A new book by security analyst Alex Joske reveals that Bob Hawke was manipulated by Chinese intelligence agents to help rehabilitate China’s image after the 1989 massacre of thousands of protesting students at Tiananmen Square.

In his book (Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World), Joske describes how Hawke became enmeshed in a Chinese spy network in the early 1990s when he was hosted in that country by the Communist Party thinktank, the China Institute of Strategy and Management.

Hawke had retired from the federal parliament after losing the leadership of the Labor Party to Paul Keating in 1991. When prime minister, he had publicly shed tears over the Tiananmen massacre and granted permanent residence visas to 42,000 students, mostly the children of elite Chinese families. This single act, more than any other, initiated the mass migration of Chinese to Australia and began the demographic transformation of a once relatively homogeneous European-derived population.

Joske states: “Chinese intelligence officers … would never have attempted to recruit Hawke as an agent. There simply wasn’t any point. Instead, Hawke’s value was that he sold China to the rest of the world, reframed Australia’s image of the nation after the Tiananmen massacre, and gifted his reputation to influence vehicles like the Bo’ao Forum.”

Joske’s book shows that the Chinese Communists have a history of meddling in Australian politics. In February 2022, ASIO director-general Mike Burgess indicated that his office had foiled an attempt by Chinese intelligence to install China-friendly MPs in Parliament. These efforts were directed through a wealthy Chinese-Australian businessman.

The revelations about Bob Hawke are a sad example of the naivety and lack of passion for Australia’s core identity that so often afflicts our political class. Multicultural elites’ confused loyalties and priorities leave them vulnerable to manipulation.


Joske, A. (2022). Spies and lies: How China’s greatest covert operations fooled the world. South Yarra, Hardie Grant Books.

Joske, A. (2022). The Communist playbook. The Weekend Australian. Sydney, Newscorp, 1 October, 20-21. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/the-communist-playbook-how-china-turned-the-wests-dream-into-a-weapon/news-story/d5ef433a53a261f916ae0b3e6da7d324 (Paywall)

Packham, Ben (2022). Beijing plot to install Labor candidates. The Australian. Sydney, Newscorp, 11 February, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/chinese-spies-in-plot-to-install-alp-candidates-at-coming-federal-election/news-story/f917096d91d83d449bfad778e4685f5a (Paywall)

Packham, Ben (2022). How China spies ‘signed up Hawke’. The Weekend Australian. Sydney, News Corp, 1 October, pp. 1, 20-21. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/how-china-spies-signed-up-bob-hawke/news-story/1b159125fd0bd9b21f38ab35117f0353 (Paywall)