Antipodica 1: The cis-Tasman yard

This is the middle post of a triple on CCP influence in Australia and New Zealand. The first two introduce former PRC diplomat Chen Yonglin’s 2016 China in Perspective piece on Australia as “China’s backyard”, presented for the first time in English.

0. Leading from the back end
1. The cis-Tasman yard
2. Chen Yonglin: Australia as China’s backyard

Meanwhile in Australia, Clive Hamilton’s book on CCP influence cis Fossam has just been published, after refusals by three publishers fearful the entities it discusses might retaliate. The first of these would-be publishers was the centenary Allen & Unwin, now prevented from profiting from a much-publicised tome in exchange for their ascent to the pantheon of the vicarious enforcers of CCP censorship, together with CUP (Censor U Poshly) and gleichgeschalteter Springer. I haven’t read the book yet, but news reports indicate it’s the culmination of years of work by Hamilton, together with his researcher Alex Joske, on the Party-state-Army’s influence in Australian academia, politics and, perhaps most importantly, coprorate power and coproratised think-tankery and academia. (A rather unfavourable review has just appeared.) In many ways, these activities seem to be more extensive than outre-Tasman, but they have been less successful: CCP influence has been the object of much scrutiny, press coverage and debate, and even some politicians have changed their minds about the need to welcome it. Although serious concerns about the CCP’s activities in Australia had been raised by John Fitzgerald more than a decade ago, and journalists (notably John Garnaut) were writing about billionaire United Frontling and political donor Chau Chak Wing 周泽荣 in 2009, it would seem it has taken a while for these activities to receive sustained attention and discussion in mainstream media and politics.

Given the abundant coverage of this topic in Australia, now including a book, debate about a book, and coverage of fights over a book, there’s no need to recapitulate it there. I will just remark I was delighted to learn Hamilton’s tome devotes an entire chapter to Bob Carr, a retired politician who has found a new career as director of a Research Institute initially funded by Huang Xiangmo 黄向墨 (Huang Changran 黄畅然), then Australia, now Oceania’s top United Frontling. Just like Raymond Huo’s Xi-speak slogan ignited in me the Passion of the Rolled-up Sleeve, prompting a closer look at New Zealand United-Frontlinghood, the peculiar circumstances of Carr’s ascent to Sinological punditry suffice to justify an interest in the Australian version.

I conclude this brief Antipodean detour with two items relevant to the Land of Yeast-Extract Delicacies. The first is a short parable I wrote to celebrate a state-media celebration of Carr’s scholarship. The second, for which the rest of this series is meant as an introduction, is an article by Chen Yonglin, a former Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia in 2005, presented here for the first time in English.

chen_wombat0

Tasmaniani cis maris aequora (Standards Australia / Wikimedia Commons).

After reaching the heights of Novoaustralocambrian and national politics, former Australian foreign minister and multi-term NSW premier Bob Carr (affectionately known as Beijing Bob (北京宝宝)) began a second career as head of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at University of Technology Sydney (UTS). The University established ACRI in 2014, with money that included a donation from United Frontling Huang Xiangmo 黄向墨 (Huang Changran 黄畅然). Said donation we may affectionately call the ACRImonies. Huang was appointed ‘chairman’ of the Institute, in which capacity Huang chose Carr as director. Although Huang no longer chairs or funds it, the shop remains committed to a “positive and optimistic view of Australia-China relations”, radiatingpositive energy‘ (正能量) partly generated by “corporate contributions” from i.a. Chinese SOEs.

