Academic calls on new government to take a fresh look at NZ's relationship with China & face up to some of the political differences and challenges

Academic calls on new government to take a fresh look at NZ's relationship with China & face up to some of the political differences and challenges
Xi Jinping

New Zealand's new government ought to take a fresh look at the country's relationship with China, argues University of Canterbury professor of political science Anne-Marie Brady.

In a paper published on Tuesday Brady says New Zealand, alongside other nations, is being targeted by a concerted foreign interference campaign by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

"The campaign aims to gain support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government’s political and economic agendas by co-opting political and economic elites. It also seeks to access strategic information and resources. China’s efforts undermine the integrity of our political system, threaten our sovereignty, and directly affect the rights of Chinese New Zealanders to freedom of speech, association, and religion," says Brady.

"The new Labour-New Zealand First-Greens government must develop an internally-focused resilience strategy that will protect the integrity of democratic processes and institutions, and should work with other like-minded democracies [such as Australia and Canada] to address this challenge."

Brady goes on to say China’s "covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities" in New Zealand are "now at a critical level."

The government, she argues, needs to make legislative and policy changes that will better protect New Zealand’s interests and help protect the country from foreign interference activities more broadly.

Under the leadership of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, China is claiming a leadership role in global affairs and pursuing an assertive foreign policy, Brady adds. Under Xi the country aims to lead "Globalisation 2.0", through a China-centric economic order with a new economic and strategic bloc known as One Belt One Road. The assertive foreign policy includes the expansion of CCP political influence activities known in China as united front work.

"The CCP's united front activities incorporate co-opting elites, information management, persuasion, and accessing strategic information and resources. It has also frequently been a means of facilitating espionage. One of the key goals of united front work is to influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies in China's favour," says Brady.

"New Zealand appears to have been a test zone for many of China's united front efforts in recent years. Australia has also been severely affected, and the government there has now made strenuous efforst to deal with China's influence activities. The CCP leadership regards New Zealand as an exemplar of how it would like relations to be with other states in the future. The PRC's political influence activities in New Zealand have now reached a critical level," Brady argues.

"It is time to strengthen efforts to withstand foreign interference in the New Zealand political system."

She suggests New Zealand is of interest to China’s "Party-State-Military-Market nexus" for a range of significant reasons, detailed below:

 The New Zealand government is responsible for the defence and foreign affairs not only of New Zealand, but also of three territories in the South Pacific: the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau, which means four potential votes for China at international forae.
 Since 2011 when legislation was passed to encourage offshore managed funds to invest in New Zealand, our nation has developed a shameful reputation as a hotspot for global money laundering. The Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau are also well-known money laundering nations.
 New Zealand is a claimant state in Antarctica and one of the closest access points there. China has a long-term strategic agenda in Antarctica that will require the cooperation of established Antarctic states such as New Zealand.
 New Zealand has cheap arable land and a sparse population, and China seeks access to foreign arable land to improve its food safety.
 New Zealand supplies 24 percent of China's foreign milk, and China is the biggest foreign investor in New Zealand’s dairy sector.
 New Zealand is useful for near-space research; an important new area of research for the PLA.
 New Zealand has unexplored oil and gas resources and China is expanding its offshore oil and gas exploration.

With NZ a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangement, Brady suggests China would like to get NZ to stop spying on China for its Five Eyes partners, which would be a major coup for Xi's goal of turning China into a global great power.

"New Zealand is valuable to China, as well as to other states such as Russia, as a soft underbelly through which to access Five Eyes intelligence."

Brady argues China’s political influence activities in NZ can be summarised under the following categories:

 targeted efforts to co-opt the New Zealand business, political and intellectual elite in order to get them to advocate for China’s interests in New Zealand and internationally. The means used are business opportunities and investments, honours, political hospitality, scholarships, party-to-party links and vanity projects.
 targeted political donations via ethnic Chinese business figures with strong links to the CCP.
 massive efforts to bring the New Zealand ethnic Chinese language media, Chinese community groups, and New Zealand’s ethnic Chinese politicians under CCP control, and efforts to influence their voting preferences.
 the use of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships with New Zealand companies, universities, and research centres; so as to acquire local identities that enhance influence activities as well as provide access to military technology, commercial secrets, and other strategic information.

