Australia Debates: Communist Party China the New Nazi Germany?

Yves here. The headline is plenty provocative, but as the post indicates, this idea has become a hot topic in the Intelligence Committee in Australia’s Parliament, and Australia has reason to be attentive.

Before you consider the point of view to be hyperbolic, consider this take from an ex-McKinsey colleague:

I’ve been to China often, built a factory there in the early 2000s, and our youngest son recently returned from working there (he’s fluent in Mandarin). Last fall Jane and I went to Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, where the silk road enters China. That region and its capital, Kashgar, has gotten lots of recent press because of the oppression of the Uighur minority. It’s worse than most press describe. It’s a police state like the storm troopers of Star Wars.

Mind you, it’s not as if the US nation-breaking program is very nice either, but China’s methods should not get a free pass.

By David Llewellyn-Smith, founding publisher and former editor-in-chief of The Diplomat magazine, now the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics website. Originally published at MacroBusiness

So says Andrew Hastie, head of Parliament’s powerful intelligence committee:

“That intellectual failure makes us institutionally weak.

“If we don’t understand the challenge ahead for our civil society, in our parliaments, in our universities, in our private enterprises, in our charities – our little platoons – then choices will be made for us. Our sovereignty, our freedoms, will be diminished.

“The West once believed that economic liberalisation would naturally lead to democratisation in China. This was our Maginot Line. It would keep us safe, just as the French believed their series of steel and concrete forts would guard them against the German advance in 1940. But their thinking failed catastrophically. The French had failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare.

“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become. Even worse, we ignore the role that ideology plays in [Beijing’s] actions across the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our argument is not with the Chinese people themselves. We have many, many things in common, and we have many Chinese Australians here making a really invaluable contribution to our social fabric”.

A timely warning. The Maginot Line is a useful metaphor. But also a little misleading. CPC China has more in common with the Soviet Union and its system of gulags than it does the Nazis and its extermination camps.

That said, we’re only seeking to define differences in evil here, not kind. If you asked a Uighur or Tibetan, they wouldn’t care which label you used.

Angry China wasted no time in responding via its embassy:

“We strongly deplore the Australian federal MP Andrew Hastie’s rhetoric on ‘China threat’ which lays bare his Cold-War mentality and ideological bias.

“History has proven and will continue to prove that China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world.

“We urge certain Australian politicians to take off their ‘coloured lens’ and view China’s development path in an objective and rational way.

“They should make efforts to promote mutual trust between China and Australia, instead of doing the opposite.”

I suggest the CPC simply do what it says it does and leave Australian sovereignty alone. Then we can do the same.

Meanwhile, the Fake Left Guardian, which just loves a multicultural tyrant, struck back with Labor’s China lackeys:

On Thursday Labor’s shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said Hastie’s comments were “extraordinary … extreme, overblown and unwelcome”.

Chalmers told Radio National Australia had to “navigate what are pretty complex and multilayered issues – to weigh up all of the economic, strategic and national security interests. And I think this type of intervention makes that task harder, not easier.”

He called on Morrison to clarify “whether this type of language is the government’s view or whether there are divisions in the government over the management of this really important relationship”.

Morrison told reporters in Townsville that Australia would “continue to have a cooperative arrangement with China” that was “far broader than just the economic [relationship]”.

“But equally our relationship with the United States is a very special one indeed and there’s a deep connection on values.

Hastie is responding to Chinese infiltration and corruption activities in Australian politics. He has every right to be angry about it. Not to mention, it has been grotesquely underplayed in the media from the beginning in some whacko effort to placate the CPC.

Good on him. As Malcolm Turnbull said, sunlight is the cure.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    First point off-topic – I really wish people would stop using the Maginot line as the example of something giving a false sense of security. The Maginot Line was in fact a military success – it did exactly what it was designed to do – prevent the Germans attacking Paris via the direct route. It was always known that without that option the Germans would have to go via Belgium. France fell because it overestimated the ability of its allies to slow down the advance and failed to react rapidly enough to the tactical changes on the field. Plus the Germans just got really lucky, they caught every possible break during the advance while the French/British were dogged by bad luck.

