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China Daily Global / 2020-10 / 26 / Page006

'Think tank' pushes anti-China barrow

By Karl Wilson in Sydney | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-10-26 00:00

Australian group accused of being backed by US military corporations

The questioning encountered by three Chinese-Australian citizens in a recent Senate hearing on issues facing diaspora communities in Australia had an eerie resonance.

As Yun Jiang, Osmond Chiu and Wesa Chau came away from the hearing they might have been forgiven for wondering whether they had been transported back to the 1950s and the communist witch hunt of senator Joseph McCarthy in the United States.

At the hearing on Oct 14 Senator Eric Abetz asked all three if they were prepared to "unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship". The line of questioning was straight out of the McCarthy handbook and received a swift backlash on social media.

Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan, said: "No Australian should have their loyalty to this country questioned or undermined because of their ethnic origin, nor should they be required to prove their loyalty."

Abetz represents the growing anti-China Cold War cancer that has festered in Australia in recent years.

Behind the anti-Chinese stance is a small clique of politicians, journalists, academics and an outfit that calls itself the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, also known as ASPI.

ASPI, established in 2001, describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan think tank that produces expert and timely advice for Australia's strategic and defense leaders." The reality is not just a little different but the exact opposite.

ASPI's executive director, Peter Jennings, is a former public servant who worked in defense and national security. He has been prominent in the anti-China push with frequent commentaries in the right-wing Australian media.

ASPI is big on pushing the anti-China barrow whether it be related to alleged buying political influence, taking over Australian companies, infiltrating universities or spying.

As this anti-China push has gathered pace over the past few years, some analysts have suggested that Australia's China policymaking has undergone a leadership shift, with influence moving away from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and toward the Prime Minister's office and defense and national security agencies.

Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr has said ASPI "consistently expresses pro-American positions" while being funded by major US military and armaments corporations.

Labor Senator Kim Carr earlier told the Senate: "In parts of the defense and security establishment there are hawks intent on fighting a new Cold War. They have waged a muttering campaign against collaborations with China and have found eager acolytes in sections of the Australian media."

In July the Business Analysis and Commentary website reported that ASPI had been awarded a contract worth A $214,500 ($153,000) by the Department of Defence for "management advisory services". Last year it was given an even bigger amount, $614,536.

"Last year these contracts amounted to more than $2 million and were signed by the chiefs of a small group of government departments which, ASPI's critics say, have vested interests in promoting China as Australia's No 1 strategic threat," the website said.

It has also been reported that ASPI has received funding from the governments of the United Kingdom and Japan as well as NATO. Its corporate supporters are said to include BAE Systems, Raytheon, Saab, Northrop Grumman, Naval Group and MBDA Missile Systems.

Jocelyn Chey, Australia's former consul-general to Hong Kong, criticized ASPI for lacking basic knowledge of China's political system.

Geoff Raby, former Australian ambassador to China, said ASPI is "very much the architect of the China threat theory in Australia".

ASPI is widely read by members of the Australian Parliament, especially those beating the Cold War drum. Andrew Hastie, who chairs the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, is a good example.

Last year he wrote a commentary linking the West's handling of China's rise to a failure to contain the advance of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

James Laurenceson, director of the Australia China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, said that with no sign of the political tensions between the two countries easing, the big danger is the erosion of the economic and people-to-people ties that were once the glue holding the relationship together.


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