Meanwhile, she notes China hasn't needed to pressure NZ to accept China's soft power activities and political influence given successive NZ governments, dating back to when diplomatic relations were established with the PRC in 1972, have actively courted it. More recently NZ was the first western country to sign a cooperation agreement with China on One Belt One Road.

"The new government has an opportunity - if we can borrow a phrase from Chinese diplomacy - to 'light a new stove' and re-adjust New Zealand-China relations," says Brady.

"The Labour-New Zealand First-Greens government must now develop an internally-focused resilience strategy that will protect the integrity of our democratic processes and institutions. New Zealand should work with other like-minded democracies such as Australia and Canada to address the challenges posed by foreign influence activities - what some are now calling hybrid warfare. The new government should follow Australia's example in speaking up publicly on the issue of China's influence activities in New Zealand and make it clear that interference in New Zealand's domestic politics will no longer be tolerated," says Brady.

She goes on to say the new government needs to establish a genuine and positive relationship with the NZ Chinese community, independent of the united front organisations authorised by the CCP that are aimed at controlling the Chinese population in NZ and controlling Chinese language discourse in NZ.

"The New Zealand Chinese population are entitled to the same rights to freedom of speech, association and religion in New Zealand as any other permanent resident or citizen. Not to address the issue of the CCP's efforts to control this group of New Zealanders is to ignore the basic human rights of 200,000 of our own people," Brady argues. 

Additionally she says:

 The new Minister of SIS must instruct the SIS to engage in an in-depth investigation of China’s subversion and espionage activities in New Zealand. NZ SIS can draw on the experience of the Australian agency ASIO, which conducted a similar investigation two years ago.
 The Prime Minister should instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to follow Australia’s example and engage in an in-depth inquiry into China’s political influence activities in New Zealand.
 The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs should instruct the Commerce Commission to investigate the CCP’s interference in our Chinese language media sector—which breaches our monopoly laws and our democratic requirement for a free and independent media.
 The Attorney General must draft new laws on political donations and foreign influence activities.
 The New Zealand Parliament must pass the long overdue Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism legislation. New Zealand should show leadership in the South Pacific by encouraging Niue, Tokelau, and the Cook Islands to pass similar legislation to end their participation in money laundering activities. We can also help them and our other Pacific partners by offering scholarships for their young diplomats to study courses on Chinese politics and international relations in New Zealand, to enable them to proactively engage with China.
 The new government can take a leaf out of the previous National government’s book and appoint its own people in strategically important government-organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs) which help shape and articulate our China policy, such as the NZ China Council and the Asia New Zealand Foundation. What is needed is contestable, deep policy advice on the changing global order, not “no surprises” and silencing of debates.

Brady notes it's often said NZ isn't important to China and if we offend the Chinese government we risk our trade with them.

"It is simply not true that New Zealand is not important to China. And when our national interests may be threatened, the government should be prepared to weather temporary short-term blow back, for long-term political and economic gains."

"It is time to face up to some of the political differences and challenges in the New Zealand-China relationship, including the impact on our democracy of Chinese political interference, and make a re-adjustment in the relationship so that New Zealand’s interests come first," says Brady.

'Sir John Key sings China's praises'

Meanwhile a press release sent out Tuesday on behalf of new consulting, accounting and legal firm K3, takes a different perspective on the NZ-China relationship. Entitled "Sir John Key sings China's praises," it notes Key spoke at length at K3's launch party about NZ’s relationship with China.

“As PM I went to China seven times and everyone knows that I’m a massive China fan. I think the opportunities are enormous, the country is amazing, and the leadership is doing extremely well,” Key was quoted as saying.

