The Australian Liberation Force

The People’s Republic of China is noted for taking many things seriously. Indeed, many would say they take most things seriously. Quite a marked contrast with Australians who tend to bat for the other side – if in that respect only!

But there is one thing the PRC leadership takes most seriously and it is the People’s Liberation Army. Contrasted with our own democratic ideals, you could reasonably suggest the PLA is worth several battalions of ballot boxes to the Politburo. All of which makes China’s push for closer ties between the PLA and our Australian Defence Force most interesting, indeed.

It is fascinating to note that – despite Kevin Rudd’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts to woo the Chinese leadership by his command of Mandarin – of all the nations in the world, Australia is the only one with whom China maintains a direct relationship at Chief of the Defence Force level. That’s a serious mark of respect and does speak of the somewhat unique relationship between our two countries.

The Chinese are pushing for deeper engagement with our military forces but not in the customary sense of combined exercises or the like. What they are after is to send lower to middle ranking officers here for familiarisations. It would provide these officers with a taste of Western society and an understanding of how Western military organisations tend to function.

Frankly, it is a golden opportunity. One only has to consider the enhanced relationships across south-east Asia that have blossomed after students from regional neighbours have come here to study. Malaysia is a case in point. There are now thousands of Malaysians across both the public and private sectors who have experienced first-hand immersion in our society through studying here. That the tone and stridency of criticism of Australia has dwindled over the past two decades is not likely to be purely coincidental.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt but in the world of foreign relations the evidence suggests it has far more benign and pragmatic outcomes. As the economic futures of Australia and China become ever more deeply enmeshed it only makes sense for us to explore relationship opportunities as fully as possible. So, send us your Comrade Colonels and we’ll show them a good time.

And if the ADF eventually proposes changing to the ALF, what the hell!