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12th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference – Day 2 Report 2: MP Michael Danby Speaks at the Conference

Day II Report (2):

Mr. Michael Danby, a member of the Australian Parliament, spoke about China’s growing influence on, and in, Australia. He noted China’s recent enormous military buildup and argued that China’s military modernization serves Xi’s political motives and agenda, as does China’s increasing nationalism. Mr. Danby observed that China is stepping in where the US is creating space for it to do so in the region. Japan and other allies are not certain that the U.S. will come to their defense. He said that Australians are very concerned about China’s influence not just in Australia but all over Asia. China has used many different tactics and strategies in Australia, including buying off the Australian media and politicians. China’s donations to political candidates that support Beijing went too far, prompting the introduction of legislation in the Australian Parliament that prohibits foreign donations to political candidates. Despite China’s influence in many aspects of life in Australia, Mr. Danby said there is bipartisan support for maintaining good relations with China; among other things, China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, and Australia welcomes Chinese investment, as long as it does not impinge on Australia’s sovereignty.

Click Here to watch the video footage of MP Michael Danby’s speech and Q&A

Michael Danby:

China’s Rise In Hard Strategic And Political Power

My speech will examine;

· China’s military build-up last 10 years

· expansion of military bases from Pakistan, Sri Lanka to the Horn of Africa

· A short overview of island build up in SCS And East China Sea

· Latest Xi doctrine on Tibet, HK, Taiwan and Xinjiang

· Political influence operations in East Asia and Pacific

A. China’s military build-up last 10 years


Over the past decade, the Chinese military has benefited from significant funding increases. According to the US Department of Defense, between 2007 and 2016, ‘China’s official military budget grew at an average of 8.5 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms over that period.'[1]

The table below highlights the growth of Chinese military spending:

As the table above highlights, though Chinese military spending has increased significantly over the last decade, it has not risen at the same pace as GDP growth. Its military build up has commenced from a low base. States such as the United States and Russia, for example, have long operated sophisticated military’s. China, protesting its peaceful rise, has acquired a military commensurate with its economic weight.

Estimates of Chinese military spending are bedevilled by a lack of transparency, and China’s official figure is dwarfed by external estimates. As an example, in 2015 the official Chinese defence budget was $144.2 billion. However, the US Department of Defence argued China actually spent $180 billion, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimated a figure of $193 billion and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) arrived at a sum of $214.1 billion.[2]

People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N)

China’s navy has benefitted more than any other service from Beijing’s largesse. Perhaps most notably, it has acquired and modernised a Soviet-era aircraft carrier which it has commissioned as the Liaoning. Though dated, it serves as a test-bed for China’s forthcoming indigenously built aircraft carriers. Its second carrier has been launched, though it has yet to enter service. Reports suggest that China plans to operate up to six carriers, but it remains to be seen how accurate these are.

China is also modernising its surface fleet which will help it to defend its carriers. China’s Type 055 cruiser is proceeding rapidly. This vessel carries 112 vertical-launch missile cells, eclipsed only by the US Ticonderoga-class cruiser and dwarfing Australia’s 48-cell Hobart-class destroyers.

A key characteristic of Chinese naval procurement is to build small numbers of multiple classes of vessels, refining their capabilities with each generation. This has allowed a substantial growth in platforms over the last decade. As the Congressional Research Service has highlighted, in 2007 China had 13 commissioned destroyers and 16 commissioned frigates; by 2017 their numbers had risen to 24 and 40 respectively.[3]

China is also modernising its submarine force. According to the US Department of Defence, China’s current force, comprised of five nuclear-powered attacked submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile boats and 54 diesel attack submarines, is likely to expand to a force of up to 78 submarines by 2020.[4]

People’s Liberation Army – Air Force (PLA-AF)

The PLA-AF has also enjoyed considerable support. For example, its advanced fifth-generation aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, has reportedly entered service. China is also developing a second fifth-generation aircraft, the Shenyang J-31, which reportedly benefited from the theft of information relating to the American F-35.[5] China’s development of combat aircraft is, however, frustrated by its inability to build a reliable military jet engine.

People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLA-RF)

The PLA-RF has also benefited from China’s military modernisation program. Most notably, China has deployed anti-ship ballistic missiles – the DF-21D and DF-26 – that have been dubbed ‘carrier killers’ due to their alleged ability to attack and sink US aircraft carriers. However, doubt exists about China’s ability to locate US carriers and successfully strike them with these missiles.

