Wednesday 23rd of January 2019

selling chopsticks to the chinese...


A Chinese embassy spokesman has said the idea that China is planning to establish a military base in Vanuatu is “ridiculous”.

Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that China was eyeing a base in the Pacific nation. “That’s impossible,” said Chen Ke, a spokesman for the ambassador to Vanuatu.

A senior Vanuatu government adviser concurred: “That conversation was never on the table.” The adviser claimed detailed knowledge of relevant matters in two key ministries and insisted that the topic was never even hinted at. They went on to suggest that the source of the Fairfax story was not the government of Vanuatu.

Fairfax reported there had been informal discussions between China and Vanuatu, but no formal offer, about a military buildup. China has diplomatic relations with many Pacific nations and is a major backer of development projects in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.

The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, told the ABC on Tuesday morning she remained “confident that Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice”.

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getting off the teat of kanbra...

In the 1940s Darwin became an important staging point for US sailors fighting in the Pacific; the USS Peary was sunk in Darwin harbour during the Japanese bombing on 19 February 1942, killing 88 Americans on board. The Top End has remained welcoming of American troops, and is now home to more than 1,000 US Marines who rotate through each year.

Adam Giles’s government made little secret of its intention to lease the port of Darwin. But the transaction to a Chinese company sparked a diplomatic incident in late 2015, in particular straining links between Darwin, Canberra and Washington.

For Giles, the lease was a statement of defiance in the face of 14 consecutive denied requests for federal funding to upgrade facilities at the port. “This is about getting off the teat of Canberra, becoming less and less reliant on money from Canberra,” a senior government figure told the NT News at the time to sum up Giles’s motivation for flogging the port to the Landbridge Group. The deal was a good one for the Territory: the price of A$506m was better than expected, it opened the door to significant trade opportunities, and on that basis the NT News was relatively supportive.


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The new Chinese owner of Darwin Port is heavily indebted and has struggled to make interest payments on money borrowed to buy the lease, raising doubts over promises to upgrade the port and fund a new $200 million hotel on a nearby site.

An analysis of the finances of the Landbridge Group and its billionaire founder Ye Cheng shows he does not fit the stereotype of a cashed-up Chinese billionaire with access to cheap funding from state-owned banks.

Rather, Landbridge's local accounts and documents lodged in China show an over-extended company scrambling from one loan repayment to the next and paying up to 12 per cent interest on some borrowings.

The company is equally exposed to refinancing risks in China's volatile debts markets, where it has been forced to scrap four bond issues in the last two years.

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spook's turds to test the turbidity of chinese tea...

What could be more self-serving for our military, spooks & government than a story about about China maybe wanting a Vanuatu wharf? Yes, I have been around long enough to be sceptical about "intelligence" story drops - haven't we all?

Michael Pascoe


 Martin Hirst:

The tell that this was a planted story is in the lack of detail and the vague sourcing:

'The prospect of a Chinese military outpost so close to Australia has been discussed at the highest levels in Canberra and Washington.'

The Vanuatu Government was quick to issue denials and even labelled the Fairfax reports as “fake news”.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said rumours of discussions with China over a military base were false.

"We are a non-aligned country. We are not interested in militarisation, we are just not interested in any sort of military base in our country," Mr Regenvanu told the ABC.

However, David Wroe’s story still had the effect desired by the Australian “security officials” who briefed him. Within hours, PM Turnbull was able to front the media to express Australia’s concern at the – still unproven – rumours.

"We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours," Turnbull bloviated.

This is an interesting position and an even more puzzling definition of “foreign”. The United States operates more than 20 military bases across the Pacific – from Hawaii to Japan and many ports in between – so why isn’t this alarming to our Prime Minister?

And this is what is really ironic and cynical about Turnbull’s concern: there is – as yet – no Chinese military base in Vanuatu, yet the United States operates permanent military bases throughout the Pacific, including in Australia, Japan (21 bases), Guam and South Korea.


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we are surrounded...



The sense of danger that grips us when we are confronted with the possibility of one Chinese base on an island 2,000 kilometres away should give us pause to consider how China's sense of security is affected by a chain of hundreds of American bases stretching longitudinally along the Western Pacific.

Australian leaders are right to oppose the construction of a Chinese military base in the South Pacific.

But as long as we enthusiastically support, encourage, and participate in the much larger American military build-up in the region, rather than seeking to moderate and reduce regional tensions through our alliance, we should expect nothing else.


