Australia is on the “frontlines” of an economic war with China, a “totalitarian mercantilist” regime that must be confronted, according to former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
In a wide-ranging interview on ABC’s Four Corners, Bannon also said that the populist surge that swept Donald Trump to the US presidency and delivered the vote for Brexit in the UK was a “global revolution” that was coming to Australia.
But his main focus was China, which he accused of failing to play by the global rules of trade and diplomacy, and was instead seeking to economically colonise as much of the world as it could.
“This is not a trade war … Australia is at the frontlines of this. We’re in an economic war with China OK? Not a trade war,” Bannon said.
“China has been [in a] economic war with the west and they are a totalitarian mercantilist system.
“They always talk about the international rules-based order. The Chinese don’t play by any rules. They don’t have any internal rules. It’s a completely totalitarian regime.”
The former Breitbart media boss said China regarded the US – and its allies such as Australia – as tributary states, essentially vassal states that exist to serve and entrench the dominant power. He said the country was economically colonising parts of the globe, such as the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa, “like the East India Company”.
Bannon’s interview with Four Corners took place before Malcolm Turnbull was removed as Australian prime minister by his own party. He said Turnbull had been too timid in standing up to Beijing.
“I’m a hawk on China because eventually I believe that … if this regime is not confronted, bad things are going to happen, and I think they have to be confronted now. I think Turnbull has been way too much of an appeaser, and I think that’s not going to turn out well … Australia is at the tip of the spear of this.”
Australian relations with China are strained at present: over Chinese irredentism in the South China Sea and its economic expansionism across the Pacific; over Australia’s decision to bar Chinese telecommunication companies Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment to Australia’s 5G network; and over Australia’s foreign interference laws which are seen as targeting Chinese.
Bannon, who lost his job in the White House in the aftermath of the violent Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, said the US president was trying to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, “and trying to reset this economy to the economy that we’ve had since the American system came up in the 19th century”.
But the US economy is moving in the opposite direction, and has been – for decades – transitioning from a manufacturing to a services economy. Services make up 80% of the economy in the US. Manufacturing represents about 10%.
Bannon said the worldwide “populist” political surge – which has delivered results such as Brexit and Trump’s election – would continue and would gather strength and supporters of those disaffected by the current global economic and political order.
“This revolution is global … it’s coming to Australia.”