In October 2015, the U.S. warship, the USS Lassen destroyer (pictured left) sailed through waters, not far from mainland China, that are claimed by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) as its territorial waters. This provocative action in the South China Sea was fully backed by the right-wing Australian government and the ALP Opposition. Moreover, the Defence White Paper of 25 February 2016 released by Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull’s government announced a massive military buildup for the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) which the White Paper could not hide was squarely targeted at China. The government “defence” plan announced that the ADF would have its troop numbers boosted to 62,400 in five years. That means that the Australian military as a percentage of the population will be over 60% larger than the PRC’s military which, in contrast, is in the process of reducing troop numbers by 15%.
The White Paper also announced the ADF’s massive expansion of military hardware including the acquisition of 12 new submarines, 9 warships, 12 patrol vessels, 75 joint strike fighters, two fleets of drones and additional helicopters for special forces troops. Excited by this announcement, racist former defence minister in the Abbott government, Kevin Andrews called for Australia to join the U.S. in sending warships into China’s claimed territorial waters in the South China Sea. Yet it is not only hardline right-wingers like Kevin Andrews who are demanding such aggressive actions. Months earlier, Labor shadow defence minister Stephen Conroy started demanding the same thing. Meanwhile, Liberal defence minister, Marise Payne yesterday refused to rule out the possibility that the Australian Navy may take such incendiary action in the future.
The aim of this Australian military build-up and provocations is supposedly in large part to defend “international laws” of the sea in the South China Sea. What lies! The Australian ruling elite do not care at all about international laws of the sea. After all the Australian government outrageously violated such laws by claiming the rich oil and gas resources on East Timor’s side of the mid-line in the waters between Australian and Timor. And joining the U.S. in targeting the PRC in the South China Sea certainly does not have anything to do with “defending Australia’s shores.” The South China Sea is thousands upon thousands of kilometres from Australia, while being adjacent to China! Imagine the hysteria there would be if the PRC Navy sent warships without Australia’s permission to storm through the Bass Strait or to sail just off the coast of Sydney in the Tasman Sea.
The fact is that the Australian government and the ADF – like the entire state apparatus in capitalist Australia – does not serve the Australian people as such but only one small section of the Australian population: the capitalist exploiting class. In doing so the Australian government and military acts against the interests of working class people. This was seen all too clearly when the Australian army mobilised to smash the huge 1949 NSW miners strike and then in 1989 when the then Hawke Labor government unleashed the Air Force to fly scab planes to break the airline pilots strike. The Australian state also acts against the interests of the masses when it acts abroad. In 1989, the Australian military assisted the PNG military to brutally attack and blockade the people of the PNG-controlled island of Bougainville after they had risen up against the destruction of their land and lack of compensation by Australian owned mining giant CRA (which later become part of today’s Rio Tinto). Then in 1999, the Australian military occupied East Timor under the guise of “liberating” the oppressed East Timorese people but actually in large part to try and establish a subservient regime there that would enable the greedy Australian corporate bosses owning BHP and Woodside Petroleum to plunder East Timor’s natural resources. When the East Timorese government proved not obedient enough, the Australian military returned in 2006 in a second “peacekeeping” operation to help facilitate a coup that deposed the local government. Meanwhile, the ADF’s participation in the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and more recently in the bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq serve to make the ruling class in this country more arrogant and bullying at home as well – thus making them more confident to attack workers unions, threaten public health care, undermine social welfare, persecute refugees and continue to savagely oppress Aboriginal people. That is why the workers movement in Australia must demand: Not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military!
Yet why would the Turnbull government and Australian military want to target China? After all, China has for a long time been effectively holding up the Australian economy. The PRC is by a long way Australia’s biggest export destination with nearly one-third of all Australian exports being bought by China. So the big business owners here get a lot of money from trading with China. So why would they want to risk this by participating in provocative military actions against the PRC, thousands and thousands of kilometres from Australia’s shores? Is this madness? No, not from the point of view of the Australian capitalist rulers. And this all has to do with the fact that although capitalism has made big inroads into China, it has not taken over the country. China remains a socialistic state – a workers state however deformed it may be from the socialist “ideal.” That has the capitalist powers seeing red! They rightly see that the most populous country in the world remaining under any form of socialistic rule as a potential threat to capitalist domination of the globe. They rightly understand that the existence of the PRC workers state is a barrier to turning China into a huge sweatshop for unrestricted exploitation of cheap labour by Western corporations – as currently occurs in the likes of capitalist Philippines, Bangladesh or Indonesia. As a result the Australian capitalist rulers are willing to risk the $90 billion that China pays to buy Australian exports (that’s worth on average $10,000 for every household in Australia if the system here would allow fair distribution!) for the sake of undermining socialistic rule in China through joining the U.S.-led anti-China war drive.In the long-run Australia’s military build-up is aimed at preparing for a possible future war of the capitalist powers against the socialistic PRC. After all we should remember that the ADF’s biggest post-war military operations involved participation in cruel capitalist wars against workers states and communist insurgencies – from the 1950-53 Korean War against the North Korean workers state to the 1950s war against communist rebels in Malaya to the losing war against the heroic Vietnamese revolutionaries. Today the ADF’s build up targets not only the PRC but other workers states like the DPRK (North Korea). Furthermore, a strengthened ADF would surely be increasingly used to help Australian business owners and top bureaucrats bully and exploit the peoples of smaller Asia-Pacific neighbours as seen in the past ADF interventions in Bougainville, Solomon Islands, East Timor and Tonga. And from past record and given the instability of the capitalist-dominated world, one can certainly expect the ADF to be mobilised to help the Australian regime’s U.S. senior partner to grab control of oil supplies and outmanoeuvre capitalist rivals in the Middle East.
However, the number one target of the Australian military build up is to target Red China. Even right now the U.S./NATO/Australian military pressure against China has a very immediate purpose. It is aimed at sending a message to the PRC that as long as China refuses to abandon its socialistic system it will be harassed and confronted by the capitalist world. This message is particularly meant to strengthen the hand of pro-capitalist elements within Chinese society and even within the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). It will help them to argue that China has no choice but to abandon socialism if it is to be able to develop unhindered. If these forces within China – from Western–funded “NGOs” to rightist elements within the CPC to young capitalist billionaires waiting for a chance to overthrow the system and truly secure their wealth and privileged position – were to triumph it would be a disaster not only for the Chinese masses but for working class people around the world. As the new capitalist rulers would be able to drastically drive down real wages in China, the capitalist bosses here would wield their access to this new, cheap labour source in China as a stick to beat down wages and the unions in Australia. Meanwhile, fresh from their capitalist victory in the world’s most populous country, they would be emboldened to attack the workers movement here. That is why it is urgent that the workers movement and all genuine socialists in Australia stand for the defence of the the PRC workers state against all the pro-capitalist forces threatening it. That means opposing the U.S. and Australia’s military incursions into the South China Sea, standing against the massive planned anti-PRC, ADF military build-up and challenging all other imperialist interventions aimed at undermining the PRC workers state – from constant Western demands that China privatise the huge, state-owned enterprises that dominates its economy to Western support for pro-capitalist, pseudo-“human rights” elements like the extreme anti-communist artist, Ai Weiwei.
If there is a movement of leftist and worker activists in the likes of the U.S. and Australia publicly mobilising actions in defence of the PRC workers state it will boost the morale of the many Chinese workers and leftist intellectuals – including leftist elements within the CPC – who are truly committed to socialism and thereby encourage them to intensify their efforts to defeat capitalist restorationist forces within China and renew the PRC’s course towards socialism.