CHINA’S AGGRESSION IN AUSTRALIA IS WAKE-UP CALL FOR JAPAN
Australia finds itself in a dangerous position. China is taking over the country with most of its citizens unaware of what is happening. Although it may be too late to regain control of some industries, Australia still has a chance to halt China’s broader assault. The Chinese offensive is depicted in detail in Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia (Hardie Grant Books, Melbourne; 2018). I ‘ve had the chance to read its Japanese translation, which came out this month.
Silent Invasion is authored by Clive Hamilton, a prolific Australian author and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. Hamilton first became concerned about China’s presence in Australia during an incident in 2008 marking the passing of the Olympic torch for the Beijing Games. Standing near Parliament House, Hamilton saw pro-Tibet protesters, most of them average Australian, “jostled, kicked, and punched” by “tens and thousands” of angry and aggressive Chinese students. He wondered why Australians were subjected to such violence on their own turf by so many frenzied Chinese students and how they so suddenly congregated in Canberra. This was the start of his research on China and its posture toward Australia.
The incident Hamilton encountered is almost identical to one during the Olympic torch relay held two days later in Nagano, Japan. More than 3,000 angry Chinese students, many wielding five-starred red national flags, roughed up Tibetan protesters and their Japanese supporters.
The Japanese version of Hamilton’s book—Menimienu Shinryaku—is translated by Shinji Okuyama, a strategic researcher, and published by Asuka Shin-sha, Tokyo. Tetsuharu Yamaoka, an information strategy analyst who served as supervising editor, led a successful campaign in Strathfield, a suburb of Sydney, Australia in the mid 2010s, blocking a plan by pro-Korean forces to erect a “comfort women” statue in the municipality. The translation, a collaborative work by two scholars well-versed in the reality of China’s aggressive operations across the globe, is a must read for all Japanese now that China has started sweet-talking to Japan.
Silent Invasion is a timely wake-up call for Japan, warning against China’s plot to one day put Japan under its control. Hamilton writes that Australians have made the mistake of opening their country to China naively, unaware that Beijing is dead set on taking over Australia. I am seriously concerned that Japan may inadvertently follow the same path as Australia.
Electricity: Crux of All Industries
Beijing’s grand strategy is aimed at spurring US allies to secede from the alliance, ultimately creating a new world order dominated by China. Silent Invasion points out with ample anecdotes that Beijing: views Australia and New Zealand as the “weak link in the western camp”; hopes “to turn Australia into a second Franceーa western country that could dare to say ‘no’ to America; and has adopted a policy designed to make the whole of Australia and New Zealand—governments and people—easy to control by turning them pro-Chinese.
This is how the Chinese modus operandi typically works, observes Hamilton. In point of fact, a similar reference was made in China’s “new policy” toward Japan, prepared by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prior to Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s 1998 state visit to Japan: In order to control Japan, China must take measures to change Japanese values to entice Japanese to voluntarily dedicate themselves to the Chinese cause. The best means of attaining that goal is to forever use the historical issues souring the bilateral relations to China’s best advantage.
Committed to dyeing Australia red, the Beijing government began using overseas Chinese on an experimental basis in 2000, but this became an entrenched system in 2011, according to Hamilton. The total number of overseas Chinese worldwide is estimated at around 40 million, of which some one million—or 1/25 of the total Australian population—live in Australia. Beijing targets them as indispensable human resources needed to fulfill its ambitions in Australia.
The Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) of China’s State Council is charged with controlling overseas Chinese as a massive group of pro-Beijing elements. In Australia, the office is charged with: collecting political donations for the CCP from affluent Chinese businessmen; mobilizing organized votes of Chinese-Australians during local and national elections; supporting Chinese-Australian candidates during election campaigns; and winning over high-placed government officials to exert influence on Australian government policies in favor of China.
Hamilton notes that the CCP is pushing plans to turn Australians pro-Chinese, and is “operating under a well-thought-out, long-term strategy” to take over absolute control of the country. One key component of that strategy is buying up infrastructure.
Among many examples, Chinese acquisitions in the electricity industry stand out. The five electricity suppliers in Victoria and the only distribution company in South Australia have already been acquired by China’s state-owned State Grid Corporation and Hong-Kong based Cheung Kong Infrastructure. Energy Australia, one of the big three electricity retailers with nearly 3 million customers in the eastern states, is wholly owned by China Light and Power, another company based in Hong Kong and close to Beijing. Alinta Energy, one of Australia’s largest energy infrastructure companies, was also sold for A$4 billion to Chow Tai Fook Enterprise, a Hong Kong jewelry retailer.
No industry is sustainable without a steady supply of electricity. If the Australian government were to adopt measures that run counter to China’s interests, Beijing could easily put the heat on Australia by ordering Chinese-owned power companies to cut back their power supply across Australia.
Watch Beijing’s Sweet Words
Because electricity distribution is combined with telecommunications service in Australia, warns Hamilton, “ownership gives access to Australian internet and telephone messaging.” Therefore, China can literally pick up and read any message it likes at any time. It is as if the Australian government had been stripped naked by the Chinese.
The Chinese further intensified their offensive by attempting to buy a 99-year lease for Ausgrid, a key distributor in the state of New South Wales and Canberra, the country’s capital. The federal government barely blocked the sale in August 2016.
But pro-Beijing forces in the whole of Australia fiercely struck back. And a strange thing happened in April 2017. The Federal Investment Review Board (FIRB) approved a A$ 7.48 billion takeover of the giant energy utility operator DUET by a consortium led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure.
Australia’s battle for its destiny against China has been a seesaw struggle. At this juncture, Beijing has imposed a ban on Australian beef imports in retaliation for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s demand that an independent investigation be conducted into the origin of the new coronavirus. The ban hurts Australia, which depends on China for 30% of its exports, but Morrison’s approval rating has shot up nearly twofold to 66%. Vexed by this unexpected turn of events in Australia, Beijing has started sweet-talking to Japan.
The Global Times, an English-language organ of the CCP, carried an editorial entitled “Japan is not Australia, Urged to be Neutral” in its digital edition on May 26. While acknowledging that China “understands” Japan “maintaining close ties with the US and will not intervene,” the editorial read:
“However, the US-Japan alliance cannot be used as a matter of course if Japan chooses to be inclined to its ally rather than the justified side amid the China-US confrontation.”
Clearly, it is a threat by China that if Japan chooses to side with the US, Beijing will not allow Tokyo to get away without impunity. Australia and Japan are right in the middle of a fierce Chinese offensive. Our two nations must join hands in unfalteringly protecting our heritage, economy, and people from China’s aggression.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 904 in the June 11, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)