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Is WeChat’s threat to Australian elections overstated?

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Voters line up outside a polling station for the electorate of Kooyong during the national election, in Surrey Hills, Melbourne, Australia, 21 May 2022 (Photo: Reuters/Sonali Paul).

Author: Fan Yang, Deakin University

The 2019 Australian federal election was the first time that Australian politicians interacted with Mandarin speakers on the Chinese social media platform WeChat. The two major party leaders at the time — Scott Morrison of the Liberal-National Party (LNP) and Bill Shorten of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) — joined WeChat Official Accounts (WOAs) to give public announcements and conduct online video meetings as part of their election campaigns.

Concerns were raised about the possibility of Beijing’s influence in swinging the opinion of Chinese-speaking voters towards the party that maintained more moderate policies toward China. These fears came as no surprise — from 2020 onwards, Chinese-owned apps like WeChat and TikTok have faced public disputes, boycotts and parliamentary inquiries into issues of foreign interference, censorship and cybersecurity.

After Morrison’s WOA ‘went missing’ in 2022, Liberal members of parliament, including James Paterson and Gladys Liu, pledged to boycott WeChat. The 2022 elections saw the LNP increasingly politicising WeChat in the name of countering foreign interference, inflaming anti-China sentiments for political gain.

The incorporation of WeChat into politicians’ 2022 federal election campaigns became not only instrumental, but also divisive. In 2022, more LNP, ALP and independent politicians joined WeChat to promote their policies. But engagement with Chinese migrants on WeChat mostly remained one-way, with political communication largely terminated after the election.

While certain groups of LNP politicians shunned WeChat, others such as Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher invested significantly in political advertising across several influential WOAs. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and ALP member Clare O’Neil used WeChat to update Chinese voters on political announcements and ALP policies. Teal candidates Kylea Tink and Fuxin Li also participated on WeChat.

The significance of WeChat in political communications has also been highlighted in Australia’s state elections. In 2022, the then Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy initiated a series of political advertisements on WeChat ahead of the state election. In the leadup to the NSW state election in 2023, NSW Labor leader Chris Minns embarked on political campaigns using influential Sydney-based WOAs.

Political campaigns on WeChat are under-supervised by the platform and the Australian Electoral Commission. Although WeChat has clarified that the platform prohibits political campaigns, business-oriented and self-sponsored WOAs continue to publish political advertisements on behalf of Australian politicians, bypassing the platform’s regulations. In 2022, the Australian Electoral Commission groundbreakingly commissioned influential WOAs to publish educational materials about identifying disinformation.

Though politicians’ engagement on WeChat is vital in filling the gap between Mandarin-speaking migrants and the Australian political sphere, consistent engagement from politicians is lacking and the risks of using Chinese technologies remain. Resources invested in monitoring disinformation on WeChat are deficient, especially ahead of national or state elections. As Chinese language political commentaries by commercial WOAs are one of the major sources for Mandarin speakers to understand Australian politics, there is the possibility of misinformation or disinformation driven by commercial imperatives and non-professional translations.

Since 2023, scrutiny over Chinese-made technologies — from social media, digital devices and smart home appliances to commercial drones and urban infrastructure — is being further escalated by Labor government national initiatives to counter foreign interference. Concerns about WeChat are realistic and the app could bring various risks to Australia in the future. With Beijing having assumed more restrictive controls over the country’s tech industry since 2021, political interests are on par with commercial imperatives for Chinese tech companies.

Despite fears of foreign interference, our study — which monitored multiple rounds of Australian federal and state elections — has not yet identified alleged ‘Chinese influence’ across WOAs. Our assessment of Beijing’s influence is based on the number of China-sponsored articles that show a strong preference towards a particular candidate, which was apparent in the 2022 Hong Kong Chief Executive election.

During the 2019 and 2022 Australian elections, WOAs run by Chinese state…

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A Timeline of EU-China Relations Post-2024 European Elections

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EU-China relations are crucial in global business, with geopolitical shifts and technological competition shaping the dynamic. The recent EU Parliament elections have brought a political realignment, leading to a more assertive stance towards China. Strategic discussions and new working groups aim to navigate the evolving relationship.


EU-China relations play a crucial role in the global business landscape. The current circumstances, marked by geopolitical shifts, economic interdependence, and technological competition, contribute to the volatility and frequent adjustments in this relationship. In this timeline, we aim to capture key milestones and developments that shape EU-China ties.

The European Parliament elections, held between June 6 and June 9, 2024, have ushered in a new era for EU-China relations. The election results revealed a significant shift in the political landscape, with centrist parties losing ground to far-right groups like the Identity and Democracy (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This political realignment is poised to influence the EU’s approach to China, introducing more varied and potentially conflicting perspectives on policy.

Traditionally, the EU has maintained a cautious stance toward China, epitomized by the 2019 publication of the EU-China Strategic Outlook, which framed the relationship as one of “partnership, competition, and systemic rivalry.” This tripartite approach was later reiterated in the European Council’s Conclusion on China. However, the narrative toward China has taken a decisive turn with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech delivered on March 30, 2023. This speech marked a shift towards a more assertive stance, further strengthened by the release of the European Economic Security Strategy in June of the same year.

