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Capsule Review

Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia; The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

In This Review

Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia
Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia
By Clive Hamilton
Hardie Grant, 2018 360 pp. Purchase
The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State
The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State
By Elizabeth C. Economy
Oxford University Press, 2018 360 pp. Purchase

These two books—the first a heated polemic, the second a work of cool-headed analysis—exemplify the recent shift to more skeptical Western attitudes toward China. Hamilton’s investigative reporting reveals the flows of Chinese money to Australian politicians and institutions and the connections of prominent Chinese Australians to Chinese intelligence agencies. Hamilton argues that Australia’s open society, multicultural values, tradition of international collaboration in scientific research, and economic dependence on Chinese exports, tourists, and students leave the country ill equipped to resist large-scale, coordinated Chinese influence and espionage efforts. Many Australians do not even comprehend the extent of the problem. Hamilton dubs numerous Australian politicians, academic administrators, and media personalities “apologists and appeasers” for China and pushes back against charges of racism by arguing that it is Beijing, not he, that expects all ethnic Chinese to pitch in for the motherland regardless of their citizenship. The book has sparked controversy in Australia, and the government has begun to make policy changes intended to protect Australian democracy.

Economy shows how China’s predatory approach to other countries is connected to changes in its model of domestic development. Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared a “third revolution,” following Mao Zedong’s communist revolution and Deng Xiaoping’s liberalizing economic reforms. Xi seeks to modernize China by suppressing dissent and reinforcing state control of society, the Internet, and the economy—all while also pushing for technological breakthroughs. Xi’s model comes with risks, including disaffection among intellectuals, wasted investment, and stunted innovation, but for the time being, it is powering China’s dramatic rise. Economy argues that China under Xi is “an illiberal state seeking leadership in a liberal world order.” It practices a one-way form of globalization by pushing exports, capital, people, and political values out while barring foreign influences from coming in. Like Hamilton, Economy believes that this asymmetry poses dangers to open societies. She calls on the United States to compete more vigorously for technological, economic, and diplomatic leadership and to push back against Chinese investment restrictions and visa denials with reciprocal actions.

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