Clive Hamilton is an Australian academic sounding a sombre warning. His central message in this book is best summed up in the following quote:
“China plans to dominate the world, and has been using Australia and New Zealand as a testing ground for its tactics to assert its ascendancy in the West. Two years ago, I would have regarded such a claim as fantastic. But now, despite Beijing’s determined efforts to conceal its ambitions and plans, so much evidence has accumulated that the conclusion seems irresistible.” (Pages 115-116.)
It seems the author had some trouble finding a publisher for this book. Several well-known mainstream publishers refused to touch it, apparently concerned at the prospects of severe blow-back. A smaller, boutique publishing house, made of sterner stuff, eventually took it on. The result makes fascinating, if disturbing, reading.
Hamilton looks at a number of different areas of Australian life and sets forth the evidence of Chinese Communist penetration and attempted dominance of these areas. He looks at the business world, particularly the activities of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs (some Chinese, some not) with alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). More worryingly, he looks at the extent and size of Chinese donations to Australian political parties, both Labor and Liberal. He examines Chinese investment in Australian infrastructure such as power distribution systems and ports, Darwin being perhaps the most infamous example of the latter. He also looks at Chinese activities in Australian real estate (something of a hot button issue these days) and agricultural land. Most sadly from my point of view (I used to work in the sector), is the author’s expose of how CCP influence, through the medium of Chinese students’ associations and university reliance on Chinese student fees, not to mention profitable partnerships with Chinese research institutes, is stifling freedom of debate in many leading Australian universities.
The author’s argument is that, through a mixture of naivety and misunderstanding, Australians do not grasp that, effectively, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the CCP are basically one and the same. The programs, ambitions, and ruthlessness of the CCP become those of the PRC. Because Australia has become seduced by and reliant upon the largesse accompanying our economic partnership with the PRC, we have been blinded to the larger designs of the CCP to infiltrate and subvert Australia. In other words, Australians look at China the nation-state, the responsible trading partner, and forget, willingly or otherwise, that China is a communist dictatorship little different from the old Soviet Union against whom we fought a lengthy Cold War.
Assuming Hamilton is right in his rather alarming thesis, then none of this is all that surprising to students of history. For over seven decades, the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) tried to subvert the Western democracies by using “front” organisations embedded in Western countries: trade unions, “ban the bomb” movements, some groups agitating for minority and environmental rights, left-wing student associations, to name but a few examples. Such “fronts” seemed local, spontaneous, and democratic; in reality many of them were directed from Moscow. If, as Hamilton argues, the PRC and the CCP are implementing similar tactics in Australia, they are merely using tried and tested Leninist tactics devised nearly ¾ of a century ago by the Soviet Union and the CPSU. The West’s (temporary?) victory in the Cold War has made us in Australia lose sight of the fact that the same tactics can still be used against us by a communist state much closer to home.
Hamilton is sensitive to the fact that, in writing this book, he can be accused of anti-Chinese xenophobia, or even racism. (A blanket charge that is often used by the Left in this country to stifle debate that it doesn’t like.) He attempts to deflect this by pointing out that a significant and growing number of anti-communist Chinese Australians are increasingly worried by the dominance of the CCP in Australian political, financial, and cultural life, as well as Beijing’s control of most Chinese-language press in this country, and they want non-communist Australians of whatever racial background to stand up and say “no”. The author openly wonders whether or not the rot has gone too far, but ultimately leaves the question open.
He is brave enough to trespass upon a singularly sensitive matter: if push came to shove, and Australia was pitted in some sort of political/military confrontation with the PRC, where would the loyalties of the million or so Chinese Australians lie? Ultimately he can give no firm answer to this, other than to say an uncertain percentage (probably less than half) would be loyal to Australia, an uncertain percentage (probably less than half) would be loyal to the PRC, while another uncertain percentage (quite possibly more than half) would try to sit on the fence and stay out of trouble. His discussion of this vexed point made me realise how essential is the Australian constitution’s “Australian citizenship only” rule for Commonwealth Parliamentary candidates.
This book set me pondering upon some broader, related issues. If American power is withdrawn from the Western Pacific/East Asian area, then do we try to maintain a true independence from a dominant China, or do we knuckle under and become a tributary state? In the absence of American military support, we would stand little chance of militarily countering China – unless we significantly, possibly massively, increased our defence spending. But would Australians support increased spending on our military? Historically, Australians have preferred butter to guns. We make great play of our support for our armed forces on Anzac Day, but are loathe to vote them much money. In any case, would Australians support any sort of armed conflict with China, with or without US participation? The Left is very strong in Australia. Also, there are non-Left circles in Australia that would be unfriendly to the idea of conflict with China. In short, I suspect the idea of an Australia/China armed conflict, with or without the US, would bitterly divide this country.
Then, finally, there is perhaps the ultimate question implied by Clive Hamilton’s book: if Australia is to be rescued from this alleged creeping tide of CCP subversion, who is going to take the lead? If Hamilton is right, political parties are compromised, much of big business neutralised, and responsible debate within universities and elsewhere silenced. Who does that leave to take up the reins and lead us in a fight to retain our democratic freedom? Do Australians even care?
Some people may say the author is being alarmist and controversial purely for the sake of being alarmist and controversial. However, even if only half of what Hamilton says is true, Australia has a serious problem. Whether or not you agree with Clive Hamilton’s ideas, his book raises major questions that deserve to be discussed rationally and openly. I found the book fascinating and I recommend it to anyone interested in Australia’s future.
On my “five-star” scale of ranking, I give it 4 ¼ stars.
PS: On a purely personal note, as a former university worker I was saddened by one of the photographs reproduced by the author in his book. It showed a beaming vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, one of the nation’s most respected academic institutions, together with a Chinese post-graduate student allegedly an important member of a Communist Party youth league, jointly holding aloft a giant PRC flag. The occasion for this display is not mentioned in the photo’s caption. What a shame, I thought, that a university supposedly dedicated to light, liberty and learning, should publicly partner with a representative (official or unofficial) of a dictatorship. But then, maybe it doesn’t matter anymore. Most Australian universities sold out years ago to left-wing political correctness and forfeited any claim to be bastions of free and open debate.