Relations between Australia and Russia should be better

Tense relations between China and Australia

Punitive tariffs, hacker attacks, massive armament: an Australian think tank is driving a wedge into relations between the two countries and is benefiting from Australia's new security policy

"Australia is the US deputy," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Twenty years later, little has changed in this situation: According to some media reports, the Chinese Global Times is said to have written that the "giant kangaroo" was the "watchdog of the United States" when the United States repeatedly accused China in April of causing the pandemic and concealing the origins to have, and Australia joined in. The Chinese state newspaper only quoted a Weibo post, but the spokespersons at the official press conferences of the Chinese Foreign Ministry are increasingly irritated by the keywords coronavirus, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, 5G, Huawei and the South China Sea.

In the Corona case, the "dragon" sent the "kangaroo" an unmistakable signal and let Canberra know who is economically dependent on whom. China is Australia's largest trading partner for goods and services, around a quarter of all Australian exports go to China. On May 12, China stopped imports of beef from four major Australian slaughterhouses, citing "health issues". Five days later, China imposed punitive tariffs of more than 80% on Australian barley imports for alleged "dumping prices". The important raw materials sector - two thirds of the total trade volume - remained untouched for the time being: above all iron ore, coal and LNG valued at around 100 billion dollars.

Healthy economic ties with China are now more important than ever for Australia as the country faces a pandemic-induced recession. Meanwhile, China threatens to cause further damage, warns its citizens against traveling to Australia and advises against studying at Australian universities. A quarter of all Australian tourism revenue, over $ 12 billion, comes from the pockets of 1.4 million Chinese tourists. Australian universities also depend on Chinese students, who pay half of all foreign student tuition fees.

In addition to the events already titled as "Trade War 2.0", there were also security-political issues. In June, the Australian government reported that there had been a massive hacking attack on government and private facilities. Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to a "highly developed state cyber actor" but did not give a name. The Australian media took over, citing Peter Jennings, boss Jennings had good reason to suspect China: A week earlier, a report by his think tank had ensured that Twitter removed over 20,000 accounts classified as "pro-Chinese". ASPI is also Australia's spokesman for a narrative that portrays China as an aggressor in the region.

ASPI's new role

The ASPI enjoys a good reputation in western media. The think tank often provides the necessary facts and figures, as well as analysts and scientists, for all kinds of stories about events in Chinese society over which the West can rise morally. ASPI has existed since 2001 as a self-reported independent think tank that aims to educate the Australian and international public about political and strategic issues. Until about 2017, this included - common for a security policy think tank - analyzes on a wide range of topics in Australian foreign policy, including strategies and options for coexistence with the emerging economic power of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

From 2018 the focus was reduced. Since then, ASPI has not reported as much on any other topic as on Chinese society, its leadership and its projects. In addition to the reports, ASPI began to publish opinion pieces in which Jennings and leading conservative analysts clearly distance themselves from China: The country is one of the "greatest threats to world peace". It is no longer just about China's economic power, but about issues that the spokesmen for the Chinese Foreign Ministry vehemently dismiss as interference in domestic politics or simply as nonsense. These include human rights violations in Chinese minority politics, Xi Jinping's party politics, Hong Kong's security law, China's growing influence on neighboring democracies, relations with Russia, censorship and cyber-surveillance at home and abroad, Huawei and 5G, cyber attacks and, last but not least, rearmament and militarization of the South China Islands. In short: ASPI was less about Australia and more about China's role in the Indo-Pacific.

Jennings puts it this way in many opinion articles: China wants to "rule" the Asia-Pacific region, China under Xi Jinping is "the greatest challenge for global stability", Australia is "not only being passively hunted by China" and ASPI is working "on a national level and international level of responses that will strengthen our capabilities as we face the greatest strategic challenge to democracy since the fall of the Soviet Union. " The "aggressor" China is "a threat to Australia and countries throughout the region."

Successful provocation

ASPI has contributed to an expansion of the battle rhetoric over the past two years and seems to have hit a nerve in the process. In June, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was allergic to ASPI's latest publications:

"China has pointed out on numerous occasions that this institute has long been funded by the US government and arms dealers. It is enthusiastic about making up anti-China stories and playing up anti-China stories. Since it cites allegations of defamation of China, it has no credibility That one could speak of. There is no factual basis for the attack and allegations by this institute, just nonsense. "

"The institute has long received funding from the US government and arms dealers, and has enthusiastically hatched and raised anti-China issues. It is so steeped in ideological prejudice that it is becoming an anti-Chinese" vanguard "which is serious Doubting his academic integrity leads. "

Chinese media followed suit and quoted critics of Australian and American security policy. At CGTN, Shaun Rein of the China Market Research Group said, "The US is using Australia as a proxy to contain China".

Xinhua reported in several articles on the "think tank behind anti-China propaganda" and questioned ASPI's alleged independence. ASPI is operating "a militant line against China to raise the fear index and enable its donors to sell more weapons to countries in the Asia-Pacific region." Xinhua also quoted Bob Carr, Australia's former foreign minister, who said ASPI invokes a "one-sided, pro-American view of the world," as well as ex-Ambassador to China Geoff Raby, who said, "I consider [ASPI] to be Architects of China Threat Theory in Australia. " Most recently, the Chinese media listed eleven "lies by a number of Australian politicians and media".

Australia is increasing its defense budget

"The truth is that ASPI receives funding from the US State Department and US defense companies. But critics tend to exaggerate the extent to which they do. And, crucially, they never make any compelling arguments to support the research of the To expose ASPI, "comments the conservative US magazine National Review China's media offensive.

Independent Australian media such as APAC News are also critical of ASPI's role. ASPI benefits financially from the narrative of portraying China as a threat. ASPI is also financed by the governments of Great Britain, Japan and Taiwan as well as by NATO. ASPI receives commission from weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

When Australia unveiled its new defense budget, ASPI's China narratives paid off, APAC News said. On June 30, Prime Minister Morrison announced plans to invest an additional $ 185 billion in expanding his military capabilities. Morrison explained the strategy by saying that Australia had to prepare for a post-Covid-19 world that was "poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly". Long-range missiles, satellite surveillance, attack submarines, ultrasonic weapons and other defense technologies are on the long list of orders sent to American weapons manufacturers.

The media commented on the new budget as "a major change in its defense strategy" to "counter China's threat in the Indo-Pacific region." The budget for cyber security is to be increased by several billion dollars in order to protect the country from hacker attacks. Jennings also spoke up: "When you talk about the bad behavior in the region, the annexation of territories, coercion and influencing of domestic politics, the use of cyber attacks - there is really only one country that does this on an industrial level, and this is the People's Republic of China. "

ASPI has received funding for advisory services not only from the Australian government, but also from Lockheed Martin, which signed a $ 800 million AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missile (LRASM) contract.

(Bulgan Molor-Erdene)

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