For years now, Western governments have hoped that forging closer economic ties with China would see the Communist nation move closer to Western ideology. One where people are — by and large — free to say and do what they wish.
But rather than moving closer to Western governance, the Chinese have been working overtime behind the scenes in an effort to shift the West’s thinking into line with Communist ideology.
US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has thrown the spotlight on these efforts. He says China’s strategy of using think tanks and non-profit organisations to influence opinion in the US and Australia ‘is far greater in magnitude than any other foreign effort we have seen in history.’
China’s influence more significant than Russian Meddling
Mr Bolton also raised concerns about the Chinese military’s build up in the South China Sea and Huawei’s mobile technology potentially being used for espionage, AAP reports.
Mr Bolton said the combination of methods that China has been using to influence public opinion were more significant than Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Speaking to Fox News, he said, ‘It really is far greater in magnitude than any other foreign effort we have seen in history to influence American opinion and it’s not just confined to the United States…
‘They are doing it in Australia and other countries — close friends of ours… so this really goes to the core of how you maintain a free and open society in this country when other countries are trying to influence it the way that China has.’
He raised the prospect of China pursuing Russian tactics as well:
‘It goes well beyond just election hacking although we certainly have been concerned about China doing that as well.’
Echoing Australia’s concerns
A long-time foreign policy hawk, Bolton became Trump’s national security adviser following the departure of retired US Army general, HR McMaster in April last year.
Bolton said that the existential threat posed by China, ‘has been a focus of much of the preparation of the budget requests,’ in reference to Trump’s 2020 budget proposal.
Commenting on Chinese military movements in the South China Sea, Bolton said:
‘It is taking over these rocks and shoals and islands and building military bases on them . . . it is completely unacceptable … that is why we have continued to do freedom of navigation exercises and look at other ways to stop this effort in effect to create a new Chinese province.’
He echoed Australian concerns about Huawei’s telecommunication systems and said the concern was based on, ‘very, very good reasons.’
He added, ‘people sometimes call the concern the Manchurian chip problem — that if something gets into the telecommunications system that can be activated down the road — this is a very serious threat.’
A serious threat, indeed.
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