Think tank connects with Chinese money

One prominent libertarian think tank with ties to the Liberal Party and several politicians has officially partnered with and receives the benefit of services offered by a large Chinese financial firm run by the Chinese government (CCP).

While this think tank claims that it provides its research and policy positions publicly and is funded from voluntary donations, its close connection to the CCP run Sovereign Fund China International Trust Investment Corporation is a cause for major alarm. Any think tank which claims to be situated in the mainstream of public opinion yet holding such close links with the multi-billion dollar Chinese company must be viewed with suspicion.

This Chinese company promotes the fact that it is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and has listed that it funnelled well over a hundred million US dollars into Australia. The full detail of these investments are not known, but besides the possibility of various inducements and “influence” payments, the fact that this money supports the work with a prominent libertarian think tank is highly concerning.

Strategically from China’s point of view, services and business relationships are strengthened for the very reason of creating dependence and asserting soft influence, which ultimately must lead to influencing policy and political positions which are in China’s interests.

One politician and prominent member of the libertarian think tank campaigned extensively for same sex marriage using his taxpayer funded office to disseminate information and promote this view among Party members. This is unsurprising since China has consistently supported progressive causes and organisations or movements promoting progressive ideals in conservative or traditional institutions like the Liberal Party.

This Chinese corporation provides financial services for China’s biggest companies, including China’s major state-run oil company, mining company and investment companies. How the Australian think tank came to be a beneficiary is no accident, as the deal must have been made as a mutually beneficial arrangement.

In early 2021 the think tank published some of its sources of donations, but neglected to mention that its own financial process was completely transparent to and in full arrangement with the CCP-run financial entity. Due to the nature of the formal arrangement between the think tank and questionable company, the Chinese government have full knowledge of the details surrounding personal data of donors as well as financial arrangements of the think tank. To what degree policy positions are influenced by the CCP remains to be seen, but the Chinese involvement means that they are gaining significantly from the situation.

It is difficult to find any real criticisms of China from the think tank, though one Senator connected with the think tanks has (hypocritically) said that China is a “threat” to freedom in Hong Kong.

The official position from staff of the think tank can be seen in hosing down criticism of China. In early 2021 an official spokesperson from the think tank publicly claimed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) would not find anything negative in China to do with COVID-19, and proceeded to deflect any blame from China’s release of the virus by implying that WHO had bungled its response to COVID-19.

To what extent Chinese funded ideas and a Chinese friendly narrative is being spread into the Liberal Party is a big question. Dirty money becomes dirty laundry.