The Bear in the Room

This article is reproduced with the permission of the publishers. The original article was published in Australian Polity, Volume 8, Number 1.

It can be surprising at how fast events that significantly change perceptions can occur. Take the attitude to China.

For years, many in the west assumed that the Middle Kingdom would liberalise politically as international trade increased. China would be a benign influence at worst, a dynamic new democracy at best. As little as a year ago, when this journal published extracts from President Xi Jinping’s book, The Governance of China, to demonstrate his unequivocal determination to maintain a Marxist Leninist one party state, many still believed otherwise.

These assumptions have now been completely shattered. A series of events have revealed the true nature of the Chinese Communist regime, including:

  • the imprisonment of millions of Uyghurs in ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang province;
  • the China Tribunal that the communist regime conducted an extensive program of organ transplantation in which prisoners and political dissenters were killed;
  • the attempt to impose extradition laws on Hong Kong, contrary to the agreement with the UK, leading to the mass demonstrations on the island; and
  • the attempted interference in the political affairs of other nations, including Australia.

This follows the Communist Party’s aggressive disregard for international law in the China Sea, the manipulation of overseas Chinese students, and an extensive campaign of cyber hacking.

The response from the Chinese regime has been predictable: these are sovereign matters for China, and no other nation can interfere. We were told by a Chinese official in Australia to learn Mandarin, so to better understand the country.

But one only has to read Xi Jinping to apprehend his program. His second volume of speeches, The Governance of China II, is now available. Speaking of Hong Kong, he makes it clear that ‘one country’ comes before ‘two systems’. Similarly, ‘national unification’ precedes ‘autonomy’ when it comes to religion.

There is nothing secretive about Mr Xi’s intentions. Take his remarks on the United Front, an organisation that operates in Australia, which he stresses is ‘primarily political’:

To improve the work of the United Front in the current era, we must be good at befriending prominent non-CPC individuals. This is an important part of such work. Party and government leaders, and officials of the United Front work not for window dressing, or good name, but for pragmatic reasons, because it plays a role, a big role, and an indispensable role. In the final analysis, the job of the United Front is to win over more people; we use the United Front to strengthen the forces for the common goal.

That goal is clear: to maintain the power of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese Communist Party expresses one narrative but practices another. At last western leaders are talking about the bear in the room. In Australia, this includes the strengthening of our security apparatus and the examination of effective legislation, including a Magnitsky-style approach to human rights abuses.

Kevin Andrews sits in the Australian House of Representatives. He is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.