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【堅離地報聯盟:The Diplomat🇦🇺】影響印太大局的澳洲大選,中國議題是勝敗關鍵嗎?

【按:澳洲大選在即,中國議題成為朝野主要攻防戰內容,究竟中國因素對選舉結果有何影響?堅離地報聯盟挑選了《The Diplomat》這篇收費文章分享,兩位作者Natasha Kassam和Jennifer Hsu都是來自澳洲著名智庫Lowy Institute。】A red mobile billboard featuring an image of China’s Xi Jinping casting a vote for the Australian Labor Party has been spotted recently on the streets of Canberra, Perth, and Melbourne. A hammer and sickle accompany the words “CCP says vote Labor.”This political advertising, if you could call it that, is authorized by a fringe party, Advance Australia. But with a federal election looming, fearmongering about China in Australia’s federal election is already mainstream.It began with Prime Minister Scott Morrison himself when he accused his rival, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, of being the “Chinese government’s pick at this election.” Morrison went further, describing Labor’s deputy leader as a “Manchurian candidate,” a Cold War-era insult that refers to someone acting for the enemy. These comments were withdrawn, but Albanese too said that if people wanted to see a “Manchurian candidate,” they should look to the prime minister.As one of Australia’s most important, but also most fraught, bilateral relationships, how best to manage ties with China ought to be a central election issue. But rather than debating the policy conundrum Australia faces – having no government-to-government contact with its largest trading partner – China issues have collapsed into contests over who has stronger national security credentials.The fact that China now animates retail politics in Australia can make it look, on the surface, as though there are significant gaps between the two party platforms. The center-right Coalition government wants to campaign on its national security record, and claims the center-left Labor cannot be trusted with Australia’s security. In response, Labor’s strategy is to minimize points of difference in a domain traditionally perceived as a vulnerability.There is accordingly bipartisan support for most of the substantial shifts in China policy over the past few years, as well as more recent announcements on national security and defense also widely perceived as motivated by China.These include but are not limited to the AUKUS agreement and Australia’s plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines; Canberra’s interventions into critical infrastructure in the South Pacific; and the domestic manufacture of ballistic missiles. These decisions will cost billions and require future governments on both sides to invest in their success.While these initiatives have bipartisan support, there are differences in priority and implementation between the two parties. Labor claims it would adopt a more considered and consistent tone in dealing with China, and not allow for domestic politics to infect rhetoric about China. The would-be foreign minister under a Labor government, Penny Wong, has criticized the government for “war-mongering” about the potential for conflict in the Taiwan Strait, for example.On issues that are China-adjacent, a changed government would result in changed priorities. These days, all Australian policy issues – from the price of lobster to carbon emissions – are China-adjacent.But tangible differences get little play during the campaign. This is regrettable, since policy choices regarding China and the associated investments in national defense will have decades-long consequences for Australia’s economy and security, well beyond the election.Spiraling Bilateral RelationsThe unraveling of the Australia-China relationship was a shock at first, and now it seems impossible to remember the before-times. Existing tensions bubbled to the surface in 2017, over Beijing-linked donations to Australian politicians. Now they are immortalized in the “14 grievances,” a list of bilateral irritants that was handed by a Chinese embassy official to an Australian journalist in late 2020. China’s complaints include Australian politicians criticizing China, unfriendly media reporting, and interference in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, among other issues.The decline in the relationship coincided with a sharp turn in Australian public opinion against China. According to an annual Lowy Institute poll, trust in China has plummeted – only 16 percent of Australians say that they trust China “a great deal” or “somewhat” to act responsibly in the world, a remarkable 38-point fall since 2018, when a majority of Australians (52 percent) said they trusted China.It seems like a lifetime ago, but in 2014, China’s President Xi Jinping delivered an address to Australia’s Parliament about friendship and goodwill. Back then, half the country (53 percent) didn’t know who Xi was. By 2021, only one in ten Australians had confidence in Xi to do the right thing regarding world affairs.Against the backdrop of souring public opinion, it is easy to see why hardening China policy could pay domestic dividends, or at least serve as a wedge in Australian politics. The Labor party has criticized the Coalition government for using foreign policy for domestic political purposes, and says that it would be more disciplined and constructive in tone. But declining public attitudes toward China may limit Australia’s future policy options, regardless of the election outcome.In any case, the Labor party has agreed with or supported all of the significant China policy decisions taken by the Coalition government, on issues as broad as legislating to prevent foreign interference in Australian politics, restricting Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE from Australia’s 5G network, increasing defense spending, and passing Magnitsky-style legislation that would sanction human rights abusers.In Australia, even views of China’s economic growth – historically a positive for Australians, given China is the country’s number one trading partner – have now shifted into negative territory. As recently as three years ago, 82 percent of Australians saw China as “more of an economic partner to Australia.” Today, that number sits at 34 percent. By contrast, the majority of Australians (63 percent) see China as “more of a security threat to Australia.“Australians were unimpressed by Beijing’s decision to coerce Australia with tariffs and sanctions for the past two years. Beijing’s decisions, seemingly in response to Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into COVID-19, have been met with uniformly bipartisan resolve. This includes both sides stating that China’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade bloc would require the lifting of trade sanctions on Australia.New Chinese Ambassador Xiao Qian has expressed openness to meeting “halfway” – though it is unclear what that means precisely. Both the structurally stark and often zero-sum nature of the two governments’ disagreements, plus increasing public skepticism, suggest that future governments will face few incentives to accept “halfway” as sufficient.Shaping the Indo-PacificChina’s often truculent assertiveness and Australia’s shift in posture reveal the outlines of a new and generally bipartisan Indo-Pacific strategy, centered on the goal of promoting an open and inclusive region where states can operate without coercion.Recently, Morrison has been invoking an ideological framework for his view of the world. He warned earlier this year that a new “arc of autocracy” had emerged that aimed to rewrite the world order, contrasting with