Who would have thought in a liberal democratic country like Australia, Charles Sturt University professor Clive Hamilton’s book Silent Invasion would have to face tribulations of such intensity that it throws the whole country into unease. Now, public opinion is no longer focusing on the Chinese Communist government’s opposition to and suppression of this book, but rather the focus has been shifted to the supposedly “racist” connotations of the book that some claim have “offended” Chinese-Australians. Voices of resistance under the flag of “anti-racism” can be heard from certain members of the Chinese community, mainstream media, and even prominent politicians and political parties.
I recall a year ago, an academic of Chinese descent at the University of Sydney publicly burned his PRC passport. He was consequently attacked by a group of students from China, presumably under the directives of the Chinese consulate. In that saga, the “racial discrimination” rhetoric was also invoked, forcing the university to take disciplinary action against the academic staff. The Sydney Morning Herald initially published a report of this fiasco toeing the “racism” line. It was not until another group of Chinese-Australians started to overtly support this academic’s actions that SMH realized they might have grossly misjudged the situation. If this was indeed an act of racism against Chinese people, why would there be so many Chinese people supporting the action?
Today, Silent Invasion is facing a similar situation. According to the author, Clive Hamilton, he had received generous support from a large number of Chinese-Australians while he was researching his book. It is the hope of these Chinese-Australians that this book will document things that they dare not talk about, so that the general public in Australia is informed of the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party is wielding its influence on Chinese communities in Australia. This exposure will enable many Chinese-Australians to gradually come out of their shadows of fear. Their only request is to remain anonymous. Why would these Chinese-Australians be willing accomplices to a book that promotes “racism” against them? If one carefully investigates the research method and compilation process of this book, it is not hard to realize that the issue of “racial discrimination” is not relevant here.
While Australia is still grappling with the definition of foreign influence, the Chinese Communist government has already fully exploited its influence for their gains. Not only are there large groups of Chinese-Australians willing to speak out for them, some prominent Australian politicians and mainstream media will do the same. The most disconcerting part is, while the majority of Australians may want to keep a check on CCP influence and protect Australia’s democratic values, they know very little about China’s channels of influence in Australia. Worst of all, there is a lack of understanding of the diversity and complexity of the Chinese diasporas.
One should never doubt the reality behind commentaries that suggest “the majority of Chinese students and a large numbers of Chinese immigrants pay heed to the Chinese government.” This is the truth. Those who have lived under the Chinese Communist regime, no matter where they go, will never be able to walk out of the immense shadows of fear. Even after they have settled in a free democratic country like Australia, they will not publicly express disapproval of the current Chinese government, nor will they cross the Chinese Communist Party’s bottom line. Some of them will even sing songs of praise for communism. When there is a clash of interest between the Chinese government and Australia, many of them may, whether intentional or not, side with the Chinese government.
However, these phenomena DO NOT mean Chinese Australians are disloyal to Australia! And they definitely are not grounds for discrimination. It is probably true to say that all Chinese-Australians are very loyal to Australia and love this country. Their loyalty to Australia ensures their survival, and yet their loyalty to the Chinese government ensures their safety. This feeling of safety is something the Australian government cannot offer them. It is imperative to know that anyone who openly criticises the Chinese Communist government will face many repercussions. In order to lead a peaceful life, they will often need to make the best of choices that this liberal democracy has bestowed upon them — the freedom to openly express their endorsement of the CCP, while at the same time staying loyal to Australia.
This is not only happening within the Chinese communities. It is fast becoming a fact of life for many Australians. How many people, including previous prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, and Kevin Rudd, and prominent politicians such as Bob Carr as well as lofty businessmen, can stand their ground in the face of personal interests (either material or immaterial or both) during their exchanges with the CCP?
Let us not delve into what sort of interests these people of stature are able to gain from downplaying CCP influence, although they are very clear on this themselves. One thing is for sure, they are not doing it to protect Chinese-Australians from “racism.” If you believe that, you have been played. They are simply saying what the CCP wants to hear, and inadvertently becoming “highly sophisticated” CCP overseas spokespersons without even realizing it.
If the above-mentioned Australian politicians challenge the Australian government for the “benefit” of the Chinese community, they are positioning themselves as definite winners. Vice versa, if they initiate any pushback against the Chinese government for its meddling, they would lose everything. These politicians know the intricacies of their choices and have no problem in sorting out their priorities. In other words, such behavior is already a manifestation of CCP influence; however, in order to protect their own interests or due to other unforetold reasons, they do not have many choices.
As I was writing this, I received news that a respected advocate of human rights, NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, cancelled the Silent Invasion book launch originally planned to be held at the NSW Parliament. News spread rapidly on Twitter and Facebook. A Chinese-Australian, Erin Chew from the Asian Australian Alliance, tweeted to David Shoebridge to thank him for listening to the concerns of Chinese-Australians and cancelling the launch at the NSW Parliament House. However, comments below the post, displayed two vastly different views from Chinese-Australians, with some in support and some against.
It is obvious that the entire debate has now been derailed to the topic of “racism.” Deliberate misrepresentations and diversions by blurring the line between the Chinese government and China the country is another common manifestation of CCP influence. Many supporters of Silent Invasion believe that this book acts as a critical warning to Australia’s general public so that they will come to realize the power and extent of the CCP’s influence, and the glaring reality of such meddling in Australian society. This realization will prevent the Australian-Chinese communities from treading a path that will lead them further away from Australia’s mainstream values and become collateral damage for CCP meddling.
Unfortunately, instead of finding meaningful ways to help many in the Chinese communities (especially Chinese students) come out from the shadows of CCP influence, mainstream public opinion in Australia, with its lack of direction and resolve in this matter, has once again enabled the silent invasion to unfold ever so completely and successfully in the debates prior to and following the publication of the book Silent Invasion.
This article is an opinion piece by Feiyan Xia and represents the author’s personal position and perspective.
The original Chinese version of this article can be found at: https://www.secretchina.com/news/b5/2018/03/09/852314.html