    As for China and Australia – I’ve mixed feelings about this. There is no question but that the Chinese are unafraid to use every means at their disposal to gain advantage in international affairs, and this includes using its businesspeople and students and expats as a sort of third force. There are numerous examples of this, and every Chinese person who goes abroad to study or work is reminded very forcefully of this before they get their exit permits. Countries like Australia and NZ are very naïve (or just greedy) if they think they can just sweep up Chinese cash to boost their housing markets and universities without consequence. But of course China is not unique in doing this, its just better at it than most other countries.

    I am a little concerned though at some of the language involved in this – last week I was chatting online to a good Chinese friend who moved to Australia 5 years ago with her husband and baby. They left because they were very disenchanted with life in China and her husband (a policeman) could not bring himself to do the type of thing you need to do in the Chinese police to ‘get ahead’. They barely struggle to get by but they like it there. But they are concerned about increasing hostility and racism in regular life aimed at all Chinese, including those who just want to make a new life for themselves in Oz. From a distance, I can see the possibility of a real rise in community hostility aimed at Chinese people if they are seen as an external ‘threat’.

    Australia needs to learn to stand on its feet, and this means not accepting any nonsense from China… or America, or anyone else. If this means losing some economic investment, it should be willing to do so. But you can only do this with an open and honest discussion.

    1. David

      You beat me to it on the Maginot Line. This is a trope that really should have been retired long ago. More generally though, it’s an example of the pitifully small vocabulary in which international relations is discussed. The question is not ´what is going on’ but rather ´what cliche from history does this most remind me of?. That’s no way to do serious analysis.
      Oh and the French had been worried about a resurgent Germany for a long time and, like the British, had been furiously rearming since 1936. If you’re going to lean on historical examples, then, it helps if you know what you are talking about.

    2. animalogic

      “Australia needs to learn to stand on its feet, and this means not accepting any nonsense from China… or America, or anyone else. If this means losing some economic investment, it should be willing to do so. But you can only do this with an open and honest discussion.”
      Very fair points. Unfortunately there can be NO “open & honest discussion” because that would involve admitting that the whole “China problem” is the result of US action. It’s the US that has imposed arguably illegal economic tariffs/sanctions on China. It’s the US who had Canada essentially “kidnap” a member of the Chinese elite. It’s the US who has made demands on China which are so extreme as to amount to China renouncing it’s own sovereignty (ie allow admission of US financial entities into the Chinese economy, the effective renunciation of China’s national program of becoming a high tech’ leader & the US demand that sanctions/tariffs etc remain until the US alone is satisfied).
      It’s almost obscene.
      And behind all this is the fact that the US accepts no equals, no peers. Indeed it can’t accept near peer competitors. Given US attitudes & actions how can this situation be resolved peacefully ?Simply, China should have no international influence, & must return to being a mere workshop for external capitalists.
      It’s into this toxic environment that pro US Australians are getting up on their hind legs.

    3. Lambert Strether

      > The Maginot Line was in fact a military success – it did exactly what it was designed to do – prevent the Germans attacking Paris via the direct route. It was always known that without that option the Germans would have to go via Belgium.

      Agreed, but what wasn’t known is that the Germans would go through the Ardennes, which they did. Military Misfortunes, page 2018:

      There were many reasons for the catastrophic French failure, including doctrine. Again from Military Misfortunes:

      The ridiculously bad historical analogies suggest a failure at the doctrinal level for the Five Eyes generally, not just Australia.

  2. Brooklin Bridge

    Nazi as a term has become so overused that it often has the opposite effect intended. It comes with its own self inoculating effect as in: disregard this, it’s over the top. And that, even though privately I suspect most of us use the term at least notionally as a categorizing label indicating the extreme evil bucket; the outer limits of where human pathology can go.

    But subject it to public comparison of some entity and it’s descriptive sting of the pure essense of diabolical evaporates considerably.

    And by the same process, the US as major monster numero uno, and the captured media as a purely western phenomenon, is making it difficult to grasp that the empire and it’s global tentacles still don’t have a total monopoly on species (including self) destruction even given the fact that it is our largest export.

    Not exactly an encouraging place from which to tackle global warming and sustainability.