In addition to these conventionally-armed missiles, China is also upgrading its nuclear weapons. It is both upgrading its missile delivery systems and expanding, albeit slowly, its inventory of warheads.[6]

The political utility of Chinese military modernisation

China’s military modernisation serves President Xi Jinping’s political objectives. Drawing on the historical grievances promoted by the Communist Party’s narrative of a century of humiliation in which China was dismembered by European and Japanese imperialism, he has promoted his Chinese dream, which aims to achieve ‘the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ and is characterised by a considerable degree of nationalism.[7] A recent study exposed Beijing’s military contingencies to attack and suppress Taiwan.

Many will wonder whether President Trump would do what President Clinton did in 1998 and place two US Carrier groups so they could prevent Beijing making a Cross-Straits attack.

China’s military modernisation supports a view that the Communist Party is keen to convey; that it has built a strong China that can no longer be bullied by foreign powers. Elements of hard power, such as aircraft carriers and fighter jets, carry a potent symbolism in this regard by demonstrating that China has arrived as a great power.[8]

Military modernisation also serves Xi’s foreign policy. For example, by acquiring missiles capable of striking US forces in Japan and Korea, and making it extremely costly for US aircraft carrier battle groups to approach Chinese shores, China’s military force structure is designed to dissuade the United States from projecting force against China in, for example, a Taiwan contingency.[9] This supports the domestic goal of conveying to the Chinese public a sense of growing strength and rejuvenation, but it also serves as a way to attempt to decouple Washington from its regional alliances.

It does so by raising doubts among America’s allies about the reliability of US security guarantees. As the Australian strategic academic Hugh White has noted, Beijing is using its South China Sea disputes as a means of ‘demonstrating there that America is no longer willing to risk a military confrontation with China to sustain its own leading position in the Asian strategic order, and thereby concede that leadership to China.'[10] If, for example, states such as Japan, the Philippines and Australia begin to doubt the will and ability of the US to use force against China to defend their interests, they may become more willing to defer to China’s preferences. Given that the US relies on its regional bases to project power into the region, should US allies begin to doubt Washington’s staying power with China, America’s position in the region will be untenable. The continuation of freedom of navigation exercises (FONOPS in the South China Sea will be a key test of US resolve.

Furthermore, the modernisation of China’s military – it already has the largest navy in Asia[11] – increasingly enhances its ability to project force within its region, intimidating states with which it has maritime disputes. For example, in July 2017 it was reported that Vietnam had ordered a Spanish firm that was exploring for gas in disputed South China Sea waters to leave the area after China threatened to attack Vietnamese bases if the exploration continued. Furthermore, it has recently been reported that the Philippines ceased construction of shelters for fishermen on a sandbar near Philippine-occupied Thitu Island in the Spratly Islands in response to Chinese protests.

B. Expansion of military bases from Pakistan, Sri Lanka to the Horn of Africa

China’s first overseas military base is located in the African state of Djibouti. The 36-hectare base is located to the southwest of the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port under construction by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, and it located not distant from Camp Lemonnier, currently the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa. China has a 10-year lease on what it calls a logistics base. Construction started in March 2016 and it was formally opened in August 2017.

Satellite imagery shows:

a “massive fortress” able to “easily accommodate over a brigade-strength force,” adding that it would allow China to “monitor all shipping movements through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden” as well as “exert influence in the African continent….. the base contains numerous storage barracks, an ammunition point, an office complex and a heliport. For security, the base perimeter consists of four layers of fencing and walls, with roads built in between the layers for security patrols.

It seems China plans to set up an expeditionary force in Djibouti, ready for use to respond to any crisis threatening its numerous economic and commercial interests in Africa and the “maritime silk road” – part of Xi’s One Belt One Road Initiative linking China to Europe. India has also expressed concerns about the base.

Xi Jinping has recently spoken to the PLA troops in Djibouti by video link and urged them to “promote peace and stability.”

China is also busy developing the port of Gwadar in Pakistan, as part of its enormous $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, a key element of the One Belt One Road initiative. China will enjoy a 40-year lease over the port.

In November 2016, it was declared that China would deploy its naval ships along with Pakistan Naval vessels to safeguard Gwadar port and trade routes connecting it to other regions. In early 2017, China handed over two ships to the Pakistan Navy for Gwadar security.

