Australia Strikes Back Against Beijing’s Influence Campaign (and America Should Pay Attention)

 

G’day, this is your intrepid American Canary reporting from the Coal Mine Down Under.

While Americans are trying to make up their minds about the little-league Russian interference in its recent politics, Australia has been fending off the major-leaguers from Beijing. Chinese Communist Party influence operations have swamped Australia in recent years, and from academia to media, business to politics, the CCP has encountered very little organized resistance.

Until now. The Aussies have awakened to the threat, and this week the Turnbull government passed two laws through Parliament aimed at turning the tide against China’s campaign of espionage and interference.

It’s hard to name a precise turning point because there have been several. Some hearken back to outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Berry’s pointed remarks in late 2016, while others recall the 2017 television report by Four Corners and Fairfax Media — one which now finds itself the subject of a pair of lawsuits under Australia’s alarmingly expansive defamation laws.

Those with more recent memories may point to this year’s long-anticipated publication of a book by progressive academic Clive Hamilton. In Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, Hamilton begins his account with the shock he experienced in 2008 when unexpected throngs of pro-regime counter-protestors pushed around a small band of Free Tibet activists in Canberra during the passing of the Olympic Torch on its way to Beijing. An outraged Hamilton wondered where all these people came from and at how they had the audacity to stage such a display in his own country’s capital. After taking his reader through a litany of examples of Chinese interference in Australian public and private institutions, he bookends the saga with another personal story about how three different publishers were pressured to reject his book for fear of lawsuits (before a conservative member of Parliament effectively took the threat off the table by entering the manuscript into the Parliamentary record). In a book launch event I attended a couple of months ago, Hamilton scoffed at how his supposed friends on the political left and in Australian academia abandoned him, while at the same time crying crocodile tears over the threat to “free speech” which the legislation finally passed this week is alleged to pose.

In fact, it may be that the heavy-handed opposition to the legislation by the CCP and its acolytes actually boomeranged (sorry … couldn’t resist) and carried the anti-interference legislation through in the end. Though it can be extremely clever and patient in its gray zone, win-without-fighting influence operation campaigns, Beijing has recently become much bolder, leading it to forget that aggressive tactics and bullying can be a two-edged sword when dealing with democracies. The cumulative effect of tactics like blatantly buying the influence of a prominent member of Parliament and angrily calling an Australian news program to demand it censor its programming (“You will listen. There must be no more misconduct in the future!”over time finally appears to have tipped the scales.

This doesn’t mean Australia’s struggle is over. Far from it. The Middle Kingdom did not come to dominate the Asian geopolitical landscape by quietly slinking away after a bloody nose, and as Australia’s top export market by far China still wields a very big stick. There are always consequences for pushing back, and you can be assured we have not seen the end of economic coercion, lawfare, and other tactics to show Canberra and its neighbors that there is a steep cost to be paid for poking the dragon.

That’s why the U.S. needs to pay close attention to what has happened down here. Not only is Australia an ally and a Five-Eyes partner, it is a microcosm of the struggle taking place across this half of the globe. Many smaller countries across the Indo-Pacific have already in large part succumbed to Chinese sharp power while others are contemplating the lure of its predatory economic offerings. China wants the region to know that it is the inevitable rising power and that America’s friends would do well to make the “China Choice“.

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  1. Danny Alexander Member
    Danny Alexander
    @DannyAlexander

    Editors, please Main Feed this post ASAP!

    I’m triply concerned by this very threat, not only as an American, but also as a regional denizen (Tokyo, Japan), and moreover as a Zionist alarmed by the Israeli high-tech sector’s slobbering embrace of a PRC that is cynically entwined with the genocidal regime leadership of Iran.

    This excellent editorial and clarion call first brought the Australia-specific form of the threat to my attention in late May:

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/confront-chinas-harassment-of-australia-mr-president

    All of us — the citizenry of the US, of Australia, and of Israel and Japan — need to gird our proverbial loins and stand against this menace by taking a politico-economic/politico-military page out of the James Mattis quote-book:

    “We come in peace.  We didn’t bring economic artillery at the outset, and we’ve done nothing militarily at any point in time that hasn’t been entirely consistent with norms and agreements you officially had signed onto, in a spirit of ostensible good will enthusiastically shared by your regional neighbors.  But we’re pleading with you, with tears in our eyes:  If you don’t stop [C0C]ing with us, we’ll absorb whatever pain necessary to kill your foolishly hegemonic desires and objectively evil efforts.”

    • #1
  2. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Five-Eyes partner, 

    yep and interesting that you would know that

    • #2
  3. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    It’s Africa and South America as well and we’re not paying attention.

    • #3
  4. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    I Walton (View Comment):

    It’s Africa and South America as well and we’re not paying attention.

    yep.  some of us have noticed and warned “higher” but the big shots often turn a deaf ear to the reports of the (stupid and little) guys on the ground.

