Features Australia

Chinese whispers

Beijing sees Labor as a more compliant partner

29 January 2022

9:00 AM

29 January 2022

9:00 AM

This week, WeChat, the most popular messaging app, and social media platform in China removed the account of the Australian prime minister and renamed it ‘Australian-Chinese New Life’. Those netizens who had hoped to follow the prime minister were informed that they were now following an account which says its purpose is ‘providing living in Australia information for the Chinese community’.

It was an audacious slap in the face that China delivered to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Senator James Paterson, chair of the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee, was right when he said that what the Chinese government had done by shutting down the prime minister’s account in the leadup to a federal election was effectively foreign interference in Australian democracy.

Laughably, Chinese officials claimed they had nothing to do with the account being shut down. Sure. Nobody in China would dream of closing down the account of the prime minister of Australia unless they were ordered to do so by operatives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The fact that the WeChat account of opposition leader Anthony Albanese was untouched tells you everything you need to know. China wants Mr Albanese to win the next election and what’s more, it wants everyone one to know that Mr Albanese is its preferred candidate. That’s hardly a surprise. China has very warm relations with Labor premiers, particularly Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. No doubt if Mr Albanese were elected, China would hope not only to reinstate its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement with Victoria, but to ink a BRI agreement with Australia’s federal government, just as it has with New Zealand.

Mr Albanese, for his part, used an address at the National Press Club this week to praise China effusively saying it deserved ‘a great deal of credit for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty’ and claiming that it was ‘an economic achievement, the likes of which we haven’t seen, ever, in human history’. This is absurd, disgraceful stuff. Absurd because the only reason that the Chinese people have suffered such crippling poverty was because of the ruthless and economically bankrupt policies that Chairman Mao pursued in the first place. Once Mao died and China began to partially open its economy, introducing its version of state-sponsored crony capitalism, it embarked on the long process of catching up with the West. Yet even today, China is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with appalling poverty in some regions. Worse, much of its rapid economic growth in recent years has been achieved using forced labour, concentration camps, and most horrific of all, the farming and sale of human organs.

It is impossible to really know what the per capita income is in China today because its statistics are a melange of half-truths and wishful thinking but according to the IMF, China’s GDP per capita is less than $19,000 whereas that of Taiwan is over $59,000. What is the difference? The ruinous imposition of centralised planning and Marxist economics.

Mr Albanese is only the latest in a long line of Labor leaders that have turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the CCP. Perhaps the most vocal right now is former prime minister Paul Keating. This week, Mr Keating branded British foreign secretary Liz Truss ‘demented’ simply for her expressing her well-founded concern that, ‘Russia is working more closely with China than it ever has’ and that it was therefore incumbent on Britain and Australia to work together. What else did Ms Truss say that so offended Mr Keating? She criticised China for its ‘economic coercion’ of Australia and said its bullying behaviour was a ‘wake-up call’ to other countries. She had the temerity to note that Australia and the United Kingdom are both facing global challenges from multiple aggressors including the ‘alignment of authoritarian regimes around the world’. All this inflamed Mr Keating who sounds increasingly like a contributor to China’s Global Times, a CCP mouthpiece and the most rabid exponent of its wolf warrior diplomacy.

But it is not just authoritarian regimes around the world who are helping China. What is more frightening is that the elites in the West are falling over each other to do China’s bidding. We have seen how Dr Fauci, adviser to both former president Trump and President Biden, did everything in his power to hide the reality that Covid leaked from a lab in Wuhan. He was ably assisted in that task by Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Google. In a just published book, Red Handed, Peter Schweizer details the ways in which CEOs and politicians are helping China achieve its goal of ‘technology supremacy’ over the West. Why? Quite simply to enrich themselves. Here’s an example. Facebook and Google teamed up in 2016 to build an undersea cable linking Hong Kong, San Francisco and other locations in Asia. They chose as their partner a Chinese company called Dr Peng Telecom & Media Group to provide the link to Hong Kong. Dr Peng was backed by the Chinese government and worked closely with Huawei and military defence contractors in China. The project was eventually blocked by the US Federal Communications Commission in 2020 because of the ‘unprecedented opportunities’ it provided for ‘Chinese government espionage’. Schweizer writes, ‘How the tech giants did not see the obvious espionage risk to their plans is a mystery. Or maybe they saw it and did not care.’ Of course, they saw it. Milking peoples’ communications for actionable information is their bread and butter. And why would they object to censorship by the CCP when they are such enthusiastic censors themselves?

This week, the long arm of Chinese censorship stretched all the way to the Australian Open, where spectators were forced to remove t-shirts with a logo asking, ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ Peng Shuai’s safety became a matter of international concern after a social media post alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. After the allegation was aired, she vanished from sight for almost three weeks. When she reappeared, she denied that she had made the allegations and claimed that she had been misunderstood. She has not been allowed to speak to media or play international matches. Finally, after a huge international backlash, Tennis Australia relented, and fans were allowed to wear the t-shirts.

The sad truth is that the last two years have seen a dramatic increase in authoritarianism and censorship in the West, largely driven by elites with the greatest admiration for China. If Labor wins the next federal election, prepare to see more of both in Australia.

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