The Chinese Communist Party’s United Front has been meddling in Australian political and other institutions. Canberra proposes tougher laws against foreign interference. Beijing’s predictable response is wounded, righteous, wrathful freaking-out.
Chinese diplomats – with a straight face – accuse Australian officials of undermining trust; the Chinese government calls in the Australian ambassador; state media denounce the Aussies as racist paranoids; and an anonymous, virulent letter in (simplified, obviously) Chinese urges ethnic Chinese to vote against the ruling Liberal Party at a by-election in a Sydney suburb.
Such over-the-top mouth-frothing protestations of victimhood amply confirm that the Chinese government knows it has been caught red-handed. New Zealand is in a similar position of finding its open society being infiltrated by Xi Jinping’s aggressive and audacious non-soft power. Canadians are also no doubt right to ask what Beijing is up to in their own tolerant, welcoming, good-vibes Anglophone democracy.
(A challenge here will be for the democracies’ officials and media to clearly distinguish the Communist regime from their local ethnic Chinese citizens – especially those of non-recent/non-Mainland descent. A potential parallel is Western countries’ inability to identify Wahhabi/Salafi ideology as a specific threat, thus lumping all Muslims together as possible ISIS sympathizers.)
This comes at an awkward time for confident, cuddly, benevolent China on the world stage. A few Third World countries are noticing that ‘Belt and Road’ is a neo-colonialist rip-off, and developed economies are slowly waking up to China’s disregard for trade and investment rules. More signs that we are at Peak Panda.
The overreaching nature of the United Front operations down under suggests that Chinese officials became overambitious and sloppy in expanding their influence. Don’t you have anything better to do than scrabble around desperately trying to stop a politician meeting a harmless Hongkonger? It looks like the work of functionaries who are too eager to report successes to their higher-ups and do well in their annual appraisals, in order to get a bonus and possibly a promotion.
China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong similarly tends toward overkill. To take just one of many examples: its insistence that the local authorities criminalize not standing for the national anthem has ‘counterproductive’ written all over it. It makes more sense if you see it as the product of a bureaucracy focused on getting noticed at head office for meeting performance targets. But maybe we are just humanizing the psychopathic Leninist control-machine.