Australian-China sharp power war takes shape

As it were, it is going off. The first dimension of the Australia/China sharp power war is cyber, at the AFR:

An extra 500 cyber spies will be recruited as part of a $1.35 billion boost to protect the nation’s sensitive computer networks and data from an unrelenting wave of cyber attacks which China is suspected of orchestrating.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil the 10-year funding commitment to enhance cyber security ahead of the release of a crucial Defence Department review that is expected to reaffirm the need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on re-arming the military, including acquiring 12 submarines because of a deteriorating regional strategic environment.

Not suspected. Known.

The second dimension of the sharp power war is political interference and on that front Australia is also on the move. Labor corruption is back in the news at The Australian:

Daniel Andrews’s staffer Nancy Yang did the same Chinese Communist Party propaganda training course as the part-time NSW Labor staffer at the centre of Friday’s ASIO raids.

John Zhang is the staff member linked to allegations of covert attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to influence his boss, Shaoquette Moselmane, who until his expulsion from the party on Friday was a NSW Labor MP.

In 2013, Mr Zhang participated in a propaganda training course organised by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of China’s State Council, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic.

Err, hello, Gladys Liu.

The third dimension of the sharp power war is economic decoupling, via Bloomie:

The U.S. and China are moving beyond bellicose trade threats to exchanging regulatory punches that threaten a wide range of industries including technology, energy and air travel.

The two countries have blacklisted each other’s companies, barred flights and expelled journalists. The unfolding skirmish is starting to make companies nervous the trading landscape could shift out from under them.

“There are many industries where U.S. companies have made long-term bets on China’s future because the market is so promising and so big,” said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs. Now, they’re “recognizing the risk.”

…Consider the U.S. government’s decision to seize a half-ton, Chinese-made electrical transformer when it arrived at an American port last year and divert the gear to a national lab instead of the Colorado substation where it was supposed to be deployed. That move — and a May executive order from Trump authorizing the blockade of electric grid gear supplied by “foreign adversaries” of the U.S. in the name of national security — have already sent shock waves through the power sector.

The effect has been to dissuade American utilities from buying Chinese equipment to replace aging components in the nation’s electrical grid, said Jim Cai, the U.S. representative for Jiangsu Huapeng Transformer Co., the company whose delivery was seized. Although Cai said the firm has supplied parts to private utilities and government-run grid operators in the U.S. for nearly 15 years without security complaints, at least one American utility has since canceled a transformer award to the company, Cai said.

Trump’s directive is tied to a broader effort to bring more manufacturing to the U.S. from China. “This is a part of the administration’s efforts to impair China’s supply chains into the United States,” said former White House adviser Mike McKenna.

Likewise, any Australian firm seeking to invest or expand in the Chinese market is now fully exposed to strategic reprisal. The Hong Kong security law makes this much worse given it channels three-quarters of investment into the mainland. Expect decoupling to intensify outside of all but the most core markets, that is bulk commodities, and that will happen too over the longer term.

The fourth dimension of the sharp power war is strategic containment. See this speech by national security advisor Robert O’Brien who positions Xi Jinping as the new Joseph Stalin, quoting John Garnaut:

Very hawkish stuff that will bring Australia right along with it.

The fifth dimension of the sharp power war is values. Stick this in your pipe and smoke it, also at Bloomie:

The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.

While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of “demographic genocide.”

How can Australia engage with Han Nazis?

The final dimension of the sharp power war is propaganda. On that front, feel for freedom fighter Drew Pavlou who is again smashed by the CCP media:

Queensland Police has launched an investigation into Xu Jie, the Chinese consul-general in Brisbane, for allegedly inciting violent threats against an Australian university student, Australian media reported on Thursday. The student last year held a protest to support secessionist movements in Hong Kong, criticized China’s Xinjiang policy and spoke against alleged Chinese influence on Australian campuses. The Consulate-General of China in Brisbane then issued a statement condemning “separatists,” hence the student’s accusation against Xu.

The offensive against the top Chinese diplomat is the Australian authorities’ latest attempt to further strain the already tense relationship between China and Australia, even if the student was barred from his studies at the University of Queensland until 2022, which followed allegations of his misconduct, included unorthodox tactics and combative comments on social media.

The Australian authorities’ mentality toward China has been increasingly dictated by the competition between China and the US, and Canberra could not resist joining Washington’s chariot. On Friday, the Australian authorities raided the home and office of a Labor politician for his alleged role in the Chinese government’s “plot” to manipulate Australian politics and policy. This state lawmaker was forced to resign in April as assistant president of the NSW Legislative Council due to his praise of China’s coronavirus responses, which ran against the Australian government’s staunch criticism of China and its call for a global inquiry into the outbreak’s origins.

And on it drones.

It’s abundantly clear that the Australia/China relationship is no longer on rocky ground, being buffeted by poor diplomacy or in need of “reboot”.

It is fundamentally altered, structurally so, across all dimensions of engagement, and will only get worse from here.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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