| World Socialist Website | Extract
SYDNEY - The Australian media is working hand-in-hand with the government to demonise China’s so-called “interference” in the country’s political, economic and educational affairs.
It is also focusing on China’s involvement in the Pacific region, recently stoking fears over Beijing’s presence in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s former colonial possession.
The coverage underscores the interests of Australian imperialism in what it regards as its own “backyard,” and is designed to further whip up anti-Chinese sentiment in preparation for military conflict.
PNG is regarded as vital as a buffer between, and a gateway into, the Pacific Ocean. Also, Australia’s huge mining and energy companies have investments in PNG worth K14.6 billion.
The Australian Financial Review (AFR) featured a front-page article on 11 August headed ‘Huawei data centre built to spy on PNG’.
It cited a 2019 Australian government report alleging that a centre in Port Moresby built by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and funded through a K185 million loan from China’s Exim Bank, had intentionally exposed PNG government secrets.
The AFR article echoes moves led by the US to cripple Huawei’s operations and eliminate it from the rollout of 5G mobile phone technology.
Worldwide bans on Huawei’s commercial activities, on the basis of unsubstantiated assertions the company spies on behalf of the Chinese government and its intelligence services, are part of Washington’s aggressive moves to isolate Beijing and prepare for war.
Canberra has already fallen into line, including in the Pacific.
Following the intervention of US officials in 2018, the Morrison Liberal government applied pressure to stop Huawei from building a new internet cable to PNG and the Solomon Islands, on “security” grounds.
The Solomons government had signed a contract with Huawei in 2017 to build the cable, but then agreed to renege on the agreement.
The report cited by the AFR was commissioned by the National Cyber Security Centre of PNG, which is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and written by a cyber-security contractor, not named by the paper. The report could hardly be described as “independent.”
The AFR claims the 64-page report was the first to allege Huawei’s “complicity in Beijing's cyber espionage activities,” but it is nothing of the sort. While the report claims a series of failings in the security footprint at the centre, it fails to offer any actual evidence of espionage.
The author alleges that outdated encryption software was deployed by Huawei, and firewall settings were “insufficient for a centre designed to store the entire data archive of the PNG government.”
Data flows could be easily intercepted, the report said, and remote access would not be detected by security settings. It alleges the algorithm used for encrypting communications was considered “openly broken” by cyber security experts two years before being installed.
The conclusion is drawn that there was a “deliberate effort” by Huawei to deploy lax cyber security in the centre’s build. In a statement, Huawei flatly denied the accusation, saying the project complied with “appropriate industry standards and the requirements of the customer.”
Despite the AFR’s lurid headline, the paper was forced to note that the centre had quickly fallen into disrepair as insufficient money was set aside for maintenance and operations.
Financial assistance was sought from the Australian government, prompting the report’s commissioning, but which Canberra declined. In other words, the AFR article, based on a dubious report that is more than a year old, proves nothing.
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) published an equally loaded article on 16 August, proclaiming that a school in Port Moresby, the Butuka Academy, had become “a diplomatic weapon for China.”
It cited a former Australian high commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, who declared the school, built by the state-owned China Construction Steel Structure Corp, “betrayed China’s broader intentions in the region,” purportedly demonstrating Beijing’s “soft-power capacity.”
The SMH was perturbed by the school’s popularity, highlighted by comments from a former teacher who pointed out the “facilities were excellent and the school was in high demand.”
The students’ parents, she added, “think that the Chinese government is helping a lot.” The school has extensive facilities focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The SMH article pointed to concerns in Australian ruling circles over strengthening links between Beijing and PNG prime minister James Marape. He was installed last year after his predecessor Peter O’Neill resigned amid financial mismanagement and corruption allegations.
O’Neill’s seizure of power in 2011, in violation of the constitution, was backed by Australia, which regarded him as a bulwark against the expansion of Beijing’s influence in the region.
On assuming office, Marape stirred fears in Canberra with a request that the Chinese government consider refinancing the country’s national debt of K26 billion. While this did not eventuate, Marape has insisted he wants to move the country away from an “aid-donor” dependency on Australia.
PNG is on the frontline of great power competition with China, as far as both Canberra and Washington are concerned. It is a contest in which Australian imperialism is determined to maintain its hegemony.