Chinese influence peddling is amateur hour compared to the US

Would you believe it? Wealthy Chinese businesspeople and the Chinese government bribe Australian politicians, try to influence community leaders, solicit favourable media coverage, intimidate Chinese international students and democratic rights advocates and engage in spying.

A special Fairfax/Four Corners investigation has revealed the startling fact that the Chinese regime and Chinese companies behave in exactly the same devious and reactionary way as every other government and major company in the world. Truly unbelievable!

Who would have thought that rich and powerful Chinese had so much in common with rich and powerful Americans, rich and powerful English, rich and powerful French and rich and powerful Australians? That they are all driven by the same need to advance their imperialist interests, maximise their profits and suppress dissent?

Who knows what further amazing revelations that the doughty Fairfax/Four Corners journos may come up with next – perhaps that the CIA has actually been known to assassinate people, that only rich people can afford mansions in Toorak, that bank executives are utterly unscrupulous and that billionaire property developers are not motivated by sympathy for the homeless.

The “Shock! Horror!” tone of the mainstream media’s coverage of Chinese political donations, influence peddling and spying operations is a cynical and hypocritical attempt to whip up nationalism and inflame anti-Chinese racism.

The US government and US companies have been doing the exact same things on a far larger scale for many, many decades in Australia and virtually every other country. Where are the front page media exposures and outrage?

The US intelligence agencies have a vast monitoring regime that clocks every phone call, text message, email and Facebook message. The American Chamber of Commerce in Australia remains one of the most powerful and influential business lobby groups in this country.

The US maintains major military bases and sophisticated spy bases here, such as Pine Gap. The Chinese have no such bases.

The US government and its spy agencies have repeatedly intervened in Australian politics to prop up right wing pro-US political forces and to sabotage and undermine any genuine left wing movements and political leaders. Journalists at newspapers such as the Australian are at their beck and call.

The CIA and its various front organisations poured massive amounts of money into funding groups such as the Australian Congress for Cultural Freedom and its magazine Quadrant. They paid special attention to cultivating right wing union leaders and ALP politicians such as Bob Hawke, providing all expenses paid study trips to the USA, scholarships and so on.

In Europe the CIA, in cahoots with right wing US trade union leaders, played a key role in fomenting right wing splits to weaken the trade union movement and funded right wing pro-US alliance breakaways from parties such as the Italian Socialist Party, which were considered too left wing.

In other countries, they went much further and fomented or backed military coups to overthrow popular governments that were not considered reliably pro-US. The CIA provided a death list of left wingers to be eliminated by the Indonesian military during the 1965 coup, in which somewhere between 400,000 and a million people were massacred. In Chile in 1973, the US embassy and the CIA egged on Pinochet’s brutal military coup to overthrow the democratically elected Socialist Party government of Salvador Allende.

Before the US became Australia’s main imperialist ally, the British government and the British financial establishment regularly interfered in Australia politics and handed out knighthoods and accolades to keep their favourites onside. The Liberal government of “British to his bootstraps” Robert Menzies in the 1950s even let the British test nuclear weapons in the Australian outback, massacring Aboriginal people in the process.

Nor should we forget the track record of Australian governments and businesses. Throughout Asia, the various Australian spy agencies ape the practices of the US and Chinese security services.

The most notorious recent example was spying on the East Timorese government to try to frustrate the push to end the Australian government’s disgraceful theft of Timor’s oil and gas. The Australian military and police forces have repeatedly intervened in PNG, the Solomons, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Australian companies, such as the Australian Wheat Board, which bribed Saddam Hussein in Iraq to monopolise the wheat market, are notorious for paying bribes to win contracts from foreign governments. Indeed, so routine has the bribery become that Australian business leaders are now agitating to soften the anti-foreign bribery laws.

So yes, the left should definitely oppose Chinese government interference in Australian politics and in particular the monitoring and intimidation of Chinese students studying here. It is disgraceful that Labor politicians like Sam Dastyari and Bob Carr have been involved in taking large donations from billionaire Chinese businesspeople.

But let’s not fall for the line that Chinese money is somehow more tainted than US or Israeli or British money. And let’s not forget that the overwhelming bulk of the millions of dollars of donations that corrupt the Australian political system are from wealthy Australian property developers, billionaire mining magnates such as Gina Rinehart, the banks and big corporations.