I must admit, Australia is entering a very volatile time in terms of how it perceives Mainland China and subsequently how they treat Chinese Australians or any Asian who remotely looks Chinese. The air of sinophobia has been sniffing around and now it seems that targeting and discriminating anyone Chinese in Australia is becoming a norm. The worst part is, there is a certain level of acceptability by mainstream Australia for this sinophobia to occur. I will even go a level further and say that they are enabling this environment of hate and false racial accusations to occur.
Now one must remember that “yellow peril” in Australia is not a new thing. Really, it has just morphed and returned in a different form. During the 1800s Gold Rush period, the Chinese gold miners were physically attacked, arrested, racially vilified, killed and humiliated for being Chinese. There were many posters and propaganda put up by the Australian Government and media at the time to fear monger about the Chinese.
Back then China was a very poor and a weak nation, and is a reason why so many Chinese (particularly men) left their families to travel abroad (Australia being one of the destinations) to forge a better life for themselves and their family. Now it is 2018, and over the last few years we have seen the creeping up of the “yellow peril” in Australia.
The difference between the “yellow peril” of back then to the one of now is that China is rich and powerful and the Western mainstream or in this case Australian mainstream is unable to dominate this growth and rise. So they do what they do best and that is to make any Mainland Chinese and Chinese Australians into racial collateral.
The reason I am writing about this is because over the past few months, this “yellow peril” has just become worse than it has been exacerbated with accusations and allegations being thrown around that Australia has been subject to spying operations coming from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Chinese international students have been the subject of the mainstream media’s interest and they have been accused of acting as spies for the Chinese Government. Of course we can’t deny that there maybe some who are spies, but let’s face it every country spies on each other. American student groups also have spies, so do the British, German, Canadian etc. Why are the Chinese being sidelined? This has really got out of hand.
Of late, an academic from Australia’s Charles Sturt University – Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics, wrote a 350 page book titled: Silent Invasion: How China Is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.
Here is the premise of the book via (ABC News):
In it, he alleges that a systematic Chinese government campaign of espionage and influence peddling is leading to “the erosion of Australian sovereignty”.
That erosion is caused, in part, by a recent wave of Chinese migration to Australia including “billionaires with shady histories and tight links to the [Chinese Communist] party, media owners creating Beijing mouthpieces, ‘patriotic’ students brainwashed from birth, and professionals marshalled into pro-Beijing associations set up by the Chinese embassy,” Professor Hamilton writes.
It also alleges that Chinese international student groups are complicit in this “spying”.
Now Hamilton’s book was refused for publishing by 2 well known publishers, and you can imagine when a privileged man doesn’t get his way, how he would behave. To cut a long story short, his book has been published, but the damage is done, and the noise he and many others in Australia has made with regards to the Chinese Government’s intervention in this situation has caused so much angst and hate within Australian society. I have read the book, and it makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims backed by weak facts, and I conclude that it will perpetuate sinophobia and hate in Australia.
I am not denying that what Hamilton highlights is a legitimate concern, but my major issue with it is how these allegations will impact on the Chinese in Australia and more broadly how it will impact on the wider Chinese diaspora in Australia. Those Australians who have intellect will read it and take it as it is without being racist or prejudice. But we got to face the facts and realise that the majority of Australians are not intellectual in this way and will conflate their fear of the Chinese Government and its influence and hating on ALL Chinese people. This is where the racism and sinophobia occurs.
One must remember that no one has issues if you are opposed to a regime or a Government but the anger and hate needs to stop there. Alt right and white supremacist groups in Australia have embraced Hamilton’s book as an opportunity to go racist and tell all Chinese Australians to leave this country. It has literally been a field day for racists in Australia. Secondly, Hamilton will never understand the racial collateral he has created, nor will he ever face this racism and hate. I get he wrote this out of his own genuine concerns but he and others who support this book have failed to understand the impacts it has on the Chinese Australian community.
Another point, I wish to highlight is that these impacts are mostly felt among Chinese international students. I have spoken to many across Australia and they are feeling the fear and they are feeling targeted. This is felt the most among those who are studying at Universities in regional areas, where racism is a daily thing. My concern is about their safety and about the racism and targeting they will receive and experience. Where is their protection and where is their agency? A sad part of all this is that there are some Chinese who have a desire to be accepted by the mainstream Australian society who also behave in this manner. They will conflate their hate towards the PRC and support those who want to end Chinese migration into Australia. They are so consumed by their own political agendas to even be reasoned with when discussing the broader impacts. I get it, and I get their concerns about the Government, particularly those who have had negative experiences. But they need to learn how to articulate their opposition and stop siding with the white racists/supremacist groups who are using this as an opportunity to spread hate and sinophobia.
So back to Clive Hamilton – how has he been complicit in perpetuating racism and sinophobia? Well it is all the reasons mentioned above, but it is extremely ironic that an esteemed academic such as himself who upholds progressive and left wing views is also trying to oppress and silence those of us Chinese Australians who are critics of his book. As a privileged, Caucasian man he will never know how it feels to be discriminated and belittled by the mainstream society who really sees you as different and will get “yellow peril” alerts in their heads every time they see you. This is because Australia like all countries in the West are still majority Caucasian and when you belong to the majority you don’t ever need to be scared or fearful about being racially attacked and discriminated. I have been avidly calling him out and seeking that he addresses the sinophobia coming out from his book. Instead of acting like an esteemed Professor ( who is very left wing thinking) he goes on the defensive and is very reactionary. Among others, I have been accused of being a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece by him and his supporters all because I am expressing my concerns over the racism Chinese Australians will face from his book as well as how he has made Chinese international students in Australia a target for racially motivated attacks.
But I am a peon. And he still attempted to silence me, when the point of his book was to talk about why the censoring by the Chinese Government in Australia is dangerous. He has also attacked Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner – Dr Tim Soutphommasane who is of Laotian Australian background about his criticisms of the book. Do you see a pattern here? Yes he is basically trying to oppress and silence fellow Asian Australians who call out why his book does not help the cause of eradicating racism. Here is Hamilton publicly accusing me of being a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece:
Hamilton wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald recently claiming victimhood against Dr Tim Soutphommasane as well, here is an excerpt of what he said:
In this light, Soutphommasane’s knee-jerk accusation that my book “smacks of the Yellow Peril revisited” is offensive to all of those whose views and professional judgments are reflected in the book.
His smearing of the book (the most cynical exercise in cherry-picking I have ever seen) aimed to poison the minds of his readers without engaging with the book’s arguments or the 100,000 words of accumulated fact.
In addition he has written a letter to NSW Greens representative David Shoebridge MLC expressing his disappointment in Shoebridge pulling out of hosting the launch of his book at NSW Parliament House a week before it was scheduled to happen. Shoebridge showed a lot of integrity in pulling out after I made a Facebook post expressing my concerns about racism and sinophobia and that this is not something I would ever expect the Greens to support. Both Asian and non Asian Australians who are members of the Greens alerted Shoebridge who listened to this feedback and confirmed the launch will no longer proceed for March 14. Unfortunately, His Parliamentary colleague Justin Field MLC decided to pick this up and host the launch with the support of former Greens leader Christine Milne. Here is the letter which Hamilton sent to Shoebridge.
It is sad that the debate on foreign influence has become one which has divided the Australian community. One must remember not to conflate hating a regime with being racist towards Chinese people and more specifically Chinese Australians. We know that unfortunately many people in the mainstream will conflate the two, and with an extremely biased book like “Silent Invasion”, there is no end to the racism and sinophobia that the Chinese in Australia will face. Hamilton needs to stand up and address these concerns, but for now in my eyes and in the eyes of many Asian Australians he is just tone deaf.