Anne-Marie Brady’s new paper

Canterbury University politics professor Anne-Marie Brady has published today a follow-up to her substantial paper on Chinese party/government influence-seeking activities, particularly in New Zealand.   In the new short paper, published under the auspices of a NATO-funded project “Small States and the New Security Environment (SSANSE)”,  she poses specific challenges to our new government to do something about the issue, and the threat it poses to New Zealand and New Zealanders (including the many ethnic Chinese citizens).

[UPDATE 23/2/18.  Anne-Marie Brady has asked me to clarify that while NATO (under its “Science for Peace and Security” programme) funds the overall SSANSE initiative, most the funding goes to three NATO-nation based academics.  In her case the support amounts only to a couple of airfares to attend two offshore conferences, and accommodation for those events.]

Her abstract reads as follows

New Zealand—along with 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. 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 to address this challenge.

When I read that “must” in the final sentence, of course I strongly agreed that it should be so, but was not at all optimistic that it will.

She summarises her key findings as

  • China’s covert, corrupting, and coercive political influence activities in New Zealand are now at a critical level. 
  • The New Zealand government needs to make legislative and policy changes that will better protect New Zealand’s interests and help to protect our nation against foreign interference activities more broadly.

Coming just a day after the news that a leading publisher in Australia had pulled out, at the last minute, of publishing a book on exactly these sorts of issues in Australia, it was a reminder that we aren’t alone in facing these issues.  Where we may stand alone is the determination of our political and business elites to ignore the issue, and just hope any fuss dies away quickly without too much upset to Beijing.

As she has argued already in her main paper, the active Chinese intrusion has become a much more serious threat in the last few years, under Xi Jinping

United front work has now taken on a level of importance not seen in China since the years before 1949, when the CCP was in opposition. 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.

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 efforts to deal with China’s influence activities.

She links to a nice ABC article on the issue in the Australian context.  I’ve linked previously to an article on the law changes the Australian government is currently proposing.

Brady notes that New Zealand is of interest to China for both economic and geopolitical reasons.  Much of it is covered in the main paper, but some of these lines were new to me and some are apparently dealt with in her new book.

New Zealand’s economic, political, and military relationship with China is seen by Beijing as an exemplar to Australia, the small island nations in the South Pacific, and more broadly, other Western states. 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. New Zealand is also a potential strategic site for the PLA-Navy’s Southern Hemisphere naval facilities and a future Beidou-2 ground station—there are already several of these in Antarctica.

Whenever Chinese navy ships visit Auckland, I’m afraid I can’t help thinking of Soviet Union and Nazi Germany parallels –  surely we’d never have had their vessels visiting?  Would even our governments contemplate granting naval facilities to China –  an actively aggressive naval power?  I hope not.

Does it all matter?

Some of these activities endanger New Zealand’s national security directly, while others will have a more long-term corrosive effect. The impact of China’s political influence activities on New Zealand democracy has been profound: a curtailing of freedom of speech, religion, and association for the ethnic Chinese community, a silencing of debates on China in the wider public sphere, and a corrupting influence on the political system through the blurring of personal, political and economic interests. Small states such as New Zealand are particularly vulnerable to foreign interference: the media has limited resources and lacks competition; the tertiary education sector is small and —despite the laws on academic freedom—easily intimidated or coopted.

On that latter point, while Canterbury University has apparently stood up for Brady’s right to speak and write in ways that Chinese interests don’t like, that same university hosts one of the Chinese funded and controlled Confucius Institutes.

As she notes, New Zealand governments have embraced this relationship with China, something that intensified under the most-recent National-led government.

What should be done?  At an overarching level she says

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 challenge 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.

Getting specific she calls on the government to

The Labour-New Zealand First-Greens government must instruct their MPs to refuse any further involvement in China’s united front activities.

That would be Raymond Huo I presume.

The new government needs to establish a genuine and positive relationship with the New Zealand Chinese community, independent of the united front organizations authorized by the CCP that are aimed at controlling the Chinese population in New Zealand and controlling Chinese language discourse in New Zealand.

And there is a list of six other specifics

  • 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.
  • 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.

I’m not sure the Commerce Commission is quite the right body to look at the effective Party/state control of the Chinese language media.  And I’m also not entirely sure how much confidence I would have in either the New Zealand intelligence services or DPMC, but I’m certainly supportive of the sort of direction she calls for.

