Australia is pretty tolerant of ‘foreigners’. It has been a multicultural country for most of its history. Well, at least since the POMs invaded landed at Botany Bay. As a nation, we suffer few phobias or xenophobia, whether it be Coronaphobia or Sinophobia.
That said, there is a rapidly expanding groundswell of Sinophobia (anti-China sentiment) in Australia.
For the most part, it is because we see COVID-19 as the Wuhan/China ‘bat’ virus. And our mainstream media says that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) engaged in a global coverup with deadly consequences.
The Australian Government has demanded a full and impartial inquiry into the virus origins. China’s recent aggressive response (threatening barley, meat and wine exports) has revealed its true colours. If there is nothing to hide a full impartial enquiry would clear China – end of story!
Coronaphobia is turning into Sinophobia, and it could see some significant changes in our economy and way of life.
GadgetGuy does not report on geopolitics – mass media do that so well. But we see it every day when readers increasingly ask us to include country of origin/ownership in our reviews. Simply put, they ask “How can we not buy China-made tech goods”.
South Korean companies such as Samsung or LG, or Taiwanese ones such as Acer and Asus are not China-made. But that is not really the whole solution.
Sam Bocetta, US Correspondent, and senior journalist has taken an in-depth look at what is going on in the USA. It is not pretty. Sam is not racist or xenophobic. As a journalist, he presents the facts as he finds them. Please note any quotes or images are reproduced under the Creative Commons provisions afforded to media.
Coronaphobia or Sinophobia?
Australia is way more open to ‘foreigners’ than the US. Interestingly while China is a significant owner/investor in Australia, the US is also a major investor.
There is one major difference.
The US has always been entirely transparent about its investments. That is because Australian Governments see the US as an ally
committed to liberal-democratic values
appreciate that US corporate interests are not necessarily monolithic
or necessarily exercised by a single government ‘agenda’.
But not with China and its growing influence in owning
Or it’s not so openly declared funding of universities, politics, think-tanks, various cultural or social endeavours to peddle its influence.
Let me explain. From March 2019, Australian ‘Foreign influence transparency laws’ came into play. Basically, these are to ensure that ‘foreign principals’ including governments, organisations, individuals and ‘entities’ are identified. These include
who own >15% of a company’s shares or voting power
or can appoint at least 20% of the company’s board of directors
or otherwise, exercise substantial control
And they must declare their role in influencing governmental and political decision-making.
All of a sudden previously ‘faceless’ foreign influencers had to declare their hands and the extent of foreign ownership.
Chinese interests were exposed as the second-largest investor in Australia. Added to that were media reports of China’s influence extending to the grubby roots of local, state and federal politics.
Australians are more tolerant than most. But the Chinese handling of the Coronavirus issue has left a sweet and sour taste in their mouths. Interestingly even the most leftist media a.k.a. Your ABC has toned down for fear of losing its audience – you can’t flog a dead horse! No, it does not pass the pub test – even if the pubs were open. But it is not just in Australia.
There has been a significant upswing in anti-China sentiment in the United States.
For example, many Americans are spurning Apple (once it’s darling) over the fact that 99% of its products are China-made. US President Donald Trump has said that he will not use Apple’s products anymore just because they are not US-made. Many have called the tech war between China and the United States the next Cold War.
We will take an in-depth look into how the Coronavirus has spurred anti-China sentiment. Then, we’ll dive into the economic actions the United States has been taking against China. We will look at the growing exodus of American tech companies from China. And finally, the scary bit – the rise of Chinese hacking and cyber threats that are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.
Has Coronaphobia spurred Sinophobia?
The US anti-China sentiment, yellow peril, communist or correctly termed Sinophobia is certainly nothing new. It has existed for hundreds of years. The issue has received significant attention recently thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no question that COVID-19 virus came from China.
President Trump insists on referring to the Coronavirus as the ‘China virus’. He is entitled to in the vein of how the 1918 flu pandemic was known as the ‘Spanish flu’.
Debates have waged about whether this anti-China sentiment is justified.
Some argue that the CCP has saved tens of thousands of lives, with Wuhan reporting zero new infections. They even advocate against the narrative of China being at fault for the origin and spreading of COVID-19.
