Australia-China Relations Should Take Centre-Stage at Next Election: Asian Community Leaders

In a week where national security has dominated the airwaves leading up to Australia’s impending federal election, Asian community leaders have spoken out on the need for Australia-China relations to be central to how voters decide which party should win the next election. Chin Jin, chair of the Federation for a Democratic China, said bilateral ties would be a critical issue that the current Liberal-National Coalition government should be ready to tackle. “The current government’s approach to Australia-China relations is one of the strongest—most correct—but controversial foreign policies since the establishment of diplomatic relations (between Australia and China) in 1972,” he told The Epoch Times. While Feng Chongyi, associate professor of China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, said economic coercion and United Front influence activities was an ongoing concern in the ranks of the Australian government. “Australia-China relations have been complicated by the tension between the economic interdependence on the one hand and the political and ideological conflicts on the other,” he said in an email to The Epoch Times. Dr. Feng Chongyi and Dr. Paul Monk at a panel discussion hosted by the Australian Values Alliance on China’s influence in Australia, in City Tattersalls Club in Sydney, Australia on Dec. 10, 2018. (NTD/Screenshot) He noted however that Chinese community views could be divided. “Many Australians with Chinese heritage have been indoctrinated to conflate the Chinese people with the Chinese regime, and identify with it politically and ideologically,” he said. “They have also been manipulated to believe that criticism of the Chinese authorities is an attack on the Chinese people and motivated by anti-Chinese racism.” But noted that “more and more” Chinese Australians were “awakening and clearly differentiating” between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people. “They understand that violation of human rights in China and interference in Australia are detrimental to the interest of Chinese Australians,” he added. There are around 1.3 million Chinese-speaking Australians who identify as having Chinese, Hong Kong, or Taiwanese ancestry—comprising one of the largest ethnic groups in the country. Bin Lin, an advocate for democracy in Hong Kong and media commentator, said views would differ within the community, but there were many in the Asian community legitimately concerned with how Australian governments positioned themselves on the China issue. “I ran as a candidate in the local election in December last year (in Ryde, Sydney). When I met local Chinese residents, an older couple … said they wouldn’t vote for any pro-CCP candidate,” he told The Epoch Times. Bin Lin is running as an independent candidate for the West Ward in Ryde council election, 2021 (Supplied). Lin said that a local councillor with notable pro-CCP views was defeated at the election due to his views. “Members of the local Chinese organisation did not vote for him, and he lost about 300 votes from the previous election,” he said. “This shows that even in the local community many people will not vote for any pro-CCP candidate or party.” Meanwhile, Australia-China relations has taken centre stage in the lead-up to the impending federal election, which is due before May 2022. The Coalition government has gone on the attack, targeting the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on its record on defence and questioning how it would deal with China. On Feb. 10, Prime Minister Morrison told the House of Representatives that his government would not look to appease those seeking to “coerce Australia.” “The leader of the Labor Party (Anthony Albanese) said he’s happy to trade away and ask China—to accept some and stand by some of their coercion,” he said. Days later, he referred to a Labor MP as the “Manchurian candidate” before withdrawing the comment. Australian Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reacts as Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Aug. 23, 2021. (Rohan Thomson/Getty Images) While on Feb. 14, Liberal Party Senator James Paterson questioned why ALP deputy leader, Richard Marles, removed a 2019 speech from his website, where he delivered a conciliatory speech in Beijing that advocated for closer defence ties with the People’s Liberation Army. “What is he trying to hide? What is in this secret speech he’s now so embarrassed about?” Senator Paterson wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps, with Labor now trying to feign bipartisanship on China, the speech he delivered in Beijing as shadow defence minister and deputy Labor leader is no longer helpful.” The ALP’s primary response so far has been to characterise the Coalition’s attacks as “weaponising” the issue of national security. Media outlets have also run editorials echoing similar views while repeating lines from the former head of the country’s domestic spy agency, Dennis R

Australia-China Relations Should Take Centre-Stage at Next Election: Asian Community Leaders

In a week where national security has dominated the airwaves leading up to Australia’s impending federal election, Asian community leaders have spoken out on the need for Australia-China relations to be central to how voters decide which party should win the next election.