She mentions the ASIO report.   As an example of the more realistic hard-headed mentality now afoot in Australia, consider this extract from the Director-General’s overview in the latest ASIO Annual Report

During this reporting period, ASIO identified a number of states and other actors conducting espionage and foreign interference against Australia. Our investigations revealed countries undertaking intelligence operations to access sensitive Australian Government and industry information. We identified foreign powers clandestinely seeking to shape the opinions of members of the Australian public, media organisations and government officials in order to advance their country’s own political objectives. Ethnic and religious communities in Australia were also the subject of covert influence operations designed to diminish their criticism of foreign governments. These activities—undertaken covertly to obscure the role of foreign governments—represent a threat to our sovereignty, the integrity of our national institutions and the exercise of our citizens’ rights.

You will look in vain for anything similar in our SIS Annual Report.  Then again, the Minister for the SIS was the same Chris Finlayson who was reduced to personally attacking Professor Brady at a recent election meeting.

I’m also sympathetic to her call regarding appointments to the New Zealand China Council and the Asia New Zealand Foundation.  Over the last couple of months I’ve kept an eye on the China Council’s Twitter feed: it is little more than just a propaganda feed, accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative, and more given to adulation than critical analysis.    Between the preferences of the (previous) government, and the personal economic interests of many of the key figures involved, perhaps it isn’t too surprising.

But it is also why I’m not very optimistic Professor Brady’s calls will come to anything.   Foreign policy –  perhaps especially towards China –  has been depressingly bipartisan –  and there is little sign on these sorts of issues that the Greens or New Zealand First are really any different.   Why would our new Prime Minister be inclined to do things differently when her own party president was just recently offering congratulations to the Chinese Communist Party on the occasion of the recent 19th Party Congress?  The Labour mayor of Auckland was apparently the recipient of large offshore Chinese donations to his election campaign.  I gather that Helen Clark has rubbished the sorts of concerns Professor Brady has raised.

And the National Party Opposition won’t be pressing her to –  not only do they have a Communist Party member in their caucus, but their party president was also offering warm fraternal greetings to the butchers of Beijing.   The system seems to be corrupted already, so what motivation does anyone inside it have to start to turn things around?  Perhaps external pressure might help –  if he had any political standing left himself, Malcolm Turnbull might well turn the fire back on the New Zealand government, and question the way it was allowing New Zealand to be used in Chinese party/goverment interests?

As Professor Brady notes, the standard response is always along the lines of

It has often been said that New Zealand is not important to China and that 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.

And as I’ve pointed out previously, Australia does much more of its foreign trade with China than New Zealand does, and countries make their own prosperity.  China hasn’t made New Zealand, or Australia, rich: our own people and own resources have done that.  But the firms –  public and private –  with a direct vested interest in keeping on good terms with China have access and political clout.  One of things we need to remember is that the interests of businesses (and universities) who deal in countries ruled by evil regimes, are not necessarily remotely well-aligned to the interests and values of New Zealanders.   Selling to China, on government-controlled terms, isn’t much different than, say, selling to the Mafia.  There might be money to be made.  But in both causes, the sellers are enablers, and then make themselves dependents, quite severely morally compromised.

And if I were ever remotely hopeful that the sort of changes Professor Brady (admirably) calls for might come to pass, there was just another reminder of how our elites view these things.  At a corporate function last week, former Prime Minister John Key

…spoke at length about New Zealand’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,”

I guess the leadership is doing “extremely well” at securing its own position, advancing China’s interests (over against the rule of international law) in the South China Sea, in expanding their influence in countries like our own, in extending the reach of the Party ever further in China itself, and pressing on with the chilling social credit scheme, to give the state ever more control over the populace.  Oh, and the small matter of an ever-more-distorted credit-driven economy that can’t even come close to replicating the material living standard available in the freer democratic bits of east Asia.

The system –  our system, as well as theirs – is corrupted.  Their corruption and destruction is conscious and deliberate.

It all also leaves me slightly uneasy about a comment I saw from Professor Brady suggesting that any inquiry needed to take place in secret.  Perhaps there are some national security issues where secrecy would be important, but if there is any hope of sustained change it can probably only come from something that happens openly, and which enables New Zealanders to see what their leaders have done –  pursuing some mix of a warped view of national interest, and of private and personal business interests.   Who, after all, would the secret reports be delivered to, but the same political leaders who have allowed this suborning of our system, and our people, to go on.  Someone wrote to me yesterday that ” this isn’t an oligarchic or anti-democratic society”.  That’s right.  But it can be a supine one, too ready to ignore what doesn’t affect most of us (non-Chinese New Zealanders) very much on a day to day basis.


If you refuse to open your eyes, or read, it is hardly surprising you might not see anything.