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meanwhile in syria...

China is stepping up its involvement in Syria, not with its military, but with cash – and lots of it. For Beijing, war-torn Syria is a golden opportunity for reconstruction business. For Damascus, prosperity means peace.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem have shown through their cordial  discussions that Beijing and Damascus are on the same page when it comes to envisaging the rebuilding of Syria through partnership.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also recently backed the Russian-brokered peace talks held in Sochi and Astana. When Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an urgent shift to diplomatic efforts to stabilize Syria and the Middle East region, Beijing appears to have answered that call with ambitious reconstruction plans.

Firms from China are reportedly queuing up to win contracts for rebuilding entire towns and villages, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and communication networks devastated by nearly seven years of war.


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misunderstanding china...




By James O'Neill*


At the recent Australia-China Business Council meeting in Canberra, China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye accused Australia of harbouring a cold war mentality, and said that “less bias and bigotry” was needed if the currently strained relationship between the two countries was to be repaired.

Prime Minister Turnbull, addressing the same conference after Mr Cheng, said that the relationship between Australia and China was a “very, very strong one” that could endure differences that might arise from time to time.

The different perspectives of the two men neatly reflect the wider problem in Australia-China relations:  that each side has a different perspective that is not easy, and often impossible, to reconcile.

The default position of the Australian media and the political class is suspicion of China. As Andre Vltchek points out in an important essay (The West Really Hates China 18 June 2018) the reasons for this are rooted in ignorance of Chinese history and culture; racism reflected in discriminatory legislation and practices; and a persistent tendency to view China’s re-emergence as a great power threatening to western values.

There is, he says, an “absolute darkness” and a “withering ignorance” regarding the Chinese view of the world. Instead, everything is filtered through a western prism, often with “unsurpassable arrogance.”  This is commonly reflected in Western criticism of China’s alleged flaunting of the “rules based international order.”

According to a Pew Research poll conducted in 2017, in Japan, the United States and Europe a greater proportion of the population viewed China negatively, and this is the view constantly expressed in western media. In the rest of the world however, which accounts for the vast bulk of the world’s population, the reverse is true. Favourable ratings outnumber unfavourable by a ratio of 2:1 – 3:1. This is never reflected in the western media.

The western attitude to China however, goes beyond prejudice and ignorance. The United States, which sees itself as the “exceptional nation” to whom the normal rules do not apply, is actively provoking China in word and deed, and never more obviously than in the South China Sea.

Addressing the Shangri-La Strategic Dialogue conference in Singapore on 2 June 2018 the United States secretary of defence James Mattis warned China of “consequences” for what it has done in the South China Sea. Mattis disinvited China from the RIMPAC multinational naval exercises held annually, saying that was a “relatively small consequence, but I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”

”Containing” China has long been a US strategic imperative, but the role of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a huge undertaking involving the Eurasian, African and South American continents has given a fresh impetus to American strategy in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The new commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Davidson told his Senate confirmation hearing on 17th of April that his major task was to prepare his forces for war with China, and enlisting as many allies as possible (Australia being a prominent one)  in the Pentagon’s campaign to encircle China.

This “containment” already exists in the form of 400 US military bases located in proximity to China (China by contrast has two foreign military bases, one each in Pakistan and Djibouti). The US maintains what it calls a “continuous bomber presence” in the South China Sea. These nuclear-armed bombers are stated by the US to “demonstrate its global strike capacity.”

The US (with Australian military and political support) also conducts what it calls “freedom of navigation” exercises with its warships in the South China Sea. These freedom of navigation operations are an illustration of the hypocrisy that characterizes so much of US and Australian statements on the South China Sea.

The US regularly asserts its “rights” to conduct such exercises because freedom of navigation is guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to the Convention however, such navigation is exercised in accordance with the rules of international law. Those rules guaranteed the right of “peaceful passage”. Conducting military exercises in disputed territorial waters is not “passage”, peaceful or otherwise.

Furthermore, the US is not even a signatory to the Convention, unlike China that ratified the Convention in 1986. The US military exercises in the South China Sea have in fact nothing to do with freedom of navigation, but rather in practicing and demonstrating its “global strike capability.”

