Political Leaders around the world have adopted the Chinese Communist Party’s language soon after signing on to the Belt & Road Initiative, a New Book argues in a fresh warning to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews as he pushes ahead with his State’s deal with Beijing.
Charles Sturt University Professor Clive Hamilton, an Expert on CCP Influence, warns the Victorian Premier has followed European political leaders in “unconsciously reproducing the language and the concepts that have been implanted in them”.
In his new book Hidden Hand: Exposing how the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World, co-written with Berlin based researcher Mareike Ohlberg, Hamilton says one of the biggest threats of the BRI is its “discourse control” over Political Leaders & Senior Bureaucrats.
This includes media agreements, ties between cultural institutions, the establishment of sister cities and people-to-people exchanges.
The BRI, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature policy to bankroll infrastructure around the world, has been criticised by national security experts as a form of “debt-trap diplomacy” to bind developing nations.
Senior figures within the Morrison government are concerned with the Victorian government’s BRI agreement with Beijing, which will allow for Chinese investment in Victoria and for Victorian companies to participate in Chinese government projects overseas.
Hamilton said in an interview the infrastructure projects built under BRI agreements were harmful to countries’ sovereignty, but the terms that gave Beijing the opportunity to spread influence in more subtle ways were going virtually unnoticed.
The Victorian BRI agreement commits the state to “the aspiration of promoting the silkroad spirit centring on peace, co-operation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefits and aspiration to further enrich such spirit in keeping with the new era”. Hamilton writes that this is a reference to Xi’s “new era for socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
He said political leaders in Victoria, Italy and Eastern Europe had begun using similar language soon after signing up to the BRI.
“We see them talking about BRI as advancing openness, co-operation and inclusiveness and people-to-people exchanges and win-wins,” Hamilton told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“These are all Chinese Communist Party propaganda terms and so it’s a sure sign that people have been influenced when they start to reproduce the language of the CCP.”
The book argues the CCP’s overseas influence arm, United Front, works hand-in-hand with the BRI to advance the CCP’s propaganda efforts abroad. It says the BRI is one of the main vehicles by which Beijing challenges existing regional orders and promotes alternative models of governance, “including its authoritarian, state-directed capitalism”.
“Wilful ignorance, and the influence of United Front agents at top levels of state government, help explain why the state of Victoria in Australia signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative, despite the federal government having expressly declined to do so, and the fact that the issue had been widely discussed in the media,” Hamilton and Ohlberg write in the book.
“The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews … said that he wants the state to be ‘China’s gateway to Australia’.
“Typically, after signing on to the BRI, political leaders and senior bureaucrats soon adopt the CCP’s language, reinforcing the party’s way of presenting China to the world, in a kind of subliminal soft power. In the party’s eyes, they legitimise its ambitions and become part of Xi’s community of shared future for humankind.”
Mr Andrews this week defended the BRI deal, saying he wanted stronger links with China and his government would “stay the course” on the agreement to bring more jobs to Victoria.
Hamilton’s new book, which focuses on the CCP’s global program of influence & subversion and the threat it poses to democracy, is a follow to his 2018 book Silent Invasion, which was a detailed look into Chinese influence in Australian politics.