Tuesday 16th of July 2024

mega-dumb "independent" f**ked tool of aggression, financed by the military machine.......

With former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese undertaking a review of taxpayer dollars spent on strategic policy work, Australia’s China hawks have argued a Canberra-based thinktank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), cannot be touched.


Mega-thinktanks have one dangerous thing in common    By James Laurenceson


After an employee of the Chinese embassy included funding an “anti-China thinktank” in a list of 14 disputes it had with the Australian government in 2020, Senator James Paterson has said cutting taxpayer dollars for ASPI now would be “capitulation” to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Paterson also argued it would have a “chilling effect” on other researchers and thinktanks because it would “be interpreted as punishment of ASPI for its criticism of the Chinese government”.

This is nonsense.

Whatever a representative of Beijing might previously have said has no bearing on Varghese’s ability to arrive at principles and recommendations that would see public money spent in ways that best advance Australia’s interests.

And as for other researchers and thinktanks, many would wholeheartedly welcome the introduction of a funding environment that reflected and supported liberal democratic ideals like competition, transparency and a diversity of perspectives.

report last month by the Development Intelligence Lab (DIL), another Canberra-based thinktank, is illuminating. It catalogues 20 entities that contribute to Australia’s strategic policy discussion, including the one I lead, the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS:ACRI).

The disparity in resources between a few mega-thinktanks and the rest is stark. ASPI tops the list with an annual budget of $14.3 million. Not too far behind is the United States Studies Centre (USSC) ($13.1 million) and the Lowy Institute ($9 million).

These mega-thinktanks have one thing in common: access to uncompetitive, multi-year, multimillion-dollar funding arrangements.

In the case of the Lowy Institute, this is via a private donor. But for ASPI and the USSC, the source is the public purse and so Australian taxpayers have every right to ask whether their money is being putto best use.

The accumulated figures are eye-watering.

Since 2018, ASPI has been granted $35.5 million in base funding from the Department of Defence.

Then add a multitude of grants from other government agencies, each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as in-kind support, such as in 2023 when Home Affairs Deputy Secretary Marc Ablong was seconded to ASPI but the department continued to pay his senior executive-level salary of $460,000.

In the case of the USSC, the value of base funding extended since 2018 is $27 million.

Former Coalition staffer and now ASPI head Justin Bassi says what many detect as its one-eyed coverage of China simply reflects its status as a “national security research institute”.

This is disingenuous.

Despite its enormous resources, why does ASPI not have a single employee like Sam Roggeveen at the Lowy Institute: a serious national security thinker, but whose views differ from those of Lowy’s director and that challenge the comfortable consensus [that] Australia must respond to China’s rise by integrating its military ever more closely with the US?

Universities such as the ANU can also accommodate a diversity of thought that includes high-profile voices such as Hugh White, Anthea Roberts, Rory Medcalf and John Blaxland.

Meanwhile, just prior to handing ASPI another $5 million to establish a new office in Washington DC, the former Coalition government pulled funding for China Matters, an Australian public policy initiative established in 2014 by China expert, Linda Jakobson.

Its “deductible gift status” was also revoked to choke off potential private donations.

All this, despite China Matters being, at its peak, just one-tenth the size of ASPI.

ASPI’s Bassi says the decision to defund China Matters was not ideological but rather reflected the quality of research it provided to government was “variable” and not “consistently high quality”.

This is galling given the variable quality of ASPI’s own research.

What is also clear from DIL’s listing of thinktanks is you’d have to squint hard to find any evidence of nefarious Chinese interference in Australia’s public debate around strategic policy.

ASPI aside, when former George W. Bush administration official Mike Green was appointed as chief executive of the USSC in 2022, he was explicit that an objective of his tenure would be making it “more focused on agenda-shaping and not just analysis and understanding”. It’s safe to say this “agenda-shaping” is unlikely to align with Beijing’s.

UTS:ACRI has been criticised as a tool of Beijing because one-third of its initial funding came from Chinese national, Huang Xiangmo, who had his Australian citizenship application declined and permanent resident status revoked on the advice of security agencies in 2019.

But the facts are plain and on the public record.

Huang’s funding of UTS:ACRI finished in 2016. And in the eight years since then, UTS has stepped up. By 2022, 95 per cent of UTS:ACRI’s funding came directly from the university.

Every scholar at UTS:ACRI earned their position through a competitive recruitment process and has a track record of producing high-quality, peer-reviewed publications. They also have a “continuing appointment” that provides job security, and academic freedom is, quite literally, written into their employment contracts.

