China is encircling Australia

There’s been a grim presence hovering over 2020 – China. We’ve all felt it here in America, but it’s been felt abroad as well. One of the countries most worried about China is Australia, which feels China pressing hard against it.

The Wuhan virus started in China, which wasn’t so odd. Many plagues have started in Asia, going back at least as far as the Bubonic Plague. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 started in Asia, as did the more recent SARS outbreak. The flu that bedevils us annually also starts in Asia.

But the Wuhan virus was different. First, there’s good reason to believe that it wasn’t a normal pandemic flu that started by making the leap from animals to humans. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party may well have created it as a bioweapon in a lab outside the city of Wuhan.

This isn’t to say that China deliberately released the Wuhan virus. It’s just as likely that a careless accident sent the virus into the world. But while China eventually locked down all of Hubei province, it did nothing to keep Chinese citizens from traveling outside of China to the earth’s four corners, including New York and San Francisco.

Since then, with help from the World Health Organization, China has denied any responsibility for the Wuhan virus that it set loose on the world. And while China is trying to resume normal life, American cities are still ghost towns.

In addition, we have reason to believe that China interfered in the most contentious and fraudulent election in American history. Thus, John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, has explicitly stated that there was foreign interference in the election, with both China and Iran playing a role. We have yet to learn the scope of that interference.

America is not the only place in which China is meddling. Australia, which has its capital city about 1,400 miles closer to Beijing than D.C. is to China's capital, is getting very worried about China’s impinging on its shores.

The Courier Mail, an Australian paper, reported earlier this week that China is pushing further and further into the Pacific Ocean south of the equator, creating relationships with those countries closest to Australia. Its latest effort is to build a relationship with East Timor (article behind a paywall).

The article is framed in a positive way, saying that Australia is fighting back against this latest billion-dollar investment in the Pacific region:

Fruit pickers from East Timor arrived in Australia earlier this month on a special Qantas charter to help farmers in Tasmania harvest berries for the season.

They were the first of the up to 150 seasonal workers from the impoverished nation to be brought over to fill worker shortages under the Federal Government’s Seasonal Worker Program. A similar number also went to Bowen in Queensland.

The numbers are small but the COVID-19 related prompt has un-expectantly boosted Australia’s relations with its tiny neighbour and critically somewhat balanced the ledger, offsetting the multi-billion dollars of investment China has put into the country as it continues its relentless Pacific expansion program.

That’s an awful lot of optimism to put 150 seasonal workers against Australia’s relentless South Pacific plans. The reality is that the Australian government is worried:

China’s early intentions for East Timor were writ clear along the walls of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in capital Dili.

While East Timor has renowned natural landscapes and seas, there running for several metres in the ministry’s main conference hall is a tapestry of the Great Wall of China.

“That was a very interesting signal,” a senior government security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It told us where they were thinking … China has been messing about the Pacific this last year approaching Vanuatu about a military capability, Solomon Islands, Fiji, PNG but more concerningly East Timor.

Timor is 600km north of Darwin, that’s a 30-minute flight in a jet fighter and if there is any sign of their interest, it’s everywhere.”

It’s quite a job, though, telling impoverished countries that the Chinese bailout offers are the equivalent of a loan shark helping a gambler stay in the game.

For most Americans, it came as a surprise in early 2020 to learn that there was a vast Chinese presence in Italy. Not only did this presence explain why the Wuhan virus hit Italy early, but it was also the first they’d heard about the Belt and Road Initiative, which is how China is enmeshing poor countries in worldwide Chinese infrastructure. No totalitarian country should ever have such a vast financial and geographic reach.

The upcoming Chinese New Year rings in the year of the Ox. That’s significant to the Chinese because it’s a year that promises to be prosperous and positive. Let’s hope that’s the case for the world at large and not just for the Chinese Communist Party.

IMAGE: A map of Australia by MacDonald Gil (1930). Public Domain.