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Living with the Chinese dragon: partnership or penetration?

By Peter West - posted Friday, 9 March 2018

The Dastyari affair last year showed that Chinese money has thoroughly infiltrated the Labor Party. It bewilders me that Labor luminaries are happy enough to say things that please the Chinese government, which quotes 'critics' of Hamilton's book in an attempt to discredit it. There are a number of sources, including Hamilton, arguing that the Dastyari affair was merely the tip of the iceberg. And the Liberals are also to blame. Foreign corruption of politicians is an evil and it must be stamped out. But who wants to stop those who bring money with them to enrich a political party?

Australia's response

It seems that Australians and their government will have to decide how to position themselves. It was announced last year that we will not kow-tow to the Chinese. After Malcolm Turnbull said he would stand up for Australia against China, Malcolm Davis from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said


"Ultimately, their goal is to have Australia become more pro-China, less pro-US, align with Beijing and distance itself from the United States and ultimately end the alliance," he said.

"Everyone understands what China is about, the difference is now we are starting to fight back against them."

China is a tightly-controlled country. Hamilton warns - with some telling stories - that countries who try to stand up to Beijing are soon brought into line as the flow of tourists, or students, etc can be turned off if something displeases Beijing. Internet users get censored or blocked if they mention one of the 'five poisons', such as Taiwan, Falun Gong or the Dalai Lama. These and other things get blocked by China's Great Firewall. While in China, try checking Wikipedia about kangaroos and you get "the page you are looking for is currently unavailable". Even Winnie the Pooh got blocked recently (he was used as a symbol of Xi!)

So where are we now? Australians are stuck in the Pacific and Indian Oceans between one power in decline, and another rising fast. And we have a clever sharp-witted leader pitted against an erratic and dimwitted one. China keeps talking grandly and gaining attention about free trade; about climate change; and progress. The reality? China is largely closed to western capital and trade. As we know only too well - foreigners can't buy land in China. Academic debate? Human rights? Almost non-existent in China, a country with powerful surveillance of "troublemakers" and punishment of dissent to a degree rivalled only by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four.

It does seem that China is doing its best to separate Australia and New Zealand from their US ally. One minute we get people in Australian political parties telling us to like the Chinese, that they are massively important, they saved us from the Great Financial Crisis, they are our friends, not to worry, she'll be right, mate…..and so on. Then, like a jealous lover, the China apologists turn on us with accusations of a moral panic, Sinophobia, racism, all the usual stuff trotted out by some academics. This is echoed by the Chinese official press who have called us an ex-dumping-ground for British criminals. Hamilton's book has some amusing comments by Chinese, referring to Australians as a 'paper cat' and so on; and there is one mention of Chinese contempt for 'dumb c**t Aussies'. And though many Australians boast of top-level Beijing contacts, one Chinese is quoted as saying 'As if you would be frank with a foreigner'. This must be the mutual trust that the Chinese government spokesman referred to earlier.

Australians may well have to choose between China and America. And frankly, I prefer the Americans, however unstable the present President. These words are attributed to Napoleon:

Here lies a sleeping lion. Let him sleep: for when he awakes, he will shake the world.


It's clear that China's leaders did not want Hamilton's book published; they will do their best to discredit it. Does that mean we should shun or ignore it? I doubt it. Perhaps Hamilton's book is a bit alarmist. But people need to make up their own mind, not condemn the book without checking for themselves.

As France, Germany and other countries warn of China's plans for becoming a centre of power stretching in all directions, Australia needs to stay alert. Investment in farms, land, ports and car companies worldwide is all very well, but at what cost? The loyalty of some Chinese-Australians seems open to question, at least; and we know there's a difference between loyalty to China and loyalty to the Chinese government. So let's hope Australia knows how to cope with the dragon. With Xi apparently becoming leader for life, we will need wisdom, steady guidance - and a lot of luck.

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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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