But for most Americans, there is always the question of whether the CCP can be trusted.
The United States government claims it has evidence that links the origin of the Coronavirus to Wuhan. This is contrary to what China has loudly claimed.
Let’s not worry if it came from a bio lab, unsanitary conditions at wet market or consumption of bat soup!
and also that it had initially strongly opposed his strict travel restrictions against China.
Many media figures heavily derided President Trump’s early decision to suspend Chinese travellers to the USA. It was ‘xenophobic and unnecessary’. Curiously most of those figures have changed their tune after other countries followed and adopted life or death restrictions.
Petitions signed by millions in countries such as Malaysia and Singapore demanded a ban on any Chinese nationals entry. Gradually the world realised that a causal link existed between Chinese visitors and the virus going global.
But your Australian Government seems intent on allowing Chinese students back in. Money should not talk so loudly. Any local industry propped up by foreign nationals needs closer examination and restructuring.
Fact is that the average US citizen believes China is responsible and supports tough economic measures and sanctions. And Donald Trump is milking this for all its worth to win the next election.
The US economic action against China
Right now, President Trump is looking at significant economic action against China. The increased anger over how the Chinese Government has handled the coronavirus pandemic gives him the strength.
The President has rightly accused Beijing of a cover-up that that has pushed the global economy into a major recession. The US-China Trade wars will heat up, reaching boiling point soon.
This threatens to end the ‘partial’ January trade truce between the two countries. Trump says if China reneges on purchasing American goods he will scrap the agreement. This means much higher tariffs on China imports. For now, both China and the United States have said that their trade talks are back on track.
The only question is how far the United States is willing to go?
Does China need the US, or does the US need China? Who will blink first?
If anything, the Coronavirus has only accelerated the underlying tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Tensions between America and China have always been high. The amount of American exports to China has fallen in the first quarter this year. If I were a betting man, I would say that Trump will not blink (he got his wall didn’t he?). He will lead America on a new and popularly supported Sinophobia crusade to make the US Great again.
Even if the Democrats win the US Presidential election in November, it may be impossible to unscramble this omelette.
Extreme measures such as arbitrarily cancelling all or part of the debt America owes to China have been mentioned. While not yet seriously entertained by White House officials, in Trump’s case where there is smoke, there is usually a hulking fire.
American tech companies are starting a mass exodus from China
It’s not just the American Government that’s taking action against China.
Numerous global American-based tech corporations and electronic makers want to shift their production out of China. For three reasons.
First, is that there is an anti-China-made sentiment. For example, in phones, it could push Samsung and LG well ahead of Apple.
Second, it is not wise to put all your eggs in one basket. The CCP solely controls China. It could mandate in one fell swoop to screw foreign interests over leading to chaos. China’s home market is large enough to satisfy its friends like Huawei, ZTE, TCL, Hisense et al.
Instead, it wants to dominate: global aviation and aerospace; agriculture; electrical power; new energy; automotive; robotics; Infotech; new materials; rail; maritime; biomedical – and throw in AI as well.
That is scary – already China makes 99+% of the world’s electronics and components. What if it decided to exercise global power over it?
For example, India and Japan have both offered land and funding to lure factories out of China. Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and more are willing to become the factories to the West. Most enjoy a more stable form of democracy.
The tech companies have been spurred on. Not just by the political situation but because of recent rising costs in China. Last year, for example, Apple looked at moving 30% of its smartphone production from China. Numerous data centre servers, including Foxconn and Inventec, have shifted their production from China to Mexico and Taiwan.
Such moves are undoubtedly a blow to China’s exports. These have served as the main powerhouse for its economy over the last several decades. Subsequently, China’s economic growth has slowed to its lowest rate since 1990.
The world was happy to play nice with China. It was happy to overlook its appalling human rights, world economic domination, communist leanings and other ‘foibles. But the West will not be so willing to play with it anymore.
US officials won’t put a number on the Chinese spies in America. It is believed that there are well over 10,000 alone in Washington. And hundreds of thousands in businesses over the country. These include deep cover civil servants, military, law enforcement, business people, students, diplomats, workers and tourists…
Brian Dugan, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Counterintelligence with the FBI’s Washington Field Office said,
“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China, on the economic espionage and the espionage front. A spy is nondescript. A spy is going to be someone that’s going to be a student in school, a visiting professor, your neighbour. It could be a colleague or someone that shares the soccer field with you.”
