Ten years ago, Australia moved closer to Beijing to become less reliant on America in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus Australia’s dependence on China was once one of the highest in the world. But now Australia has awakened to the sinister nature of the CCP.
More than a fifth of Australia’s exports go to China. Two-way trade with China is twice the value of two-way trade with Japan, Australia’s second-largest trading partner. China has been the major importer of Australia’s exports over the past 63 years, even surpassing Australia’s dependence on Britain after World War II.
In the 2012 Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, Canberra’s political measures begin with teaching Asian languages in schools, especially Mandarin Chinese, strengthening economic cooperation with Beijing, and opening its economy to Asia. In 2014, Australia signed a free trade agreement with China and even invited Xi Jinping to speak to the Australian Parliament.
However, Australia has changed in the past ten years, becoming allies with two powerful countries—the U.K. and the U.S. that have committed to a comprehensive program of work over the next 18 months to build at least eight nuclear submarines. The optimal pathway to achieve this is through a significant increase in Australia-UK-US defense collaboration.
The CCP had successfully penetrated Australia, indirectly manipulating Australian politicians, but the situation has completely reversed in less than ten years. What is happening?
Border diplomacy strategy
Australia was the first place where the CCP experimented with expanding its soft power overseas under its maritime border diplomacy strategy.
Mr. Chen Yonglin, former consul in charge of political affairs at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, once told The Epoch Times that the Chinese Communist Party’s infiltration process into Australia began in 2005. China’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Qiao Zonghuai, went to Canberra and informed senior officials at the Chinese Embassy about the new diplomatic direction of the CCP.
In the book titled “Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia,” author Clive Hamilton revealed that Mr. Qiao Zonghuai told senior officials in Australia that China’s first goal in encompassing Australia in its extensive border diplomacy strategy was to ensure that Australia would become a reliable and stable supplier for China to maintain economic growth in the next 20 years. Therefore, those present at the meeting need to help the CCP trigger a broad impact on Australia’s economy, politics, and culture.
First, surveys have found that political donations related to the CCP account for a significant scale on the political front. These political donations involve all parties in Australia. This finding has shaken Australian politics.
Specifically, in 2015, Duncan Lewis, then Director-General of Security of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), warned the government that some of their major donors—such as the wealthy property developer Huang Xiangmo—have close ties to Beijing.
In Lewis’ summary, Huang Xiangmo contributed more than $300,000 to the Liberal and Labor Party between 2014 and 2015 in political donations.
As revealed by the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr. Huang and his associates also donated $28,400 to then Trade Minister Andrew Robb’s campaign funding vehicle on the same day the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement was completed in 2014.
In June 2016, Australia’s ABC News published an article revealing political donations from a Chinese businessman to influence Australia-China trade policy. The report revealed that from 2013 to 2015, the Liberal and Labor Party’s of Australia received donations totaling $ 4.12 million from companies and individuals with ties to the CCP.
Culturally, CCP controlled media has penetrated the media in Australia to shape public opinion, mainly the Chinese community living in Australia.
According to an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in December 2020, “Australia’s peak intelligence agency has warned the federal government that the Chinese Communist Party covertly controls sections of Chinese-language media in Australia as part of its foreign interference and influence operation.
“Many of Australia’s most popular Chinese-language news outlets have been co-opted by Beijing to advance China’s strategic interests. … The briefings also highlight that hugely popular WeChat news sites in Australia are subject to complete control and censorship by Beijing, with some accounts directly managed by the Communist Party”.
Also, in 2020, research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that at least four Chinese-language media companies operating in Australia have financial links to the Chinese Communist Party. Also, at least 17 companies are linked with Beijing’s overseas influences. In addition, representatives of the Chinese-language media branches of ABC and SBS—two big media in Australia—attended media forums organized by China’s overseas propaganda department—the United Front Work Department. The study also highlights WeChat’s role in controlling the media.
As of September 2020, approximately 690,000 Australians use WeChat daily, amongst 3 million Australians who use WeChat. The most popular WeChat news account in Australia is Sydney Today, linked to a news website run by several media personalities believed to have connections to United Front groups.
Sources say that two media outlets in Australia could be fronts for Beijing’s United Front Work Department. They are Melbourne’s Pacific Media, which publishes news on the WeChat account “au123,” and Nan Hai Culture & Media (Australia). This company publishes the third most popular WeChat channel in Australia, “WeSydney,” with around 400,000 subscribers. The company is registered with a company owned by the United Front Department of China News Service.
