CLIVE HAMILTON. None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

Sep 10, 2018

Jocelyn Chey has a bee in her bonnet. In a series of articles on this blog she has repeatedly characterised my book, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, as anti-Chinese. In her latest attack, she claims that I engage in racial profiling, lump all Chinese-Australians together and feed into anti-Asian propaganda.

Perhaps if she had glanced over her shoulder as she left the ABC studio last week, where we both participated in a debate, she would have noticed that I was surrounded by Chinese-Australians congratulating me, asking for photos and getting me to sign copies of my book.

If my book is anti-Chinese and racist, why did over 100 Chinese-Australians pack a room in NSW Parliament House in March to enthusiastically launch my book and listen to praise from leading Chinese-Australian intellectuals like Dr Feng Chongyi?

If my book is anti-Chinese and racist, why is a Chinese-language edition being prepared by a highly reputable publisher in Taiwan?

When I visited Taiwan recently, senior politicians, officials and scholars expressed relief that western nations like Australia are waking up to the kind of influence operations and arm-twisting they have been subjected to for many years. They greeted with deep puzzlement the news that the “China debate” in Australia is said by some to be driven by anti-Chinese racism.

As I pointed out in the ABC debate, a reader of my book will see that I stress over and over the diversity of the Chinese-Australian community, partly as a way of countering the sustained efforts of the Chinese Communist Party to create a racialised version of “Chineseness”, a topic I discuss at length.

I write in the book that the representation of Chinese-Australians in Australian politics is too low and more should be done to encourage them, that much more should be done to protect the democratic rights of Chinese-Australians from foreign interference, that more Chinese-Australian voices should be heard in public debate, and that the important role of Chinese-Australian soldiers in our wars should be properly recognised.

I write that it’s unfair for Chinese-Australians to be subject to Anglo frowns when they turn up at a house auction, because they have as much right to buy a house as any other Australian.

It’s hard to know what more I could have done in my book to show that I understand that the Chinese-Australian community is highly diverse, ethnically, culturally, linguistically and politically. In the book I often quote the views of Chinese-Australians, many of whom I interviewed for my research.

But for Jocelyn these Chinese-Australian voices do not count. She dismisses these critics of CCP intrusions—some also victims of it—by pretending she can’t hear them. She signed a letter saying she can “see no evidence” of PRC interference in Australia.

On 8th May 2017 I conducted a phone interview with Jocelyn as part of the research for my book. I wanted to know why she had agreed to become the director of the new Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture at Western Sydney University in the knowledge that it was funded by Huang Xiangmo.

Huang is the wealthy Chinese businessmen and generous political donor whom ASIO warned political parties about because of his suspected links to the CCP. He was the president of the foremost United Front organisation in Australia, the Australia Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China. Sam Dastyari’s association with Huang led to his political death, leading some to label Dastyari treasonous because of Huang’s alleged CCP associations.

According to my notes, Jocelyn told me that Huang only had interest in cultural matters and she wasn’t aware of any political agenda, although it helped that her institute is not researching political matters. When I asked her about self-censorship, she said: “We’re all limited by what we can and can’t achieve.”

I decided not to report any of this in my book. To be honest, I thought it would be cruel to make fun of her naivety.

I don’t believe for a moment that Jocelyn Chey has been won over by the CCP or its agents, or even that she is sympathetic to it. But by repeatedly denying the mass of evidence, blanking out Chinese-Australian voices critical of the CCP, and attacking as racists those who warn of the dangers, she plays straight into the Party’s hands.

Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

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