We all know that Vladimir Putin is engaged in a massive effort to undermine western democracies, whether through the obvious war in Ukraine which threatens Europe and NATO, or through more subtle cyber-attacks, straight espionage, or misinformation campaigns. His goal, as I have said many times before, is the recreation of the Soviet Union, if not the old Russian Empire. His ambitions may even reach the English Channel, if left unchecked. It’s a “no-holds-barred” strategy of a KGB thug, and if anyone thinks it is anything less, they are dangerously delusional.

      We are also aware of the threat from China, but most of us are more remote from that threat, so it is too easy to put it on our “back-burner”. A recent report from Australia’s Spy Chief, Mike Burgess, clearly indicated that, when you are closer to China than we in the U.S. are, the threat from that source is every bit as real and dangerous as the one from Putin.

      I am reminded here of a conversation I had with my son some time ago when he was studying for an executive MBA. The coursework required a month each in New York, London, Paris, Shanghai and Mumbai. His group met with high level officials in all places, but his impression from his meetings in Shanghai reflected something that surprised and worried him. To a person, all of the officials he met were thoroughly convinced that it was China’s destiny to rule the world and they were planning accordingly. I realize that that sounds a little “over the top” but that conviction was portrayed with such certainty, that it made a lasting impression. The recent report from Mike Burgess in Australia only re-emphasizes this continuing goal.        

      Mr. Burgess stated that his report: (1) was to educate Australians about the growing threat of both espionage and foreign interference from China, and (2) was to send a message to China’s bosses that “their cover is blown”. Also, in the report, Mr. Burgess declared that a former Australian politician had been recruited by a foreign spy ring and had sold out his country to China. Mr. Burgess rarely pulls his punches, and has said, “The Chinese Government is engaged in the most sustained and sophisticated theft of intellectual property and expertise in human history”.

      Recently, the latest Australian Government has avoided too much criticism of China, despite entering into the AUKUS accord with the U.S. and the U.K. for nuclear submarine capability. China, in turn, has relaxed its import bans on Australian goods, but Mr. Burgess is warning of the need for great caution and even greater vigilance. He cites the drop in Australians who see China more as a threat than an economic partner from 63% in 2022 to 52% last year. His message is clear, “Don’t be fooled”.

      John Blaxland’s official “History of ASIO”, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (Mike Burgess’ domain), states that the threat of foreign interference is real. China has long cultivated influence with Australian politicians, and is now grooming well-connected Australians on-line, with offers of “consulting” jobs. It is also engaged in probing critical Australian infrastructure for weaknesses: Evidence suggests that it is already preparing plans for as much theft as possible from the AUKUS program.

      I should add here that Australia is at the end of the line in China’s push southwards through the South China Sea. Already the Philippines is feeling the pressure of this southward march. China will not stop there, if it is not stopped. Similarly, Putin will not stop at Ukraine if he is not stopped there. I just listened, this morning, to an interview with the former White House China advisor, who categorically stated that the joint, stated and agreed, goal of Putin and Xi Jinping is the elimination of western democracy.

      I will close with a phrase I have used many times before. “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you”. As Mike Burgess has bluntly said, caution and great vigilance is the by-word, and don’t for one second be fooled about China’s true ambition.

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