Andrew Little, the Minister Responsible for the SIS, said he was not aware of any undue Chinese influence.
“I don’t see evidence of undue influence in New Zealand, whether it’s New Zealand politics, or New Zealand communities generally.

“We have a growing Chinese community. We have a strongly developing trade relationship and diplomatic relationship with China. I don’t think those things, on their own, connote undue influence.

“If there’s other things she says constitutes undue influence, we’d have to know what that is.”


30 thoughts on “Anne-Marie Brady’s new paper

  1. I was amazed at the amount of high tech equipment on their spy vessel that docked here in Auckland recently. The sailors were friendly and they had open days to the general public. It sure does not look like a threatening vessel nor does China come across a country on a war footing, quite different from a Soviet or a Nazi vessel. Also quite different from Israel that recently declared war on NZ and recalled their ambassador.


    • I think we have had more problems with Israel spies and French spies that bomb and kill kiwis in NZ than we ever had with China.


      • The victim of French terrorism in Akld was, from memory, a Dutch citizen. Which is not to defend France over that incident, or Israel over the Mossad spies.

        But China remains much more of a threat to much of the world than 20th/21st century France or Israel have ever been.


      • I don’t see any NZ Prime Minister resigning or not protesting any Chinese violence in any part of the world. The amount of influence that Israel has over NZ citizens can be seen over at the Whale Oil blog blindly supporting Israel. And John Keys resignation as Prime Minister is still rather too close to the UN resolution than I would feel confident there is smoke there is fire rather than mere coincidence.


  2. It is an interesting hypothesis. But is there any evidence in support of it at all. Apart from anything else, Key could simply have directed our UN Ambassador to have voted the way Israel would have favoured.

    (And I say all this as someone who is generally pretty pro-Israel. A beacon of (flawed) democracy and non-oil-based prosperity in its part of the world.)


    • Follow the money trail.

      A poor Jewish boy from a NZ state housing happens to float across to one of the largest US merchant bankers in the world and lands a plumb job running the regional head-office in Singapore and whilst in that job manages to build up investment equity of $40 million.

      This can only be done with a huge amount of support of a very wealthy network keen to help you out. Which wealthy network in the US would be keen to help out a poor Jewish boy in a wheeler dealer type merchant bank?


      • I’m very close to deleting that comment, which comes disturbingly close to alleging some sort of Jewish-financier conspiracy.

        I’m not aware that John Key has ever made anything of his Jewish ancestry, before or after entering public life, and there are plenty of people who have made a lot of money in financial markets from pretty poor backgrounds. Key was clearly an able manager of traders, and by the standards of the financial markets the amounts he is reputed to have earned don’t seem very surprising at all.


        Investment Fund Managers have the highest average income in the following states
        District of Columbia $124,070
        Delaware $116,850
        California $116,770
        New Jersey $111,930
        Maryland $109,610
        New Hampshire $108,740
        Virginia $105,500

        The following states have the lowest average wages for this career
        Puerto Rico $57,150
        Indiana $63,070
        Virgin Islands $63,860
        Wyoming $70,320
        West Virginia $70,540
        Montana $70,590
        Maine $72,290

        Highest paying Investment fund managers in US Merchant banks are a long long way from $40 million.


      • I”m not sure what those numbers are but, for a start, Key was a funds manager; he was – by the end – a senior manager in a major global institutiion. But even top funds managers make many many multiples of those numbers – Adrian Orr, a public servant, gets paid over $1m a year, and he doesn’t have to attract/retain customers.

        As just one example of top tier financial sector remuneration look at a mere economist, former head of economics at Goldmans

        I’m not defending financial sector remuneration, and defending John Key is usually more your line than mine, but nothing about his reported wealth seems particularly surprising to me.


    • The National Party clearly backs the UN resolution which means that John Key could not have directed our UN Ambassador to have voted the way Israel would have favoured which would have left him in a position to abstain and declare a conflict of interest. The question then would then be where does his loyalties lie? With NZ or with Israel or with the Jewish community that may ban his various investments in his double blind trusts?


  3. I am astonished that Raymond Huo has made no public statement. I can understand a reluctance to battle the media – an aggressive interviewer or biased journalist can make Mother Theresa seem like a criminal.