There are also concerns that China’s continuing interest in Sri Lanka and particularly the ports of that country will see China attempting to establish some sort of military base on that island. In July 2017, Sri Lanka signed a $1.1bn deal with China for the control and development of the southern deep-sea port of Hambantota. Under the proposal, a state-run Chinese company will have a 99-year lease on the port and about 15,000 acres nearby for an industrial zone. The government has given assurances that China will run only commercial operations from the port, on the main shipping route between Asia and Europe. Hambantota port, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is expected to play a key role in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, otherwise known as the new Silk Road, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe.

In 2014, a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Song-class conventional submarine along with Changxing Dao, a Type 925 submarine support ship, docked at the Chinese-run Colombo International Container Terminal in Sri Lanka. While Sri Lanka rejected a May 2017 request by China to dock one of its submarines in Colombo, it is clear that China has aspirations for further utilising the key position of Sri Lanka in the centre of the Indian Ocean.

Some Indian strategists have long perceived China as building a “string of pearls” across the Indian Ocean. This refers to the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities developed by China in countries across the Indian Ocean between China and the Middle East. India’s ‘Look East Policy’ was seen as a response to China’s ‘String of Pearls’. The thesis suggests that China will develop commercial/military port facilities in Cambodia, Indonesia, the Straits of Malacca, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea.

C. A short overview of island build up in SCS and East China Sea

China’s claim to islands and maritime zones in the South China Sea are based on a Nine-Dash line which made its debut in the late 1930s, created by the then Nationalist government. This dashed line encompasses some 90 percent of the South China Sea and extends across most of the exclusive economic zones granted to the other littoral states under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The People’s Republic of China has nonetheless progressively intensified its campaign to secure acceptance of its claims to these waters and islands.

In July 2012, China created a prefecture-level city named Sansha City located on Woody Island (Yongxing Dao) in the Paracels. It nominally administers several island groups and undersea atolls in the South China Sea including the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal, and a number of other ungrouped maritime features. Foreign reaction to the declaration was not positive. The United States Department of State called the change in the administrative status of the territory “unilateral”, and the move has received criticism from nations engaged in the South China Sea dispute, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.

In recent years China has utilised a continuing program of island building as the means by which to convince competing polities that China is the rightful sovereign of the territory and maritime zones in the South China Sea. Under Xi Jinping, the program escalated. The island-building program ramped up quickly from August 2014 and was declared complete in June 2015. It appears to have caught the previous Obama Administration in the US unawares and was ineffectively responded to by that US Administration.

Islands built or reclaimed are in either the Paracels or the Spratlys and include:

Subi Reef (976 acres reclaimed)
Mischief Reef (1,379 acres reclaimed)
Johnson Reef (27 acres reclaimed)
Hughes Reef (19 acres reclaimed)
Gaven Reefs (34 acres reclaimed)
Fiery Cross Reef (677 acres reclaimed)

Cuarteron Reef (56 acres reclaimed)

As the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) notes:

Since 2014, China has substantially expanded its ability to monitor and project power throughout the South China Sea via the construction of dual civilian-military bases at its outposts in the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands. These include new radar and communications arrays, airstrips and hangars to accommodate combat aircraft, shelters likely meant to house missile platforms, and deployments of mobile surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missile systems at Woody Island in the Paracels.

AMTI also provides a useful map showing how these capabilities overlap in the South China Sea.

Beijing’s reclamation in the Paracels continues.

China dismisses concerns expressed by neighbours and others:

“I want to reiterate that China building facilities, including deploying necessary and appropriate national defense installations in its own territory, is exercising our sovereign right recognized by international law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

Let us not forget that ASEAN in a lawful, peaceful way tried to respond to China’s aggression by an appeal to a UN mandated court which arbitrates disputes under the Law of the Sea. China has continued to ignore a ruling by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration which in 2016 rejected Beijing’s claims to the seas within its nine-dotted line. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative note of the ruling:

The tribunal invalidated Beijing’s claims to ill-defined historic rights throughout the nine-dash line, found that Scarborough Shoal is a rock entitled only to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, and surprised many observers by ruling on the legal status of every feature in the Spratly Islands raised by the Philippines. It found that none of the Spratlys, including the largest natural features-Itu Aba, Thitu Island, Spratly Island, Northeast Cay, and Southwest Cay-are legally islands because they cannot sustain a stable human community or independent economic life. As such, they are entitled only to territorial seas, not EEZs or continental shelves. Of the seven Spratlys occupied by China, the court ruled that Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, and Gaven Reef are rocks, while Hughes Reef and Mischief Reef are below water at high-tide and therefore generate no maritime entitlements of their own. It also ruled that Kennan Reef is a low-tide elevation, while Second Thomas Shoal and Reed Bank are submerged and belong to the Philippine continental shelf. Taken together, these decisions effectively invalidate any Chinese claim within the nine-dash line to more than the disputed islets themselves and the territorial seas they generate.