Two news sites, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, have discovered the relationship between Pacific Media and Nan Hai Culture & Media (Australia), with China News Service, which belongs to the United Front Work. Company filings reveal that businessman Li Bing owns the Nanhai Group and is a joint-venture partner in a company controlled by Communist Party and United Front officials, Ya Zhou Wen Hua Enterprises.
In addition, Nam Hai Group also publishes the Chinese-language edition of Qantas magazine. Furthermore, it organizes an annual community event in Sydney, the New Year Lantern Festival, attended by Huang Xiangmo and senior Australian politicians, including former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
In addition, billionaire Huang Xiangmo donated $13.5 million to the University of Technology Sydney in 2014.
The CCP uses its economic power to coerce Australia into making concessions on a range of military and human rights issues.
Regarding the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Chen Yonglin said that “Australia has made significant compromises on national security and sovereignty.”
Firstly, in 2015, Australia leased Darwin Port to a Chinese company, Landbridge Group, with close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, for 99 years.
Port Darwin holds a vital military position for Australia to defend against attacks from the North.
Secondly, China is free to invest significantly in strategic industries as well as agriculture and livestock. Thirdly, it pushed for the ratification of a bilateral extradition treaty, despite concerns about the differences between the two countries’ judicial systems.
Mr. Chen added that the CCP continued to target Australian resources. China’s state-owned companies, CCP elites, and CCP-affiliated Chinese businessmen have made extensive investments in Australia’s agriculture and mining sectors.
Additionally, in 2015, CCP officials directly warned the Australian Labor Party chairman that if he did not support the extradition treaty desired by Beijing, he would not have the support of Australian-Chinese voters.
Labor Senator Sam Dastyari in 2016 appeared at a media event and said Australia should not interfere with China’s activities in the South China Sea.
The Australian media has also begun to self-censor content in published publications to please Beijing. For example, the book “Silent Invasion: Chinese Influence in Australia” by Clive Hamilton was rejected three times by Australian publishers to avoid offending China. Finally, after careful consideration, a publisher agreed to publish the book.
Why is China putting so much effort into Australia? What is the military-strategic value that the CCP gains by infiltrating and manipulating Australia?
Mr. Chen Yonglin revealed that the CCP plans to “infiltrate Australia from all directions so that Australia will eventually cooperate strategically with the CCP,” and stay away from the alliance with the United States. The CCP has adopted similar tactics in other countries, “but with Australia, the CCP has achieved remarkable results.”
In its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, the Australian government wrote: “The United States has been the dominant power in our region throughout Australia’s post-Second World War history. Today, China is challenging America’s position.”
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy Studies, points out that Beijing is trying to gain a strategic advantage in the region to achieve its ultimate goal of ending Australia’s alliance with the United States.
After years of investigation, Clive Hamilton discovered “Australia’s major institutions—from schools, universities, professional associations to our media; from mining, agriculture and tourism to military assets such as seaports and power grids; from local parliaments and state governments, to our own Canberra political parties—are being infiltrated and transformed by a complex system of control under the supervision of the CCP.”
For the vast majority of well-wishers in the West, even though initially aware of the CCP’s infiltration and influence in Western society, especially with the overseas Chinese communities, it is just naive to argue that the primary goal of the CCP’s various types of tactics is to be “passive”—that is, to silence only voices of criticism and dissent.
But behind these “passive” activities, Hamilton points out, the CCP also has “active” machinations—that is, taking advantage of overseas Chinese to change the fabric of Australian society and make Westerners sympathize with the CCP so that Beijing can exert influence. Accordingly, Australia will become the CCP’s assistant in its ambition to become a superpower of Asia and then the world.
Australia wakes up—Wolf diplomacy backfires
How has Australia awakened?
Relations between Australia and China are believed to have started to take a turn for the worse around 2014 when Canberra became increasingly vocal about Beijing’s more aggressive policy in the South China Sea. Australia accused the CCP of trying to interfere in Australian political affairs. And thus, Australia has taken a series of moves against Beijing.
In 2017, then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hit back at China on the issue of foreign interference, declaring that Australia would “stand up” against meddling in its national affairs.
In the same year, Australian senator Sam Dastyari resigned due to a political donation scandal involving Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo.
In 2018, Australia passed a foreign interference law, seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence.
In February 2018, the Morrison government imposed tougher restrictions on foreigners buying farmland and electrical infrastructure, directly impacting Chinese investors. Soon after, Huawei and ZTE were blocked from conducting 5G deployments in Australia over security concerns about Chinese surveillance.
In 2020, Australia also publicly criticized China’s human rights record, involving the detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang and restrictions on freedoms in Hong Kong.
In Sept. 2020, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison once again called for an independent review of the origins of COVID-19 despite the economic damage China had caused Australia over the previous months.
