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Trump bowing out; Opportunity for Australia to mend fences with China?

The rest of the world has no choice as to who sits in the White House. However, even if that person sneezes or coughs, the effect reverberates throughout the world. Stock markets can go up and down and oil prices could fluctuate wildly. 

by Raj Gonsalkorale

“Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make them mad

Donald Trump has taken the USA down an abyss of despair and duplicity. Domestic divisions and international disorder dominated the Trump era. Many questioned the sanity of Trump’s approach to governance, nationally and internationally. Now, more than 80 million voters and popular vote majority in excess of 7 million, and 306 electoral college votes has given Joe Biden a clear victory over Trump. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have a tough time resurrecting some trust and confidence that their own people, and others in the rest of the world, had with the USA. 

Trump

In the age of information technology, the world has become smaller and closer to each other whether one likes it or not, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. Various social media platforms link people with each other before one could blink an eye and millions are inter connected. There is computer hacking, listening in, cyber spying and all the evils of this information technology bringing out the worst in human beings. In this environment, internationalisation today is inevitable and the world has to find ways and means of capitalising on the positives and taking collective action against the negatives. Countries cannot crawl into the cocoons and pretend they can live happy ever after by doing so.

The rest of the world has no choice as to who sits in the White House. However, even if that person sneezes or coughs, the effect reverberates throughout the world. Stock markets can go up and down and oil prices could fluctuate wildly. In this context, it does matter to the rest of the world who sits in the White House. Due to the inability of the rest of the world to decide on this, they are probably hoping and even supporting alternate world leaders and emerging powerful economies to cushion the blows they get when the incumbent of the White House behaves irresponsibly and irrationally. Many in the world today who are so interconnected would want a Vladimir Putin or a Xi Jinping or an Angela Merkel or a Narendra Mody to help keep the world more stable even if they are not supporters of such leaders or their modes of governance. 

What characterised the Trump era was his own belligerence and the increasing counter belligerence of leaders like Xi Jinping. Many Nations distanced themselves from the USA, and they are doing that with China. Belligerence is not a strength and it is well for both the USA and China to remember this. China does have the money to buy friends and influence people. However, what money buys are not genuine friends. In contrast, despite all its negatives, the money spent by the USA, not just its government but by Billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and a host of others have helped to fight decease, and supported causes like providing potable water for millions of human beings living in deplorable conditions. Comparatively, the government of China nor its many billionaires have done little to support impoverished countries ridden with avoidable catastrophes.

The world does need a strong and decent USA. Not a USA that has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions in the Middle Eastern region on the pretext of hunting for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The world need a kinder USA that recognises the limitations in trying to introduce democracy to countries who have never known democracy. The USA has to work with authoritarian regimes and work towards gradual reforms and human rights improvements. 

When an incumbent challenges its own democratic choice, questions are raised about democracy in the USA. The voice of the USA becomes less credible if what it practices is not what it preaches. It cannot be the stone thrower who is in a glass house.

Unknowingly and unwittingly, COVID has given the USA, China and the rest of the world an opportunity to recalibrate and reset the pathway towards a kinder, less avaricious and a more humanitarian world that realises it is part of a whole that includes the natural environment that sustains all living beings. If the worlds powerful nations do not recognise this and save the environment, they will not have a world they could dominate

The change of leadership in the USA gives an opportunity for Australia to do their own resetting as far as its relationship with China is concerned. While Australia’s steadfastness about its values is commendable, it needs to be pragmatic about the realities in China. Human rights abuse is levelled against China, however, there is no recognition that more than 850 million Chinese people have been lifted out of extreme povertyin the last three decades according to the World Bank. China's poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015. In 2019 it had been reduced to 0.6 percent. For those who have visited China in recent times, these changes are quite evident.

China could get on the pulpit and talk about the human rights of Australian Aboriginal people. They could wheel out statistics about the health status, life expectancy, literacy rate and other social indicators of Australian indigenous people. They could also talk about the 1.2 million children who are said to be in poverty according to the charity organisation, the Smith Family.

Australia might be in a defence pact with the USA and also have a long standing relationship with the USA. However, Australia needs to look after its people whose economic wellbeing had got closely intertwined with the trading relationship that had developed and grown with China. This trading relationship has now got seriously threatened due to belligerence on the part of both countries. Australia needs to do be pragmatic and stop being the Deputy Sheriff of the USA for the region.They need to practice diplomacy as it should be practiced.

Perhaps it is time for the government to send an emissary to China to help thaw the heated relationship between the two countries. If such a thawing does not happen and things get worse, many Australians will face the economic consequences of biting the hand that has been feeding it. 

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