Researchers split on what China wants and how Australia should respond

James Laurenceson’s  new paper, responding to claims that China is intent on interfering in Australian politics is launched at UTS tonight. Great timing.

China-scholars are split over Beijing’s influence in Australia – in March there were competing submissions to a Senate inquiry on the government’s espionage and foreign interference legislation.

But the political is also personal, with a scathing attack on former NSW premier Bob Carr in his role as director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at UTS. Writing in the Australian Financial Review Swinburne U’s John Fitzgerald suggested Friday Mr Carr is “Australia’s most prominent and vocal public advocate for Xi Jinping’s China,” and expanded on the point at length.

But Fitzgerald’s opinions of Carr’s activities aside, (CMM has no idea), the bigger issue is what is the PRC and its pals actually up to in Australian public life.

A submission to the Senate inquiry from self-described, Scholars of China and the Chinese Diaspora stated they, “see no evidence … that China is exporting its political system to Australia, or that its actions aim at compromising our sovereignty,” (CMM March 26).

However a second group of senior scholars warned they were; “deeply concerned by a number of well-documented reports about the Chinese Communist Party’s interference in Australia” and that “an open debate on the activities of the Chinese Communist Party in this country is essential to intellectual freedom, democratic rights and national security,” (CMM March 29).

Which is what James Laurenceson is working on. Professor Laurenceson is Professor Carr’s deputy at UTS and has published a substantial paper on the intent and extent of China’s influence in Australia and its intel, economic and military ambitions. “The evidence base is shown to be divorced from the claims found in headlines, news reports and opinion pieces, revealing just how widespread has become the discourse of China Threat, China Angst and China Panic,” he writes.

A contestable claim to be sure but his paper is a substantial effort and deserves discussion.

There is more to this debate than who has lunch with whom, in the Haymarket or in Beijing.


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