Growing China worries in Australia as Penny Wong slams PM

Domestic News

As America tries to figure out a new normal for relations with China, the debate in Australia continues to grow louder, too. The Australian opposition Labor Party’s shadow foreign affairs minister Penny Wong (黄英贤 Huáng Yīngxián) has given a speech arguing that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s foreign policy ideas, especially with regards to China, are “disturbingly lightweight” and that he makes decisions against the national interest for “short-term political gain,” reports the Guardian.

Wong also brought up Morrison’s defense of Hong Kong–born MP Gladys Liu (廖嬋娥 Liào Chán’é) against accusations of inappropriate links with a Chinese Communist Party group as racist, suggesting that “Morrison had ‘done Beijing’s work for it’ because the Chinese government often deflects criticism or scrutiny of alleged foreign interference with claims of racism.”

Commenting on Wong’s speech, political columnist Paul Bongiorno says, “Australia’s long-established bipartisan approach to relations with our biggest trading partner China is at breaking point.”

“Australia’s universities are embroiled in a growing geopolitical storm amid rising concerns over expanding Chinese power abroad. Is Australian technology and know-how being used to help strengthen China’s repressive regime?” asks this Four Corners news video (or see summary in text). The entities involved are:

  • “Global Tone Communication, known as GTCOM, which is a data-mining company majority owned by the Chinese Government,” which “has a memorandum of understanding with the University of New South Wales to test its sophisticated technology.” GTCOM works with Haiyun Data, whose “technology has reportedly been used as part of surveillance activities against the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.”
  • “Haiyun Data told Chinese media in January that it operates an artificial intelligence laboratory at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).” The university denies the claim… However, a spokesperson told Four Corners that it operates a research project in conjunction with the company, the purpose of which is handwriting recognition.”
  • “China Electronics Technology Corporation, or CETC, which is believed to have been involved in the mass surveillance of Uyghurs,” has a separate deal with UTS.

See also this new report by Samantha Hoffman from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute: Engineering global consent: The Chinese Communist Party’s data-driven power expansion.