Point of View:
China’s comparative intentions in Australia and Vietnam
China’s rise as a superpower, on the one hand, has made a positive contribution to global economic wealth. On the other hand, it has given the world serious causes for concern.
First and foremost, China is not a democratic nation under the rule of law. It is one of the last and most persistent communist dictatorships of an era gone by. It does not play the games of international diplomacy necessarily by the rules. Nations surviving on the periphery of this rising behemoth such as South Korea, Japan and Vietnam have begun to feel what their ancestors have felt for thousands of years, before the advent of modernization in the Far East.
Not only Vietnam and nations on the South China Sea such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have outstanding sea area issues with the Middle Kingdom, but the Sea of Japan is also a hot spot for dispute on sovereignty over islands between China on the one hand and South Korea and Japan on the other.
China’s increased spending on its armed forces, especially a more and more aggressive navy, challenging even the US Seventh Fleet is the main catalyst for a serious arms race in this volatile but economically dynamic region.
Japan is rearming its army, all but in name. It is building its first aircraft carrier since the end of WWII. South Korea conducts joint exercises with the US. Vietnam, despite the reluctance of many of its leaders who are probably taking bribes from Beijing, is considering purchasing US weapons.
Given its potential and the prominent role it has played in human history, China is not merely modernization but through modernization, it aims at achieving the status of world superpower, first challenging the USA and then dominating the entire globe.
It has no hesitation in using force to take over territory or sea areas from nations close to its borders or at least very seriously to challenge their sovereignty. Cases in point are Mongolia (Inner Mongolia), Tibet (whole nation), Vietnam (territory and Archipelagos), Korea (islands and sea disputes) and Japan (islands and sea disputes). It has no hesitation in acquiring investment assets from nations far away (in Africa, Central Asia and Australia) through the immense financial wealth it holds as the result of trade surpluses with the USA and Europe.
This brings us to the case of Chinalco’s proposal to acquire up to 18% of Rio Tinto, one of the largest resources companies in Australia. Like all other businesses Rio Tinto needs additional capital in this economic climate. Chinalco is ready to invest $A16 billion. Government could not ignore such a vast proposed injection of cash into the Australian economy with its potential benefits.
Obviously, Australia is a democracy where the rule of law prevails. Such a huge investment in a strategic asset with national security significance must not only comply with the rules, but is closely scrutinized by the public as well as the media. At first, there was strong support from both the Federal treasurer Wayne Swan and the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB). The name of the game in Australia is: first the FIRB considers the proposal on its merit against a set of criteria, taking into account the national interests. Then it will make a recommendation to the treasurer who will have the final say.
However, subsequently and some might say inevitably, the issue of the nature of Chinalco as a company comes into scrutiny by the Australian press and in some government quarters. It turns out that in a communist dictatorship, as a company, Chinalco is owned by the state. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in turn, owns the state. Nobody can seat on the board of Chinalco or become its CEO without the approval of the CCP. Indeed such an influential position as CEO has been given to a senior member of the CCP itself.
Two of the 6 cardinal rules for foreign investments in Australia are: the investor must be at arms length from government and investors are not allowed to buy national security interests.
Given the above presenting issues, many commentators would not like to be in the shoes of the treasurer nor the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who has many friends in Beijing and who speaks Mandarin fluently. They would sooner or later be forced to decline a “generous” offer from a friend.
To the Australian public and politicians alike, the thought of a large share of Rio Tinto belonging the CCP is abhorrent to say the least.
However, as it turns out, they have been spared a difficult decision. Chinalco’s offer was presented first to Rio Tinto shareholders who rejected it outright. Subsequently Rio Tinto entered into a joint venture with a rival BHP Billiton that is mutually beneficial.
Chinalco’s proposed venture to acquire a large interest in an asset of security significance in Australia has failed spectacularly because Australia is a democracy where the rule of law prevails.
Not so in Vietnam with the Chinese proposal to mine Bauxite in the Central Highland.
At first the Vietnamese government, without going through the process of seeking approval of Congress has given permission to the Chinese government to mine Bauxite in the Central Highland. When this matter somehow is vented in some quarters, inside Vietnam and especially in the Vietnamese press in the Diaspora, it becomes larger than life.
144 prominent scientists, academics, opinion-makers signed a petition opposing the project citing environmental, scientific and security grounds. No less a figure than Generalissimo VO Nguyen Giap more than once reminded the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), the government and the Congress of his security concerns. Yet the politburo maintained the party line in favor of awarding the Chinese with the right to mining. Apparently, the Australian public and leaders may find the thought that Australian security assets controlled by the CCP abhorrent, but members of the Politburo of the CPV find it quite good, given the fact that each of them have been well sweetened by huge Chinese bribes.
It is understood that the anti-Chinese feeling among the Vietnamese population is high, even among the rank and file of the CPV. Under intense pressure, the politburo has now decided to delay this matter pending further studies by the Congress, which is a stooge of the party anyway. Thus this matter is yet to be resolved in principle.
Compared to Australia, Vietnam as a dictatorship has no rule of law, no clearly defined criteria for decision making in matter of national security interests.
Yet, Vietnam is more precarious than Australia in that it shares a border with China. The Chinese have invaded Vietnam in the past two thousand years. The last major one in 1979 when Deng Xiao Ping wanted to teach the CPV a lesson. China in currently occupying the Paracel Archipelago belonging to Vietnam and part of the Spratly Archipelago. The CPV has ceded unknown territories to the Chinese to curry their favors through bilateral agreements, which they refuse to make public for fear of a backlash.
All media outlets are publicly owned and must toe the line of the CPV. Thus the people do not have the benefit of scrutiny by a free press.
If anything, China’s imperialist intention in Vietnam has not yet been dealt a fatal blow, as it should.
Short of calling on the souls of our ancestors, who have fought the Chinese invaders for hundreds of years, to arise from their graves and pass judgment on the traitors to their legacy in the CPV politburo, the only choice the people have now is to overthrow this mob, install democracy and the rule of law on the land. For only democracy and the rule of law can defeat the rise and encroachment by such a malevolent superpower the like of China, as it has been proven in Australia.
28 June 2009