Again in July 2021, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison once again demanded answers over the origins of COVID-19 to “protect the world” from further pandemics after the WHO chief declared it was “premature” to rule out a leak from the Wuhan lab.
He said: “Australia called for an independent review, and sees understanding the cause of this pandemic not as a political issue, but as being essential, simply, to prevent the next one.”
In May this year, the Australian government announced that it would review the 99-year Darwin harbor lease, which revolved around national security, forcing Landbridge Group to relinquish relevant ownership rights. Again, the threat to national security is undeniable.
Recently, Australia’s abandonment of a contract to build 12 conventional submarines with France worth $50 billion, in favor of signing nuclear submarine agreements with the U.S. and U.K., made France angry and made Beijing insecure and angry.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, Australia has demonstrated a willingness to serve as a supply base for China because many believe that the CCP saved the Australian economy from the recession. Clive Hamilton points out in his book that the CCP was able to infiltrate and influence Australia because the Australians “allowed it to happen right in front of our noses, because we were blind to the belief that only China can guarantee the prosperity of our economy, and because we are afraid to stand up to Beijing’s oppression.”
The CCP conducts wolf diplomacy in retaliation
The CCP’s reform and opening-up policies are intended to mask a desperate purpose of maintaining the power and interests of this authoritarian political conglomerate. Therefore, when it lost a link to the Western free world, Australia, the CCP immediately fell into a state of panic. Anything that does not serve the political purposes of this administration can become a threat to the life of the ruling party.
At such times, the rogue nature of the CCP is exposed, and China immediately responds to Australia with a series of extreme diplomatic actions.
For example, in 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that Cheng Lei, an Australian citizen and popular host of the Chinese English-language television station CGTN, was arrested for endangering national security. Soon after, the last two reporters working for Australian media in China rushed home on the advice of diplomats. However, the night before ABC reporter Bill Birtles planned his hasty departure from Beijing; seven Chinese policemen arrived at his doorstep in the middle of the night. A similar surprise visit was made to Michael Smith of the Australian Financial Review in Shanghai.
After Australia pushed for an international investigation into the origin of the coronavirus in April, just a month later, China confirmed it would impose anti-dumping duties of more than 80% for Australian barley exports. The imposition of the tariffs is a blow to Australia’s barley industry, which has previously enjoyed zero tariffs thanks to a free trade agreement between the two countries. Soon after, Chinese authorities also banned beef imports from four Australian slaughterhouses.
In June 2021, Australia accused China of being the culprit behind cyber attacks, targeting Australian government agencies and businesses for several months. Australian intelligence says the latest attacks have many similarities to an attack on Australia’s Parliament and the three largest political parties in March 2019.
Tom Uren, the senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Cyber Policy Center, told ABC News that only certain countries, including China, the U.S., the U.K., and Russia, can carry out such long-term and large-scale cyberattacks.
Uren said, “The U.S. and U.K. have the capability, but not the motivation to do this.
“It is a very small list, and if you think of who’d want to do it, there’s a list of one.”
According to the Financial Times, at that time, China was no longer responding to any calls from Australian ministers.
In particular, in the context of diplomatic relations between the two countries continuing to deteriorate, the CCP posted a violent image of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the neck of an Afghan child in the year 2020. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government had contacted the Chinese government, asking for an apology, and contacted Twitter to request the removal of the post.
All of the CCP’s “wolf warrior” policies eventually pushed Australia to the opposite side and brought Australia closer to its former ally.
Moreover, in September this year, the Australia-UK-US trilateral alliance (AUKUS) was established, showing that Australia’s political trend has shifted.
AUKUS is a craft alliance in military, technology, and intelligence and cuts military, economic ties with China together. According to Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College (NSC) at the Australian National University, the CCP’s financial threats and cyberattacks were unthinkable before, but they have become a reality now.
Australian intelligence agencies have learned to assess the worst-case scenario, and it is thanks to Beijing, the AUKUS alliance has been formed.
Within this alliance, The Sydney Morning Herald, in an article published at the end of Nov. 2019, made the following comment about the CCP: “The never-ending pursuit of power, the relentlessly expanding influence and paranoid nature of the Chinese Communist Party means that it will continue to press outwards unless and until it meets resistance.
“At home and abroad, it imposes one control after another until it is satisfied that it has total control. It is an ideology of authoritarianism animated by a psychology of totalitarianism.”
After the world increasingly recognized the “deceit, wickedness and violence” face of the CCP, it was in danger on all sides. The CCP’s wolf diplomacy campaign has partly demonstrated the government’s fear and inability to attract allies.