his desire for an order that “favors freedom.”The headline initiative of the trilateral security pact, drawn up in September 2021, between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) is to help Australia to procure at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. The three countries also announced recently plans to develop hypersonic missiles.The Labor party has made clear that it supports AUKUS, but has criticized the government’s handling of the announcement. The deal required canceling an existing submarine deal with France, leading to French President Emmanuel Macron famously calling Morrison a liar. Labor has also questioned the potential for a capability gap in Australia, observing that AUKUS represents the third submarine procurement plan under the Coalition government.There are numerous other examples of Labor criticizing the government on issues of tone rather than substance. When Defense Minister Peter Dutton said it was “inconceivable” that Australia would not defend Taiwan in the case of China invading, Labor condemned the comments as an example of using foreign policy for domestic political gain (though Dutton’s remarks were not repeated by the prime minister or foreign minister).The Coalition government’s enthusiasm for the revival of the Quad is also mostly caused by China. The security grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States has been elevated to the leaders’ level in the past year, with the support of the Labor party.The bipartisan support for these security arrangements has also been mirrored in defense spending. The Coalition government committed in 2020 to increase defense spending by AU$70 billion, which Labor has pledged to uphold. Both parties have also signaled that strengthening the domestic defense industry is a priority.But Labor supporting these initiatives does not mean that a future Labor government would focus on the same priorities. Under the Coalition government, security agencies have been empowered while funding for the foreign service and aid programs has declined in relative terms.By contrast, a Labor government would likely boost funding for diplomacy and foreign aid – as demonstrated in their recent pledge for the Pacific, if elected to government. Labor’s response to rising autocracy would also likely elevate both Australia’s Indigenous and multicultural heritage as well as its open and tolerant political and social institutions as strategic strengths in the struggle against authoritarianism.The Coalition government’s response to uncertainty in the region has prioritized security deals and defense procurement. Labor would likely be more ASEAN and less AUKUS. They say they intend to be more consultative, particularly with Southeast Asia, and would improve Australia’s standing in the Pacific through a more proactive climate change policy.Australia’s approach to the Pacific unexpectedly became an issue early in the campaign, when Solomon Islands signed a bilateral security agreement with China – the first of its kind in the Pacific – and in the process exposed a weak link in the Morrison government’s “tough on China” campaign platform.Labor pounced, claiming the agreement was the worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific in almost 80 years. Labor has since announced a range of new Pacific policies, including increasing the aid budget, funding climate change adaption, enabling the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to deliver Australian content to Pacific nations, and more training for regional military and security forces.Since the signing of the security agreement, Morrison said that a Chinese military base in Solomon Islands would be the “red line” for Australia and the United States. White House Indo-Pacific czar Kurt Campbell also issued a similarly oblique warning, saying that Washington would have “significant concerns and respond accordingly” to a permanent Chinese military presence.It is extremely rare for foreign policy to play a significant role in an Australian election, let alone Pacific policy. Both Australia’s major parties are in the unusual position of reacting to decisions made in Beijing and Honiara, rather than setting the campaign narrative for themselves.Collateral DamageStill, efforts to wield national security as a political weapon in an election campaign are not surprising, particularly when the incumbent is perceived to have an advantage in the space. But there are unfortunate consequences of the politicization of the China debate, particularly for Chinese Australians.Chinese Australians today number 1.2 million people and Mandarin has become the second-most spoken language in the country. There is significant diversity among Chinese Australians; many were born in Australia, with family histories that span generations into Australia’s past. The majority have migrated more recently, moving from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.Most Chinese Australians feel positively toward China, in stark contrast to the broader Australian population. These communities have felt increased pressure as the relationship between China and Australia has deteriorated. Alleged links between Chinese Australians and Beijing have come under scrutiny from the Australian government, media, and the public. Chinese Australian candidates for local and federal elections have been accused of ties to Beijing.Adding to these strains, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed further pressure on Chinese Australian communities. According to the Lowy Institute’s “Being Chinese in Australia” surveys, 18 percent of Chinese Australians reported that they had been physically threatened or attacked because of their Chinese heritage. The majority say the pandemic and Australia-China relations played a factor in this treatment.Little Chance for ChangeDuring the 2020 U.S. presidential election, there was an ongoing debate as to whether a Biden administration would be “soft on China.” This was despite a high level of consensus as to the challenge that China posed and the need for some shift in the China-U.S. relationship.The opposite proved true. President Joe Biden’s policies toward China had far more continuity than change from the previous administration.Australian policies toward China are on a similar track. The structural tensions in the relationship, coupled with historic lows in public opinion, leave little room to maneuver, regardless of who will be in government. And the heated rhetoric around the potential for a new government to be “soft” in its policies can only lock in the current course of action.There is little reason to expect significant changes in China policy, even under a Labor government. And while a change in government may bring subtle shifts, the existing structures and decisions that govern Australia’s place in the region will not change.The 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia is fast approaching. The current stalemate has seen no high-level official contact for almost two years. From China’s side, this milestone, coupled with a new government in Canberra, may present an opportunity for re-opening formal dialogue, albeit quietly. Even if the freeze on diplomatic contact were to thaw, the raft of bilateral irritants and structural tensions will continue to define the relationship. The election outcome is unlikely to change this.⏺Source: https://magazine.thediplomat.com/#/issues/-N0_AarqoSdov3jrJYES/preview/-N0_AzN9j6__DJ9RDEzg...
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