People keeping up with China’s United Front ‘soft power’ rampage Down Under will know of the latest from New Zealand and the Australian book cancellation – and another Badiucao cartoon to eloquently sum it up.
One feature of China’s systematic infiltration of the two democracies’ institutions is that it is so breathtakingly presumptuous. As more aspects of this strategy come to light, you have to wonder how Chinese embassy and other operatives thought they could get away with so much co-option, propagandizing, financial inducements and intimidation. Did they imagine no-one would notice or care or (as is now happening) sound the alarm?
In Hong Kong, the Liaison Office does all this stuff, with the advantage of a mandate that overrides and can command the local administration. Like the United Front work in Australia and New Zealand, it is multi-pronged and brazen. Beijing’s agents here have an ‘excuse’ for heavy-handedness in that the city is a hair’s breadth away from CIA-backed uprisings of teenage splittists and kids who boo the national anthem. Yet even here, the meddling and infiltration seems hyperactive to the point of being counterproductive.
Could it be that Chinese agents in Hong Kong, Oz, NZ and elsewhere are out of control – overextending their missions to advance their bureaucracies and careers? In which case, Beijing would consider reining them in to limit damage. Or is this another facet of Xi Jinping’s nationalistic hubris?
Either way, the story is coming out, and it’s not doing any good for China’s warm-and-cuddly image. And it’s getting noticed in the US. (An interesting comparison would be with Putin – see PBS documentary here and here.)
A notable and disturbing part of this is the role played by ethnicity – Beijing’s atavistic/feudal claim to lordship over anyone of Han ancestry, with added gratuitous victimhood – of which we will be hearing more.
A less shocking feature of the phenomenon is the role of money in enticing academia, politicians, media and other influential but financially desperate players into acting as China’s stooges. With that in mind, here’s a fascinating look at an Australian nexus of Chinese money/Chinese Communist Party/Chinese pseudo-medicine.