Once is not customary: here we are going to quote ourselves. The April 26 Chronicleright here was titled “Valiant Australia”. It was about the courage of the government in Canberra, standing firm in the face of encroachments, insults and threats from China.
Since 2019, Canberra has gone to the front lines demanding a serious investigation into the origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan; blocking Huawei on suspicion of espionage; leading the offensive on the martyrdom of the Uighurs; stopping investment projects for “national security” reasons, etc.
It is paying the price in commercial terms, the Chinese “backlash” not being long in coming. With gigantic tariffs decreed by Beijing against most Australian imports: meat, wines, metals, wood.
Without forgetting the infiltrations in the universities (one does not count any more the stories of intimidation against professors or students who wanted to hold a critical speech on China), the stories of espionage, the Australian nationals arrested in China, etc.
What we are seeing today is the logical continuation of this strategic development. Geographically isolated, seriously threatened by its growing antagonism with Beijing, Australia falls back on the old Anglo-Saxon solidarity.
A security deal was unveiled last Wednesday with London and Washington. Clearly directed – without it being said – against Chinese hegemony in Asia, it involves the supply of atomic submarines to Canberra by the United States and the United Kingdom.
The problem is that Australia has been committed since 2016 to buy France a fleet of submarines. The signed contract was worth up to 80 billion (in Canadian dollars). Canceled overnight, without notice. France is furious, its Minister of Foreign Affairs speaks of a “stab in the back”.
The harshness of the terms used in Paris against Canberra and Washington is exceptional between (supposed) allies: “There was a lie, there was duplicity, there was a major breach of trust, there was contempt, ”said Le Drian. He described the withdrawal of the ambassadors (decided by Paris) as an act aimed at “showing [aux pays] formerly partners that there really is a serious crisis between us ”. “Formerly” partners!
As for Joe Biden, according to Le Drian, “his ways are like Trump’s … without the tweets.”
It all looks like a change in doctrine. No longer to wage wars “where we have no vital interests” (Biden, the day after the humiliating departure from Kabul). Priority now to Asia. The main adversary: China, increasingly dictatorial internally (techno-totalitarianism 2.0), haughty and threatening towards those who dare to contradict it.
And then, Europe… well! it’s not so important anymore, Europe. The proof: it is not in the coup in Asia (even if France, by the way, has a presence in this region, with overseas territories, economic interests, a few thousand soldiers). But there was no question of inviting the French into this story of Anglo-Saxons who are going to save the world from Chinese hegemony.
It is true that Europe, rightly or wrongly, expresses nuances in its approach to China in relation to Washington. On this subject as on others, the paths diverge: NATO “is in a state of brain death”, had said Emmanuel Macron 22 months ago …
This strategic turning point is therefore made by slapping a historic ally like France in the process. But also, by breaking the taboo that is the transfer of nuclear technology: the advanced American submarines use highly refined uranium (“bomb” level), a product which will therefore be delivered to Australia… serious precedent .
Australia “traitor” of Prime Minister Scott Morrison undoubtedly has its reasons, and a justified fear in the face of the Asian giant. But one who has to chuckle at getting into this boat opportunistically is Boris Johnson. A point marked by the post-Brexit United Kingdom, against the European Union.
François Brousseau is an international news columnist for Ici Radio-Canada. [email protected]