How Beijing is setting out to recondition Australia to be afraid once more

“Xi Jinping’s catchphrase is ‘I want this and, in the meantime, I want this as well’. They think they are gods. They want everything.” Xi is perpetually seeking to separate Australia from the US, he says.

“This is a false expectation but the voices of Paul Keating and Bob Carr keep fuelling it,” says Feng. And the party cannot tolerate criticism.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig.

“The accusation against Yang Hengjun is over something he did when he worked for the Ministry of State Security in Hong Kong 30 years ago when he said something to a Taiwanese intelligence officer, but the real target is to silence his political voice.” Some of Yang’s writings were critical
of the regime.

Michael Kovrig, the Canadian former diplomat who was taken political hostage by Beijing for over 1000 days, adds: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing might feel that this is not helpful to stabilising relations with Australia.

“But the Ministry of State Security and the security side of the house, which under Xi has become vastly more powerful, doesn’t give a damn,” Kovrig tells me during a visit to Sydney on Monday.

Is China not concerned about its international reputation, Kovrig muses? He answers himself: “When the Godfather says, ‘Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes’, and someone says to him, ‘don’t you think this is going to give the Cosa Nostra a bad reputation?’, do you think the Godfather is concerned about his reputation? Or do you think he sits back with a smile of satisfaction on his face and his hands folded on the desk in front of him? The analogy is not whimsical.”

And the Australian response? It found no way to deal with the incident of navy intimidation other than to protest. So far, it has found no way to deal with the Yang case other than to protest.

For now, Penny Wong is avoiding the problem by persisting with the polite fiction that it’s a judicial decision with avenues of appeal still available.

Because taking countermeasures is hard and possibly escalatory. And the Albanese government is trapped in its own construct of “stabilising relations”.

It’s enjoying the credit for the removal of the trade bans and quietly delighted at the political support it finds in electorates with large Chinese Australian populations. So it will treat this as an aberration in relations, pretend all is well and hope that there are no more nasty things.

The hope is, of course, forlorn.

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