Chinese Coast Guard vessels maintain a near-constant presence at Luconia Shoals off the coast of Malaysia’s Sarawak State, over 1,000 km distant from internationally-recognised Chinese territory.

Annually China unilaterally declares a fishing moratorium in the waters of the South China Sea. It then uses its maritime militia to enforce this ban, driving away or attacking fishing boats from other countries across huge swathes of the South China Sea.

China has just unveiled a new dredging ship capable of creating islands such as those Beijing has already built in the disputed South China Sea. Described as a “magical island-maker” by the institute that designed it, the vessel was unveiled on the eve of US President Donald Trump’s tour of Asia.

D. Latest Xi doctrine on Tibet, HK, Taiwan and Xinjiang

In addition to pursuing expansive actions in the South China Sea, Xi Jinping has also stepped up repression within PRC and strengthened reactions to events in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

President Xi has launched a campaign to tighten China’s grip on the religious communities across China since 2016. Against that backdrop, the United Front Work Department – the agency within the Chinese Communist Party that oversees China’s religious affairs, among others – has vowed to “sinicize religions” in China. On the sidelines of the CCP’s 19th National Party Congress on October 20, Zhang Yijiong, the executive deputy head of the UFWD, elaborated on the CCP’s policy on religious affairs since the 18th Party Congress in 2012. Zhang said that the CCP has adhered to the goal of “sinicizing religions” in China and has made “socialist core values” play a leading role in the religious community. In the next step, Zhang added, China will keep cracking down on acts such as “taking advantage of religion to harm national security,” “promoting extremism for terrorist activities,” and “endangering national unity.”

A 2016 working conference has been widely regarded as the starting point for a new CCP campaign to tighten its grip on religious communities. The policy brought about a wave of criticism abroad. A think tank affiliated with the Tibetan government-in-exile in particular reprimanded the Chinese government for “carrying out systematic annihilation of the cultural heritage of Tibet with the destruction of Tibetan Buddhism and religious traditions.”

China has claimed:

Tibetan Buddhism, born in our ancient China, is a religion with Chinese characteristics. It is true that Tibetan Buddhism in formation had received influence from other neighboring Buddhist countries, but it adapted to the local reality and formed its own unique doctrine and rituals, which is a model of sinicization itself… That we are actively guiding Tibetan Buddhism in the direction of sinicization is in the hope that Tibetan Buddhism will further absorb the nutrition of the Chinese excellent culture.

China has continued with a strong stance against the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Governments globally have been warned to “speak and act with caution and give full consideration their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty” when they consider meeting with the Dalai Lama.

In Xinjiang, Xi Jinping has pursued draconian measures. Accompanying massive “anti-terror” rallies in Xinjiang, tens of thousands of heavily armed troops have been poured onto the streets of Xinjiang and Xi has vowed to wage a “people’s war on terror” against militants. Xi Jinping wants to build a ‘Great Wall of Steel’ in Xinjiang. All sorts of restrictions have been imposed on the Turkic peoples of Xinjiang.

In Hong Kong, Xi has pursued a policy of increasing PRC influence. Beijing’s State Council released a 15,500-word white paper spelling out what it called the “accurate” understanding of one country, two systems in June 2014. Issued at a time when Hong Kong was debating political reform to achieve universal suffrage for the chief executive in 2017, it said Beijing enjoys comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong, while the city was given “high degree of autonomy” to run its affairs only as authorised by Beijing. The paper also listed out at least nine types of power that Beijing enjoys over Hong Kong, as stipulated in the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, such as the power over defence, foreign affairs and political reform, as well as the ability to appoint and instruct the city’s chief executive and to amend and interpret the Basic Law.

Street demonstrations against further inroads by Beijing into Hong Kong autonomy have marked the last few years. Pro-independence activities have seen the election of young law-makers from the Umbrella Movement who reject Beijing’s opposition to the rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong.