Pete Lapp is a special agent at the Washington Field Office of the FBI. While he would not discuss numbers of Chinese operatives.
“China, by far, is our preeminent counterintelligence threat. Its most sought-after prize extends beyond traditional espionage. Intellectual property from US companies is now a top priority for many spies. Infiltrating our industries to steal our innovation is a big, big problem.”
William Evanina is the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre. He is the main and security adviser to the director of national intelligence, said that the threat is unrivalled.
“When it comes to stealing trade secrets and intellectual property from America, no country poses a greater threat than China. America loses an estimated $300 to $500 billion annually to China intellectual property theft.
“No one objects to a nation engaging in fair competition to advance in world markets. But the Chinese Government’s tactics are anything but fair. It is pillaging technology and innovation from virtually every sector in America using a broad range of techniques and actors.”
Compare that to the estimated total of 175-200 Russian spies in the US!
The difference is simple. Russians want to destroy us; China wants to own us!
It’s also led to greatly increased cybersecurity threats from hackers. They are using the pandemic as an opportunity to conduct cyberattacks against governments, corporations, small businesses, and individuals alike.
The Trump Administration claims that Chinese hackers have stolen coronavirus research. This is widespread from US health care providers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, research labs.
Likewise, the Australian Government last year said that China was behind the hack on parliament and political parties. After that incident Australian decided to take cybersecurity more seriously. It now requires every member of the parliament to connect to the Internet through a private encrypted tunnel.
It is not that all of that any of this should be a surprise. After all, 99% of all brute force attacks originate in China. The Chinese represent the second-highest volume of traffic on websites in the United States.
Specific examples of cyberattacks launched by China during the COVID-19 pandemic include
exploiting Microsoft Windows’ bugs
Operation Poisoned News targeting Hong Kong iOS users
APT41 hacking that has gone after a multitude of healthcare companies and non-profit organisations.
The issue of cyberspying has gone far past the point where there is smoke there is fire to an inferno. China has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar (and we venture every other western nation of note). The problem is China’s whole ‘whole-of-society’ approach to espionage.
The ‘whole of society issue’ is exceptionally worrying. It goes to the roots of its culture. You are against the other 1.7 billion inhabitants, and you must rise above them to survive.
Nicholas Eftimiades, a top Chinese intelligence expert in US intelligence circles, said of the ‘whole of society.’
“China has structured organisational components like the People Liberation Army, the Ministry of State Security and other entities. But the senior leadership in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China encourage espionage.”
In other words, it is ingrained behaviour on a national level.
GadgetGuy’s US Take – The China-virus pandemic is not just a global health risk or an economic catastrophe. It is sinophobia as well!
Coronavirus is that big red ‘reset’ button that everyone knew not to push! Shame those instructions were not in Chinese.
As of 14 May, it has infected 4.5 million, killed 300,000 (85,000 in the US alone). It has done untold social and economic damage. Mainly to the western countries where democracy rules.
The US rightly claims this pandemic was containable. China only needed to be open and honest instead of covering its arse (saving face). Well, China did that with SARS too, and nothing will change!
The average US citizen now quietly believes that Coronavirus could be a China plot to bring down the West.
The questions to answer include
Do we trust the CCP is honest about COVID figures? No
Has the way the CCP retaliation (trade threats and aggressive posturing) been in the spirit of global friendship? No
Would earlier notification have slowed or stopped the spread? Yes
Will Trump’s economic actions against China be effective? Probably, if he wins the next election
Are American’s right to avoid everything China made? Yes, if there are alternatives even at higher prices
Should American tech companies reduce their dependence on China? Yes – if they want to keep their Western market share and goodwill, more worrying to protect their IP.
Can we make America great again and stop importing so much from a declared adversary? Yes, with a lot of short-term pain for long-term gain.
Should we pursue the East/West divide again until the world becomes a better place? After all the East/West political posturing goes away there needs to be honesty and co-operation or the divide will widen. Let’s hope common sense prevails.