Australia is in Deep Trouble By James Reed
It is almost certain that Beijing Biden has stolen the presidency, since Trump is too weak to take the final step of martial law and use of the Insurrection Act. He just wants to play golf, like a cuck, only marginally better than soft-faced men like Pence, and that other softer guy who does not have a jaw, let alone backbone. Australia, now more than ever, is going to face the full onslaught of China. I am glad to be as old as I am, since dying now is not much a loss. It would be too bad to be younger, with something to live for, like a business, children, things like that. Wow, the good men should have fought a bit harder decade, if not a century ago. Like others, I keep having these deep existential regrets about the fall of the West. Still, march and die, as an old digger once used to say to me.
“China's island-grabbing campaign is getting close to home. It's muscling in on tiny nations from the Indian to the Pacific Oceans. But Australia's begun pushing back.
Ceylon. Savo Island. Coral Sea. Guadalcanal. Gilbert and Marshall Islands. Tarawa. Truk. Guam.
These were names plucked from obscurity by bloody battles against Japan during World War II. They were battles fought because these seemingly insignificant islands - some little more than coral atolls and volcanic outcrops - are important. They are remote outposts, rare landfalls in vast oceans.
They sit astride shipping lanes that carry the lifeblood of South-East Asia's and Oceania's economies.
Those controlling these specks on the map potentially have an impact on world affairs seemingly out of all proportion.
Not since the darkest days of World War II has Australia begun to feel the pressure of isolation and constraint.
Germany did little more than harass our shipping in the Indian Ocean, carrying troops and equipment to the Middle East and vital resources in return.
But Japan's overwhelming raids on Darwin and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1942 brutally demonstrated just how vulnerable we were. And once the Pacific Islands began to fall, the links between Australia and the United States began to look tenuous as well.
That encirclement of Australia was with steel ships, aluminium aircraft and the blood and sweat of tens of thousands of troops.
It's an encirclement some analysts fear we are experiencing again.
But in place of warships and tanks, China is steamrolling across our region with promises of grand works of infrastructure - and weaponised loans.
Debt-trap diplomacy is behind a new land grab. It's the lure of loans pushed on poor countries that cannot afford to repay them.
Now new regional names are registering on Australia's radar as they teeter and fall.
Male. Manus. Luganville. Wewak.
China has showered small nations such as Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands with concessional loans. The Lowy Institute think-tank estimates Beijing pushed more than $2.3 billion into to the region between 2006 and 2016.
The fates of these far-flung places could be a bellwether of our own.
Last week, the scattering of tiny islands that is the Maldives Archipelago in the Indian Ocean opened an enormous new runway.
Velana International Airport is on the island of Male. The broad new airstrip was built on land reclaimed from the sea by a Chinese state-backed company, using money from … Beijing.
It followed close on the heels of another controversial Maldives-China project.
"The nation celebrated the opening of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, hailed as the project of the century in the small Indian Ocean nation and a hallmark project of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative (BRI)," the state-run Global Times reported in August.
"Although some said the Maldivian government will bear a heavy debt from the massive infrastructure co-operation with China, Maldivian officials said they appreciate China's generosity."
It was a pointed - if unconvincing - rebuttal of the 'debt-trap' narrative.
But Beijing is already in a position in the tiny strife-torn nation to seize both as collateral - and turn them towards military purposes.
Then there's Manus.
Once part of the British Admiralty Islands, it was seized from the Japanese by the United States for use as a major World War II naval staging post.
Now part of Papua New Guinea, it has once again returned to the world's stage.
China has been showing interest.
Having airfield and port facilities there could boost its 'Island Chain' ambitions, and establish a prickly thorn between Australia and US facilities on the island of Guam.
But Australia has begun pushing back.
"The Pacific is a very high-priority area of strategic national security interest for Australia," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, refusing to confirm or deny reports Australian defence officials had visited the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus to assess its potential for expansion.
Details of any future jointly-operated, upgraded facility there will not be revealed before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby in November.
The Maldives and Manus are just the most recent in a rapid-pace series of international powerplays in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Relations between Canberra and Beijing plunged to a new low earlier this year after we criticised China's 'debt-trap diplomacy' and undue influence in the politics of countries throughout the region - including our own.
Beijing lashed back, using its state-run media to label Australia as an "arrogant overlord".
It's about President Xi Jinping's grand vision.
He sees China's influence extending far beyond its own borders.
In 2013, he detailed his grand scheme to revitalise the ancient Silk Road and sea spice routes.
It would 'restore' China's position at the centre of a trade hub extending to Europe and Africa.
The Belt and Road Initiative - as it has become known - demands a networks of ports, airfields, roads and railways spanning the globe.
Chinese state-owned companies now control about 76 ports in 35 countries - including Darwin. And while Beijing openly insists it only wants to use these ports for commercial purposes, its warships and submarines have already been seen docked in several.
Now President Xi wants another 'Silk Road' - this time extending into the Pacific.
Ministers from Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji were among those invited to Beijing in 2017 for the launch of the Belt and Road project. They were offered access to $55 billion in loans.
This sparked alarm in Australia, the US and Europe.
Beijing's loans do not come cheap.
"Such indebtedness gives China significant leverage over Pacific Island countries and may see China place pressure on Pacific nations to convert loans into equity in infrastructure," the Lowy Institute's recent Safeguarding Australia's Security Interests report warns.
"It's not 'win - win' for China and the recipient, but simply 'win' for China, which not only gets access to local resources and new markets, and forward presence, but can coerce the recipient state to pay a 'tribute' to Beijing by ceding local assets when it can't pay back its debts," the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Dr Malcolm Davis notes.
Beijing rejects this.
An editorial published by the state-run Global Times says South Pacific nations had been 'bewitched' by Western countries including Australia and the US "who sought to gain political leverage in the region".
"Unlike Western aid, which always comes with political and economic conditions, Chinese aid has been widely welcomed by South Pacific nations as it has no political conditions," it quoted research fellow in Australian Studies Yu Lei as saying.
But China does not openly declare its international aid projects in the same way other nations such as Australia does. This has raised a degree of anxiety about exactly how much it is spending, where - and why.
Now, China's taking a leaf out of the US playbook.
It wants strong military facilities spaced around its 'sphere of influence'.
It calls that sphere the Second Island Chain - a rough line from Japan in the north to Papua New Guinea in the south.
But as Beijing's dominance over the First Island Chain (including Taiwan, the Spratleys, and Paracels) of the South China Sea seems all but complete, a 'Third Island Chain' appears to be emerging - extending from the Maldives in the west to Fiji in the east.
"The most troubling implication for Australian interests is that a future naval or air base in Vanuatu would give China a foothold for operations to coerce Australia, outflank the US and its base on US territory at Guam, and collect intelligence in a regional security crisis," Rory Medcalf, the head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, wrote in a recent Lowy Institute report.
It's a similar story for the Maldives, potentially cutting Australia's fuel supplies and trade links to Singapore, India and Europe.”
Welcome to the Chinese future that out traitorous academics have been celebrating for some time.