Badiucao (巴丢草): Mao Tribute Concerts in Australia

Australia-based cartoonist and CDT resident artist illustrates his opinion on the upcoming tribute concerts scheduled to be held in and Melbourne next month, which he described on Twitter as “the most disgusting event I can expect in AUS! Horrifying!”:

Mao’s Australia Concert, by Badiucao for CDT:

mao‘s aus concert 拷贝-1

The concerts, scheduled for September 6 in Sydney and September 9 in Melbourne to mark the 40th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death, have highlighted a sharp divide in Australia’s Chinese community, as Philip Wen reports at The Sydney Morning Herald:

“[Mao] brought 76 years of peace and stable development for the Chinese people, until today where China has been restored to the status of an international major power,” a flyer for the “red songs” concerts reads. The concerts, on September 6 in Sydney and September 9 in Melbourne, mark the 40th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death.

Chongyi Feng, an associate professor in China Studies at the University of Technology Sydney who tracks the activities of local Chinese community groups, said business and cultural groups increasingly staged “patriotic” events to “show their loyalty to the consulate, to the Chinese government back home in order to curry favour”, in the hope of receiving preferential treatment for their commercial interests.

But putting on an event to glorify Mao has touched a raw nerve among Chinese-Australians, many of whose families suffered under the leader’s brutal legacy, the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward contributing directly to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

“Mao for them is just like Stalin to Russians or Hitler to Germans – he’s a mass murderer in their judgment so they’re very angry,” Dr Feng said.

For some, the Mao concerts are seen as the culmination of a large influx of mainland Chinese migrants in recent years which is reshaping the Chinese community in Australia. A divide has emerged broadly between two camps: naturalised Australians who migrated in the 1980s and 1990s with the spectre of the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 fresh in their memories, and more recent emigres who have been enriched by China’s economic miracle of the past two decades and are emboldened by their country’s rise as a major international power. […] [Source]

A Change.org petition to cancel the Sydney concert has attracted over 1,600 signatures as of 14:00 PST on August 23, 2016.

An increase in Chinese migration to Australia has come as Beijing continues a  push in the country, forging partnerships with Australian media outlets and educational institutions. Pro-Beijing opinion has been loudly expressed on the streets of Australian cities recently, with protesters supporting Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea using language that echoes Chinese state media, and Beijing’s point of view on the issue receiving much press in Australian media. At Deutsche Welle, Helen Clark looks at the motives that underlie Beijing’s expanding media and educational relations with Australia:

[…M]any media outlets, including some in the Fairfax stable, have run worried stories over the infiltration of Chinese propaganda. The “Financial Review” also pointed out that many Australian school children now learn more than just Mandarin paid for by Beijing, but also China’s main political talking points.

Yet is Australia that important to Beijing, compared to the central importance Australia places on the relationship with its largest trade partner?

[…] Propaganda efforts in Australia, it seems, are something of an afterthought for the superpower. “I would say that Australia is quite peripheral to China’s regional and global concerns (just the opposite of Australia’s view of China),” Professor David Shambaugh, a China expert with George Washington University, told DW.

Indeed, Peter Cai notes that China’s efforts to push its message have a lot more money and manpower expended in the US and Africa.

The more pernicious influence of Beijing’s propaganda department might not be its English-language posturing, but the influence it has over Chinese-language publications in Australia and its attempts to sway the large Chinese diaspora in its claims over the . [Source]

Amid rising suspicion of Beijing’s motives in forging economic relations with Canberra, former Australian foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans warned of the risks of adopting a “cold war mindset” concerning China:

Evans was speaking at a National Press Club debate on Tuesday about the relationship between China and the United States with Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

Both men addressed the recent decision by the treasurer, Scott Morrison, to block the sale of Ausgrid, the NSW electricity company, on national security grounds.

[…] Evans said the decision-making on the Ausgrid sale looked completely arbitrary, and people should not take the government’s invocation of national security at face value.

[…] In one of the few outbreaks of analytical consensus during the debate, White agreed with Evans that Australia did not have the luxury of of acting politically with foreign investment decisions given China’s economic power.

“We could be cutting ourselves off from the most important economic story of the 21st century and that will impoverish us,” White said. “This is not an area where we can just say we don’t want the Chinese to do this for us.” […] [Source]

The Ausgrid case follows the unexpected delay of British government approval for a nuclear power project involving substantial Chinese investment.