Chin Jin, chair of the Federation for a Democratic China, said bilateral ties would be a critical issue that the current Liberal-National Coalition government should be ready to tackle.

“The current government’s approach to Australia-China relations is one of the strongest—most correct—but controversial foreign policies since the establishment of diplomatic relations (between Australia and China) in 1972,” he told The Epoch Times.

While Feng Chongyi, associate professor of China studies at the University of Technology Sydney, said economic coercion and United Front influence activities was an ongoing concern in the ranks of the Australian government.

“Australia-China relations have been complicated by the tension between the economic interdependence on the one hand and the political and ideological conflicts on the other,” he said in an email to The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Dr. Feng Chongyi and Dr. Paul Monk at a panel discussion hosted by the Australian Values Alliance on China’s influence in Australia, in City Tattersalls Club in Sydney, Australia on Dec. 10, 2018. (NTD/Screenshot)

He noted however that Chinese community views could be divided.

“Many Australians with Chinese heritage have been indoctrinated to conflate the Chinese people with the Chinese regime, and identify with it politically and ideologically,” he said. “They have also been manipulated to believe that criticism of the Chinese authorities is an attack on the Chinese people and motivated by anti-Chinese racism.”

But noted that “more and more” Chinese Australians were “awakening and clearly differentiating” between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people.

“They understand that violation of human rights in China and interference in Australia are detrimental to the interest of Chinese Australians,” he added.

There are around 1.3 million Chinese-speaking Australians who identify as having Chinese, Hong Kong, or Taiwanese ancestry—comprising one of the largest ethnic groups in the country.

Bin Lin, an advocate for democracy in Hong Kong and media commentator, said views would differ within the community, but there were many in the Asian community legitimately concerned with how Australian governments positioned themselves on the China issue.

“I ran as a candidate in the local election in December last year (in Ryde, Sydney). When I met local Chinese residents, an older couple … said they wouldn’t vote for any pro-CCP candidate,” he told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Bin Lin is running as an independent candidate for the West Ward in Ryde council election, 2021 (Supplied).

Lin said that a local councillor with notable pro-CCP views was defeated at the election due to his views.

“Members of the local Chinese organisation did not vote for him, and he lost about 300 votes from the previous election,” he said. “This shows that even in the local community many people will not vote for any pro-CCP candidate or party.”

Meanwhile, Australia-China relations has taken centre stage in the lead-up to the impending federal election, which is due before May 2022.

The Coalition government has gone on the attack, targeting the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on its record on defence and questioning how it would deal with China.

On Feb. 10, Prime Minister Morrison told the House of Representatives that his government would not look to appease those seeking to “coerce Australia.”

“The leader of the Labor Party (Anthony Albanese) said he’s happy to trade away and ask China—to accept some and stand by some of their coercion,” he said. Days later, he referred to a Labor MP as the “Manchurian candidate” before withdrawing the comment.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Australian Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reacts as Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Aug. 23, 2021. (Rohan Thomson/Getty Images)

While on Feb. 14, Liberal Party Senator James Paterson questioned why ALP deputy leader, Richard Marles, removed a 2019 speech from his website, where he delivered a conciliatory speech in Beijing that advocated for closer defence ties with the People’s Liberation Army.

“What is he trying to hide? What is in this secret speech he’s now so embarrassed about?” Senator Paterson wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps, with Labor now trying to feign bipartisanship on China, the speech he delivered in Beijing as shadow defence minister and deputy Labor leader is no longer helpful.”

The ALP’s primary response so far has been to characterise the Coalition’s attacks as “weaponising” the issue of national security.

Media outlets have also run editorials echoing similar views while repeating lines from the former head of the country’s domestic spy agency, Dennis Richardson, who called the Morrison government’s tactics “grubby beyond belief” and an attempt to create an “artificial division where one in practice does not exist.”

Some academics have warned the Albanese campaign team of the need to extinguish the ALP’s association with Chinese political interference, with Professor Ian Hall of the Griffith Asia Institute saying the party needed to distance itself from recent comments by former ALP Prime Minister Paul Keating.

“I think a clean break from the Keating-istas is going to have to be made soon by the ALP,” he wrote on Twitter.  “A nice clear ‘China has changed’ speech from someone senior is needed, or votes will be lost.”

Daniel Y. Teng

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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at [email protected]