In the aftermath of the 2024 elections, the increased fragmentation within the EU Parliament suggests a more complex and uncertain path to forming a cohesive strategy toward China. This uncertainty poses challenges for European companies conducting business with China, as well as Chinese and global businesses operating in Europe, who must now navigate a more unpredictable regulatory environment.

Amid these developments, the Chinese government is keenly observing the evolving dynamics within the EU. China aims to cultivate allies within the European bloc, and this intent was evident during President Xi Jinping’s recent European tour, which included official visits to France, Serbia, and Hungary. During his visit, President Xi reiterated the EU’s significance as China’s major trading partner.

As the new EU Parliament begins its work, strategic discussions have been underway to address key issues, including the EU’s technological and strategic autonomy. To manage different views and promote collaboration on shared interests with China, new cross-regional working groups have been established. These groups are focusing on sectors such as agriculture, aviation, artificial intelligence, energy, and finance, aiming to enhance resilience and foster dialogue.

In this article, we present a timeline of EU-China relations following the EU Parliament elections, reflecting the complexities and opportunities presented by this new chapter in bilateral relations.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Economic Update: Consumption and Trade in China See Strong Recovery Despite Decrease in Industrial Output by May 2024

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Industrial output growth in China has slowed, with robust performance in some manufacturing sectors but an increase in consumption driven by services, retail sales, and imports. Despite a slowdown, equipment manufacturing has been crucial in stabilizing overall industrial growth. Certain high-tech and electronic equipment manufacturing sectors have shown strong performance, while the automobile manufacturing sector has decelerated due to falling domestic demand.


The data indicates a slowdown in industrial output growth, despite some manufacturing sectors still showing robust performance. In contrast, consumption is on the rise, driven by growth in services, retail sales, and imports. The uptick in these areas suggests a strengthening of domestic demand, spurred by a stabilizing global economic situation and the boost from the Labor Day Holiday at the beginning of May.

China’s foreign trade also continued to show marked improvement, reflecting the country’s strong export capabilities and increasing imports.

Year-on-year growth in China’s industrial sector slowed in May from the previous month but remained relatively strong. Total industrial value-added output grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year in May, a month-on-month increase of 0.3 percent but a deceleration from 6.7 percent year-on-year growth recorded in April. Value-added output of the manufacturing industry grew 6 percent year-on-year, a deceleration from the 7.5 percent year-on-year in April.

According to NBS spokesperson Liu Aihua, equipment manufacturing played a crucial role in stabilizing overall industrial growth. The sector’s added value increased by 7.5 percent from the previous year, contributing 2.6 percentage points to the growth of all industries above the designated size and accounting for 45.7 percent of the total growth. Within this sector:

Certain high-tech and electronic equipment manufacturing sectors exhibited particularly strong performance:

However, the automobile manufacturing sector decelerated significantly from a 16.3 percent year-on-year jump in April to 7.6 percent year-on-year growth in May, possibly due to falling domestic demand.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Outlook for China’s Wine Market: Current Trends and Opportunities

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China’s wine market faces challenges like declining consumption and imports, but remains resilient. Adapting to consumer preferences, focusing on quality and sustainability, and using digital platforms for sales are key strategies. Despite setbacks, the market is promising for foreign producers.


Despite challenges such as declining consumption and import figures, China’s wine market remains resilient and promising. Strategic adaptation to evolving consumer preferences, emphasis on quality and sustainability, and leveraging digital platforms for sales are pivotal strategies for success in this dynamic and competitive landscape.

In recent years, China’s wine market has faced significant challenges marked by declines in key metrics such as consumption, imports, and domestic production. These difficulties were further compounded by the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these setbacks, the market retains its allure, presenting opportunities for foreign wine producers and exporters who are willing to adapt and strategically engage.

As consumer preferences evolve and government policies increasingly emphasize quality and sustainability, understanding these complexities becomes crucial for stakeholders navigating China’s evolving wine landscape. By staying attuned to shifting trends and regulatory developments, stakeholders can position themselves effectively to capitalize on the market’s enduring potential.

The wine sector in China has experienced dramatic shifts over the last two decades, initially reflecting rapid growth and then gradually declining. In the early 2000s, China emerged as a lucrative market for global wineries seeking expansion due to soaring wine imports driven by rising consumer wealth and the perception of wine as a symbol of sophistication. However, per capita consumption peaked around 2012, and imports have since plateaued, with recent years showing significant market contraction. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges, particularly affecting wine sales due to its association with social gatherings, which were restricted during lockdowns.

Following this trend, in 2023, China saw a significant decline in wine consumption, with a 24.7 percent decrease compared to 2022. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), China’s wine consumption has been falling since 2018, averaging a loss of 2 million hectoliters annually.

Nevertheless, China remains the ninth-largest wine-consuming nation worldwide.

Looking forward to 2024, China’s wine market is poised for dynamic activity, delineated primarily by consumption settings: at-home and out-of-home. According to Statista, revenue from wine sales in supermarkets and convenience stores (at-home) is forecast to reach US$9.7 billion. In contrast, revenue generated from wine consumed in restaurants and bars (out-of-home) is expected to be substantially higher, totaling US$17.2 billion. This projects the total revenue from the wine market to reach US$26.8 billion by the end of 2024.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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