I recently read Jarrod Diamond’s latest book, Catastrophe, in which he discusses how various countries he knows well have dealt with an existentialist crisis facing them. One of those is Australia.
The first country he writes about in his book is far flung Finland, somewhere on the far side of the world close to the frozen northern wastes, sandwiched between Russia and the Scandinavian countries (of which Finland insists it is part).
Finland’s existentialist crisis arose from the war of aggression which the Soviet Union launched against it at the start of the Second World War, at the same time that the Soviet Union sought to reclaim the other recently independent nations which had been part of the Russian Empire. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia all ceased to be independent.
Finland, although it had the misfortune to find itself a co-belligerent of the Axis Powers, managed to retain its independence. This came at a great price – 100,000 dead out of a population of less than four million (that is approximately eight times the losses per capita that Australia suffered) and the loss of its second largest city and a slice of its territory.
After the war, faced with the menace of a very large and aggressive neighbour, the USSR, Finland sought a modus vivendi which many in the West (including a young Dr Diamond) found appalling. They compromised on their foreign policy, their internal politics, and on their freedom of press and speech, in order to prevent the USSR from feeling a need to invade and remove their remaining independence.
They also maintained a very high ratio of reserve forces, so as to remind the Soviets that whilst military victory over Finland was inevitable, it would again be extremely costly.
The USSR hence came to accept the independence of Finland, the politically neutral neighbour which would not criticise them or give them any cause to invade and establish it as a buffer state, the way that it had in several instances in Eastern Europe.
Finlandize became a verb, meaning:
to induce a country to favour, or refrain from opposing, the interests of a more powerful country despite not being politically allied to it.
Which brings us to the current state of relations between Australia and the tyrannical state that is Communist China.
Two years ago, Clive Hamilton, a respected academic, wrote a book called Silent Invasion, in which he sought to warn Australians about the subversion of our democracy and the compromise of our political process by Communist China. His usual publisher, Allen and Unwin, declined to publish this book. Accusations have been made that this is the book that Communist China tried to stop.
I bought three copies, and made sure that each was widely circulated and read. It is the least that I can do as a responsible and patriotic citizen.
I do not recall Dr Hamilton using the term ‘Finlandize’ in his book, but I do recall that he voiced concerns that Communist China’s goals included reducing Australia to a client state, where our alliance with the USA was abandoned, where criticism of China’s interests was suppressed, and where we might even be prepared to compromise on our legal and political freedoms.
Dr Hamilton did mention various ‘soft power’ techniques being used, such as the mobilisation of the Chinese student population in Australia to oppose Free Tibet demonstrations, and the donations strategically being made to our major political parties, so as to mute any scrutiny.
Soon after that, the then Senator Sam Dastayari proved the effectiveness of this when he was found to be parroting support for Communist China’s aggressive foreign policy in contravention of his own party’s policies. Thankfully, in his indiscretions, Mr Dastayari has done the Australian people a great service, in that he has provided a very stark illustration of the peril under which our democracy now can be compromised.
He is not Robinson Crusoe, sadly. Politicians of either colour, usually on their retirement from politics, have taken Beijing’s shilling (or yuan) through lucrative lobbying fees, or company directorships. Paul Keating, sadly, seems to be the most vocal of those in defending the interests of the PRC and criticising those Australians who are concerned about that influence, proof, as I have always suspected, that a nationalist is not a patriot.
Twiggy Forrest, for all the the good that he has done and continues to do, featured heavily in Silent Invasion, given that he has such extensive business interests dependent on trade with the PRC. His recent behaviour and utterances would probably cause him, if this book was to be revised for a second edition, to feature more prominently again.
His recent comments about the origins of coronavirus reek of Finlandization:
“Because it just might be Australia, it just might be Britain, it just might be China.”
This is nowhere near the standard of the Communist Chinese official who speculated that the US Army had brought coronavirus to China, but it is the sort of supposedly offhand comment which will reassure PRC officials about the wisdom of continuing to do business with Mr Forrest and his companies.
Of course, Communist China would like to be reassured about the wisdom of continuing to trade with Australia more generally. They do not like it when our political leaders call for an international enquiry into the origins of the pandemic. As a direct result, our beef and barley trade with Communist China is currently under threat.
Finlandizing is a drastic step, and not one that Australia should ever take in relation to Communist China.
Firstly, the consequences of Finlandizing are terrible.
Do we really want to abandon our long held military alliances with other anglophonic democracies such as the US, which give us protection from the risk of foreign invasion, and which would leave us at danger of aggression from regional powers such as Communist China?
Do we want to abandon our ethical and decent voice in foreign affairs, where we do call out tyrannical and appalling behaviour?
Do we want to institute practices where we silence internal critics of our government and its policies, particularly where those criticism may offend our economic interests offshore?
Do we abandon the strong guarantees of political and legal liberty that have developed since the time of Magna Carta in 1215?
Ask yourself as to whether the trade and economic benefits which we gradually have obtained over the past 30 years are really worth selling our legal and political liberties for, the birthright of the Australian people? It really would be similar to Esau selling his birthright for some red pottage.
Secondly, is there any real need for us to Finlandize?
Finland is a small nation, which shares a very long land border with Russia (ie the former Soviet Union). It was very far from any potential help, and even further from any help whom one would want to call upon in 1939.
Australia, on the other hand, lies about 5000 miles south of Communist China. To reach and threaten Australia militarily, Communist China requires a much more reliable army than that it now has, and a blue water navy. It first needs to threaten a large number of its neighbours to the north. They will need to neutralise our alliance with the US, who do have the largest blue water navy on Earth, as well as other superior forces. They cannot menace us militarily.
Through the use of soft power, various politicians and business leaders have become sympathetic to Communist China. This is now on the public record and in the public eye. Such views cannot now be held and expressed without being closely scrutinised as for motive and for loyalty. Thank you, Mr Dastayari.
Communist China is currently a major trading partner of Australia. However, this is a problem we share with much of the rest of the world, where many have been burying their dead without ceremony during the pandemic. There will be a reckoning, and a trade reorientation out of the recession which has been caused by the Wuhan pandemic.
The costs of trading with Communist China now threaten to seriously outweigh the benefits for the rights and liberties, not merely the prosperity, of all Australians, and indeed of the nation.
Let us not Finlandize, or even make the diplomatic noises associated with complicity with the tyranny that is Communist China. This is the time where we need to call them out for the threat that they pose to their own people and to world peace.