"If you look at China, they have some of the most impressive leadership that you’ll find and they’re developing some of the most amazing technology.” The K3 press release said Key had said China’s tech industry was out-stripping Silicon Valley and predicted it would be well ahead of the United States in a decade.

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Excellent paper, I hope it is acted upon. JK and his ilk probably benefited massively from our relationship with China. Probably a few Chinese directorships will be coming his way a la Jenny Shipley and Don Brash.


thumbs up

It may be too late for our two main political parties - they have been cleverly infiltrated. But at least we have some honest academics; we need to fight to keep them since the same Chinese purchasing of influence occurs with our universities.

BTW I don't blame the Chinese for trying - if we could influence them to buy more of our products and say support our claims in the Antarctic by throwing a few baubles at elderly Chinese Communist ex-leaders then I'd jump at the opportunity. What I do ask for is for our politicians to be a little brighter.

I was about to thumbs up when you used the word traitor. Too strong. You need substantial evidence.

I didn't see the word "traitor" used. However, there is much behavior among Australian and NZ power and ex-power brokers that would not acceptable in countries such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam (all three countries of which are often more accused of corruption and nest feathering, but take a very defensive approach to the relationship with China). If NZ is at crisis point re Chinese soft power, then Australia appears to be beyond that point.

I suspect altered after I read it so I will withdraw my comment and add a thumbs up to both of you.

Key and the National partys relationship with China was more than a bit disturbing.
Never in a 1000 years were the nats going to do anything to stop Foreign house buyers, they were going to keep lying about how it was impossible, even though it turned out to be relatively easy.


So NZers are so thick that they need an academic to tell us what the ordinary man/woman in the street already knew..


The ordinary man and woman in the street voted for those who appeared happy with this over the last 10-20 years though. Never held them to account. Witness the complete lack of outrage among most at Bill English's dodging over Jian Yang, and Yang's refusal to even answer the questions of media.

That is more a reflection on who we get to vote for and what happens when they get in, and the media's failure to see it as an issue.

A similar issue is when the Sunday Star Times had a front page article on an Iranian government minister who came here and in an apparently"private" meeting tried to exhort local muslims into acting against Israel. The question is was he suggesting terrorism? And apart from the SST, what other media mentioned it?

Yang's refusal to even answer the questions of media.

That refusal to front is just bizarre given he has already stated that he is no longer a member of the Chinese Communist Party. Surely as a Member of Parliament he has an obligation to explain when and why he resigned.

So NZers are so thick that they need an academic to tell us what the ordinary man/woman in the street already knew..

On so the sheeple are now experts on Chinese soft power, not just the future of house prices.

Uh no, the ordinary man and woman in the street doesnt seem to think much past their next pay packet.

We would not allow foreign governments to control our English language media. Why should the Chinese language media in this country be any different?

We would not allow foreign governments to control our English language media. Why should the Chinese language media in this country be any different?

The NZ govt has huge influence on the mainstream and non-mainstream media. Your argument is back to front.

Seems easy to me. I learn a Chinese language and publish a magazine about anything (say where to go in NZ) and some where by chance mention Falun Gong or Tibet - so a Chinese front company makes me a decent financial offer for my little magazine and the new editor somehow avoids anything that might embarrass China.


China extends its influence in the South Pacific

While Kangaroos and Kiwis sleep, dragons and tigers prowl

September 2016

Frankly I think it is far too late to begin lashing ourselves and whipping up a frenzy - this has been going on for a long time

At certain times of the year the Chinese TV stations in NZ have full on military propaganda on them. Complete with rousing music and tanks rolling across battlefields. Presumably to try to keep the Chinese in NZ under the brainwashing influence of the CCP. Its going to be difficult though because most Chinese will slowly but surely drift away from this brainwashing and will start to think for themselves. They will intermarry. Actually that is happening a lot already.

Brady goes on to say China’s "covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities" in New Zealand are "now at a critical level."


In early 2014, the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs released a draft report which confirmed that the intelligence agencies of New Zealand and Canada have cooperated with the NSA under the Five Eyes programme and may have been actively sharing the personal data of EU citizens.[67][68] Read more

We need to clean up our own act before accusing others of wrong doing. What are our global spying aims and reach within the Five Eyes group?

