How do Australians treat Chinese

China's long arm : How Beijing is exercising its influence in the West

At the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, people were used to demonstrations taking place peacefully. The horror there was all the greater when the fists flew during a recent rally. Some Chinese fellow students felt provoked by a group of international students who demanded "Freedom for Hong Kong": the former British colony that was returned to the People's Republic in 1997 with a contractual promise to preserve its democracy and yet increasingly forced under the political control of Beijing becomes.

How many Chinese people disapproved of the protest became clear when the Chinese national anthem boomed through a portable loudspeaker. Dozens of people shouted the text out loud. Some stood singing provocatively in the crowd of the pro-Hong Kong faction. The police later brought order and broke up the gathering. China's consul general in Brisbane praised the escalation as an "act of patriotism".

The question arises as to whether China is pushing such counter-demonstrations in order to nip in the bud international solidarity with Hong Kong, where on Friday thousands again demonstrated in human chains for democracy. For example through his student organization CSSA, which acts on instructions from Chinese embassies and consulates around the world.

The Australian government therefore wants to investigate how great the influence of China really is on Australian universities. Many universities have entered into collaborations with Confucius Institutes, which are subordinate to the Chinese Ministry of Education, teach culture and language around the world and have been proven to spread an apolitical version of recent Chinese history. There are 19 of these institutes in Germany. In the US, concerns about China's growing influence through academic channels were already preoccupying Congress.

It is undisputed that Beijing's long arm in Australia already extends into other areas. For example, the author Clive Hamilton had to look for a new publisher for his book entitled "Silent Invasion: China’s influence in Australia". His original partner had dropped out at short notice for fear of legal action by Beijing. Most of the time, however, it's all about money and worrying about economic consequences. China is by far Australia's most important trading partner. Almost a third of all exports go to the People's Republic. Their hunger for Australian raw materials created many jobs in Australia.

Intelligence connections

Critics also recognize that New Zealand is too economically dependent on China. In 2008, the People's Republic surprisingly granted a free trade agreement. The volume of trade between the two countries then tripled. - because the Chinese get a quarter of their global milk imports from New Zealand.

A key figure in the relationship is New Zealand MP Jian Yang, a native of China. Yang hid the fact that he graduated from military intelligence university for a long time. After growing concerns about him, he was expelled from all government foreign affairs bodies in 2016, but remained a National Party MP. Critics publicly suspect Yang of espionage. His party sticks to him because he has repeatedly orchestrated good business for New Zealand through his network. Whether the Chinese will benefit in other ways from Yang remains to be speculated.

The fact is that New Zealand is part of a secret service network with the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Some say China is seeking access to sensitive data through New Zealand. True or not, New Zealand's counterintelligence leeway appears to be limited if it fears economic consequences more than an open flank.

China's covert political influence also preoccupied Anne-Marie Brady of Canterbury University in Christchurch. Her treatise on the subject aroused worldwide interest. Australia invited her to speak in parliament. Before that, Brady had been broken into and data carriers stolen. "If we cannot maintain the sovereignty and integrity of our political system while maintaining positive relations with China, then we are entering a very dangerous era of global politics," she said in an interview.

The EU is also fighting against growing political influence from the Far East. Most of the time, the Chinese make use of legitimate means: They form economic forums with Eastern European countries, grant loans to stiff member countries and forge bilateral trade agreements. However, the Green human rights expert Margarete Bause recently learned that critics in Europe must fear the wrath of Beijing. She had accused China, among other things, of suppressing the Uyghurs. When she wanted to travel to China with the digital committee, Beijing issued an entry ban. The trip has now been canceled because the Chinese side has made it clear: As long as Bause is a member of the delegation, the digital committee cannot enter.

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