    • #4
  5. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):
    Editors, please Main Feed this post ASAP!

    I agree.

    We could also discuss which is the bigger threat to our freedom:   1) China or 2) GoogleFacebookAmazon.   We could compare/contrast their techniques and their alliances.  

    • #5
  6. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    There is also major, and often very successful, Chinese influence in the United States:  So, Really Want to Talk About Foreign Intervention?

    • #6
  7. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Why is China Buying Up Europe’s Ports?

    Trump’s Tariffs Could Crush China’s Ambitions

    The problem has been recognized and there is action taking place. Trade deficits don’t matter we kept being told. It’s just accounting. BS.

    • #7
  8. Black Prince Inactive
    Black Prince
    @BlackPrince

    Hang On (View Comment):

    The problem has been recognized and there is action taking place.

    Yes, but I wonder if it’s too little, too late. I don’t think that Americans realize just how weak we are and how strong China is.

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Trade deficits don’t matter we kept being told. It’s just accounting. BS.

    I used to have great respect for people like Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, however, I’ve come to realize that they understand only a small piece (and perhaps not even the most important piece) of a very complex puzzle. It is the absolute height of insanity that we have outsourced so much of our manufacturing (and many of the institutions and sectors that are required to support it) to a hostile power. We only have ourselves to blame.

    • #8
  9. Black Prince Inactive
    Black Prince
    @BlackPrince

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Danny Alexander (View Comment):
    Editors, please Main Feed this post ASAP!

    I agree.

    We could also discuss which is the bigger threat to our freedom: 1) China or 2) GoogleFacebookAmazon.

    I would say that it is China, but perhaps it’s really our leaders who have allowed this threat to develop.

    • #9
  10. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Black Prince (View Comment):
    It is the absolute height of insanity that we have outsourced so much of our manufacturing (and many of the institutions and sectors that are required to support it) to a hostile power.

    For a long time, there was considerable disrespect directed toward the US manufacturing industry, especially on the Left but not limited to that end of the political spectrum.  See my 2010 post Faux Manufacturing Nostalgia.

    • #10
  11. Dave L Member
    Dave L
    @DaveL

    In talking with a friend from Guyana he said that the Chinese influence in his country was insidious. He says that the Chinese get permission from the Guyanese government to accomplish a project, then they bring in their own Chinese workers and only use products made in China cutting out opportunities for the local citizens. He was obviously alarmed by this and implied that their must have been bribery of government officials to let this happen.

    • #11
  12. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    Dave L (View Comment):
    …then they bring in their own Chinese workers and only use products made in China cutting out opportunities for the local citizens.

    Yep, that is pretty much ‘how they roll’ everywhere.  Their big tour groups also tend to ‘sponsor’ Chinese owned/ operated establishments (hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, etc.) almost exclusively.  It is a ‘closed’ economy.

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Dave L (View Comment):

    In talking with a friend from Guyana he said that the Chinese influence in his country was insidious. He says that the Chinese get permission from the Guyanese government to accomplish a project, then they bring in their own Chinese workers and only use products made in China cutting out opportunities for the local citizens. He was obviously alarmed by this and implied that their must have been bribery of government officials to let this happen.

    I lived in Cameroun in the early 1980s. It was that way then. Cameroun was a single-party state. The Chinese were building a party headquarters in Yaounde, the capital, for the Camerounian party. All Chinese venture. They struck diamonds and it was a very lucrative venture for them.

    • #13
  14. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar
    @SimonTemplar

    And Jimmy Carter gave ‘our’ Panama Canal to them!  That blunder also forced US Southern Command out of Panama and to Miami.  Not a good thing for national security whatsoever.

    For that alone, I will always hate on Carter.

    • #14
  15. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    I can’t believe no one has been on this thread yet, calling the author and commentators xenophobic and detailing the great contributions China has made to civilization.

    (Oh wait–now that I’m  here, they probably will! Because i would also point out Chinese “birth tourism” in our country: fly over and drop a kid in San Fran so it can return here as a citizen at 21, plus all those well-meaning Americans who adopted orphaned Chinese baby girls, insisted they learn Mandarin, and sent ’em off to schools where the Confucian Institutes are active…)

    o yes–we should be “Sinophobic”….

    Great  post!

    • #15
  16. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Thanks for this great and informative post.

    I recently watched these two videos on youtube which some might also find interesting, from 60 Minutes Australia:

     

    • #16
  17. Hypatia Inactive
    Hypatia
    @Hypatia

    In fact–if this post were called “America Strikes Back…” you’d be deluged with criticism of the Trump administration!  But wait: Australia? They’re s’posed to be so effing perfect, right, they’re s’posed to be a contrast  to the US’ narrow-minded xenophobia!    Uh…s’takin the Resisters a while to decide what, if anything, to say…love it!!!

    • #17

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