The Australian government introduced a series of bills this week, designed to prevent foreign interference in politics. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited “disturbing reports about Chinese influence,” but also said the measures are not directed at any one country. As we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, China is not buying that.
China’s growing power and doubts about its American ally have lead the Australian government to reconsider its strategic position, and just how much it needs to accommodate Beijing. And when Australia asserts anything but the most cautious stance, Beijing has been quick to respond.
Last month, a Foreign Policy White Paper prompted Chinese outrage over Canberra’s stance on the South China Sea. This week, Beijing reacted harshly to the debate over its influence on Australian politics, education and publishing. It branded recent news reports as “typical anti-China hysteria and paranoia.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a series of proposals to crack down on foreign influence in politics, and cited Russian meddling in the United States.
“We should not be naive about this,” Turnbull said, “Foreign Powers are making unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated attempts to influence the political process.” One measure, based on an American law, would require lobbyists for other countries to register as agents of a foreign power.
China’s vehement denial of any attempt to interfere in Australian politics prompted ridicule amid reports that contributions from a Chinese businessman prompted a Labour Party Senator to adopt Beijing’s line on the South China Sea. Earlier this year, Australia’s intelligence chief identified two prominent Sino-Australian political donors as possible Chinese agents.