Australia has become the latest U.S. ally to witness one of its largest corporations, ANZ Bank, betray its national security interests by surrendering to China and doing the dirty work of the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
ANZ shamefully fed the career of an employee, U.S. citizen and top trader Bogac Ozdemir, to the Chinese tiger for daring to speak out against CCP propaganda. This is part of a sorry trend of weak and so-called woke corporates limply appeasing China in its war for global dominance.
In the United States and elsewhere in the West, corporate CEOs who choose to follow ANZ’s lead would do well to heed President John F. Kennedy’s warning that, “Tn the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
China’s Western Warfare Isn’t with Weapons
To its credit, the U.S. government is slowly waking up to China’s “Three Warfares” strategy — its use of public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare to achieve victory where bombs and bullets would otherwise fail. The United States and its allies are already losing, however, as many of our key institutions refuse to put up a fight.
China has already identified that the Achilles heel of the Western economies lies in our biggest corporations. Both on Wall Street and in Western financial centers around the world, the CCP is using a non-kinetic arsenal of weaponry including economic coercion, information warfare, bullying, and intimidation to force Western businesses to do its bidding.
Communist China’s task is made easier by the cringing timidity of corporate leaders, such as ANZ Bank’s CEO Shayne Elliott and Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation’s head of Asia Pacific Peter Wong, whose complicity with China is matched only by the hypocrisy of the corporation’s actions when set against its lofty social responsibility rhetoric.
In his eye-opening book “Goliath: Why the West Isn’t Winning. And What We Must Do About It,” leading strategist Sean McFate explains how conventional warfare is dead and that in modern conflict, the most effective weapons do not fire bullets. Instead, modern warfare employs non-kinetic elements such as information, ideology, and time. China deploys each of these tools with devastating effects against Western businesses and interests.
ANZ Bows to the CCP
In the case of ANZ, Ozdemir triggered the CCP’s information warfare division when, in a post referring to government handling of the COVID-19 crisis, he said on LinkedIn in March 2020, “I don’t want to say anything about China because we are all in this mess because of China and I don’t believe anything from there.”
With lightning speed, Beijing launched its information onslaught against Ozdemir with the usual combination of coercion tactics. “Wumao,” CCP-directed social media trolls, pretended to be outraged and began a barrage of abuse. Chinese articles denounced Ozdemir as a “racist,” and the bank was besieged by phone calls from the Chinese financial regulator and the CEOs of ANZ’s Chinese clients calling for his head. This is textbook information and psychological warfare, exerting maximum coordinated pressure from multiple sources.
The CCP was safe in the knowledge that ANZ, just like most businesses around the world and on Wall Street, has no ideology. It has no core beliefs, no deeply held principles allowing it to weather this storm and simply shrug off such ludicrous accusations and feigned outrage from paid trolls.
ANZ professes to believe in diversity, but its wokeness is simply a PR exercise. If it believed in genuine diversity, it would support employees’ rights to free speech and difference of opinion. While anti-American sentiment is reportedly tolerated in its internal communications, criticism of China and its freedom-crushing, ethnically cleansing, Hong Kong-brutalizing regime is apparently an unforgivable offense.
The CCP also knew time was on its side. Like many CEOs, ANZ’s leadership is short-term in outlook. Under pressure to deliver strong monthly and quarterly results, it simply didn’t have the stomach to wait out the contrived attacks for the inevitable moment Beijing’s keyboard warriors moved on to another target. Instead of responding rationally, it reacted in fear, afraid of adverse publicity and desperate to quieten down the row, lest its earnings be seen to suffer.
It’s Time for Corporate America to Wake Up
The result? ANZ gave in to the CCP’s demands and quickly ousted Ozdemir, issuing a statement that effectively denounced him as a racist by claiming his post had breached the company’s commitment to multiculturalism and showed a “distinct lack of judgment.” CCP bullying and the cowardice of ANZ’s leadership destroyed a trader who had made millions for the bank, and the story rapidly spread globally.
The failure to protect Western citizens and the chilling effect upon free speech cannot be underestimated. In a victory for China, ANZ has become its proxy, silencing and professionally destroying a modest critic of the regime.
It is in this context that poor corporate leadership has become a national security threat. U.S. Attorney General William Barr was right to accuse American firms of “corporate appeasement” of the CCP and to highlight China’s ability to find willing “pawns” in the West as it sought to infiltrate, censor, and co-opt American private-sector institutions.
Having recently rung alarm bells in London, Brussels, and further afield, the Ozdemir case and ANZ’s new status as a surrogate for Chinese oppression shows this issue extends beyond the United States, right across the Five Eyes Intelligence Community, and throughout many U.S. allies. Until Western CEOs get their act together and recognize they’re on the frontline of the war with China, they will continue to cede ground to the CCP, gifting communists victory one Ozdemir at a time and eroding Western values from within.
American businesses must remember Benjamin Franklin’s timeless wisdom: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”