Flat White

Riding the dragon with Bob Carr

22 February 2018

4:49 PM

22 February 2018

4:49 PM

The ‘little dragons’ of southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia share the same problem Australia has with China.

How to ‘ride the dragon’, keep Chinese investment and tourists coming, while not sacrificing national sovereignty while doing so. It’s been called ‘riding the dragon’ and for many of the wet-rice lands, it is a foregone conclusion; Chinese money will eventually subvert and submerge, roll over those with little power to resist.

Australia is in a slightly better position but not by much. The Chinese dragon – with buckets of cash- has already bought its way into much Australian infrastructure and real estate, courtesy of benevolent powerbrokers in both major political parties, but most notably, Labor, where former PMs Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and former premier Bob Carr have all been seduced into smoothing the political route for Chinese interests.

Former ANU academic, public intellectual, Greens candidate and author Clive Hamilton will, on Monday, see his new book ‘Silent Invasion – China’s influence in Australia’ hit bookshelves around Australia. ‘Silent Invasion’ was rejected by several publishers including Allen & Unwin unnerved by possible legal threats, before being taken up by Hardie Grant.

‘Silent Invasion’ is a riposte to China’s soft power strategies and massive money ‘donations’ from elements of the Chinese Communist Party that slid into the fabric of Australian political and economic life.

In a 49 page submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in which Hamilton and his researcher Alex Joske warned that ‘A one-party state that accepts and propagates anti-democratic values and prejudices – where little diversity of opinion is permitted, where the judiciary serves the ruling party and where neither a free press nor a vibrant civil society are permitted – represents a far greater threat to a Australia’s interests than a nation whose values and political structure are similar to our own.”

Bob Carr is director of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology in Sydney. On Wednesday evening he appeared, along with British High Commissioner Menna Rawlings and Michael Wesley, ANU Professor of International Relations at ‘A Foreign Affair’ hosted by ABC’s Geraldine Doogue in ANU’s China in the World auditorium, the Lotus Hall.

Flat White asked Bob Carr if generous donor to political parties, Huang Xiangmo (also involved in Sam Dastyari’s fall from grace) was still funding ACCRI since ASIO’s warnings of Mr Huang as a person with links to the Chinese Communist Party?

Carr’s response was evasive, delivered firmly “ACCRI is funded by UTS” and then went on to fulminate about the ‘anti-China panic’ repeating comments he made to The Australian about “131,355 Chinese students studying in Australian universities and only four incidents, revolving around a map a lecturer showed them, to which they objected.”

But it is not just a matter of ‘only four student incidents’. Many China-born people who made Australia their home, according to Hamilton, are fearful of repercussions taken against relatives in China, if they speak out too freely.

Carr was much more forthright about the need to lessen American ties, citing the adversarial climate that has developed quoting ‘gratuitous attacks’ adding, “We don’t have to run China policy past the Americans.”

So does a sovereign nation defend its economy, political structure, its very existence as a nation against an incoming floodtide seemingly ridden by the very politicians that are supposed to protect and preserve our national identity?

We could learn from Singapore, that small but robustly sturdy nation-state. Singapore employs huge numbers of ‘foreign’, read mainland Chinese, workers (“Everywhere you go in Singapore now, you hear Mandarin spoken, but they’re not Singaporeans, they’re Chinese!” said a Singapore-born Australian, returning back after a relative’s wedding in the island-state.)

Singapore’s immigration laws are the strictest in Asia; employers of Filipinas brought in as housekeepers, maids and babysitters have to pay an approximately S$1500 bond to the government and regular pregnancy checks are carried out to ensure no one circumvents immigration laws by having an unauthorised baby by a Singaporean national.

Draconian? Yes, but effective.

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