At the 19th Congress, President Xi set his course for Hong Kong and Macau’s governance, calling for the melding of Beijing’s authority, or “comprehensive jurisdiction”, over the two cities with their “high degree of autonomy” in a natural or “organic” way. China appears willing to kill the great commercial benefits it gains from Hong Kong’s legal system which enhances Western investor confidence, not just in Hong Kong, but investments made in Hong Kong on the mainland.

E. Political influence operations in East Asia and Pacific

China under Xi Jinping has increasingly pursued efforts to influence the politics and economies of neighbours in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as an aspect of his overall program to compete with the influence of the United States globally.

In June 2017 the New York Times and The Economist featured stories on China’s political influence in Australia. The New York Times headline asked “Are Australia’s Politics too Easy to Corrupt?,” while The Economist sarcastically referred to China as the “Meddle Country.” The two articles were reacting to an investigation by Fairfax Media and ABC into the extent of China’s political interference in Australia, that built on internal enquiries into the same issue by ASIO and Australia’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2015 and 2016. The media and official reports concluded that Australia was the target of a foreign interference campaign by China “on a larger scale than that being carried out by any other nation” and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was working to infiltrate Australian political and foreign affairs circles, as well to acquire influence over Australia’s Chinese population.

However, such efforts have not been directed solely at Australia and there are many examples of efforts to influence from countries across the region. The avenues of influence are diverse and can be divided into the following spheres:

The key concept in Chinese foreign policy which links party and state organisations is the “United Front” and which parallels the Russian controlled comintern of old. The United Front is originally a Leninist tactic of strategic alliances, now operating beyond China’s borders. The CCP’s efforts to influence the overseas Chinese population has helped to extend China’s global influence and to expand its economic agendas. Post-1989 the CCP’s policies were designed to discourage the Chinese diaspora from supporting Chinese dissidents to reduce the impact of the Taiwan democratic model, as well as to draw on the patriotic sentiments of the overseas Chinese to get them to assist in China’s economic development.

Just like the Soviet controlled Communist International (Comintern), United Front Work Department personnel often operate under diplomatic cover as members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, using this role to guide United Front activities outside China, working with politicians and other high profile individuals, Chinese community associations, and student associations, and sponsoring Chinese language, media, and cultural activities, and in future years we will undoubtedly read stories of Beijing’s equivalent of the Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra) where Russian agents orchestrated political movements across countries.

United front work not only serves foreign policy goals, but can sometimes be used as a cover for intelligence activities.

Even more than his predecessors, Xi Jinping has led a massive expansion of efforts to shape foreign public opinion in order to influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies. Just like Putin’s full spectrum warfare. the old Soviet doctrine of active measures seems to have been added to China’s armoury.

Thus the revitalized CCTV International, re-branded in 2016 as CGTV (China Global Television), provides the CCP line to the outside world (emphasizing business, not politics) via 24-hour satellite broadcasts and social media. At the same time, China Radio International (CRI) and the Xinhua News Service have cornered niche foreign radio, television, and online platforms via mergers and partnership agreements. China Daily, the CCP’s English language newspaper, has arrangements to publish supplements in major newspapers around the world.

Chinese universities and university presses have set up partnerships with their foreign counterparts and we are steadily seeing the creep of Chinese censorship into these domains as a result.

Recently, in her study Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping, Ann-Marie Brady has examined the efforts by China to influence regional neighbours and has summed up the avenues of influence (as well as the agencies involved and the policies pursued) as follows:

1. “Bring together the hearts and the power of the overseas Chinese”

Xi Jinping’s ambitious strategy to harness the overseas Chinese population for the CCP’s current economic and political agenda, builds on existing practices and then takes it to a new level of ambition.

Agencies Involved:

State Council Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, CCP United Front Work Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of State Security, PLA Joint Staff Headquarters’ Third Department, and other relevant organs.


* Monitor the local long term Chinese community via community organizations to coordinate this work, cherry pick which groups to work with, and establish Overseas Chinese Service Centres
* Sponsor and support the emergence of new united front organizations to represent the overseas Chinese, recognizing that they are a diverse group and flexibility is required to establish a positive working relationship with them. Avoid directly interfering in overseas Chinese community affairs unless there is a situation that directly affects China’s political interests, such as the whistleblower Red Capitalist Guo Wengui37 (Miles Kwok)38, whose international campaign to expose corruption and espionage activities of the Chinese government at the highest level has provoked a massive counter-attack.
* Unite the ethnic Chinese communities through nurturing and subsidizing authorized Chinese cultural activities.
* Supervise Chinese students and visiting scholars through the united front organization the Chinese Student and Scholars Association (中国学生学者联合会).
* Encourage influential figures within the overseas Chinese community who are acceptable to the PRC government to become proactive in helping shape ethnic Chinese public opinion on political matters.
* Encourage wealthy overseas Chinese who are politically acceptable to the PRC government to subsidize activities which support China’s political agenda.
* Draw on China’s agents and informers abroad to enhance China’s political influence.

