OTTAWA—Canada risks becoming a “client state” of China unless it stops being naïve to growing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence undermining its democracy and sovereignty. That’s the lesson from Clive Hamilton’s new book, “Silent Invasion,” which details how pervasive Chinese influence has softened Australia—one of Canada’s closest allies—into becoming more supportive of Beijing’s mercantilist views.
Hamilton, a public ethics professor at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, laid it all out in frightening detail—how China’s United Front work was infiltrating all aspects of Australian society so as to break up the America-Australia alliance.
He was one of four panellists at an event hosted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), a public policy think tank, in Ottawa on Oct. 16.
“Silent Invasion” details how China feels it has a right to take over the world and how it has re-characterized itself as a historical victim of other powers such as Japan and the United States.
The United Front, an arm of the CCP, works to influence the choices, direction, and loyalties of its targets by overcoming negative perceptions and promoting favourable perceptions of CCP rule in China, explained Hamilton.
His book almost went unpublished, as three publishers feared reprisals from China. It was eventually published this February.
The panellists focused on the first step for Canada’s protection: greater awareness of the growing Chinese threat.
“It really is fundamentally important that the nature of CCP influence activities in Canada be exposed over and over again in all its ramifications,” Hamilton said. “And above all, it’s so important that Chinese-Canadians put their heads above the parapet and say, ‘we are loyal Canadians and we don’t want the CCP influencing Canada. We came here to escape its influence.’”
What is shocking is that the CCP doesn’t just think five years into the future. It thinks long term—like generations into the future. United Front work tries to identify future industry leaders when they’re young and cultivate them so that they look more favourably on Chinese objectives when they rise to positions of authority.
Australian elites are targeted—invited to lavish events like Chinese New Year celebrations—so that the CCP view becomes benign to them.
Soon enough, these Australian industry leaders and other elites are reprimanding those in power because their latest actions or statements are deemed unfriendly to the Chinese regime.
For example, Beijing wants Australians to support its view that Taiwan should not be referred to as a country and that India has no claim to contested areas in the Himalayas.
“Once Canadians look closely at what’s going on, they’ll discover the same going on here,” Hamilton said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was criticized in 2016 for having attended a fundraiser with a wealthy Chinese businessman having ties to Beijing. That individual later made a large donation to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
Hamilton said Chinese communist influence is found in many aspects of Australian society, where pro-Beijing elements control 90 percent of the radio and newspapers.
Some Australian universities have put their relationship with Beijing ahead of academic freedom.
Wealthy Chinese businessmen linked to the CCP have become the largest donors to both major Australian political parties.
Pro-Beijing ethnic Chinese are encouraged to enter politics and run for federal or state elections in Australia.
A particularly scary case Hamilton cited was Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) scientists working at Australian universities on military research all while getting Australian funding.
Critics of Chinese influence in Australia have been labelled as xenophobic and racist. “Accusing China critics of racism and xenophobia is an effective tactic because it builds on white Australia’s deplorable history including anti-Chinese sentiment going back to the goldfields,” wrote Hamilton.
Australia has dealt with all of the issues Canada is facing: free trade with China, takeovers by Chinese state-owned enterprises, cyber-espionage via Huawei, and the growing Chinese influence that aims to destabilize a democracy. Australia is said to be two to three years ahead of Canada in dealing with insidious Chinese threats.
“Our naivety is borderline stupidity,” said Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former chief of Asia-Pacific for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). He said that studying the game of “Go” will teach one exactly how the Chinese communist regime thinks.
Canada is extremely useful to China because of its natural resources and our access to NATO and NORAD, where military and intelligence information is shared, added Juneau-Katsuya.
University of Toronto adjunct law professor and MLI Munk Senior Fellow Richard Owens called for greater action to counter China’s imperialist push, calling it a “pirate on the cyber seas.”
Duanjie Chen, a Chinese national and MLI Munk Senior Fellow, said the CCP should not be allowed to influence the Chinese diaspora here in Canada.
