This book, by a well-known and respected professor and author, was originally scheduled to be published by one of Australia's largest publishers. It details China's extensive (and often secret) programs designed to influence Australian business, culture, and government. Its release was halted at the last minute, however, due to threats from the Chinese government - and the publisher's publicly confessed fear of punishment by Beijing. If any proof of the author's contention that Beijing now has massive control in place in Oz was needed, this made the case.
Luckily for Australians, and the rest of us, another publisher was found. For those who think "It can't happen here," I recommend reading a story to the contrary. - mra.
The last time I was in Australia, I found myself on television defending my friend and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard from a wave of vicious media attacks launched by China and its many paid local proxies. At the request of ASIO, Australia's national security agency, she (like the US) had decided to exclude known IP thief Huawei from building the nation's communications backbone, the National Broadband Network (NBN). At that time, most conservatives who criticized her after the Monday morning announcement had reversed position by Friday night, when they realized that swapping quick money vs. national security was a traitor's game.
Last week I had a chance to return to Oz, and to visit New Zealand briefly for the first time. This visit gave me an updated look at Australia's science and technology innovation leaders, and some of their efforts; and the chance to talk with them, publicly and privately, about both innovation and China's current influence programs. The experience was both exciting and concerning.
This time, I found my friend and current PM Malcolm Turnbull in the midst of a backlash against Chinese spying and attempts to censor and control what is said and done in the country. The struggle had moved from one of quiet denial and doubt a few years earlier into open confrontation.
This week's SNS issue is a mirror of last week's adventures: two countries, two subjects, two stories. And, for a variety of reasons that will become apparent as we go, I am going to tell the stories separately, starting on the business and innovation side and moving to China's increasingly threatening role in the region.