Why is this Australian ‘think tank’ willing to be anti-China ‘vanguard’?

By Ma Qiao

A Recent report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) claimed that China has at least 600 “talent-recruitment” stations around the world that identify and recruit scientists and technologists who are potentially valuable to “China’s quest for technological dominance”.
In fact, ASPI has long been receiving funds from the US government and arms dealers, and has always been eager to cook up and sensationalize anti-China topics. As a deeply ideological organization that is essentially an anti-China “vanguard”, the ASPI’s academic integrity has come under serious question, according to Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry.
ASPI boasts on the front page of its website that it is an “independent, non-partisan think tank” that produces expert and timely advice for Australia’s strategic and defence leaders. In fact, many people of insight in Australia have publicly denounced the extreme position of this institute.
“I see it as very much the architect of the China threat theory in Australia,” said former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby. John Menadue, a former diplomat and ex-Qantas CEO, said ASPI “lacks integrity and brings shame to Australia.”
In early March, ASPI released a “research report” claiming that “at least 80,000 Uighurs were transferred out of the far western Xinjiang autonomous region to work in factories across China for ‘forced labor’ between 2017 and 2019.”
Some US lawmakers subsequently proposed a motion to “stop the import of products produced in Xinjiang” and clamored for the introduction of a “labor law to prevent forced Uighur labor”.
Then, an article on the US independent news website Grey Zone revealed that the so-called “forced labor” report is, in fact, “the direct product of an orchestrated PR campaign backed by US and EU governments, NATO, and arms manufacturers – all of which stand to benefit handsomely from the intensification of a new Cold War”.
The report released by ASPI is mainly based on the “research” of Adrian Zenz. The so-called “expert on Xinjiang”, whose Chinese name is Zheng Guoen, has been commenting on China’s Xinjiang and wantonly slandering and distorting China’s policies in the region since 2016. His so-called research has not been published in academic journals, but in publications led by NATO and former US national security personnel.
It is not the first time that the authenticity of a report released by ASPI has been ridiculed. The institute once published an article saying that Wang Liqiang, who “defected” to Australia, was a “Chinese spy”. However, Wang was finally shown to be no more than a swindler.
“The Wang Liqiang story is just the latest example of claims running ahead of an evidence base in Australia,” said James Laurenceson, acting director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.
In recent years, ASPI has reached a tacit understanding with some Australian media: ASPI first releases some false reports, and then the media will publish these reports and play them up.
It is reported that the latest ASPI report on China’s “talent recruitment plan” received about $145,000 in support from the US State Department, while the report on China’s “forced labor” received £10,000 in support from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The source of funding behind ASPI has long been an open secret. In February, the Financial Review in Australia published an article entitled “The think tank behind Australia’s changing view of China”, exposing the motivation and root cause of ASPI’s anti-China position from its source of funding.
According to the report, the institute was founded in July 2001, and was initially funded entirely by the Australian Department of Defence. Over time, the share of funding from the Department of Defence has been declining, and now only makes up 43 percent of the institute’s annual budget.
In addition to the Australian Department of Defence, there are three types of alternate funding sources for this self-styled independent think tank.
The first is filled with defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE, Northrop Grumman, Thales and Raytheon. The second is made up of technology companies like Microsoft, Oracle Australia, Telstra, and Google. And thirdly, there are the contributions from foreign governments.
– The Daily Mail-People’s Daily news exchange item