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'Shanghai Sam's' fall should alert attention to China’s rise

By Peter West - posted Tuesday, 5 December 2017


A report to the US Congress details the worldwide scope of the problem: how foreign firms cannot penetrate China, while China moves into many countries wordwide, increasing control over perhaps 60 countries. There is far more in this report, even in the Executive Summary. I wonder if American power is secure now Trump is in the White House, bringing his thoughtful, reflective stance to steady the US ship of state?

China's students

Chinese power extends to the Chinese Government's sway over 'its' students in Australia. There is concern in university and foreign affairs circles over the way China is using Chinese students to monitor other Chinese students in Australia, and to challenge academics whose views are not the same as the Chinese Government. There have been a number of incidents in which students have criticised academics giving out the "wrong" view of China, the South China Sea issue, and so on.

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In October this year Chinese students were warned by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to remember that they should respect Australian customs and that Australia prides itself on free speech. Penny Wong, Labor's foreign affairs spokesperson, stressed that Australia must understand China, "its motives and mindsets" because we don't yet understand "how China's ambitions will play out globally". Subtle, but telling.

Security issues

Chinese power has security implications. Duncan Lewis, the ASIO chief, organised meetings of Labor and coalition MPS to warn them of the danger of accepting foreign donations. He was all too aware of the Four Corners investigation into Chinese donations and how these furthered Chinese interests.

A book on Chinese influence in Australia has been written by Clive Hamilton, an academic at Charles Sturt University. But the publisher asked the author to edit the book heavily, to lessen the potential for vexatious legal proceedings. Lawyers apparently pointed to current legal proceedings already launched by Beijing's agents. Hamilton left the publisher and a further publisher has been sought. We will know more next year.

But the threat seems to point to Beijing's insistence on controlling opinion. This issue has been reported in many countries overseas. As one academic commented, "If dissent can be stifled here, it can be done anywhere".Already US film and other media are being self-censored for fear of Chinese disapproval, according to the Report on China to Congress.

Chinese donors and political parties

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But let's look again at Senator Dastyari, and his power base emerging from union links in New South Wales. Questions should be asked loudly about links between Chinese businessmen and the NSW Labor Party. The Dastyari fall from grace has been dramatic.

But we need to understand the whole picture. Why are there so many links between NSW Labor and Chinese businessmen who are affiliated with the Chinese Government?

How come large donations are made by these businessmen to NSW Labor?

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About the Author

Dr Peter West is a well-known social commentator and an expert on men's and boys' issues. He is the author of Fathers, Sons and Lovers: Men Talk about Their Lives from the 1930s to Today (Finch,1996). He works part-time in the Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic University, Sydney.

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