Why not both?

I don't think it'll benefit NZ to ignore Chinese hegemony until after we've cleaned up our Five Eyes behaviour.

Scary that such rubbish is written by a University professor


Scary that such rubbish is written by a University professor

Probably much more "informed" than "scary." That's why it does carry some weight over BBQ banter.

Are you sure?

There is a simple rule of thumb that will never let you down. It dictates that those who tell you who your enemy is are usually your enemy. Read more and more

I'm not thinking enemy. I'm thinking each country looks after its own. In the case of a small rich (per capita) country such as Norway that might involve considerable foreign aid - charity stuff - because moving the world towards the rule of law and democracy is in Norway's interest. Now take somewhat poorer countries such as say Iceland and China they may be equally concerned about the prosperity and security of New Zealand's population: that close to zero. But say one of them decides on a sudden ban on milk or decides to buy a few NZ politicians - it is the big one that is the worry.

"There is a simple rule of thumb that will never let you down."

Ha, that simple rule just let you down. RT?

It got Matt Drudge as well.

Matt Drudge, the owner of the tremendously popular right-wing news aggregator Drudge Report, slammed The Washington Post for accusing him of being a Russian shill - the worst thing you can possibly be, these days.

"I've linked to [The Washington Post] over 10,000 [times] in 25 years of doing [Drudge Report]," Drudge tweeted on Monday morning — his second Tweet ever. "I currently give them 37% of their referral traffic… It's a brutal business. Not even a thank you. Instead: YOU'RE A RUSSIAN OPERATIVE!" Read more


Really? Read over what you have written. First you say that this simple rule of thumb NEVER lets you down and then go on to use the word USUALLY. Even if I were to accept your premise,there is a world of difference between these two words,so which is it: never or only sometimes.
Today,I heard Professor Clive Hamilton-Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University talk on this subject and how the publishers of the book he has just written on Chinese influence in Australian affairs,have cravenly pulled out of the deal,as they fear being sued by the Chinese authorities.
If you believe that the Chinese government will not resort to underhand measures to influence our government,then you are naive in th extreme.

Is too late already. New Zealand as well as the other western nations are to dependent on goods coming from china, all the way from raw materials/production to finish goods. Unless we as a nation along with other nations boycott anything and everything from China including its people and form our own trading bloc we will always be within the claws of the CCP. But that is not going to happen as I said before and now again kiwis are too passive and easy targets, and unless we undergo our own revolution and rise from the ashes we will always be divided without a common identity to form a proper one nation one people New Zealand.

Ps I hate the CCP like a lot of people here and would love to see their downfall. They were never a legitimate government to begin with and only got hold of power because all the brave men and women of the republic Chinese army died holding the imperial japs from expanding further into china during WW2 while they sat on their hands and drove off the weaken republic Chinese govt of the time. The only war they ever won was against students of Teimen square..... good job CCP!!!

No. China may veto sales to NZ to punish us but the same items will be sold to other countries and then repackaged to sell to us. Much the same with Milk powder going the other way - China can insist on non-NZ product and then buy it from the world market but we will sell to the world market. Dependency requires a unique item such as Manuka Honey or Rare Earth elements.
I'm guessing Taiwan keeps the Chinese communist party at arms reach but they manage to survive (wealthier per capita than China).

As much as I want to see Taiwan alive and well I just don't see how they can hang on in the long run. I remember in the early 90's there are many made in Taiwan computer components on the market, but now almost all of them made in china or India. Taiwan becoming more irrelevant by the decade and will soon be absorb by CCP when the world forgets about Taiwan all together. On the contrary South Korea will be relevant for decades to come!!! How can the world live without K-Pop or Korean dramas ;) The world will be outraged to see them gone lol.

Well it's good to see that people are able to recognize and speak out about the elephant in the room, we can't just keep shoving it under the carpet and hope that everything will be alright.