Does China have influence over these nations? If so, what kind? I’ve heard China is gaining influence on them, but I’m not sure what that means in concrete terms.
China is a big deal for Australia, since they’re fifty times our size and eight times as wealthy as is. Of course, some variation of that calculation is present for all countries in the region, but the extra complication we have is that our traditional main alliances are all outside the local sphere, and often put out foot right in it with other neighbouring countries, leaving us politically quite isolated (see eg Morrison pissing the Indonesians and Malaysians right off with his pointless ‘let’s move OUR Embassy to Jerusalem too’ thought bubble)
There’s a lot of politics surrounding attempts by the Chinese to buy influence in parliament, which we take pretty seriously, and political careers have ended over. But politicians are pretty careful not to say too many anti-CCP things out loud, because of they decided they wanted to fuck us up economically - well it wouldn’t be hard.
The CCP also does its best to try to put the acres on Australia to, for instance, not give recognition to anyone they don’t like - like internal dissidents or the Dalai Lama or Taiwan. Sometimes this works, sometimes we’re bolshy and do what we like anyway. But it’s always a bit of a risk.
Australian trade statistics 2017:
Top seven export recipients:
Top seven import origins:
Total Exports (2017) $230,163,207,202
Total Imports (2017) $228,441,736,928
Trade Balance (2017) $1,721,470,274
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP) (2017)  21.27%
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP) (2017)  20.62%
You’ll note that Australia runs a strong current account surplus with China (also Japan).
So the fluxing tension in the Sino-US relationship puts Australia in the invidious position of charting a course between our biggest trading partner and our biggest strategic ally.
The US has demonstrated that it’s on an isolationist pathway (the US hadn’t been bothered to appoint an ambassador here for 2 years) at a time when PRC is extending it’s influence in the region. So it’s the US’s declining influence/interest in the region as much as increased attention from PRC.
Given how little schmoozing is required from the US to keep the relationship sound, the fact that this administration can’t be bothered at all, though US administrations since Nixon would blithely abandon us on trade liberalisation and security when expedient, the change in influence isn’t surprising.
NZ’s issue is that the Pacific Islands over which they have most regional influence are currently having major infastrastucture projects funded by PRC and how long they’ll be a benevolent banker (similarly to Africa) and what happens when the bills fall due.
They have a lot of influence, and have been trying for a while now to infiltrate their political systems as well. I figured I’d link to some China Uncensored videos on the subject if anyone is interested:
New Zealand MP Taught Chinese Spies | China Uncensored:
Why Does CHINA want New Zealand DAIRY?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCbyh0a0sr0&t=334s
The Hidden Agenda of China’s Silent Invasion: Panel Discussion in Sydney: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnS5yeKVIZU
Is Australia Being Racist Against Chinese?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LNgdtyZXR4
There are some more, but I figured I’d hit the highlights. They aren’t particularly long videos, but they show what China has been doing and mainly how Australia has reacted. One question I’d have is to Australian dopers…how has the public reacted to this stuff. Chris mainly talks about how the government of Australia is reacting or what China is doing, so curious if this is even a think with the public in Australia.
In terms of general Australian consciousness, I would say “less than it should be”. The majority of the population doesn’t care much about foreign affairs - I think that is true in most countries - so in order to be a big political issue, Chinese influence would have to be having an obvious immediate effect on people’s standard of living. Australians are very concerned about China’s effect on our standard of living, but the area of concern is house prices, house prices, and also house prices. A real-estate agency with Mandarin signage causes way more angst than even concrete evidence of political bribery (though everyone still does disapprove of the latter). See for instance this article
Considering that politicians themselves actually are taking the situation seriously, though, this may not be entirely a bad thing. One possible strategic error China may have been making is to try to influence both sides of politics at the same time - that means that foreign interference is a fairly bipartisan issue, and both sides of politics have some interest in clearing it up. If it became a public political football, there would be more pressure on the government to adopt simplistic short-sighted solutions that only look like they’re doing something (such as the current government’s slowdown on Chinese immigration) Also, the whole conversation would be explicitly framed as “Chinese Influence” (rather than the far more politically sensible (“foreign influence”), thus giving the Chinese government the opportunity to be offended. And there’s the problem of increasing racism towards Chinese-Australians (the dominant minority) and really nobody wants to go there.