Dan O'Heirity

China Is in the Ascendancy and That Should Concern Us All

I’ve written frequently over the last 6 weeks or so about the threat that China poses to the world order. Today I came across a fascinating article from The Conversation that manages to quantify the ways in which China is coming to dominate the global world order. The article first looks at China’s potential supremacy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019 China’s GDP was two-thirds that of the United States. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that China’s economy will jump to three-quarters the size of the US by the end of 2021. The reason that GDP matters so much is that it is a key indicator of the strength of an economy. The bottom line is that China’s economy is strengthening relative to that of the United States. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this matters. Basically China is producing more goods and generating more services which means that China is financially strong with all that such strength entails. For example, a strong GDP means that employment figures in China will be “good”. Now this is obviously important per se but employment is a key consideration of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) because from the CCP perspective high employment rates equates to social stability. In other words, there will be little or no “unrest”, something that the CCP fears because “unrest” is a threat to the control of the CCP.

A second indicator of China’s increasing strength is provided by the Lowy Institute’s “Asia Power Index”, which measures power in the economic, military, diplomatic and cultural domains. According to the report, China is gaining relative to the United States. At this point in time the United states has a “comprehensive power rating” of 81.6whilst China has a rating of 76.1. The report makes for fascinating reading. Basically, the methodology yields the aforementioned “comprehensive power rating”. In this respect, a country’s comprehensive power is its weighted average across eight thematic measures of power: economic capability, military capability, resilience, future resources, economic relationships, defence networks, diplomatic influence, and cultural influence. I’ll give you one example so that you can see how it works. If we take economic capability then this capability is measured in terms of a range of indicators including GDP at purchasing power parity, international leverage, technological sophistication and global connectivity. Each of the other thematic measures also has a range of individual indicators such that the comprehensive power rating is generated in terms of the themes and indicators. Finally, The Conversation cites the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report which shows on page 15 of the report that of those polled, 95% of Chinese had trust in their government but only 48% of Americans had trust in their government. The American figure can surely be attributed to the fact that Trump has divided the country into two.

American Democracy Will Be Put to the Test Two Times This Week

As reported by CNN, his week in America will see the “run off” for control of the United States Senate and this Wednesday 6th of January should see Biden sworn in as American president. Regarding the Senate, Georgia voters will be voting for the two remaining senate seats. If the Democrats win the seats then Biden has a majority in the Senate meaning, for example, that he would be able to action his plans with a Senate majority that would support him. If the Republicans were to win the seats then they would have a Senate majority and could block Biden’s plans. As for Biden formally becoming president, this would normally be no more than a “ceremonial” process. However, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley to contest the outcomes in key states. Yep Trump and his cronies are at it once again. You can watch the CNN analysis below but in essence it does not appear that there is any realistic possibility that the election result will be overturned.

Given that there is zero chance of Trump’s campaign overturning the election result, you have to wonder why in the world they would go through the process. Well, the most likely reason is that they want to continue to peddle the lie that the election was a fraud and that Trump should be president. Why would Hawley be helping Trump? We can never really know but his aid will almost certainly have to do with the fact that he will have an ally in Trump and that Trump will owe him a favour in the future. Why else would a Republican Senator essentially embarrass himself by contesting electoral outcomes in a process that should simply be a formality. There is a comment beneath this video that reads, “As an American living outside looking in….. we really are a global joke and we’ve lost so much credibility“. That is undoubtedly true but even more to the point is that Beijing is looking on and revelling at the disaster that is currently America. And the thing is that Trump is not going to go away just because he has lost the election. Trump and his supporters will be around for a long, long time shouting election fraud and attempting to undermine Biden’s presidency.

Yet Another Case of Suspicious Goings on With a Chinese Citizen in Australia

There was a story a couple of days ago from ABC News reporting that the Australian Intelligence Security Organization (ASIO) has assessed a Melbourne based Chinese businessman as a potential national security risk. The businessman, Huifeng “Haha” Liu, faces deportation. Liu apparently has links with with federal Liberal MP Gladys Liu and Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar. This is an interesting point as I have reported before that controversy has surrounded Gladys Liu particular in terms of her relations with various Chinese organizations that may be aligned with China’s United Front Work Department. Liu has also been of interest in terms of her fundraising efforts for the Liberal party with questions being asked concerning the size and source of donations that she has secured. The ABC News story makes reference to the fact that Gladys Liu has had a questionable past with Geoffrey Watson SC, a former counsel assisting for the NSW Independent Commission for Corruption (ICAC) saying “I am stunned that she still holds the confidence of the Prime Minister and that there haven’t been actions to separate her from the Government and even from the Liberal Party itself“. As for Huifeng Liu, the ABC report says that Huifeng has been under investigation in a joint Australian Federal Police (AFP)  and ASIO investigation. However, a “source” has apparently said that this is not the case and Huifeng has said that he believes that he is under investigation because he formed a neighbourhood watch scheme that reports to a Chinese consulate. Oddly, however, the group to which Huifeng is referring to is the Australian Emergency Assistance Association Incorporated (AEAAI) which “acts as a middleman in police incidents and legal cases involving Chinese speakers”. If you visit the Australian Government Open Dataset website then you will see that the AEAAI was incorporated on the 9th October, 2019 with the record stating that the Association has been operating for 1 year, 2 month 27 days. I shall return to this point below.

From what I can make out from the ABC News story, the Association seems to have been operating for around four and half years before being incorporated. For example, In 2018, Gladys Liu attended a meeting with Huifeng Liu in Melbourne between the AEAAI, Victoria Police and Monash City Council. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss community safety. Going back even further, in 2016 Gladys Liu said that people “were flocking to the AEAAI’s groups on WeChat” because they were frightened about their safety. In this regard, Huifeng has said that the AEAAI provides police with “assistance” because the police force “is really limited right now”. At this point I am just confused. The AEAAI seems to act as a middleman in police incidents and legal cases involving Chinese speakers. At the same time the Association also seems to have some kind of function to do with community safety. And then there is the close ties between the Association and a China’s Melbourne consulate. The consulate announced in 2017 that the AEAAI was its official “consular protection assistance agency” for helping Chinese citizens in their interactions with Australian authorities. The consulate required that the AEAAI establish a third-party entity to receive consular funds. I am guessing that this accounts for why the AEAAI was incorporated on 9th October 2019. Anyway, the relationship between the AEAAI and the China’s Melbourne consulate has “raised some eyebrows”, particular in terms of reporting requirements imposed by the consulate. However, the key consideration here is whether the activities of the AEAAI and the consulate can, in conjunction, be considered to be “interference in Australia’s internal affairs”. Swinburne University China specialist Professor John Fitzgerald has said that, “While these consular offices have a duty to protect citizens from China, they have no duty and no right to interfere in Chinese-Australian community affairs“. And so, possibly, we have a case of Chinese interference in Australian affairs and, as has happened to often, we have in Huifeng Liu a Chinese citizen who has also established very close contacts with Members of Parliament.

First Published 5th January, 2020

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