China is different.
It is pursuing a path of social development that shares very little with our own chosen trajectory.
The Chinese people are informed the greater good of the community always comes first and told the individual must simply bow to the greater good.
Here we (genuflect) far more towards recognising individual rights and rely on the rule of law upholding these against the government.
In Xinjiang, development means pushing aside religion and integrating everybody into modern industrial society, like it or not.
In remote Australia, development is supposedly accompanied by recognition and support of First People's desire to live in a traditional manner.
Two mature societies, both with very different ways of looking at the world: two ways of living.
One of humanity's biggest mistakes has been the belief that as countries develop they will become similar.
This form of triumphalism is natural, because we all believe - seemingly no matter which country we live in - that it's the best nation on earth.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union soon after appeared to mark the triumph of democracy across the globe.
The bad old days were past and a brave new world lay ahead.
Today we know better.
Culture matters. The ingrained, learned behaviour of millions won't suddenly change just because a country (or party) has a new leader, whether in Moscow or Canberra.
Visions of an emerging new world order, based on a global recognition of human rights and a shared path to the future, have dissolved. So what does this mean?
Listen to the Chicken Littles and you'd believe the whole world is about to end.
Last weekend one paper carried a huge splurge warning of the danger of China and advocating immediate re-armament.
Senior public servants can apparently hear the "beating drums of war".
For the first time in more than 50 years there are now no journalists representing Australian media outlets in Beijing while our spooks have harassed Chinese reporters here.
That country is blocking the importation of wine, barley, and other products while some people are demanding we stop China investing in Australia by operating (for example) Darwin port.
Meanwhile the relationship deteriorates, bit by infinitesimal bit, as one measure provokes another.
Believe the hype and it's all gone so far we can't walk back from the brink because the display of any weakness, any lack of resolve will mean the end of our way of life.
Such talk is worse than simply dangerous: it's ignorant and fails to offer a way forward.
Amongst the three stupidities embodied so crisply in such analysis are a failure to remember the past; an incomplete understanding of the present; and lack of imagination for the future.
Let's take these empty spaces one at a time.
In 1983 the world came as close as we ever have to immediate destruction.
Times were tense; President Reagan had labelled the Soviet Union an "evil empire"; Star Wars was a real military strategy rather than just a movie; and, on September 26th an alarm suddenly sounded outside Moscow.
The electronic warning system was registering the US had just launched five missiles on a direct attack.
In such instances the duty officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, had been trained to immediately order a counter-strike.
He chose not too.
Petrov checked the equipment but still it's fail-safe conclusions screamed "retaliate, now!"
Fortunately, he didn't. It later turned out that a sudden splash of sunlight, reflecting from clouds over North Dakota, had been mistakenly interpreted as a first strike attack.
In return for saving the world Petrov was dismissed from the military. Russia could not admit the system was broken, so it broke the individual who'd overruled the system.
Then, less than a decade later, Soviet communism collapsed: hence the triumphalism insisting the days of totalitarian governments anywhere were numbered.
It's turned out they weren't, but what we seem to have forgotten is how we managed to live with them and made consistent efforts wherever possible to avoid the threat of war.
Both sides realised nothing could be worse than war and the world was effectively divided into spheres of interest, confining conflict to the borders.
We need to urgently rediscover this way of living, instead of insisting everyone must live like us.
Similarly, we need to understand the present rather than simply accepting interpretations pushed upon us.
You might, for example, have heard of the Quad, the "Asian NATO", the grouping of Australia, Japan, the US and India which is supposedly standing against China's thrusting.
The next crisis will shift to a new level of destruction. Instead of being confined by limited range or explosive power, weaponry will, quite literally, destroy society.
Except that it's not an alliance at all - far from it.
These four countries share no agreement to fight together (or even consult) and have very different interests.
It's silly to pretend otherwise. Australia's current security interests are, in reality, just as bound up in what's happening in Jakarta than in what's occurring in Beijing.
We need to spend more time reflecting on exactly what the current situation actually is rather than listening to the blowhards.
And the future?
Well, it's been a long time now since this country faced any real shortages or even imagined threats from abroad.
Maybe the sort of thing necessary to concentrate the mind and assist such clear thinking is to envisage the existential threat that any major conflict would bring.
The next war will not be confined to offshore islands and diggers sent to fight overseas.
It's no secret that technology changes war. What we never know, until conflict breaks out, is exactly how the new weapons systems will work out on the battlefield.
What we do know, however, and without a shadow of a doubt, is that the next crisis will shift to a new level of destruction.
Instead of being confined by limited range or explosive power, weaponry will, quite literally, destroy society.
We need to be very careful before we let slip the dogs of war.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer and a regular columnist.
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