Thursday, August 28, 2014

Palmer’s ignorance – China’s arrogance

The recent outburst of Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer against China was boorish, disgraceful and deserving of censure. The mining magnate had no right to use his position as a Member of the Australian Parliament to launch an attack on another nation, simply because he is having business difficulties with a company based there.

Having said that, the response of China’s Ambassador to Australia, Ma Zhaouxu also deserves some examination. In more or less refusing to accept Mr Palmer’s belated apology, Mr Ma stated: “the Chinese people are never to be insulted”.

What he really means by this is that the Chinese people are never to be criticised, never to have their actions questioned. The Chinese people – or at least the single party that comprises their Government – are always right. Those that dare to question their actions always wrong or, in the special jargon that official Chinese statements use “mistaken”.

We have increasingly seen this demonstrated in Beijing’s bullying treatment of those small South East Asian nations which dared to resist its claim to virtually all the South China Sea as its sovereign territory.

Its arrogance is highlighted in its refusal to test its case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea because as far as it is concerned there is no case. It is right and everyone else has to live with that.

And when the Philippines refused to buckle to Beijing’s will it was punished with an initially meagre humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of that country – a response that was upgraded in the light of a storm of unfavourable publicity.

Add to that, its persistent publishing of maps showing large swathes of Indian territory as part of Chinese Tibet and its row with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, and it is easy to see why Beijing is regarded with fear and mistrust by many people in its region.

And to go off at somewhat of a tangent, what about the boorish, ignorant attitude of the Chinese football supporters in the Asian Cup game between Guangzhou Evergrande and Western Sydney Wanderers this week?

The Australian team members were subject to late night abusive phone calls and banging on their hotel doors on the eve of the match, a car deliberately swerved into the team bus, causing an accident of the way to the stadium and during the game bottles were thrown and lasers flashed into the eyes of the players.

None of this was reported in the local media and complaints to the Chinese club have been ignored.    

As I said at the beginning, Clive Palmer was wrong to use gutter language in what is essentially a corporate dispute. He is now trying to mend fences.  

If China really wishes to be a force for good in its neighbourhood – if it really wants to be a partner, rather than a master in the region - then it could begin by accepting there might be value in points of view other than its own.

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