The Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Beijing, China, April 2016. 
Jason Lee / REUTERS

Australia is the canary in the coal mine of Chinese Communist Party interference. Over the past 18 months, the country has been shaken by allegations of the Chinese party-state working to covertly manipulate the Australian political system and curate the wider political landscape. There are claims of Beijing-linked political donors buying access and influence, universities being co-opted as “propaganda vehicles,” and Australian-funded scientific research being diverted to aid the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Most notoriously, an ambitious young senator, Sam Dastyari, was exposed for parroting Communist Party talking points and giving countersurveillance advice to a Chinese political donor before being hounded into premature retirement.

The scandals might seem odd. Few countries on the planet have benefited as clearly from China as Australia has. Its society has been enriched by waves of Chinese migrants and sojourners for 160 years. Its national income grew as much as 13 percent in a single decade as a result of China’s resource-intensive construction boom, according to the Australian Reserve Bank. And an easing of the resources boom has been offset by the spending power of 180,000 Chinese students and a million tourists each year, along with hundreds of thousands of migrants who have

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  • JOHN GARNAUT is the founder of JG Global, a strategic risk advisory. He previously worked as China correspondent for Fairfax Media and was Senior Adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
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