Details of cyberattacks reportedly withheld . . .
Reuters reported on Sunday that Australia’s cyber intelligence agency concluded in March that China was responsible for cyberattacks on Australia’s parliament and the country’s three largest political parties prior to the general election in May. The attacks resulted in access to policy papers and private e-mail correspondence. Reuters also noted, however, that the Australian government opted to not disclose the findings at the recommendation of its foreign ministry, which advised that the findings could jeopardize Australia’s commercial interests with China.
A difficult balance . . .
Australia is heavily dependent on trade with China. Each year, Australia sends 40 per cent of its total exports to China and receives more than one million Chinese tourists and students. Canberra has struggled with balancing its commercial interests and China’s growing influence in Australia’s domestic politics – whether real or perceived. Australia passed a law in 2017 banning foreign donations to political parties and candidates in an attempt to check Beijing’s growing influence, and was also one of the first countries to announce its ban of Huawei 5G equipment. Australian universities established a University Foreign Interference Taskforce last August, while Confucius Institutes and research projects with Chinese partners are under official investigation by hosting universities. Gladys Liu, the first Chinese-Australian in the House of Representatives, has recently come under heavy criticism for her alleged affiliations with organizations linked to Beijing, exemplifying the tension and anxiety over China’s influence in Australia.
China tensions go global . . .
China’s emergence as a global power has caused much anxiety around the world and Australia is not the only country struggling to redefine its relationship with Beijing. The U.S. has taken aim at Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE, and it has taken measures to securitize its research facilities by limiting access to Chinese researchers and students. In Canada, public opinion towards China has plummeted with the arrest of two Canadians in China, as well as Beijing’s bans on select Canadian exports. The question of Huawei supplying 5G equipment has garnered much attention as well. As Canada’s federal election gets closer, Canada’s balancing act with Beijing will be the topic in Asia to watch.