The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been labeled the biggest threat to Australia’s national security at Q+A as panelists from both the government and opposition expressed concerns about China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait and subsequent comments from the Chinese Ambassador to Australia.
Most important points:
- Pacific Secretary Pat Conroy called for de-escalation of tensions with China
- An Australian of Chinese descent said he has been stigmatized because of COVID and rising international tensions with China
- Senator James Paterson identified China as the biggest threat to Australia’s national security
Over the past week, China has held military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, repeatedly crossing its median line by air and sea and launching missiles that passed over Taiwan and landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Those actions came after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which China still claims to be a state on its territory.
Audience member Li Shee Shu suggested to the Q+A panel that China might not be seen as Australia’s biggest threat, and Liberal Senator James Paterson attacked.
“The reason the Chinese Communist Party is labeled the biggest national security threat to Australia is because they are,” Senator Paterson said.
“Right now, in the cyber realm, we are under almost constant attack from the Chinese Communist Party, be it the government or our critical infrastructure.
“Over the past five years we have seen record levels of foreign interference and espionage and the Chinese government is the main culprit.
“Right now, the Chinese government is acquiring military capabilities at the fastest rate of any country in the world since World War II and, I think, the evidence shows they’re not just doing it for fun.
“They have illegally conquered islands in the South China Sea, even though Xi Jinping promised he wouldn’t.
“They just fired ballistic missiles over Taiwan at the Japanese EEZ. If we don’t take this threat very seriously, we’re going to regret it.”
His comments were echoed by the Secretary of State for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, who, while taking a softer stance, said China’s actions in recent times had been a cause for concern.
“The Australian government’s position is that we do not support a unilateral change to the status quo,” Conroy said.
“As a middle power, it is in Australia’s interest to pursue a rules-based order where each nation respects and adheres to international laws and standards,” he said.
“And for James’ point, the illegal construction of islands in the East and South China Seas challenges that rule-based order.”
China has repeatedly shown us who they are
Conroy had previously called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, but said he was concerned about the Chinese ambassador’s remarks about Taiwan on Wednesday.
Ambassador Xiao Qian told the National Press Club that there was “no room for compromise” on Taiwan and that China would use “all necessary means” to reunite with the island.
“In the interest of everyone in the region, de-escalation needs to happen now,” Conroy said.
“We need restraint and we need to focus on a peaceful and prosperous region.
“I was concerned, like many people, by some of the language used by the ambassador” [on Wednesday]but we just have to get past it.”
To Senator Paterson, however, those comments seemed like folly, as he indicated that he did not believe that China’s actions over the past week were just muscle pain in the run-up to the CCP’s 20th Annual Party Congress, but rather were part of a long-established pattern. .
“The late American poet, Maya Angelou, had a beautiful expression that when people show you who they are, they have to believe the first time,” he said.
“The Chinese Communist Party has not once shown us who they are, they have shown us who they are in Tibet, they have shown us who they are in Xinjiang, they have shown us who they are with Hong Kong and they show us again who they are with Taiwan.
“And the Press Club ambassador showed us who they are yesterday and we have to believe him.
“They are very serious when they say all options are on the table and we need to use our imaginations to think about what they could do.
“And we have to believe them when they say that re-education of Taiwan’s 23 million free people is something they have planned, after taking Taiwan, and we have to take that very seriously.”
Sino-Australian population stigmatized
While the issue of China on the world stage is one that is developing rapidly, some of the ramifications of the CCP’s actions are being felt here in Australia.
That has not only to do with sanctions on trade, but also how Australians of Chinese descent are viewed in the community, and Q+A audience member, teenager, Jun Gao, said he had felt the sting during the pandemic and now again. , due to the escalating tension with China.
“I have felt the effects of the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic and now mounting tensions in the South China Sea. What can be done to destigmatize the Sino-Australian population?” he asked the panel.
Question + A host Stan Grant asked the questioner if he had felt personally stigmatized and Gao replied that he had.
“In general, I feel that there is negative perception, both in the schoolyard and [the] media, and I fear China’s recent political actions will only exacerbate this,” Gao said.
“I have seen certain circumstances [that] show this, yeah.”
It was a response where panelists sympathized and asked for understanding and, as Jennifer Hsu, research associate at the Lowy Institute confirmed, studies had seen an increase in that sentiment.
“We found in this year’s survey that Chinese-Australians generally feel connected, although that has declined since 2020,” said Ms Hsu.
“A general sense of belonging, pride in Australian life and culture, and I think these are all positive indicators of, you know, the contribution of Chinese-Australians to and integration into Australian society… over the past few years. two years … the sense of fragmentation has arisen, partly as a result of discrimination and racism.
“But I would say there [are] potential positives to look forward to, with a new government in power. Over there [are] signs of thaw between Australia and China.”
Gao’s plight was one that Senator Paterson condemned and called on Australians to understand the difference between political meddling with the CCP and anything to do with Australians of Chinese descent.
“[Gao] thank you for raising this issue, you are absolutely right,” he said.
“It is both morally wrong and counterproductive for Chinese-Australians to be held accountable for the actions of the Chinese government.
“It is also wrong to hold the Chinese people responsible for the actions of the Chinese government, because they had no say in choosing that government, there was no vote that put the Chinese Communist Party in power.
“It’s morally wrong because it’s not your fault and it’s counterproductive because we want Chinese-Australians to feel as much a part of the Australian community as everyone else and be able to participate fully in that community.”
Watch the full episode of Q+A on ABC’s iview