Academic who blew the whistle on China's influence on Australia says "Canada is in even worse trouble"
'When I look at the subtle but intense influence of China on Canadian institutions ... it makes me deadly worried,' says Clive Hamilton
Silent Invasion, Clive Hamilton’s ground-breaking book about China’s covert influence on Australian society, has been both applauded as an overdue exposé and criticized as an exaggeration of the problem. But when he finished the book, he received some unwanted validation of its central thesis: three Australian publishers declined to publish it, citing fear of retribution from Beijing or its allies.
Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Canberra’s Charles Sturt University and former executive director of progressive think-tank The Australia Institute, eventually found a willing publisher, and now is working on a sequel dealing with similar issues in North America. What he’s discovered so far makes him very concerned for Canada. He spoke with the National Post during a visit to Toronto.
I think it’s more of a problem in Canada.
Yes, Australia’s economic dependence is higher — in terms of trade — but when I look, as I have been doing, at the subtle but intense influence of China on Canadian institutions — parliaments, provincial governments, local governments, universities, the intellectual community, the policy community — it makes me deadly worried.
I’ve met some very well-informed Canadians who aren’t sure Canada will be able to extricate itself from this situation.
I have also been dismayed by the brazenness of friends of the Chinese Communist Party and their activities
Can you give some examples of what disturbs you so much here?
When I was last in Canada — in Ottawa, a few months ago — I was dismayed at the extent of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in the federal Parliament. I should probably not say any more to stay on the right side of the libel laws.
I have also been dismayed by the brazenness of friends of the Chinese Communist Party and their activities. I’m thinking, for instance, of Chinese students on university campuses, and the really extraordinary attack on the Tibetan student who was elected … president of the (University of Toronto Scarborough campus) student union.
My response is to ask what are the authorities doing about this — the university authorities and political authorities? Shockingly, I think that’s the real state of China’s influence.
I’m further dismayed at the apparent unwillingness of authorities to defend those essential democratic principles, including in this case the right of a minority person to participate in the democratic process on campus.
Were you surprised when publishers turned down your book?
I was shocked. The implication was that a book written by an Australian scholar critical of the Chinese Communist Party could not find a publisher because of fear of retaliation from a foreign power. That’s a shocking attack on free speech in a democratic country.
Australia has already decided not to let Huawei Technologies take part in building its 5G telecommunications network because of espionage fears. What should Canada do about this?
Canada must follow Australia and ban Huawei. It’s the only sensible thing to do, there will be minor economic costs. The security benefits in my judgment far outweigh the economic costs.
Is it possible to call out China for its alleged interference, and still pursue a positive trade and political relationship?
It’s a classic case of standing up to bullying. We know that if you give way to bullying, then the bully will persist. If you stand up to bullying, you might get bruised, but there will be a more respectful relationship thereafter.
Are there factors holding back critics of China’s influence campaign here and elsewhere?
One thing I keep hearing from my Canadian friends is that ‘Part of the problem in Canada is that we are so polite, we don’t want to mention it because we might offend people.’ And of course this is exploited.
It’s one thing to be polite, it’s another thing to be bullied by a totalitarian fascist power.
The main device constantly used to silence critics like me is accusations of racism.
The day I decided to write my book, I decided to make it very clear throughout that I’m talking about the CCP, and not Chinese people and not Chinese Australians.
As I delved into this, what I became aware of was the fact that the Chinese live in fear. Fear of retribution (against relatives and businesses in China) if they criticize the Chinese Communist Party. I became offended at that.
There are a lot of fearful Chinese Canadians who would like to have their say, but have to stay quiet if they want to avoid CCP's consequences. There are only a very few who do speak up sad to say.