    1. animalogic

      “Nazi as a term has become so overused that it often has the opposite effect intended.”
      Couldn’t agree more. The moment I read/hear the nazi/hitler comparison I am ill disposed to the particular work. It then takes something quite special to gain my sympathy or agreement.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > But subject it to public comparison of some entity and it’s descriptive sting of the pure essense of diabolical evaporates considerably.

      Yep. Essentialism should be approached with a hermaneutic of suspicion.

  3. The Rev Kev

    After reading this I must confess that the words of the fictional Aussie character Barry McKenzie comes to mind when I say to people like this David Llewellyn-Smith and Andrew Hastie – “Why don’t you shove your head up a dead bear’s b**!”. This is playing with fire this and this is not just a matter of trade and investments. A bit of context here first. The present Coalition government made it a specialty last time they were in power to make Muslim people “The Other” to stay in power until it had run its course. That was not enough. The year that they lost power they tried to turn Aussies against black Africans in Australia who are pretty much a rarity but now that they have the election behind them and remain in power, they seem to want to nominate Chinese people as the next target of choice. Are Chinese angels? Hell no, and those Chinese organizations here should be watched – closely! – but there seems to be a movement to turn people here against them. Tough luck if you are a Chinese-Australian though.
    What started this latest chapter was a young politician named Andrew Hastie who mouthed off about the Chinese in Australia but I have heard a bit about young mister Haste. He has the look of wild eyes in him and this is probably because he is ex-SAS (Australian Special Forces) who rose to Troop Commander during tours overseas. I note too that he completed the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs’s U.S. Foreign Policy Summer Program in Washington, D.C. but I am sure that that means absolutely nothing. After only four years in Parliament he is now Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which is a very powerful position so it seems that he has very helpful “friends”. So the question that remains is just who does he really represent? Australian Intelligence or perhaps the Five Eyes. I suspect that later as I see people being placed in powerful positions in the Pacific that are China hawks. But this stampeding of people into a hatred of Chinese here which I see in the media is nothing short of disgusting and help absolutely no one. Except of course the China hawks. For those interested, here is the Wikipedia link of that Andrew Hastie-

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Are Chinese angels? Hell no, and those Chinese organizations here should be watched – closely! – but there seems to be a movement to turn people here against them


      Depending who is making this statement, it might be challenged.

      Or an opportunity to learn, to know more.

      Is that ‘all those Chinese organizations,’ or just some of them?

      And which ones? Closely, for what?


      1. ChrisPacific

        Mostly it’s things like expat associations, student clubs and the like. Here’s another link on the subject from a professor who has made a study of it:

        Lots of Chinese organizations here have fallen under… I won’t say ‘suspicion’ because that makes it sound more fact-based than it is. Perhaps ‘xenophobia’ might be a better term. China is not helping as it reacts loudly and angrily to even the suggestion of this kind of thing, and has reportedly been engaging in a harassment and intimidation campaign against the Professor into the bargain. Chinese expats are caught in the middle, and tend to loudly and passionately assert their independence of thought and individual agency. Professor Brady says that even if this is true they may be ‘unintentional’ agents, which smacks of the whole ‘useful idiot’ thing applied to any US politicians that the Clinton Democrats don’t like, but I’m not comfortable just writing off all her research.

    2. orange cats

      Thank you so much for this Rev. I’m on the record as being alarmed at the China threat dial-up going on here. It took a few minutes to get a bead on this Hastie fellow and his Chinagate agenda.

      I don’t give China a “free pass” on its treatment of the Uyghurs or its government. I lived and worked in China and left without disclosing my departure plans having been warned that irate bosses with guanxi can have you detained on the flimsiest of reasons. Yikes, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!

      But this cold war buildup is truly scary.

  4. Pym of Nantucket

    Some people are pretty intent on changing the channel on China. China has had a pretty terrible human rights record now for decades but globalists were able to ignore it effortlessly. They consistently have flaunted the norms in free trade and copyright respect and they just ignore climate change. Now suddenly there are organized instigators in Hong Kong, we read about oppression in Xinjiang and Tibet like it happened yesterday, currency manipulation is a crime against humanity and copyright infringement and cheap manufacturing are killing the livelihood of MAGA voters. That was quick. Is there an office in Colonial Farm Road that issues these commands to change the narrative or does it snowball on its own?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The progressives say, we are not conservatives, and we are not liberals.

      The world does not consist of just the latter two groups.

      Similarly, people here have consistently talked about all those issues mentioned, for a long time, not just now.

    2. Synapsid

      Pym of Nantucket,

      China is building improved coal-power plants at home and many abroad that may be less, um, improved, and this is government-approved and funded–no question.

      China is also putting a great deal of effort and money–government money–into its universities and research institutes that are trying to understand the details of climate change, in small part to find the best way to make Beijing’s air less lethal, sure, but primarily for the excellent reason that China’s agriculture is dependent on the East Asian Monsoon. The monsoons of South and East Asia are part of global climate and a good deal of the work published in the peer-reviewed literature worldwide and particularly in the US and Europe is from Chinese researchers. Much of the work that is clarifying interactions among, say, the Atlantic, the Arctic Ocean, and Central Asia is being done by research with the money coming from the Chinese government. The results have global value.

      Building coal plants while trying to understand climate change is the sort of huh? split that is not confined to the government of China.

  5. @pe

    But people should pay close attention to what lead to Nazi Germany: the gradual failure of the British Empire with the spread of industrial technology to the periphery and the saturation of industrial development in the UK. The UK then tried to block the rise of central Europe as had been policy for centuries, but under conditions that they could only possibly do this by destroying themselves and their opponents.

    This is the root of the early 20th century European collapse. At least the British Empire had the sense to surrender to the US, because the other option was the nightmare scenario of an insane central Europe dominating the world.

    A managed retreat beginning in 1900 would have been the most sensible policy, including a democratization of the empire as per Orwell.

    I don’t see that the US has the same choice, if the US manages to drive China insane and destroy itself in a delusional inability to block the natural spread of technology. There’s no other empire waiting in the wings that is well run and capable of picking up the pieces.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It would be unsettling too if they don’t talk.

      Who should talk then? Or should we not talk, because no one is without fault?

      1. James McFadden

        Just saying I would find the arguments more compelling if the author regularly wrote about problems of white supremacy in Australia (I couldn’t find any with google searches) — just like I find it “unsettling” that many American pundits are “pointing the finger” at ethnic strife in other countries when we have a history of white supremacy and genocide here that the majority is still in denial about (even after the election of someone like Trump).

        1. animalogic

          “the author regularly wrote about problems of white supremacy in Australia”
          So called “white supremacy” in Australia is the province of a very very small lunatic fringe. Which is not to say that immigration is not an issue…an issue that can easily result in accusations of racism.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > countries where white supremacy is dominant

      Nice work erasing the oligarchs! Not that I’m paranoid that’s what the “white supremacy” moral panic is designed to do, even if it did get amped up, well before the latest shootings, only after RussiaGate collapsed.

      This is America. Capital is dominant.

  6. Jessica

    It seems that our elites (not just Australia, but US too) have changed direction with regard to China. All the human rights issues that have been downplayed for decades are suddenly front and center in the mainstream media. Apparently, China’s value to our elites as a tool for attaching the working classes of the first world has come to be surpassed by its danger as a rival.
    The problem is that even if all this new concern for the evils of the Chinese government is fake, the evils are real. And the US attack on ordinary Venezuelans does not make the Chinese attack on the Uighurs or what they are going to do in Hong Kong ok.

  7. Plenue

    My reaction (aside from eye rolling at the Maginot Line myth) is “so what?”. China is the natural superpower in the pacific. Trying to turn Australians against China isn’t going to change that fact. Australia will submit and will be part of the Chinese sphere of influence. The question is how much it does it willingly and can negotiate a profitable position for itself.

    1. Shane

      Finally someone said this. Australia is a minnow and as such has little to gain and a lot to lose by overplaying its hand. If we had shrewder diplomats we would be studying the history of other smaller nations that managed to maintain a degree of independence while working with the prevailing regional powers to mutual advantage.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > the Chinese sphere of influence

      It’s been interesting to watch and compare RussiaRussiaRussia with ChinaChinaChina.