The US is located approximately 12,000km from the South China Sea, and Hainan Island is nearly 7,500km from Canberra. The vast bulk of Chinese Maritime trade passes through the South China Sea (unlike the US or Australia) and if any nation has a strong vested interest in freedom of navigation in these waters it is China.

China’s attitude to the hostile intentions of the US and its allies is undoubtedly reinforced by operation Talisman Sabre, a joint US-Australian naval exercise that practices blockading the narrow (2.5km) Malacca Strait through which more than 80% of China’s oil imports pass.

In this context this is hardly surprising that China has fortified Woody Island in the Paracel Group that lies south east of Hainan and has been occupied solely by China since 1974. An airfield capable of landing military aircraft has been built, and anti aircraft missile batteries installed. It is likely that the Dong Feng 21D Cruise missile system has also been deployed. This anti-ship missile travels at Mach10 and is accurate to within 1 metre. No US ship in the South China Sea is invulnerable and the Dong Feng’s capabilities have rendered obsolete US military power projection that is dependent on the aircraft carrier and its attendant ships and fighter aircraft.

This Chinese activity is invariably portrayed in the west as evidence of Chinese “aggression” or “assertiveness.”  It is certainly the latter, and when viewed in the context of US and allied statements and behaviour, entirely understandable.

The reporting bias (it scarcely deserves the term ‘analysis’) comes from the fact that identical conduct has been exhibited by Vietnam (8 fortified islands so far) and Taiwan. In Taiwan’s case it has fortified Taiping Island in the Spratlys, which lie 1637km to the south east of Taiwan.

A similar blindness is shown to the claim brought by the Philippines over the PRC’s ill-defined claims within the so-called 9 Dash Line. This particular claim to rights within the South China Sea was in fact made two years before the PRC came into existence. The successor government to Chiang Kai Shek, who occupy what is now the island of Taiwan, maintains an identical claim to that of the PRC, and was similarly critical of the Tribunal’s decision.

That claim was ostensibly brought by the Philippines, but was in fact argued by British and American lawyers. Its findings have essentially been ignored, not least by the Philippines itself which under President Duterte has made considerable efforts to reduce American influence and improve relations with the PRC.

The 2002 ASEAN-China declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea has the important provision that its members “resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.”  That agreement continues to be the basis of negotiations by the parties. In 2017 there was unanimous consent to finalise a code of conduct framework that notably excluded any reference to China’s behaviour in the South China Sea (or that of any other party), and promoted the goal of consultation and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Yeah could not be a clearer demarcation between the militaristic and confrontational approach of the US and its allies, and those countries actually at the centre of the issues. The US will undoubtedly continue to threaten and bluster about China, joined by its faithful echo chamber in Canberra. The reality however, that the real “rest of the world” is tired of the violent antics of the fading US hegemon and is looking for an alternative strategic framework. The danger resides in the unwillingness of the US to recognise the shift in the geopolitical balance, and in its desperation to maintain the vestiges of its fading hegemony may plunge us all into a further war.


*Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.  He may be contacted at


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selling the abc...?

A Chinese station has taken over some of the shortwave radio frequencies once used by the ABC in the Pacific region, following the broadcaster's decision to end shortwave services.

Key points:
  • The ABC chose to end shortwave radio broadcasts in early 2017
  • China's state-owned broadcaster now uses Radio Australia's old frequencies
  • Australia's overseas broadcasting in the Asia Pacific is being reviewed 


Radio Australia switched off its shortwave transmissions to remote parts of northern Australia and across the Pacific in January 2017.

The ABC insisted at the time the shortwave technology was out of date and it would save $1.9 million by cutting the service, which it said would be reinvested in expanding content and services.

The decision was met by an outcry from affected listeners, and there has been continued agitation to bring the service back.

The Australian newspaper has reported Radio Australia's former shortwave frequencies are now being used by China Radio International, the country's state-owned overseas broadcaster.

Claire Moore, Labor's spokeswoman for international development and the Pacific, said she was not surprised Chinese services snapped up Australia's old frequencies.

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Short wave radio is the only way to communicate around the globe without satellites nor repeaters. Depending on the time of day, the radio waves bounce against the Van Allen belts' charge particles and reflect back to earth. When I was in Africa in the 1960s it was the only way to hear the BBC, Radio America and other services transmitted from Europe. 


It was also the way "spies" transmitted messages in short bursts of highly compressed information that could only be captured by alerted people to the time of transmission and the decompression decoders.