Oz media reports amount to a new Red Scare, and harm people building bridges

By Wendy Min Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/14 20:33:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

The latest Chinese slang tu ao, like the five-month investigation conducted by Fairfax Media and the investigative television show Four Corners, reflects lingering hurdles to overcome in the Sino-Australian relationship: our varying perceptions and lack of understanding.

Creating fear through words and investigations is the easiest form of journalism. Punchy headlines, great sources, catchy vocabulary such as "national security," "threatened," "Communists" and an envisioned enemy make a great read and offer wonderful viewership numbers.

I am not here to argue about the truth or how objective the report is, since it all depends on perceptions which are debatable.

As someone who loves both Australia and China, I simply find the interpretations of terms such as the latest slang "tu ao" (a term used to disparage Australians as a nation of hicks), "infiltrators" and "agents" in "Operation Australia" to be an unfair and misleading categorization of individuals who are in fact bridges for two cultures.

The Four Corners report talks about Chinese "infiltration" which threatens Australian sovereignty. It details how suspicious foreign donations, nationalist student organizations and support from embassies undermine Australia's own internal affairs.

Maintaining national security is of the highest priority for any country. I cannot blame Australia for such concerns. However, what I find to be unfair is the sweeping generalization and belief that Chinese students seem to be supported and brainwashed by embassies who have too much time on their hands.

Imagine this: a Chinese media outlet goes undercover for months to reveal a report on how Australian organizations, chambers of commerce and embassies in Beijing are training Australians, especially students, to gather intelligence on China.

What follows will be the labeling of Australians as "infiltrators" and "informants" taking part in "Operation China."

If this happened, I would be disappointed and, no doubt, jump to defend against such claims even if I'm seen as a "sympathizer" or "traitor."

Well, this is exactly how I felt after hearing about the Four Corners report, which does little to improve the relationship between the two countries. One cannot stop negativity or biased attacks, but what we can do is to remain rational and realize that the "enemy" is in many ways created to fill gaps in our misunderstanding.

If Australia implements tougher measures to suss out these "Communist Chinese" trying to "paint Australia red," China can also take similar actions to ensure that NGOs (who, let's just be honest, are not 100 percent all innocent) as well as foreign companies are not posing a "threat" to her national security.

Is it fair then that China's response is seen as "a fierce crackdown," a lack of "freedom" and a display of "increasing hostility?" Is it fair that Chinese media are called "nothing but Communist propaganda lacking in objectivity?"

If Chinese students who display love for their nation on Australian soil are spies, then how about Australian diplomats and businessmen who work hard to be the voice of reason amid a sea of fear and suspicions? Are they infiltrators?

It is never easy for two countries with different systems and cultures to find a way to work together, especially when many see Australia at the crossroad where one trading partner is the "rival" of another ally.

Both countries need to deepen exchange and encourage each other's countrymen to become bridges not walls. Such claims and refutations do little to save time, which could be placed into having dialogue and working out ways to continue a win-win partnership while not jeopardizing national security.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated in his Shangri-La Dialogue speech (16th IISS Asia Security Summit) that "we (Australia) have a good friend and partner in Beijing and a steadfast friend and ally in Washington."

Is this how we should treat a friend, through making such generalizations that leaves little chance of growth and exoneration for people who are really bridges for the two countries?

Taking all this Salem panic with a grain of salt, I believe that genuine engagement will continue so that both nations can find further win-win collaborations. A change from this superiority complex and more rationality can strike a balance in the partnership and help us to deal with any future fears. 

Of course, for those with lingering suspicion and fear of foreigners intervening in Australia's domestic political and electoral affairs, the Chinese will still be the culprit. Oh wait! That would be the Russians… or both.

In the same way some see the online slang term "tu ao" as offensive, I say that we should all be a bit "tu" (laidback) and "ao" (proud of our identity and partnership).

Do we need others to tell us who we should fear, who we are, and what needs to be offensive?

The author is a freelance writer. She was born in China, raised in Australia, educated in China, Australia and France. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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