In Churchill’s “finest hour” speech, perhaps the ultimate highlight in the career of history’s greatest Briton, he beseeched his people to brace for the most pivotal battle in modern history.
And while the allied victory in World War II is no doubt his most famous achievement, his investment in the Anglo American alliance through both his terms in office has to rank as one of his most long-lasting and impactful.
Indeed, when news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor reached Churchill in December 1941, he immediately realized what that meant; the United States would now have to take up arms. In his own words, written his history of World War II, Churchill said he “went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved”.
These events laid the foundations of the global order for the following generation. The US emerged as the global power, and the “special relationship” between the US and Britain and key Commonwealth countries such as Australia has persevered through the Cold War and taken on a new significance in the decades that have followed.
Now, not much less than a century later, we are again sailing towards what seems to be a clash of nations as large as those Churchill warned of in the 1930s.
As global trade wars intensify, Australia faces the moral challenge of a generation. World War II bought a new level of engagement with Asia, an engagement the Menzies government deepened to the benefit of our national prosperity. Since the Whitlam era, we have embraced the concept of the Asian century and sought to capitalise on five decades of unprecedented economic growth that has brought hundreds of millions out of poverty across China and the sub-continent. A record-breaking 29 years without recession prior to the current crisis is in no small part due to rapidly expanding trade with our Asian neighbours. Australia’s annual GDP growth has averaged 3% in the last 30 years and one-third of that has been due to growing trade with China.
But in the long term, our relationship and indeed reliance on the red dragon is fraught. Since the 1970’s we have chosen to ignore the moral dilemma of exploiting a trade relationship with a partner whose values and system of government are so diametrically opposed to our own. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the cost of continuing to turn a blind eye could ultimately cost our nation our way of life and our children their liberty. China is now by many measures the global superpower and where it is not yet, will soon be. Its economic and military ambitions are seemingly boundless and with a government whose values are so anti-western, we now face costly choices.
Today’s issue is tearing up the Belt and Road agreement. Tomorrow it may be increasing trade wars or China’s aggression towards Taiwan or other nations. The Australian government to its enormous credit is courageously speaking out against China, seemingly willing to suffer short term economic pain for long term liberty. It is critical that it continues to do so.
Australian politicians such as Andrew Hastie and James Patterson are championing the cause of facing up to what is now the global bully. Fresh rhetoric is coming from the cabinet and bureaucracy. Across the west, MPs more broadly are starting to sound the alarm. But it is our leaders who must continue to take decisive steps and it is the responsibility of every good citizen to support them in doing so. These leaders are rightly willing to risk prosperous markets and economic growth for the chance to criticise a government for sins ranging from its human rights atrocities including organised organ harvesting and concentration camps to its cover-up of the corona outbreak.
For all of his faults, Trump championed fair trade outcomes with China. We would be wise to realign ourselves with nations whose values we share rather than priorities partnerships that provide short term profit. The left simply does not see the danger to the same extent. We are fortunate not to have them in government at this time.
Peter Bain is a Melbourne businessman and Liberal candidate at the 2019 federal election.
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