Even as it confronts the specter of brazen espionage, Australia’s government has yet to draw clear boundaries for an autocratic giant that is both an economic partner and a threat to freedom — a conundrum faced by many countries, but more acutely by Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues to insist that Australia need not choose between China and the United States. A new foreign interference law has barely been enforced, and secrecy is so ingrained that even lawmakers and experts lack the in-depth information they need.

As a result, the country’s intelligence agencies have raised alarms about China in ways that most Australian politicians avoid. The agencies have never been flush with expertise on China, including Chinese speakers, yet they are now in charge of disentangling complex claims of nefarious deeds, all vigorously denied by China.