Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Hereís how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

MH370: building better relations with China

By Peter Coates - posted Friday, 28 March 2014


The likely crash of MH370 into the Southern Indian Ocean raises a range of matters that will influence Australia's relations with China for years. One aspect is the presence of substantial numbers of Chinese military aircraft and warships utilising Australian military bases in Western Australia to search for MH370. Another matter is the likely entry into Perth of large numbers of grieving relatives of Chinese passengers who died in MH370. These matters have and will involve deep negotiations between Australia and China at the peak leadership, military, legal and diplomatic-consular level.

It is unusual for so many Chinese military assets to be present in Australia and operating off our coast. These aircraft and ships are of course being used for a humanitarian, soft power purposes, but as China is seen as a possible strategic problem their presence seems a little unreal. A Chinese destroyer was present at the International Fleet Review, Sydney Harbour, October 2013. However this is not the same as three or more large Chinese warships and an icebreaker operating off Western Australia for months, at least.

Two large Chinese Ilyushin transport aircraft are also involved in the search. They are operating from RAAF Pearce Air Force Base. Our airmen are unused to the constant presence of Chinese pilots and ground crew on an Australian base. In comments that might be amusing if the situation wasn't so tragic the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported from Perth, March 22, 2014: "Two highly-anticipated Chinese Air Force planes arrived Saturday …to drive the ongoing search …[The] Chinese IL-76 will be a welcome relief to the authorities here as the challenges of the task at hand begin to overwhelm available resources…The IL-76, emblazoned with a rich-red Chinese flag as well as a sky-blue hull and a white underbelly, created a rare ripple of enthusiasm across the airbase that is currently home to a large international press corp."

Advertisement

The likely entry into Perth of large numbers of grieving relatives, of Chinese passengers of MH370, may sadly present prolonged and unpredictable situations. Most of the relatives speak no English and have never been outside China. The Chinese tradition of recovering the bodies of next-of-kin is strong.

The anger of the relatives of Chinese MH370 passengers has been directed against the Malaysian government. Might this anger be directed against Australia as the inevitably long-term search and recovery operation continues out of Australia? Whatever happens any detection and recovery of the MH370 aircraft and of bodies (which is even more difficult) may take years. Some relatives in their grief expect authorities to rapidly know the answers when nothing can be detected and retrieved quickly. This is in a Southern Indian Ocean search area of thousands of square kilometres, where major parts of MH370 may be thousands of metres down on the sea floor.

Relatives' anger has escalated to demonstrations in Beijing itself – a city where only authorised demonstrations are permitted. The Washington Post has reported close-in official control of relatives' demonstrations against the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. One Chinese government objective appears to be the minimisation of any possibility that relatives will blame the Chinese government itself. Prior to a demonstration of grieving relatives a few days ago plain-clothes Chinese government agents reportedly took control. This was achieved by: some concentration of relatives at one hotel; providing buses; supplying protest signs and T-shirts with authorised slogans aimed at Malaysia; close liaison with uniformed police; and, lecturing relatives on how to protest in an authorised and limited way.

As the closest landfall for MH370's recovery Australia may also become a type of witness in legal-political proceedings. Compensation and blame is a big issue. Chicago based Ribbeck Law has reportedly already filed a petition at the Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court against the Boeing corporation and Malaysian Airlines. Other lawsuits are likely. The US has provided invaluable satellite and naval support but, no doubt conspiracy theorists are developing pretexts to blame America (as in all things) for the disappearance of flight MH370.

Australian authorities in Perth and Canberra are probably liaising with China very closely on ways to avoid, tension, violence and bilateral misunderstandings. This is an extraordinary political, military, technical, humanitarian and legal matter. Australia has rarely worked with the Chinese government so closely. That Australia is working closely with China and that recovery of remains may take years is something relatives will need to understand.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

45 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Peter Coates has been writing articles on military, security and international relations issues since 2006. In 2014 he completed a Masterís Degree in International Relations, with a high distinction average. His website is Submarine Matters.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Peter Coates

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Peter Coates
Article Tools
Comment 45 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy