It is rare in diplomatic circles for governments to speak bluntly, particularly in the Orient, where manners are highly prized.
The exceptions to this rule are retired military officers, who are often able to voice sentiments too impolitic for other channels.
One of the more startling pronouncements in this vein occurred last week when Song Xiaojun, a former senior officer of the People’s Liberation Army, warned that Australia cannot juggle its relationships with the United States and China indefinitely and “Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later. Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the ‘son’ of the US or ‘son’ of China. (It) depends on who is more powerful, and based on the strategic environment.” Noting the rising importance of China as an export market Song added that Australia depended on exporting iron ore to China “to feed itself,” but “Frankly, it has not done well politically.”
What is also notable about Song’s remarks is that they coincided with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s first official visit to China, where Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged Australia to dismiss its alliance with the United States, a decades-old bipartisan and central pillar of the nation’s foreign policy, as ”the time for Cold War alliances has passed.”