Former head of China analysis for Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organization, Dr Paul Monk, spoke at the Royal Perth Yacht Club on the topic of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence in Australian politics on Aug. 12.
Monk, who has lectured over the years at several leading Australian universities on Chinese politics and strategic intelligence analysis, made his general take on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) infiltration clear from the beginning.
“Make no mistake; the Chinese Communist Party has been systematically seeking to penetrate, influence, and undermine our institutions, and to interfere with the way the game is played here with regard to strategic policy, domestic politics, business, education and mass media.”
“It has done so for some time now,” he added.
Views such as Monk’s have been criticized by many in both political and business circles, such as former foreign minister and NSW premier Bob Carr as “China-bashing.” For instance, Carr has referred to allegations that the CCP exercises covert influence over Chinese students in Australia as “hysterical,” the Australia Financial Review reported.
Carr calls the findings of CCP political interference in Australia “China panic,” a term that does not allow for the separation of Chinese people from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Carr claims that the ‘panic’ is tied to a desire to “please the United States.”
“Do we want to become the only American ally that isn’t big enough to let Washington know that we want to run a national interest-based policy towards China?” he said, the Financial Review reported.
In his presentation, Monk countered the idea that the United States, like China, has also sought to exercise influence over Australian politics, quoting Australian author and academic Professor Clive Hamilton: “The United States never had the kind of economic leverage over Australia that China has.”
“It hasn’t endangered our democratic system of elected governments and its government has never attempted to erode the rule of law, nor has it attempted to mobilize the diaspora to oppose Australian policy.”
Monk echoed Hamilton’s question of whether we could ever imagine the United States “using our laws to frighten publishers” into dropping books critical of their government’s conduct.
— Clive Hamilton (@CliveCHamilton) March 31, 2018
Hamilton’s own book ‘Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia’ was rejected by publisher Allen & Unwin just before it was due to be printed for fear of defamation action from supporters or agents of the CCP. A further two publishers also pulled out of publishing his book for fear of CCP legal backlash, Hamilton said.
CCP Working to Weaken Australia-US Ties
Monk said that the immediate objective of the CCP in its infiltration of Australian politics was to separate Australia from the United States.
One of their main reasons for wanting to do this is that Australia is a “major bastion of the U.S. security framework in the Pacific”—detaching Australian from the U.S. alliance would “remove that rear base and anchor from the U.S. strategic framework,” he said.
Monk also said that the intelligence community believes that the CCP also wants to have continued and reliable access to Australia’s raw materials without any possible U.S. interference.
And “we’d be perfectly happy to sell” those raw materials to them, Monk added, “but they have their own strategic and rather mercantilist view of how you make that happen.”
No Signs of Opening Up
During his presentation, Monk said that many of those who object to public criticism of the CCP, such as some prominent former Australian politicians, have long believed that China under the CCP would “liberalize and open up.”
Carr, for instance, said during an interview with the Financial Review: “Like many Chinese, I look forward to the day when there is a contestable political system. I look forward to a presidential primary in Shandong.”
Monk, however, said that such expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled.
“The sobering reality,” he said, is that the CCP is not liberalizing or opening up.
“It has not done that. It is not doing that.
“It has set its face against doing that, and that’s where the challenge lies.”
“Since 1989, the Chinese Communist Party has steadfastly rejected such a path forward. Moreover, it is pressing hard to corral citizen movements with democratic principles in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
“China is ruled in a thoroughly and ruthlessly dictatorial manner … the party has suppressed and continues to suppress any and every organization that might pose the least challenge to its arbitrary rule,” Monk said.
China’s Potential is Being Undermined by the CCP
At a Mineral Council of Australia (MCA) event in July 2018, former Australian trade minister Andrew Robb said that if Australia plays its foreign policy “cards” towards China “correctly,” it can enjoy sustained growth for decades from China’s demand for Australian resources, the ABC reported.
Robb has since drawn widespread criticism for taking up an A$880,000 per year ($640,000) (plus expenses) consultancy position with the Chinese-owned company Landbridge directly after leaving parliament.
Robb said that China, alongside India, is emerging as a major player in Asia and is set, this century, to share power with the United States.
Monk, however, offered a less assured and optimistic projection of China’s future under CCP rule. He relayed the views of several prominent China analysts who have observed that the country faces significant systemic and structural challenges that it may not be equipped to deal with.
One significant problem facing the Chinese regime is the degradation of China’s natural environment, Monk said.
“The water table in North China is dropping precipitously, their rivers are seriously polluted, much of the soil is adulterated. The air is seriously polluted in many cities.”