1st Edition

PRC Overseas Political Activities Risk, Reaction and the Case of Australia

By Andrew Chubb Copyright 2021

    Political elites in liberal democracies are showing heightened concern about threats to national security from the overseas political activities of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its supporters. This Whitehall Paper argues that an effective liberal democratic policy response requires careful disaggregation of distinct sets of risks: to national security; civil liberties; and academic freedom. Although widely cited as a model to follow, Australia’s response to these issues illustrates how aggregation of these diverse risks into a singular national security threat – commonly labelled ‘Chinese influence’ – can produce alarmist public policy discourse, legislative overreach and mismatched institutional responsibilities. The Paper suggests a set of measures for liberal democracies to manage their engagement with China’s powerful and increasingly authoritarian party-state.


    1. Conceptual Language: The Problem with 'Chinese Influence' 

    2. Disaggregating the Risks 

    3. Risks of Reaction: Australia's Experience with Aggregation 

    4. Managing the risks 

    Conclusions: Two 'World Outlooks'


    Andrew Chubb is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow based in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University, where he researches the linkages between China’s domestic politics and international relations. A graduate of the University of Western Australia, his current project focuses on the role of domestic public opinion in international crisis diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific. More broadly, Andrew’s interests include maritime and territorial disputes, strategic communication, political propaganda and Chinese Communist Party history. His recent research articles can be found in International Security, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific and Asian Security.