Australia pushes back against the CCP’s campaign to infiltrate and influence
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to absorb Australia into its sphere of influence and shift it away from its alliance with the United States, according to author Clive Hamilton.
“Through a systematic campaign to do this, [the CCP] has been highly successful among policymakers who have taken a friendly position toward Beijing,” Hamilton said in mid-October 2018 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., where he spoke about his book, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia.
The CCP’s methods of persuasion and coercion are far more intrusive and secretive than those used by any other nation, said Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and former executive director and founder of The Australia Institute think tank.
The CCP tries to infiltrate from within a society to wield influence, Hamilton said. In Australia, that infiltration has occurred through donations to politicians made privately by wealthy Chinese businessmen, Chinese nationals funding the establishment of a think tank that generates pro-CCP policy papers, and the purchase of Chinese language newspapers and radio stations in Australia by CCP sympathizers to control the editorial voice, according to Hamilton.
“In recent years, the Australian public has become agitated by perceptions of some negative aspects of our relationship with China,” Hamilton writes in his book. “Cashed-up Chinese bidders are taking houses from Australians. The rate of immigration from China is too fast to allow assimilation, so that parts of Sydney no longer feel like Australia. Chinese-heritage (and other Asian) students are monopolizing places at highly desirable selective schools. Chinese tourists are buying up infant formula to take home, creating shortages and driving up prices. And Chinese billionaires have bought themselves too much influence over our politicians.”
Australian lawmakers, however, pushed back against such meddling by passing the National Security Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill in June 2018. The legislation requires lobbyists for foreign governments to identify themselves on a public register and criminalizes covert, deceptive or threatening actions intended to interfere with democratic processes or provide intelligence to overseas governments. The bill also ensures law enforcement agencies have access to telecommunications interception powers to investigate any alleged interference.
“If the pushback had been left another two to five years, it may have been too late,” Hamilton said in Washington, D.C.
The legislation, created amid heightened tensions between Australia and China, has broad public support from Australians as they have become increasingly aware of CCP influence, Hamilton said.
“Some of the China experts I have spoken to believe it’s too late. In their assessment, the Chinese Communist Party and its offshoots have implanted themselves so deeply in the soil of Australia’s institutions that we can no longer extract their roots,” Hamilton writes in his book. “Others argue that we can do it, but that the process would take 10 years. That seems about right to me.
“But once Australians of all ethnic backgrounds understand the danger, we can begin to protect our freedoms from the new totalitarianism.”