Former US presidential candidate says experts are ‘sounding the alarm’ in Australia and New Zealand
China’s attempt to gain political power and influence in foreign countries is “a new global battle”, Hillary Clinton has warned.
Speaking to an audience in New Zealand on Monday night, the former US secretary of state and presidential candidate said Chinese interference in domestic policy was apparent in Australia and New Zealand as well as the US.
“In Australia and here in New Zealand experts are sounding the alarm about Chinese efforts to gain political power and influence policy decisions,” Clinton said.
“[Academic] Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury has rightly called this a new global battle, and it’s just getting started. We need to take it seriously.”
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, told reporters Clinton’s statements about China were not new.
“There are a number of world powers that have an interest in our region and, of course, New Zealand needs to maintain our role in building our relationships because there is that greater presence here,” she said.
Clinton’s comments follow testimony from the Australian academic Clive Hamilton to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China that Beijing was waging a “campaign of psychological warfare” against Australia, as America’s most significant ally in the region, undermining democracy and cowing free speech.
Hamilton said Australia was being subjected to Chinese Communist party-sponsored operations of “subversion, cyber intrusions and harassment on the high seas”.
“Beijing knows that it cannot bully the United States – in the current environment the consequences would be unpredictable and probably counterproductive – so it is instead pressuring its allies,” Hamilton said.
China has consistently denied any interference in the domestic affairs of foreign countries. In response to the Australian government announcing a tightening of espionage laws last year, China said it respected the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
“China always follows the principle of mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs when it comes to developing friendly cooperation with other countries, and this principle holds true for developing bilateral ties with Australia,” the foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
New Zealand’s foreign minister, Winston Peters, was due to outline the government’s budget plans for foreign affairs on Tuesday, with some tipping greater spending on the Pacific following his announcement of an increased focus on the region earlier this year.
On Tuesday Australia’s Lowy Institute released its Power Index, confirming China’s rising power and influence across the Asia-Pacific.
America remains the Asia-Pacific’s dominant power, but money, influence and might were shifting from west to east, the index found.
And Donald’s Trump’s political power is a liability for the world’s superpower. The US ranks 13th on Lowy’s list of political leadership, equal with Cambodia’s authoritarian and controversial prime minister Hun Sen. China heads that category: President Xi Jinping has recently been been successful in removing term limits for his position, paving the way for him to be president for life.
The Asia-Pacific would emerge as the globe’s dominant region in coming years, the Lowy report said. Within a decade, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in Asia, just over 10% will live in the West.
“Much of the world’s future economic growth will come from Asia – but so will the world’s future challenges,” the report argued. “Asia is already the location of America’s only true peer competitor, China, as well as the world’s most dangerous country, North Korea.”
Lowy’s new analytical tool – the product of two years’ work – measures power across 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, stretching west as far as Pakistan, north to Russia, and across the Pacific to the United States. Power is assessed across 114 indicators: including military, economic, and natural resources; diplomatic and cultural influence; trading relationships; capacity to deter real or potential threats; and defence networks.
The index produced using the tool found that the US remained the pre-eminent regional power. But China was rising rapidly and closing in on American dominance. China ranked higher for diplomatic influence and economic relationships in the region, but the US was dominant in defence networks, military capability and cultural influence.
The US and China are currently locked in tense trade talks that – despite the positive spin being promoted by both countries – appear locked in several fundamental impasses, especially over tariffs, strategic industry subsidies, and technology exports.
The index ranked Japan and India as major powers in the region, but found they were moving in opposite directions: India’s young, growing workforce contrasted with Japan’s wealthy but ageing population.
Russia, Australia, South Korea and Singapore were the leading “middle powers”.