Zhao Lijian confirmed Defence Minister Peter Dutton’s fear of an imminent war with a thinly disguised metaphor about the US and UK, saying they should “abandon their outdated Cold War mentality, otherwise they will only shoot themselves in the foot.” Some say Mr Dutton suspects that is how China might remove the gum off the bottom of its shoe.

They also think Mr Dutton is unnerved by talk that China might kill the chicken to scare the monkey, and has asked analysts to confirm whether Australia is the chicken or the monkey, if not both.

While Chinese rhetoric redeployed its decades-old “running dog” towards Australia (Australians prefer the more benign and less active “lap dog”) it has restrained its use of the celebrated favourite from the (actual) Cold War, when it incessantly called the United States a “paper tiger.” Apparently, an Asian studies specialist told Throsby, that phrase confuses young Chinese, who think it’s a reference to Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Christopher Hughes, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said China should be careful how its narrative plays to the home audience.

If they are wise, they will realize that this alignment is the result of their own assertiveness and change tack,” he said. “[China] does not have a lot of cards to play.”

Throsby notes, however, China does have a shitload of GO moves.