Via The Australian comes an unwise diplomatic intervention:
China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, has hit out at the ABC and Fairfax over a joint Four Corners report on China’s influence in Australia.
He said at an Australia China Business Council networking day in Parliament House in Canberra that the report’s producers aimed to “instigate China panic”.
Mr Cheng said the allegations were groundless and those reporting them were attempting to render them true by repeating them.
He said in China, this is called cooking “up the overnight cold rice”
Meanwhile Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke at the Australia China Business Council event this morning, applauding the efforts of the council to deepen the relationship between the two countries.
“This bilateral relationship between Australia and China is growing stronger day by day,” she said. “It is multifaceted, although our economic ties are a standout.
“In 2015 – 2016 the trading of goods and services between our countries was almost $150 billion. To place these figures in their proper context, more than 22 cents in every dollar of global trade we conducted in that financial year was with China.”
Ms Bishop said Chinese investment in Australia was valued at about $87 billion and highlighted the presence of Chinese students at Australian universities, Australian New Colombo Plan scholars attending universities in China, Chinese tourists visiting Australia, and the value the Chinese market for the Australian book publishing and art industries as examples of the strength of the trade relationship.
Super. Except she’s on the pay roll. Recall from last year:
Chinese businessmen with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have donated half a million dollars to the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party during the past two years, political disclosures reveal.
All the donors have links to the Chinese government, and the vast bulk of the money was given by companies with no apparent business interests in WA. Ms Bishop, the leading federal member of the party in that state, has singled out each of the three key donors for praise.
Several of the donations have been obscured by the channelling of funds via executives or related companies, or by the donors’ failure to disclose them to the Australian Electoral Commission, in apparent breach of Commonwealth law.
…In 2014-15, billionaire Chau Chak Wing’s Hong Kong Kingson Investment Ltd gave $200,000 to the WA Liberal Party. The donation is listed on the party’s disclosure to the AEC, but the company made no disclosure.
The controversial tycoon has given millions to Liberal, National and Labor parties over several decades. His Kingold conglomerate has expanded from property development to hospitality, education, finance, health, media and culture that extends “from Guangzhou, Beijing and Hong Kong to Sydney and Brisbane in Australia,” according to its website. No business interests in WA are listed.
Why is the foreign minister so popular? Lowy Institute analyst, Rory Medcalf, describes the problem:
Forensic media investigations by Fairfax Media and ABC TV’s Four Corners have uncovered multi-faceted interference by the Chinese Communist Party in Australia.
This includes propaganda and censorship in much of this nation’s Chinese language media as well as even more troubling channels of interference through political donations, intimidation of dissident voices and the establishment and mobilisation of pro-Beijing organisations on Australian soil.
…This is in addition to a pervasive but predictable espionage effort including human and cyber intelligence.
All nations project the “soft” power of attraction, of winning the debate. Australia should welcome and facilitate Chinese voices in a transparent and evidence-based contest of ideas about this country’s future.
But a picture is emerging of excessive influence through money, censorship and coercion. This is neither the soft power of free expression nor the hard power of military force.
Instead it is the sharp power of intrusive influence, including through the strategic granting then apparent withholding of political funds.
The reported Chinese Communist Party efforts to distort Australia’s sovereignty go beyond what is acceptable in an even vaguely rules-based global system. It breaches historic norms of states’ non-interference in each other’s affairs, which China’s leaders say they support.
…Whether those providing the cash are seeking simply status or something else, their donations are damaging what should be constructive, respectful and beneficial relations between Australia and China.
I wonder when my cheque will arrive.