The Media's Portrayal of Chinese Influence
In comments to a Senate committee hearing at the end of May, ASIO Director-General Duncan Lewis offered: “Espionage and foreign interference continue[s] to occur on an unprecedented scale and this has the potential to cause serious harm to the nation’s sovereignty...”.
In 2017, it was revealed that Chinese businesses and businessmen were the largest foreign donors to Australian political parties, with more than $5.5 million going into Liberal and Labor party coffers (between 2013 & 2015).
Peter Varghese, former head of DFAT, expressed concern over the “willingness of political parties” to accept foreign donations. He believes these donations are made “with a purpose”, and suggests that they may be made with the interests of the Chinese Communist Party in mind.
ABC’s Four Corners revealed that university student Tony Chang was being monitored by the Chinese state, whilst studying in Australia in June 2015. During his stay, Mr Chang’s parents, still in China, were approached by security agents and told to rein in their son’s anti-communist activism in Australia. These threats helped convince the Australian Government to grant Mr Chang a protection visa.
Former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari initially handled large donations from the “whale” of political donors: Huang Xiangmo. “As well as encouraging Huang’s campaign fundraising, Dastyari requested the developer donate $5000 to settle an outstanding legal bill.”
Recently, Australian author and academic, Charles Hamilton, had his book release delayed because the publisher feared litigation and backlash from China. ‘Silent invasion’ was “promoted as an explosive exposé of Chinese influence infiltrating the highest levels of Australian politics and media”. Hamilton received the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest honours, in 2009, for “service to public debate and policy development.”
The Chinese embassy released a statement, claiming anti-Chinese policy sentiments are common place in Australia, and it is time to move beyond them: “China does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs. We urge the relevant people in Australia to discard prejudice and speak and act more in a way that will be conducive to boosting the China-Australia relationship...”.
is media coverage of China’s
influence in Australia misdirected,
or healthy criticism and debate?
The Australian Financial Review, Australia bans foreign political donations, cracks down on offshore influence
The Sydney Morning Herald, China’s Operation in Australia: Payments, power and our politicians
TheAustralian-China Relations Institute, Media Coverage of Chinese students in Australia
VIDEO: Linda Jakobson, La Trobe University, ‘Kevin Rudd on China’s rise and a new world order’
The Trumpet, Australian Politicians Accepting Chinese Money
The Sydney Morning Herald, Free speech fears after book critical of China is pulled from publication
The Conversation, How should Australia respond to China’s influence in our universities?