“We need to integrate Chinese immigrants into our social fabric,” she said. Too often, Chinese immigrants stay in self-contained communities and become easy victims for the CCP through state-controlled media outlets.
This is classic CCP—exploiting a weakness in a western democracy to further its objectives.
Chen said that because CCP control is so strong, Chinese people don’t have a strong sense of the rule of law and do what the communist regime says.
“Even if someone from China steals our secrets, they don’t feel something wrong,” she said. “They feel they are doing a great contribution to the motherland, to the Party.”
Trade and Espionage
Hamilton said when Beijing-friendly Australian politicians argue for more independent foreign policy, they effectively mean to distance Australia from the United States and warm to China.
After signing the USMCA, Trudeau said he now wants to renew trade talks with China. “I think we’ve all recognized that diversifying our trade is extremely important and we’re happy to continue to engage with the Chinese, there’s no question about that,” Trudeau said in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail.
However, Australia’s free-trade experience with the Chinese communist regime shows that it has not been a beneficial one.
“Certainly Australia has become kind of ‘open slather’ for Chinese investment, but all of the obstacles facing Australian investors in China are still there,” Hamilton said. Another concern swept under the rug was cheap Chinese labour resulting in loss of jobs to Australians.
Beijing-friendly politicians were at the heart of Australia’s free trade agreement with China getting rammed through. According Hamilton’s book, Andrew Robb, the trade minister who forced the deal over the finish line, soon left politics to work for Chinese companies, including one that paid him AU$880,000 per year.
“The agreement with China was not so much a trade agreement as an investment agreement, one heavily favouring China, and which reinforces the other elements of this grand plan: One Belt, One Road and the AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank],” wrote Hamilton. The One Belt, One Road initiative is Beijing’s flagship infrastructure project spanning Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Recall that Canada was only too eager to be the first North American nation to sign on to the China-led AIIB.
In March 2012, Huawei was banned from supplying equipment to Australia’s National Broadband Network. Australian intelligence warned of credible evidence that the Chinese telecommunications giant was linked to the Third Department of the PLA, China’s military cyber-espionage arm.
Hamilton documents in his book that Huawei set up an Australian board as a front to create a public image of trustworthiness. Some high-ranking Australian politicians criticized the Huawei ban. One of them, former trade minister Robb, had just enjoyed an all-expense paid trip to Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen.
Given Australia’s proximity with China, it has had to take a leadership role in stemming the tide of influence building. There has been a concerted shift in the landscape over the last two years.
Australia’s new foreign interference laws make punishable by 10- to 15-year jail sentences any covert attempts to influence governmental processes or the exercising of democratic rights. The law is yet to be tested in the courts, but Hamilton can cite many examples where it could have been called upon.
He speculates Beijing is recalibrating its strategies in light of the resistance from Australia and the Five Eyes alliance of Australia, Britain, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada.
“They’re suddenly finding that a whole lot of influence avenues have been becoming more difficult, so they’re always looking for the weakest point,” Hamilton said in an interview.
In some respects, Canada could be the weakest point. Juneau-Katsuya warns that if Canada doesn’t block Huawei, other Five Eyes members will be reluctant to share intelligence with it, not to mention threatening the very foundation of the relationship.
And it’s not a question of whether Canada can put a stop to Beijing’s influence, but that it must, “unless Canada wants to completely capitulate and say, well, ‘We anticipate that in 5 or 10 years’ time we will effectively be a client state of China,’” said Hamilton.
War isn’t just conducted with tanks and missiles. China is effectively employing strategies to conquer lands and subjecting them to their whims. Australia has realized this and Canada can no longer sit on its hands.
“This is a wake-up call to the world,” Chen said of Hamilton’s book. “Every politician needs to read it.”
Hamilton also wants to emphasize the distinction between China, the country, and its ruling communist regime.
“Australians want a healthy, harmonious, and enduring relationship with China, but not at the expense of our sovereignty or democratic rights,” Hamilton said.
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