* Encourage political engagement of the overseas Chinese community (华人参政). This policy encourages overseas Chinese who are acceptable to the PRC government to become involved in politics in their host countries as candidates who, if elected, will be able to act to promote China’s interests abroad; and encourages China’s allies to build relations with non-Chinese pro-CCP government foreign political figures, to offer donations to foreign political parties, and to mobilize public opinion via Chinese language social media; so as to promote the PRC’s economic and political agenda abroad. Of course it is completely normal and to be encouraged that the ethnic Chinese communities in each country seek political representation; however this initiative is separate from that spontaneous and natural development.

2. Make the foreign serve China

In 2013, at the national conference on CCP Propaganda and Thought Work Xi Jinping utilized a well-known saying of Mao Zedong “make the past serve the present, make the foreign serve China” to sum up his administration’s back-to-the-future approach to governance, traditional CCP policies of utilizing people-to-people, party-to-party, and now PRC enterprise-to-foreign enterprise relations in order to co-opt foreigners to support and promote China’s foreign policy goals.

Agencies Involved:

CCP International Liaison Department, Ministry of State Security, CCP national, provincial and city government leaders, Chinese State-Owned Enterprises and Red Capitalists, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and other such CCP Front organizations.


* Strengthen party-to-party links.
* Building a global network of strategic partners-a classic united front approach.
* Appoint foreigners with access to political power to high profile roles in Chinese companies or Chinese-funded entities in the host country.
* Use sister city relations to expand China’s economic agenda separate to a given nation’s foreign policy. The CCP front organization, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries is in charge of this activity.
* Coopt foreign academics, entrepreneurs, and politicians to promote China’s perspective in the media and academia. Build up positive relations with susceptible individuals via shows of generous political hospitality in China. The explosion in numbers of all-expenses-paid quasi-scholarly and quasi-official conferences in China (and some which are held overseas) is a notable feature of the Xi era, on an unprecedented scale.

* The use of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships with foreign companies, universities, and research centres in order to acquire local identities that enhance influence activities; and potentially, access to military technology, commercial secrets, and other strategic information.46

3. “Make the CCP’s message the loudest of our times”

The Xi government’s go-global, multi-platform, national and international strategic communication strategy aims to influence international perceptions about China, shape international debates about the Chinese government and strengthen management over the Chinese-language public sphere in China, as well as globally.

Agencies Involved:

Xinhua News Service, CGTV, CRI, State Council Information Office/Office for Foreign Propaganda, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant state organs.

* The approach is multi-platform and multi-media. The Xi era media strategy creates new platforms which merge China’s traditional and new media such as WeChat, and takes it to new global audiences in the developing world, the former Eastern Bloc, as well as to developed countries.4849
* Under the policy known as to “borrow a boat to go out on the ocean”, China has set up strategic partnerships with foreign newspapers, TV, and radio stations, to provide them with free content in the CCP-authorized line for China-related news. The formerly independent Chinese language media outside China is a key target for this activity.
* Integrate and “harmonize” the overseas Chinese media with the Chinese media.
* Under the policy to “buy a boat to go out on the ocean,” China’s party-state media companies are engaging in strategic mergers and acquisitions of foreign media and cultural enterprises.51
* Under the “localizing” policy, China’s foreign media outlets such as CGTV are employing more foreigners so as to have foreign faces explaining CCP policies.
* A new focus on the importance of think tanks in shaping policy and public opinion. China is making a massive investment in setting up scores of China, as well as foreign-based, think tanks and research centres to help shape global public opinion, increase China’s soft power, improve international visibility and help shape new global norms.52
* Setting up academic partnerships with foreign universities and academic publishers; then imposing China’s censorship rules as part of the deal.
* Offering strings-attached academic funding through the Confucius Institutes and other China-connected funding bodies, and investment in foreign research centres.

