China’s influence in Australia is concerning our intelligence and defence agencies.
An ABC investigation has revealed that businesses with strong Chinese connections proffered around $5.5 million in Australian political party donations between 2013 and 2015.
The ‘China connection’ was easily the largest source of foreign funds to both major political parties.
Australian defence and intelligence agencies are becoming increasingly concerned about Chinese Government influence in our country.
There are worries that China is buying political influence, as well as increasing its control over critical infrastructure, which includes ports and power companies, Chinese-language radio stations, newspapers and other organisations.
Owning strategic infrastructure in order to dominate Eurasia through it’s ‘one belt, one road’ initiative is a crucial element of China’s self-declared foreign policy, which includes control over the South China Sea.
Security agency concerns may have influenced the blocking of two Chinese bids for control of NSW power distributor, Ausgrid. The bidding companies already own significant shares in Australia’s privatised state power distributors. And although Australian intelligence agencies were quick to add that the decision was “not country-specific”, China’s assertiveness has alarm bells ringing in Canberra.
The blocking of Chinese investment in our power grid has been termed a “bad precedent” by the founding director of China Matters, Linda Jakobson.
"If there was a question of national security with this bid and with the whole deal it was well known long ago and it should have been made clear to the two Chinese bidders long ago. To wait until this point was detrimental to Australia's national interest," said Ms Jakobson.
She’s called on the Government to gain a better understanding of “how China ticks" if Australia is to develop a strategic relationship with China.
"It's not going to be easy," said Ms Jakobson. "You've got to keep a focus on those fantastic opportunities that cooperation with China offers and at the same time you've got to not only, of course, protect security interests, you've got to uphold the values that underpin Australian society."
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It may not have been the best way to go about it but, following massive Chinese investment in Australian infrastructure, the blocking of the Ausgrid deal seems a wise decision, although fraught with peril.
The ABC revelations of political donations made by businesses with strong Chinese influence also seems to back up this decision. If China keeps asserting itself, Australia could, in short time, find itself increasingly answerable to foreign interest.
The Government has already approved the sale of huge portions of our dairy, agriculture and mining industries. There are also fears that, through Chinese ownership of national power distribution, China can wield economic leverage over our nation, by regulating electricity prices, collecting information about business usage and growth or collating data on individual and population usage. Although not likely, there have also been comments that, should China’s demands not be met in certain circumstances, it could effectively ‘switch off’ our grid.
The Government recently sold the Port of Darwin, and sales of the Port of Melbourne and the Port of Fremantle are allegedly in the pipeline.
While it is necessary that Australia keeps China as a major trading partner, the Government would be wise to take a step back and rethink selling too much of our infrastructure to the Chinese, or we could lose more than just our national assets.
What do you think of China’s political influence in Australia? How do you feel about China’s increasing ownership of Australia’s assets? Do you think we need to worry about it? Or, considering China’s strong global economic position, is this just a natural progression?