Today, the ineluctable fact staring at humanity is that during the past five months a pathogen named COVID-19 erupted in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has now spread throughout the world creating chaos and forcing a lockdown of the world economy  as we knew it.

The rest of what we see and hear are; facts-alternate facts, news-fake news, truths-half-truths, pre- and post-truth, propaganda, and blatant lies. These narratives have a socio-political and economic agenda associated with and deeply weaved throughout them.

Australia was quick to act. From adapting travel advice, contacting inbound travellers, screening at airports, imposing a 14-day quarantine, banning non-citizens from China, and finally closing the borders. The joint political will for the greater good of the country, the Aussie grit, and determination to beat the crisis paid off. As of 2 May 2020, Australia is one of the few countries in the world that managed to contain the pandemic, and ready to progressively restart the economy.

Let us be clear on one point. The Chinese Communist (CCP), and its associated organisational machinery, is not the same as our Chinese fellow human beings, who are part of our interconnected world. It is important to note that through denial, lack of transparency, miscommunication, and propaganda the CCP has attacked the leaderless human species of the world. From mid-November, when the first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Wuhan, until now, the CCP misled the world community about the contagion, causing the deadly virus to spread across the interdependent countries of the world.

Consequently, in 2020, the global GDP of USD 90 trillion is expected to decrease by approximately 10%, according to IMF forecasts. All developed nations of the world will see unemployment rates rise from 5% to more than 10%. The average contraction of the world’s market economy is estimated to be more than 2%.

China’s urban unemployment stood at 6.2% as of February 2020. On Friday 17 April 2020, China announced its economy contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020.

Over the past few years Australia’s economic dependence on China increased and in 2017-18, Australia’s bilateral trade with China was around AUD 194 billion. This is more than the combined bilateral trade value of around AUD145 billion with the second and third placed trading partners, Japan, and the USA.

Considered to be the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, also the world’s wealthiest country with a market economy of USD 23 trillion, has not come rescue and lead the world in the fight against the COVID-19. In fact, it appears leaderless in its own fight against the virus.

As of 3 May 2020, the USA had the fastest infection rate of the COVID-19 virus per day. It is the worst affected country in the world with more than a million cases and 68,000 deaths from the pandemic. Yet, even after the pandemic hit the heart of America in the New York city of 18 million people, it had the least number of COVID-19 testing kits and ventilators per capita. People died because they were not tested in time. The US administration is running for cover as the weak, ugly underbelly of its health system is fully exposed. That underbelly of America is nasty. Its health system came crashing down merely four weeks after President Trump advised citizens to go to work, and that COVID-19 was a hoax, undermining his own intelligence department’s reports.

Last year Peter Dutton, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, accused the CCP of engineering a series of cyber-attacks on Australian targets, stealing intellectual property, and censoring free speech. He acknowledged the important trade relationship between Australia and China but raised concerns about CCP’s espionage actions. Over the past few years, prominent Australians have been questioning the reliance on China and its influence on the Asian Pacific region.

In 2018, Prof Clive Hamilton from Charles Sturt University in Australia secured a contract with his publishers, Allen & Unwin, to write a book about China’s influence on Australia. When Clive was “about to send the revised manuscript of the book, Allen & Unwin told him that they were pulling the plug as they would be targeted by Beijing and its proxies in Australia”. Instead, Silent Invasion, China’s Influence in Australia was published in 2018 by Hardie Grant Books in Melbourne. Clive named names showing the path relentlessly pursued by the CCP to make Australia depended on China. Australia must wake up and listen to Prof. Clive Hamilton, and understand the gravity of his deep, insightful, and alarming findings on how deeply the CCP has managed to infiltrate the socio-political structure of Australia. 

In August 2019, Andrew Hastie, federal member of Parliament and a former SAS captain, advised that “more needs to be done” to deal with Beijing’s military expansion in the Indo-Pacific region, and that “our greatest vulnerability lies not in our infrastructure but in our thinking. That intellectual failure makes us institutionally weak”. Later in November 2019, when he was due to visit China as part of a study tour organised by China Matters, a think-tank established to promote positive relations between Canberra and Beijing, he was denied a visa as he refused to apologise and back down on his critical views on China. Andrew is also the Chairman of federal parliament’s intelligence and security committee.

In November 2019, Wang “William” Liqiang, a self-confessed spy working for the Chinese Communist Party, submitted an affidavit to the Australian Securities and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and applied for political asylum in Australia. He told Nine Newspapers that the Chinese Communist Party “infiltrates all countries in areas such as military, business and culture, in order to achieve its goal”.

In his  forthcoming book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, H.R. McMaster, retired United States Army lieutenant general and former White House national security adviser narrates the dichotomy of CCP’s aggressive efforts for global supremacy while rejecting the very notion of  “strategic empathy”  with the connected world markets. Lieutenant General McMaster incisive observations on Chinese espionage tactics should be so alarming to Australia and he says “Chinese espionage is successful in part because the (communist ) party is able to induce cooperation, wittingly or unwittingly, from individuals, companies, and political leaders. Companies in the United States and other free-market economies (like Australia) often do not report theft of their technology, because they are afraid of losing access to the Chinese market, harming relationships with customers, or prompting federal investigations

Australia must study the insights offered by Lieutenant General McMaster in the CCP’s “three overlapping policies, carrying the names Made in China 2025, Belt and Road Initiative, and Military-Civil Fusion” and utilize the opportunities presented in the pathogen of this century to remove our critical dependency on CCP, its associated machineries and enterprises. Australia must quickly develop and execute a “strategy to reduce the threat of China’s aggressive policies” by aligning with our five biggest democratic trading partners – Japan, United States of America, South Korea, India, and New Zealand.

We need to change our thinking. We need to align ourselves with other transparent independent democracies, so that the Australian way of life, our intellectual freedom and our multi-cultural lifestyles are safeguarded for future generations.

Rajeev Sunu
Rajeev Sunu is a visiting faculty to the Institute of Management in Christ University, Bangalore and Asian Institute of Technology Bangkok. Earlier, he worked for Utilux Australia, Trust Power New Zealand, Vodafone Australia, France Telecom and Tata group of companies.