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Unite the “House” Against All Imperialism

Written by: Nick G. on 17 November 2020


The so-called “Centre for Independent Studies”, a right-wing neo-liberal think-tank, is far from independent, as a recently published paper calling for a tightening of restrictions on Chinese influence in Australia shows.

The paper is by US sociologist Salvatore Babones, currently an associate professor at the University of Sydney. The paper is titled A House Divided: The AFRB and China's Subnational Diplomacy in Australia where AFRB stands for the recently enacted Australia’s Foreign Relations Bill (AFRB). Last August, PM Morrison said that the Bill would help the Commonwealth keep tabs on subnational diplomacy that already involved “more than 130 agreements, from 30 countries”.

By “subnational” is meant relationships that other countries have directly with Australian state, territory, and local governments and associated governmental entities (including state-chartered universities). Sister-city and sister-state relations are also included. Despite Morrison’s reference to “30 countries”, it is really only China with which the Bill is concerned.

Babones’ paper makes two recommendations. Firstly, there should be more information made publicly available about “commercially sensitive” matters embedded in (China’s) sub-national agreements. 

The second recommendation is to do away with Morrison’s pretence that the AFRB is “not directed at any particular country” by exempting the US and other friendly imperialist countries from the requirements of the Bill.

Here is Babones:

The AFRB should be amended to establish a ‘trusted partners’ list of countries with which arrangements can be made without any need for ministerial approval. Such arrangements might still require registration, but they should not be tied up in uncertain and potentially time-consuming bureaucratic processes. Subnational government and university agreements with counterparties in New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the member countries of the European Union, and many other liberal democratic countries are, frankly, unproblematic, and should not be covered by the AFRB. In practice, the AFRB is, as nearly every commentator has recognised, ‘all about China’. Obviously, it would be inappropriate and grossly undiplomatic to name China explicitly in the bill, but the bill could give the foreign minister the authority to establish a trusted partners list, to which the minister could immediately add all of Australia’s closest allies. China would be left off the trusted partner list, but so too would (presumably) Russia, Iran, North Korea, and many other countries besides China.

Our view is that such a Bill must be applied without fear or favour to all countries which have imperiaist influence, or are seeking to extend their influence, in Australia. 

We include China in that, but we also insist that it must expose US and other imperialist “arrangements” within which our independence as a nation is constrained.

Nor do we rely on parliamentary Bills to carry out that exposure. We promote the people's own mass movements and activities against imperialism.

There is only one imperialist power currently dominating Australia and that is US imperialism. But it is worried about the ease with which its imperialist rival, China, is making headway in the region and within Australia itself.

We reject any phony “independence” that purports to defend our sovereignty from one imperialist power by tying us more firmly to another.

For genuine anti-imperialist independence and socialism!




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