Yesterday we brought you some background detail on the sycophantic Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, the Perth mining magnate and all ’round brown-nose bear for the Chinese Communist Party. (Seriously, what’s the point of having F-you money if you have no courage – at least Clive Palmer knows how to use his undeserved wealth).

Forrest sucks up to the CCP because almost all his wealth comes from the Chinese who buy his iron ore.

Well, well, well … who supported Twiggy today?

None other than Kerry Stokes, the billionaire owner of Channel Seven (which you can now buy, based on the ASX value, for about $130 million).

Here’s what Kerry Stokes said yesterday, according to the AFR:

Media mogul Kerry Stokes has urged Scott Morrison not to “poke our biggest provider of income in the eye” and shelve his push for an independent inquiry into coronavirus to avoid offending China’s sensitivities.

In an interview published on the front page of The West Australian newspaper, which he controls, Mr Stokes predicted the Australian dollar would plunge in value to US25¢ if China cut all trade with Australia.

Whatever. He might be right. He might be wrong.

Then he lept to the defence of China:

Mr Stokes also defended Chinese wet markets, which the Morrison government is campaigning to clean up after the number of infections exploded in a Wuhan market.

Mr Stokes was quoted as saying the use of markets needed to be respected, and questioned why the government had funded wet markets in Papua New Guinea through its aid program.

“The facts are throughout the entire Asian region wet markets are the only way to trade produce. And if we are so worried about wet markets how come we finance the wet markets in New Guinea?” he was quoted as saying.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. He defended the wet markets from which it is widely and credibly believed COVID-19 originated.

So the question is, why would he do that?

Well, it’s kind of like our mate Twiggy. Follow the money.

You see while Kerry Stokes is a media owner, the real money is in machinery. Specifically, Caterpillar, through the company WesTrac. He supplies equipment in WA, NSW and the ACT.

And until 2017, he sold Caterpillar in … wait for it … wait for it … China.

He sold out because he was finding it hard to collect money from state-owned enterprises.

But he still supplies the mining sector in WA which relies almost exclusively on sales to … wait for it … wait for it … China.

In fact, one of his major customers is … FMG. The iron ore company run by Twiggy Forrest.

But being a diverse chap, he has lots of other investments as well.

Fingers in pies … mmmmmmm … pies

Beyond the media assets and Seven Group Holdings which has a number of mineral and energy investments such as Beach Energy, the Stokes family (dad Kerry and son Ryan) have investments in China through Australian Capital Equity.

As The Australian wrote in December 2019:

ACE, which established its Chinese investment arm in 1997 and owns 60 per cent of Seven Group, is a shareholder of Shanghai Oriental Pearl Mobile Television Group, the first official digital ­mobile TV media in China.

ACE has invested in Beijing Mobile Television Group, China’s first local English-language newspaper, Shanghai Daily, and had the first foreign investment ­holding in Guangzhou Jumbo ­Advertising.

ACE also has investments in Chinese network sharing platform LinkSure and Meicai, one of China’s largest fresh food mobile e-commerce platforms.

It is also one of the largest ­investors of China Media Capital Partners (CMC), the country’s first venture capital fund in the media and entertainment sector.

“That has been performing well and that is all linked to the growth of the consumer,’’ Stokes said of the CMC investment.

“And while Seven Group is not directly involved in China, our major customers at WesTrac are closely aligned with China.”

But CMC is certainly going places (in China), although the exact size of the Stokes’ family holdings are hard to quantify they keep an eye on the region.

It is run by Li Ruigang. He is often referred to as the ‘Rupert Murdoch of China’.

CMC holds a majority stake in Hong Kong’s dominant free-to-air broadcaster Television Broadcasts (TVB) and owns Pearl Studio (formerly known as Oriental Dreamworks).

Li holds a 26 percent economic equity in CMC with 86 percent voting rights.

So the Stokes family certainly is embedded. But in China, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know:

Interestingly, Li served as deputy secretary general of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and director of its General Office.

The post is usually occupied by rising political stars. For example, Ding Xuexiang, a trusted aide of President Xi Jinping, has taken up the same post in Shanghai before.

Of China’s three fast-rising tech stars – Pingduoduo, Qutoutiao and Kuaishou – CMC holds stakes in two, Qutoutiao and Kuaishou. It has also invested in a bunch of other new-economy assets, including iQiyi and PearVideo.

Many of these firms are already unicorns or close to that level, and stand a good chance of being listed on the mainland’s new tech board.

If CMC is listed in Hong Kong, it could become one of the most popular plays on the tech board theme.

In 2010, Stokes sank $250 million into the float of the China Agricultural Bank (totalling around $23 billion at the time so the investment was ore symbolic for the Chinese – but he was invited, which shows how well regarded Stokes is in China).

None of this is to say that the Stokes family can’t or shouldn’t comment on Australia’s relationship with China. But it is more than disingenuous not to identify that your financial interests may have an influence on your decision making.

You ring, he brings

There is a final angle to this.

In September 2019, Stokes urged Scott Morrison to visit Beijing and reset the relationship with President Xi Jinping amid heightened tensions over foreign interference, the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and a damaging global trade conflict.

The Australian reported at the time:

The intervention from Mr Stokes comes after China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs took aim at the government’s decision to ban Huawei from involvement in Australia’s 5G network, describing it as “blatant discrimination against Chinese companies” and a row over the Chinese links of Liberal MP Gladys Liu, which has triggered a political contest to win the support of the Australian Chinese community.

He also argued that Australia should pursue its own policy on China and not have all its diplomatic relations and other decisions — including on 5G — shaped by the recommendations of security agencies.

You will be pleased to know that former NSW Premier, former Australian Foreign Minister and another Chinese suckholer Bob Carr endorsed the comments from Stokes:

Former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr, an advocate for better Chinese relations [that’s one way to put it], told The Weekend Australian that “no boardroom in the country would be anything but puzzled by how we’ve allowed the relationship with China to deteriorate so markedly”.

“And therefore Kerry Stokes would be talking for about 90 per cent of the Australian business community,” Mr Carr said. “The first step is to seek a meeting with the President in the sidelines of APEC. That would be a sensible strategy.”

But there is one detail that for some reason was not made clear in this article or many others about Mr Stokes and China.

Since 2010 he has been a member of [Huawei’s] International Advisory Council.

According to a Huawei press release, its members “draw on their expertise to provide Huawei with insights and analysis on trends and issues impacting the global ICT and economic environment, and make recommendations on the company’s business strategy”.

But Mr Stokes said he hadn’t attended one of the council’s annual meetings for several years.

That doesn’t seem to matter. He is well connected anyway. How well connected?

Mr Stokes had been a long-time friend of Huawei founder and global chief executive Ren Zhengfei and was the only Australian member of the International Advisory Council.

“They meet roughly once a year, a one-day meeting, where essentially they have a round table with our senior executives and essentially they act as mentors I think to our global company,” Mr Mitchell said.

“He [Mr Stokes] takes his own time to come to these meetings and we appreciate, very much, that he does that.

“But he doesn’t do any lobbying on our behalf in Australia.

“The only thing that he did do for us is our 10-year anniversary. He hosted a dinner for about 20 people to celebrate our 10 years in Australia, that was about four years ago.”

One final detail: one of the guests at that dinner was the-then Communications Minister. Malcolm Turnbull.

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President Trump aimed a string of attacks at MSNBC host Brian Williams on Wednesday, blasting Williams over his past apology for making misstatements about his experience covering the war on terror in the Middle East.

Don’t mess with The Donald.


Spike Jones (d 1965)

FEATURE IMAGE: Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash.