The former chief of US national intelligence, James Clapper, has given a stark warning to Australia about Chinese influence in domestic politics, likening it to the alleged Russian interference in the US.
Giving a speech in Canberra, Mr Clapper was clear in his assertions that Australia needed to be “very wary” of outside influence from China on domestic matters, claiming that there were “striking parallels” between that and Russian interference in the US general election, which he described as “unprecedented in its directness and aggressiveness”.
“I have seen just this week compelling evidence of potentially nefarious foreign interference in your democratic institutions and from where that interference apparently originates,” he said.
“It is no secret that China’s very active in intelligence activities directed against Australia, just as they are against us, and that China is increasingly aggressive in attempting to gain influence in your political processes as Russia is in ours.”
“I believe that Australia should engage with China but with both caution and confidence, eyes wide open, weighing its strategic and economic interests, never forgetting the importance of its democratic institutions and values that you share with us.”
Mr Clapper also used the speech to criticise US President Donald Trump for allowing the precedent of foreign interference in a nation’s affairs to take hold, describing his behaviour and comments about US intelligence services “absurd”.
“His subsequent actions, sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians and compromising its source, reflect either ignorance or disrespect and either is very problematic,” he said.
“Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now.”