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Under-reported: Efforts by China (more than by Russia) to subvert western democracies

While the finest minds of US investigative reporting have been probing Donald Trump and his presidential campaign’s alleged role in Russian interference in last year’s race for the White House, Moscow’s more strategically worrying takeover of the Middle East has been overlooked (see Michael Burleigh). Also overlooked, but not by UnHerd’s constant search for the under-reported, has been China’s more strategic interventions in the wider world.

Epicentre of China’s influence has been Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had to rush new laws through Canberra’s parliament after a scandal involving an opposition MP brought the communist nation’s not-so-subtle efforts to buy influence in the lucky country (although, we English, can’t blame luck on Aussie Ashes supremacy) to public attention. Labor’s Sam Dastyari MP had to quit after he used a Chinese businessman’s donations to clear personal debts and which were seen to influence his support, for example, for Beijing’s military expansionism in the South China Sea. But it’s not just Mr Dastyari. Research published by the Melbourne Law School found that 95% of overseas donations into the Australian political process in the most recent year were sourced from China. It’s an average 80% over the last sixteen years.

Source: Melbourne Law School Dollars and Democracy Database

Australia’s spy chief, quoted by the FT in an insightful long read, said that the efforts by China to infiltrate western powers were at least as great as anything undertaken by the Soviet Union at the height of its efforts. And compared to then – when President Putin’s former colleagues in the KGB had only ideology at their disposal – China has massive economic muscle. 36% of Australia’s exports go to China, for example.

I mention all of this because of Chris Deerin’s piece for UnHerd today on China’s Confucius Institutes and their role in influencing/improving/brainwashing (delete according to ideological taste) young Western minds.

If you want to read more I recommend the US Council on Foreign Relations and this longer overview of Chinese influence in the free world.


Listing of all under-reported articles in UnHerd’s new series.