      RussiaRussiaRussia was in no sense organic, but engineered by whatever cabal it is that centers on the Atlantic Council and its allies in the intelligence commmunity, and then amplified by the furious and humiliated Clinton campaign. Outright propaganda channeled by the tendentious, the credulous, and the owned.

      ChinaChinaChina, by contrast, seems to me genuinely organic*, a product of gradually achieved elite consensus. That makes it very dangerous. The savage irony is that globalism achieved the rise of China (and the deindustrialization of flyover) by design, and the same policy makers and ideologues who achieved that are still in power today. As so often, elites who create problems position themselves as the only ones who can solve them (self-licking ice cream cone).

      Mark Blyth, in his “Brief History of How We Got Here and Why” says in essence (I’m too lazy to find and transcribe the quote) that we do not have the power to change China, so the question becomes what advantages can be gained from taking China as it is. At least for climate change, they’re considerable. This is the kind of realpolitik I appreciate.

      Take the thesis, if it deserves the name, that “Xi = Hitler” as read. If it’s true, what then? Nuclear war? Invading the mainland? What? Presumably we could crap around with their periphery — giving the Uighurs stingers, sending, arguendo, a container of umbrellas and yellow hard hats to Hong Kong, giving Taiwan sekrit weapons — but given China’s nationalism and internal accomplishments — like steam trains to high speed rail in one generation — that seems unlikely to do anything but throw Xi off balance. And is an off-balance Xi something we want?

      In my ideal world the Sixth Fleet would be whipped into shape to contain China at the Nine Dash Line, simply because I think it’s not good for the locals to become China’s satrapies (see Laos and Cambodia). But yes, “spheres of influence” is the way to think about this, not Hitler, ffs.

      NOTE * We can quarrel about “genuinely,” but institutionally, RussiaRussiaRussia was ginned up from a remarkably small institutional base.

    3. skippy

      Its reminiscent of Keating’s reforms which sold off Australian Mfg to international anglophone investors, it was only when they started selling it off to the Chinese that everyone took notice, but hay, Markets …

  8. stevelaudig

    The CPC-run PRC is consciously evolving itself into a totalitarian state. Is there any contradictory evidence to this assessment? At the theory level “they” love Carl Schmitt. At the practice level is it 24-7-365 surveillance and concentration camps for Muslims and disappearances for anyone who steps on or outside the line. Reread Arendt and No “business person” of any gravity isn’t ensnared in the CPC net. No student worth a damn is allowed out of the country who isn’t either vetted before or double-vetted after. Add to this the “Central Kingdom-Chosen People-Master Race-American Exceptionalism” oldest continuous culture bullshit and you get Emperor Xi the First and one belt around the throat and one road to the camps Han imperialism. Anything either business, social, or educational coming out of Mainland China can be fairly viewed as a government operation either active or sleeper. To pretend otherwise, is fatally self-delusional.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > To pretend otherwise, is fatally self-delusional.

      If only all great powers were nice like us. I could do with a lot less moralizing, which the United States has absolutely no standing to do, and a lot more realpolitik, which we seem to have forgotten how to do.

  9. Temporarily Sane

    Here is a piece that calls out the FBI’s long history of totalitarian overreach and its undermining of the constitution and rule of law: The Rise of the American Gestapo.

    While Whitehead unfortunately plays the Hyperbolus Maximus game, he addresses a very real issue that many Americans are not aware of (and one that involves actual card carrying Nazis). Before worrying about “fixing” the establishment’s latest foreign enemy du jour, Americans might want to inform themselves about the serious anti-democratic tendencies of their own government.

    The fact that westerners often get more emotionally outraged by the actions of foreign regimes, over which they have exactly zero influence, than by the policies of their own governments is a testament to the power of propaganda.

  10. Anonymous

    The timestamps on your posts are curious.
    Where are you based?

    You’re regurgitating China’s usual agitprop response to criticism to “take a hard look at yourself first” before you dare challenge the sanctity of the middle kingdom.

    No one is above scrutiny and critical thinking.
    The world demands CCP agression be adressed.

    NC isn’t endorsing anything. It’s reporting on the Australian govt mainstreaming concerns.

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