Beijing wants ASPI dead. Hardly anyone in Australia wants that, me included. But DIL has it right: “The Varghese Review could inspire the incubation of a public policy ecosystem that is more plural, diverse, balanced and robust – just the sort of knowledge ecosystem Australia needs to navigate the regional and international journey ahead.”


Republished from The Canberra Times, July 7, 2024



"pro-china" dutton.....


‘When a weasel makes a courtesy call on a hen’: a ‘pro-China’ Dutton and Chinese-Australian voters    By Wanning Sun


When I asked Jocelyn Chey about her experience at the lunch in Parliament House in honour of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, she said, “I thought the best part of the lunch was Dutton’s speech through gritted teeth about how everyone wants relations with China to improve.”

Also, speaking to 2GB, Dutton said, “I’m pro-China and the relationship that we have with them.” He also wanted to increase trade with China. Dutton’s almost gushy remarks caught many, including journalists, by surprise, prompting Sydney Morning Herald’s Matthew Knott to ask whether ‘pro-China’ Dutton has ‘morphed from a hawk into a dove’.

Dutton’s about-face on China was met with a mixture of pleasant surprise and acerbic cynicism. Many see this as yet another example that some politicians would say just about anything in order to get themselves elected. But despite the different reactions, the general consensus is that his change of rhetoric, if not his change of heart, can only be a good thing.

Of course, no one can predict what Dutton and his party will say and do about China if the Liberals win the next election. But as James Laurenceson points out, at least it can be fairly certain that China won’t be a wedge issue in the next election.

Dutton has to reckon with the fact that Scott Morrison left behind a party that not only has a ‘women’s problem’ but also a ‘China problem’. It seems that when Dutton said ‘I’m not Morrison’ in his attempt to woo back women and urban professional voters, he might as well be pitching the same message to Chinese-Australian voters.

As is made painfully clear to the Liberals, the Coalition’s anti-China position cost them dearly in electoral terms. Four marginal seats with a large percentage of the population of Chinese heritage—Chisholm in Melbourne, Tangney in Perth, Reid in Sydney, and Bennelong in northern Sydney—swung to Labor. Many Asian-Australians who do not have Chinese heritage also voted against the Coalition largely in response to the anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism they had been subjected to, especially during the peak of Covid.

One of the key election campaign agendas of the Coalition was national security. Who can forget the eye-catching red trucks in Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, and possibly other cities, carrying images of Xi Jinping with slogans such as ‘CCP says vote Labor’. The election campaign stunts were apparently authorised by the conservative political lobby group Advance Australia.

The Coalition’s anti-China rhetoric such as this clearly backfired spectacularly. This is the bitter pill that the Liberals now have to swallow. It seems that in the future they might be better off getting advice from the ABC’s the Gruen team than from their own political lobby group.

Dutton sought to assure people that he is not Morrison, ‘but I am still Dutton’. But that is hardly reassuring to many people. And his own track record on China is not much better than his predecessor’s. In his role as Defence Minister in the Coalition, Dutton made his own fair share of gratuitous comments aiming to ramp up security concerns about China—comments which earned scathing criticism from Kevin Rudd, who called Dutton’s rhetoric ‘hairy-chested’, ‘idiotic’, ‘declaratory bullshit’.

It’s true that since he became the opposition leader, Dutton has toned down his hawkish rhetoric on China and has mostly refrained from making gratuitous, provocative comments—he seems to leave that task to his subordinates like James Paterson and previously moderate Simon Birmingham.

But because the Liberals are led by Dutton, many Australian Chinese voters may still find it hard to take his words at face value.

Following Dutton’s declaration that he is now ‘pro-China’, Sydney Today, Australia’s biggest Chinese-language digital media outlet, conducted an informal poll among its readers asking if Dutton’s ‘pro-China’ declaration will likely change how they vote.

The percentage figures would not be to Dutton’s liking. Among the 600 people who participated in the poll, as many as 65% said that they ‘definitely do not trust Dutton, because the Coalition’s aggressive behaviour from the last election is still too vivid in memory’. Another 9% said that they ‘want to believe him but they are still not convinced, so they would most likely still vote for Labor’.

Readers’ comments at the end of the survey are helpful in making sense of these percentage figures. More than one reader evoked a well-known Chinese saying ‘when a weasel makes a courtesy call on a hen, you can be sure that the weasel harbours no good intentions’. Others are less literary, saying that ‘I would not vote for a war-mongering party, especially one that now favours nuclear options’. Another reader observes, ‘If the Coalition gets in, it won’t affect China that much – China is too strong to care. But us Chinese-Australians are the first to suffer’.

