Britain and Canberra accused of Misreading China

Daniel Hurst, in The Guardian, 24 January 2022, with this title  “Former Australian PM Paul Keating criticises Liz Truss over ‘demented’ China comments”

The former Australian prime minister Paul Keating has accused Liz Truss of making “demented” comments about Chinese military aggression and urged the British foreign secretary to hurry “back to her collapsing, disreputable government”.  Keating, in a blistering op-ed, also said Britain “suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation” and its tilt to the Indo-Pacific lacks credibility.

The former Labor leader, who served as prime minister from 1991 to 1996, has long pushed for “engagement” with China but now finds himself increasingly at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Canberra to take a stronger line against Beijing.

Keating took aim at Truss, who visited Australia for meetings with counterparts last week, after a report said she had warned that China could use a Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to launch aggression of its own in the Indo-Pacific. “I don’t think we can rule that out,” Truss was reported as saying during an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“Russia is working more closely with China than it ever has. Aggressors are working in concert and I think it’s incumbent on countries like ours to work together.”

Keating, who has previously said Australia should not come to Taiwan’s aid in the event Beijing launches an attempt to invade the self-governed island, criticised Truss’s comments. “Remarks by the British foreign secretary Liz Truss that China could engage in military aggression in the Pacific, encouraged by Russia’s contingent moves against Ukraine, are nothing short of demented,” Keating said in an op-ed posted on the Pearls and Irritations public policy blog on Saturday.

“Not simply irrational, demented.”

Keating also said the reality was that Britain “does not add up to a row of beans when it comes to east Asia. Britain took its main battle fleet out of east Asia in 1904 and finally packed it in with its ‘East of Suez’ policy in the 1970s. And it has never been back,” Keating said in comments that gained prominence when reported by The Australian newspaper on Monday.

“Britain suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation.”

Keating said the British and Australian governments were “kidding the rest of us that their ‘cooperation’ added up to some viable policy. Truss would do us all a favour by hightailing it back to her collapsing, disreputable government, leaving Australia to find its own way in Asia.”

During her visit, Truss addressed the Lowy Institute in Sydney and warned Russia that any invasion of Ukraine would only lead to “a terrible quagmire and loss of life” on the scale of the Soviet-Afghan war.

Truss said after a meeting with the Australian foreign and defence ministers that Australia was “an absolutely crucial ally and friend” at a time of “increased economic coercion from China”. In Sydney she backed Boris Johnson, saying he was doing “a fantastic job” as prime minister, that he has her “100% support”, and should remain in No 10 “as long as possible”.

It is not the first time Keating has taken aim at the UK over its “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific. In a speech in November, Keating said Britain was “like an old theme park sliding into the Atlantic compared to modern China”.

Keating – a longtime advocate of Australia becoming a republic – was once dubbed the “Lizard of Oz” by British tabloids after he put his hand on the Queen’s back in 1992. He has strongly opposed the Aukus pact, sealed in September, in which the UK and the US have vowed to help Australia to acquire at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines.

However the party Keating formerly led has largely sought to avoid major points of difference with the Morrison government on foreign policy in the lead up to a federal election, due to be held by May this year.

The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, has said China has become “far more forward-leaning” and Australia is “right to speak up for our own values”, saying Australian businesses have been “suffering” as a result of a range of trade actions launched by Beijing as the relationship deteriorated.

The Australian defence minister, Peter Dutton, in November branded the former prime minister as “Grand Appeaser Comrade Keating”. Dutton later said it would be “inconceivable” that Australia would not join the US if the top security ally defended Taiwan in a war with China – prompting accusations the minister was politicising national security in the lead-up to the election.

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PS = the cartoon  by SIGNE WILKINSON was presented earlier by The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2019 at


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2 responses to “Britain and Canberra accused of Misreading China

  1. Fair Dinkum

    Dutton, James Paterson, Dan Andrews, Peter Hartcher and all the demented Australians who support them know two thirds of three quarters of bugger all. They keep churning out anti China propaganda which shows zero understanding of China.

    Hartcher plants anti China propaganda stories acting on behalf of an Australian intelligence organisation.

    There is no such thing as a “China threat” other than demented Australians thinking it is so. On many key policy areas, the labour party in Australia is the same as the Liberal party. There is very little to distinguish the two. Their policies are identical.

    The problem with the UK and Europe is that European countries live in the past, feeding off their past glories. They are incapable of looking to the future. By contrast, China (like Asia itself) is totally focused on the future which is why there is a tremendous energy in Asia today – an energy I am attracted to. This is the key difference between Asia on the one hand; and Britain, Europe and Australia on the other hand. Nothing will improve the UK, Europe and Australia while these countries continue living in the past playing silly propaganda games.

    This is why Keating is right to describe Britain as an “old theme park sliding into the Atlantic”. It’s a perfect metaphor for Britain.

    Calling Keating a “Grand Appeaser” of China is childish nonsense. Like silly Dan Andrews, Peter Dutton is a narcissistic kid with an IQ of 7 which explains how he was able to join the police in his earlier days. Dan Andrews is only capable of parroting out silly political slogans.

    China’s rise does not pose a threat to the Indo Pacific or the West. Due to their arrogance, Australia and the UK cannot accept China’s rise; they hate it, but China has every right to pursue its economic growth without Western interference.

    The idea the China will use the Ukraine conflict to launch a war in the Indo-Pacific is laughable nonsense – a fairytale scenario that belongs in an Aussie child’s bedtime propaganda storybook. It’s all propaganda designed to brainwash Australians into thinking the way Dutton, Payne and Patetson do.
    It just means Australia is in decline and they don’t know what to do, and they think starting a war with China will somehow salvage Australia’s decline.

    • Chandra Maliyadde

      Fair Dinkem may be right in what he says. But the presence of China has not worked well with Sri Lanka. I do not know whether the fault is with China or Sri Lankan regime.

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