Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Guanxi Is Not "Soft Power"

Dastyari: "IT'S A TRAP" it says. So why didn't he read it

The Chinese experience in Australia may be demonstrating the limits of "Soft Power" - a perhaps overused spin on the concept of public diplomacy. Personality, connections, and money are not enough. You also need legitimacy

Yesterday Peter Garrett, the former Australian cabinet minister and musician, tweeted this story from the SMH illustrating the limits of the Chinese conception of soft power as expressed in their influence over overseas Chinese:
A pro-Beijing group planned a concert series in Sydney and Melbourne to celebrate the life of the former Chinese dictator Mao Zedong. But the concerts were cancelled in the face of protests planned by a group of Chinese Australians who are opposed to the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to influence Australia. 
Australia stands at a threshold moment: how much power are we prepared to allow the Chinese party-state? This has nothing to do with racism. The rift in the Chinese community in Australia demonstrates that it has everything to do with sovereignty – who controls Australia's destiny? 
In reporting the clash over the Mao concerts, Fairfax Media's Philip Wen wrote: "The schism is broadly between two camps: those who migrated in the 1980s and 1990s with the spectre of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 fresh in their memories, and more recent emigres who have been enriched by China's economic development and are emboldened by their country's rise as a major international power."
Yet another indication that the Xi regime is indeed taking the diaspora a little too for granted -  something we also wrote about last week.

Meanwhile, Beijing-inspired interests have also pushed their luck with Australia's legislature, and it would appear to have blown up in their faces in the form of the Sam Dastyari affair and resultant calls for political donation reform. Laura Tingle:
Dastyari's woes have been as big a wake-up call to MPs on both sides of politics as last Thursday's shenanigans in the House of Representatives were to Coalition MPs. 
But the China issue is much more substantial in the world of realpolitik than control over the parliament late on a Thursday afternoon. Chinese soft power is not to be meddled with.Both sides of politics have accepted money from the Chinese. Dastyari's problems remains that he accepted it, and then was seen to proselytising its position. 
So we need a new regime for political donations. The upside of the "Shanghai Sam" affair may be that enough politicians see a self-interest in political donation reform, particularly foreign donations. Not just from China.

Andi Supriyanto on the challenges Indonesia's Global Maritime Fulcrum policy faces: better understanding of the policy at home, and the necessity of moving the dialogue to the defense end of the diplomacy space:
Among these agendas, diplomatic and economic issues appear to dominate. The IORA Concord resonates quite strongly with the 1976 ASEAN Concord as part of which the five original members agreed on a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). The Concord is conceived as a ‘code of conduct’ to ‘strengthen regionalism in the Indian Ocean’. When adopted in 2017, the Concord will ‘be a milestone reflecting 20 years of IORA achievements’ and, obviously, a diplomatic win for Indonesia. 
The Third Indian Ocean Dialogue in April 2016 also provided an opportunity for Indonesia to air its concerns over illegal fishing. Although Indonesia adopted the controversial measure of sinking seized illegal fishing vessels, the promotion of IORA’s Blue Economy initiatives, aimed partly at promoting sustainable fishing, constitute a better long-term solution. 
Given its diverse membership, IORA will nonetheless face difficulties in reaching, let alone implementing, binding commitments. Like the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the IORA Concord would only commit IORA members to bland diplomatic statements that have little restraining force over signatories’ behaviours. It’s also obvious that the language of the draft would need to accommodate the diverse interests and priorities of IORA members. What IORA can do most in the security arena is promote maritime confidence-building measures, such as naval diplomacy, in coordination with the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

Finally, Asian Correspondent on how the new United Front in Malaysia has prompted the alliance of two once bitter enemies - Mahathir Mohamed and Anwar Ibrahim:
For the first time in 18 years, the two former allies-turned-adversaries shook hands at the Jalan Duta court complex in the capital city as Mahathir attended a session to show support for the imprisoned Anwar who was filing a lawsuit against the government. 
The meeting between the two was the first since Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister on Sept 2, 1998 when he was embroiled in allegations of power abuse and sexual misconduct. Anwar’s dismissal and subsequent imprisonment spurned the creation of the ‘reformasi’ (reformation) movement and the formation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or People’s Justice Party, the linchpin of federal opposition pact Pakatan Harapan. 
The handshake marked a significant shift in the Malaysian political landscape as Mahathir has been a staunch critic of the opposition up until he had a fallout with Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal last year.

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