ASPI just a tool of China hawks in Australia
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute claims to be an independent and nonpartisan think tank, a claim that is dishonest and fraudulent, judging by some latest revelations. Documents obtained by the Guardian Australia show that former Australian defence minister Peter Dutton's "captain call" delivered a senior coalition adviser the top job at the ASPI.
Just before the May election was called in Australia, Dutton overruled the ASPI's choice of candidate and announced that Justin Bassi, chief of staff to then foreign minister Marise Payne, would be the new ASPI executive director, the news website reported on Tuesday.
There is no doubt that Dutton, a notorious China hawk and warmonger, will continue to exert influence over the ASPI even after leaving office. He is now the leader of the opposition Liberal Party.
Back in April, Dutton, still defense minister, said Australia needs to prepare for war in light of the "looming threat" from China. Like Dutton, the ASPI has been smearing China and spreading the "China threat" theory for years and fabricating rumors about China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region through its "Xinjiang Data Project". The ASPI has colluded with people such as Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow at the Washington-based so-called "Victims of Communist Memorial Foundation" funded by the US government, to fabricate such reports.
In fact, the ASPI's funding sources give lie to its "independent and nonpartisan" claim. About $4 million, or 37 percent of its $10.7 million funding in the 2020-21 financial year, came from the Australian Department of Defence.
Other federal government agencies gave the ASPI $2.6 million; another $2 million came from foreign governments, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan. Also, US military industries such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing and British defense enterprise BAE Systems are among the major corporate donors of the ASPI.
Australia's APAC News reported last year that Department of Finance data show that the ASPI's 12 weapons manufacturing sponsors have earned more than $51 billion in government contracts since the think tank was formed in 2001.
A significant amount of the ASPI's funding came from the US government which has commissioned the think tank to write research reports attacking China, wrote Marcus Reubenstein of APAC News.
Interestingly, the ASPI, which established an office in Washington last year under Dutton's watch, received funding from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which has close ties with the Pentagon.
I attended many seminars at the CSIS as a Washington correspondent of China Daily years ago and learned a lot from them despite the views on China often being one-sided and distorted, which was not surprising given the CSIS's major donors included the Japanese government and Taiwan island authorities. Other CSIS patrons include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Boeing. Hence, many of the CSIS studies and seminars reflect the interests of the military industrial complex, including fear-mongering about the "China threat" in order to justify more military funding from the US Congress.
The US has an annual defense budget in excess of $800 billion, more than that of the next 10 countries' combined. Still plenty of lobbyists, including think tanks, seek more money for the defense budget. Some want it to be raised to $1 trillion.
In 2021, the US' monstrous $801 billion defense spending accounted for more than 3.3 percent of its GDP, while China spent about $230 billion, about 1.3 percent of its GDP. These numbers don't support the US claim of "China threat".
Like the ASPI and the CSIS, many other think tanks are not really independent and nonpartisan as they claim. In the case of the ASPI, it is simply pursuing the agenda of China hawk Peter Dutton, so its reports and studies have little credibility.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.