* Under the slogan “tell a good Chinese story,” restoring to prominence China’s cultural and public diplomacy. Central and local governments are once again providing massive subsidies for cultural activities aimed at the outside world; from scholarly publishing, to acrobatics, to Chinese medicine. This policy builds on and extends efforts established in the Hu era. China promotes Chinese culture and language internationally through Confucius Institutes, cultural centres, and festivals. The revised strategy particularly focuses on youth; and in countries with a significant indigenous population, attempts to develop close relations with indigenous communities.

4. One Belt, One Road

This is the Xi government’s initiative to create a China-centered economic bloc, one that is “beyond ideology” and will reshape the global order. One Belt, One Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), builds on, and greatly extends, the “going out” policy launched in 1999 in the Jiang era and continued into the Hu era, which encouraged public-private partnerships between Chinese SOEs and Chinese Red Capitalists in China and overseas to acquire global natural resource assets and seek international infrastructure projects.5355

Agencies Involved:

National Development and Reform Commission (lead agency), State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other relevant state agencies, Chinese SOEs and Red Capitalists, Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries or such CCP united front organizations.


* Use OBOR to stimulate China’s economic development via external projects; secure access to strategic natural resources.
* Set up trade zones, ports, and communications infrastructure that connects back to China.
* Provide China-based “China-model” training programs and exchanges for foreign government officials.
* Get foreign governments to do the work of promoting China’s OBOR to their own citizens and neighbouring states (another version of “borrowing a boat”).
* Work closely with both national and local government leaders on OBOR projects. Local governments control considerable assets and can make planning decisions at the local level.
* Invest in both China-based and foreign-based OBOR think tanks to help shape global public opinion, strengthen China’s soft power, improve China’s international visibility, and ability to help shape new global norms.
* Offer governments who sign up to OBOR privileged access to the Chinese market.
* Draw on the resources and assistance of overseas Chinese entrepreneurs to extend the objectives of OBOR.
* Promote the view that that OBOR is a win-win strategy both for China and the countries who accept OBOR projects.
* Use united front work to increase support for OBOR.

The recent Yang Jian case in New Zealand, where it was revealed that National MP Yang Jian was formerly a PLA member and spy-trainer in China suggests that some of the policies China uses in its efforts to influence have very long time frames.

Australian Reactions

Many countries like Australia want to maintain good commercial and trading relations with China, but this blatant Comintern-like activity has led to push-back by Australia’s democratic system. Tightened procedures and a more strategic understanding by the Foreign Investment Review Board have seen a bar on majority China interests purchasing a major NSW electricity grid. Beijing’s crude interference in political donations, Chinese language and student organisations have all been the subject of major media exposés.

Bi-Partisan support will see Parliaments committee on electoral matters recommend the barring of political donations. The Australian government has foreshadowed further legislation against foreign interference

Michael Danby is the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, and former Chair of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade throughout the 42nd Parliament and was again chosen for this position in the 43rd parliament

[1] US Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017, p. 65.

[2] Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), ‘What does China really spend on its military?’, CSIS China Power website, n.d., accessed 9 November 2017.

[3] R O’Rourke, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, 29 March 2017, pp. 32-34.

[4] US Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017, p. 24.

[5] See D Majumdar, ‘America’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter vs. China’s J-31, F-15SA and Russia’s Su-35: Who Wins?’, The National Interest website, 20 September 2016, accessed 9 November 2017.

[6] See D Logan, ‘Hard Constraints on China’s Nuclear Forces’, War on the Rocks website, 8 November 2017, accessed 9 November 2017 for a discussion of factors that shape the development of Chinese nuclear forces.

[7] See The Economist, ‘Xi Jinping and the Chinese dream’, The Economist website, 4 May 2013, accessed 9 November 2017 and C Campbell, ‘Xi Jinping’s Party Congress Speech Leaves No Doubts Over His Leadership Role’, Time website, 18 October 2017, accessed 9 November 2017.

[8] R.S. Ross, ‘China’s Naval Nationalism: Sources, Prospects and the U.S. Response’, International Security, Vol. 34, No. 2. (Fall 2009), p. 67.

[9] See R Cliff et al, Entering the Dragon’s Lair: Chinese Antiaccess Strategies and Their Implications for the United States, Rand Corporation, 2007 for details about how China’s military has been optimised for this purpose.

[10] H White, ‘Let’s be clear: China would call America’s bluff in the South China Sea’, The Interpreter website, 21 July 2017, accessed 9 November 2017.

[11] US Department of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017, 24.
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