The Institute’s activities have received mixed reviews. James Leibold calls much of its output “one-sided, decontextualised fact sheets and opinion pieces” and criticises its “closed-door” activities and Carr’s meetings with CCP officials, including no less than Zhu Weiqun 朱维群, a United Front cadre well known to my regular readers. To an outside observer, ACRI’s most visible output does indeed make it look like a BRI-touting think tank. Like many other state and non-state actors, the CCP has a known interest in setting up, funding or otherwise grooming lobbyists for its policies; what is remarkable is that such groups can be institutionally embedded into universities, and continue to function as positive-energy emitters even if state-linked entities  have ceased to be their primary funders. This can look better and be more cost-effective than in-your-face exoprop endeavours like Confucius Institutes, and shows a savvy exploitation of the public disinvestment, bureaucratisation and corporatisation of universities in many countries. (United-Frontling munificence indeed allowed UTS to replace an existing China-studies centre with ACRI; the Australian National University intends to turn its own into a ‘hub‘ without permanent faculty staff.) The ACRImonies also illustrate another aspect of the vulnerability countries like Australia offer to such actors as the PRC Party-state: the ease with which moneyed lobbies can work their way into policy-making. Exposing (and mocking) ACRI’s PRC links might prompt a PR reaction, but it’s highly unlikely to reduce such vulnerability.

ECSN, a manifestation of the China News Service (中新社), takes a more charitable view of ACRI. A Carr panegyric last year talked of his “sharp eyes”. “Bob looks full of energy and well presented.” As behooves the director of “the only think tank in Australia that is dedicated to study Australia-China relations”, Carr has an office where “there is a statue of Yat-sen Sun [sic], the book titled ‘Art of War’ and other Chinese works.” Although the readily admitted that to “really become a ‘China expert’, there is still a long way to go”, he was portrayed holding a copy of Sunzi’s Art of War (孙子兵法), in its case.

chen_ecsn1.jpg
De bello australi. ACRI Director Carr holds a case containing a book (source).

I took the trouble to identify the tome. It’s a bilingual edition with Giles’ public-domain translation. It comes with some commemorative stamps, part of a series called, hardly in Giles’ English, “Collector’s Version of Chinese Classical Books in Silk Version”, marketed on Taobao as a coprorate gift fitting interactions with foreigners (送老外).

chen_songlaowai0
刷卡尔。

Carr’s gradus ad Parnassum. Readers of modest means may choose to read the same text, also with the Giles, on ctext. Those looking for more recent scholarship can go for Mair’s English; for those into older stuff, Amiot’s French is on Gallica.

In an exchange celebrating Carr’s erudition on a microblogging site, user Yun suggested Carr and others should read Zhuangzi 庄子 instead. I found the remark very sensible, and composed the following parable, an imitation of Zhuangzi’s famous butterfly dream. In it, Carr becomes a fruit, rather than butter-, fly, alluding to both Mao’s muscid poem (小小寰球,有几个苍蝇碰壁 On this tiny globe / A few flies dash themselves against the wall) and the Belt-and-Roady connotations of the genus name Drosophila (爱露 ‘dew-loving’), interpretable in Chinese as 爱[一戴一]露 ‘love of [One [Nipple] Covered, One] Revealed, [in scandalous homophony with “One Belt, One Road” (一带一路)]’.

Alex Joske has translated the parable and graciously authorised me to republish his version here, in a slightly edited form.

卡尔梦蝇

昔者卡尔梦为果蝇,自喻适志与!不远万里,飞蝇赴华,至越进汕。汕人见南蝇,知其嗜果,予之巨梨。栩栩然果蝇也,见梨乐级,食之美,饱足就寝矣。梦为卡尔,不知卡之梦为蝇与,蝇之梦为卡与?俄然有蟆焉,开口食之,知蝇也。

Carr dreams of a fly

Once, Carr dreamt he was a fruit fly, going about happily and as it pleased. It did not consider ten thousand li to be far away and flew over to China, reaching Chaoshan [Huang Xiangmo’s home region]. A man from Chaoshan saw this southern fly and knew it loved fruit, so he gave it a massive pear [a pun on a Chinese name for Sydney [雪梨 (Cantonese Syut3lei4)]. This fruit fly fluttered about, and upon seeing the pear was extremely delighted and ate it, tasting it sweetness. It became full and went to sleep. The fly dreamt it was Carr, but was not sure whether it was really Carr dreaming he was a fly, or a fly dreaming it was Carr. Suddenly, a toad [perhaps former president Jiang Zemin] appeared and opened its mouth to eat it. The toad knew it was a fly.

2. Chen Yonglin: Australia as China’s backyard

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