This is not to say that Labor can rest on its laurels if it wants to retain Chinese voters. Figures from the latest UTS:ACRI/BIDA poll should be an early warning sign. When asked which political party is best placed to handle Australia’s China policy, the results show that the gap between support for the Australian Labor Party and support for the Liberal/National Coalition’s management of China policy that opened up in 2023 seems to be closing. According to the poll, four in 10 Australians (40 percent) nominate the Australian Labor Party as the political party best placed to handle Australia’s China policy. This reflects a nine-point decrease from 2023 (49 percent), although still up from a pre-election low of 35 percent in 2022. Thirty-four percent of Australians say the Liberal/National Coalition is best placed to handle Australia’s China policy, a five-point increase from 2023 (29 percent), inching back to its high of 36 percent going into the 2022 federal election.

It is possible that some traditional Liberal voters in various Chinese-Australian communities who swung to Labor in protest against the Coalition’s anti-China policy last time may decide to return to the Liberals next time for two main reasons. Like most Australian voters, the cost of living is perhaps the most important consideration, and rightly or wrongly, some Chinese-Australians, like many in the general public, seem to buy into the assumption that the Liberals are better at managing the economy than Labor.

Furthermore, Chinese-Australian communities have noticed – much more acutely than the general public – that Labor’s China policy does not seem very different from that of the Coalition, despite its calmer rhetoric. Chinese-Australians also reported a significantly lower level of approval for AUKUS—a defence commitment which Labor has not only inherited from the Coalition but also taken ownership of.

Perhaps the most important message for the major political parties is that none of them can take the support of Chinese-Australian communities for granted.




volt typhoon....


GT exclusive: US company revises evidence after truth about 'Volt Typhoon' revealed by China    By Yuan Hong


After China released an investigation report on Volt Typhoon, the US, in order to cover up the evidence, instructed related companies to change the content of report they released previously, completely disregarding the traces left during the operation. This shows that the US side is at its wits' end when the truth is revealed, and will stop at nothing to smear China, researchers from China's National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (CVERC) told the Global Times on Sunday.

On May 24, 2023, the cybersecurity authorities from The Five Eyes countries - the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, issued a joint cybersecurity advisory, claiming that they had discovered a cluster of activities of interest associated with a "China state-sponsored cyber actor," known as Volt Typhoon, and these activities "affected networks across US critical infrastructure sectors."

In response, China's CVERC, National Engineering Laboratory for Computer Virus Prevention Technology and 360 Digital Security Group conducted a joint investigation and further analysis found that Volt Typhoon has more correlation with ransomware group or other cybercriminals.

Multiple cybersecurity authorities in the US have been pushing "China-sponsored" "Volt Typhoon" false narrative just for seeking more budgets from the US Congress. Meanwhile, Microsoft and other US cybersecurity companies also want more big contracts from US cybersecurity authorities, according to a report about the investigation.

Lin Jian, spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on April 15, 2024 that according to the report, "Volt Typhoon" is actually a ransomware cybercriminal group who calls itself the "Dark Power" and is not sponsored by any state or region. There are signs that in order to receive more congressional budgets and government contracts, the US intelligence community and cybersecurity companies have been secretly collaborating to piece together false evidence and spread disinformation about so-called Chinese government's support for cyberattacks against the US.

The CVERC, National Engineering Laboratory for Computer Virus Prevention Technology and 360 Digital Security Group released a special report on Monday, suggesting that the "Volt Typhoon" plan is a conspiracy and fraud operation planned and implemented by US government agencies targeting the US Congress and taxpayers, the Global Times learned.

Its purpose is to create imaginary enemies in order to preserve the important legal weapon of the US maintaining its cyber hegemony, the Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Section 702), and to continuously strengthen the "comprehensive control" of the global cyberspace granted by this clause's "warrantless surveillance power." This is used to suppress and exclude foreign competitors who are unwilling to cooperate with US intelligence agencies in implementing network surveillance, in order to maintain US cyber hegemony and long-term interests.

Change evidence

After the release of the investigation report on "Volt Typhoon," the Chinese joint investigation team continued to track the actions and intentions of the US in creating the "Volt Typhoon" false narrative.

"We conducted verification analysis based on the indicators of compromise (IoCs) of the so-called 'Volt Typhoon' organization in the US, and found that this organization is closely related to a ransomware criminal group called Dark Power disclosed by ThreatMon, a US cybersecurity vendor," said the researcher.

The report directly quotes the content of the ThreatMon report and discloses the associated IP address information hidden behind the back cover image." The researcher said that after the release of the investigation report, the US side instructed ThreatMon to openly change the content of the report, the entire report has been expanded from 17 pages to 20 pages, but the crucial evidence of the associated IP address, which was originally located behind the back cover image, is now nowhere to be found.