(TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
The Open Society and Its Enemies
China’s Influence Game Down Under

China’s sophisticated infiltration of Australian politics is a troubling example of how authoritarian states can subvert open societies. The United States should heed the lesson.

Published on: November 13, 2017
Charles Edel is a Senior Fellow & Visiting Scholar at the University of Sydney’s U.S. Studies Centre, and author of a forthcoming USSC report on the American presidency. Previously, he served as Associate Professor of Strategy & Policy at the U.S. Naval War College.
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  • There are no shortage of Aussie polticans and academics writing articles about how the government should prioritize its china relationship over its American alliance. They are having debates in Aussie schools about letting 6 year old boys pretend to be girls etc. they are not up to making such a decision as deciding between America or china.

  • 李明洙

    How do you call the Communist Party of China out for subverting some acclaimed value when you do a combined Trillion+/year in business with them, when General Secretary Xi is being given VIP treatment and delivering the keynote at Davos, and while Aus, Ca, and it seems like all of Europe have anti free speech laws of their own!

    • Unelected Leader

      I have to agree with you. It’s a very difficult circle to square. Perhaps impossible. It really makes me think of Joe Biden’s recent remarks ironically. The man is so out of touch that he says completely antithetical things, and he might not even know it. In one sentence he’ll talk about how much he loves the middle class and wants them to catch up from years of stagnation, and then the next sentence he’ll say that TPP should’ve become a reality. Perhaps he doesn’t know he’s doing it, but if you can’t see the problem with those two sentences then you have no clue what’s going on, why trump is POTUS, why progressives are fighting the Corporate Dems now more than republicans, and so on.

      It’s the same thing with these so-called values. You’re very right to point out the anti-free speech laws, like so-called hate speech laws and blasphemy laws, which are so pervasive in the west, and around the world. Luckily, we don’t really have that fight in America, yet. But it certainly makes no sense at all to open up and do huge volumes of business with a regime thats supposedly so dangerous and promoting anti-democratic ways of governance and anti individual liberty around the world, which the CCP most definitely does.

    • Master of Unlocking

      I don’t see you proposing a solution.

      Or perhaps, since your username is Chinese, are you perhaps celebrating China’s ongoing subversion of Western democracies? Well, celebrate while it lasts.

      • 李明洙

        Been celebrating for decades. It’s nothing new. Are you just finding out about it? If you see it as a problem, well then blame the people who caused it for you. That would be the rich CEOs and other 1% in your countries and your government which the rich mostly own. In Australia those are the ones who own the mines and large farms and want to sell to China and do everything to make China happy. They are in universities and real estate and anything to do with resorts and tourism. If Australia really care so much about democracy then it wouldn’t love a country that is not a democracy. Use your noodle, as they say.

  • Anthony

    The sub caption is important and relates to national interests: “how authoritarian states can subvert open societies and the United States should heed the lesson.” (Charles Edel)

    Similarly, The Federalist Papers #2 that highlights the dangers from foreign force and influence to exacerbate the country’s internal divisions and leave it distracted, weakened, and vulnerable certainly resonates today as it did during Founders’ era. For this reason, both Charles Edel and Karl Popper give open societies an alert:

    History could be understood as a drawn-out battle between proponents of open, dynamic societies and authoritarians preferring closed societies, with citizens who obey, who believe, and who respond to authoritarians’ influence. According to Popper, it would always be in the interest of the authoritarians to try to influence the affairs of open societies to further their own agenda. Popper cautioned that the enemies of open societies were powerful and numerous, while liberal democracies were rare, fragile, and required extreme vigilance to maintain. (The Open Society and Its Enemies)

    Good essay!

  • Joe Eagar

    So, I take it we’re no longer treating “soft power” competition between states in a friendly manner. Not to long ago this was considered normal diplomacy, with countries expected to able to take such “influence operations” in stride.

    If the world bans “soft power”, what will the consequences be?

  • Jeff77450

    Mr. Edel, great article that has given me food for thought. I’m glad to hear that Australia is waking up to the danger, I just hope that it’s not too little too late. The entire West seems to be experiencing that frog-in-a-slowly-heating-pot-of-water phenomenon. So many of us can see it “as plain as the nose on our face” but we can’t seem to do anything about it. It reminds me of that scene in _The Time Machine_ (1960) where the gentle Eloi are marching to their doom and Rod Taylor is trying to alert them to the danger and get them to stop but can’t. (So he has to take the fight to the Morlocks and destroy them).

    Attention (God-cursed) rank-and-file Leftists: You’re collectively a bunch of useful idiot sheep. *Wake* *up* before it’s too late. A good starting point would be to immerse yourselves in the works of Jordan Peterson and Victor Davis Hanson.

  • rogerinflorida

    A similar study of Chinese influence in Canada would reveal a similar effort by Peking to influence Canadian politics. This is inevitable because of economic and demographic changes. The US Empire succeeded the British Empire. It is possible that the Chinese Empire will succeed the US Empire. It is inaccurate to call this subversion, it is just reality.

  • Roger Franklin

    More Chinese manipulation in Australia. At the last moment, one of the country’s leading publishers has canned a book because China might not like the manuscript’s argument that Beijing’s agents meddle in local affairs: http://quadrant.org.au/sino-signoff/

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