    However a short public statement would put most of this issue to bed. Something along the lines of “”As an MP I represent all New Zealanders and nobody else. I will strive to help them all whether Maori, Pakeha, kiwi-born or immigrant. It is the task of an MP to represent the maginalised even more vigorously than those who have the strength of the majority supporting them so specifically I will help anyone in New Zealand who believes they have been rejected or persecuted in my country of birth; I will try to assist every refugee whether they are Falun Gong,Tibetan, Muslim Uyghur, etc that needs my help although that does not mean I will necessarily concur with all their beliefs. Like most immigrants I avoid criticising my country of origin but will do so whenever it is required to help a New Zealand citizen. There are many Kiwis of Chinese origin and any criticism of the Chinese government either positive or negative will put barriers between me and some of the electorate. In light of this I will only attend United Front activities when there is a clear advantage for New Zealand.””

    Thats my help for Mr Raymond Huo MP. Dr Jian Yang MP is beyond hope. I will not vote National until they dump him and I will recommend the same action to every voter.


  4. I share your pessimism. Our political and business leadership are very naive and easily suborned. We are low hanging fruit for Chinese influence.


  5. China extends its influence in the South Pacific
    This is not new. While the commonwealth was busy suspending Fiji and Australia and New Zealand were busy wagging their fingers at Bainimarama, China was busy back-dooring both AU and NZ, in a big way. Was this ever discussed openly here in NZ? From memory JK was too busy making nice to Commodore Frank


  6. Why go slow when you can go fast

    New Zealand could and should immediately implement Phase II of the AML/CFT Act anti-money-laundering Bill. Without further delay. Then set up a task force to back-track and audit every Auckland property transaction with a value in excess of $1 million. Back to 2010. It should verify the provenance of the funds used to settle every contract. This should be conducted in conjunction with the IRD.

    Not a huge deal. We are talking about probably 70,000 transactions. 50,000 would probably be eliminated almost straight away.

    Property prices would adjust down fairly quickly

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do have privacy laws here and for our democracy to work, the sort of Stalinist approach you are suggesting is rather counter our democratic principles. Surprising for someone who is against CCP principles to readily stoop to such draconian practices is rather surprising.


      • No .. I’m a sports enthusiast, I like playing sport … so long as everyone plays by the same rules … and if some don’t want to play by the rules … then tough … they get the red card


      • Your task force demands the full auditing of 70,000 transaction likely of a similar number of buyers and sellers to be subjected to an audit is just a 140,000 person fishing expedition of innocent people. Even IRD does not have that power of inquiry that you propose. Usually in Sports you sample check the winners. You do not check each and every team member of every participating team.


      • Not so. Out of 70,000 transactions there are only 70,000 buyers. Only interested in the buy-side. So that’s only 70,000 transactions. A significant number would be locals who have been in-country and are up-sizing. So long as they can produce evidence they are living in the new acquisition then it can be ignored. As for sampling they are self-selected out of 500,000 total sales in Auckland over 8 years how many of those would be over $1 million?. 70,000 is a generous figure and a lot of those would fall out at the first or second hurdle.

        Finally if it took a task force of 50 specialists 5 years, so what. Lets employ 100 specialists. No, make it 200


      • The term is called fishing which would not be acceptable under our current democratic enforcement rules. Therefore your proposal would not fly, more like a dead duck proposal. Or you are suggesting we join the CCP and adopt their enforcement rules?


      • I will pass your fishing comments on to the NZ Police operating Booze Buses who stop and random check vehicles and booze test drivers on a blanket basis – I’m sure they will agree


    • Not so. Out of 70,000 transactions there are only 70,000 buyers. Only interested in the buy-side. So that’s only 70,000 transactions. A significant number would be locals who have been in-country and are up-sizing. So long as they can produce evidence they are living in the new acquisition then it can be ignored. As for sampling they are self-selected out of 500,000 total sales in Auckland over 8 years how many of those would be over $1 million?. 70,000 is a generous figure and a lot of those would fall out at the first or second hurdle.

      Finally if it took a task force of 50 specialists 5 years, so what. Lets employ 100 specialists. No, make 200


  7. State funding of all New Zealand political parties is the way to go. Helen Clark advocated for it, so hard for the new government to argue against it. It is also very useful in that it stops all undue influence not just that of the Chinese Communist Party.

    It is a fast achievable change, if their was one thing to do to stop the rot it would be this.


    • State funding of New Zealand political parties is just small potatoes and really is just nonsense that it should play a role in corrupting our political parties. It is subject to public scrutiny and is rather transparent for any significant wrong doing.

      The largest area of possible influence is in the activities that is not directly associated with our politicians. Our checks and balances and transparency makes it very difficult for direct corruption but the real potential risk lies in the lack of scrutiny on our politicians partners and their families.


    • I’m uneasy about state funding. It might resolve some problems, but would open up others. Personally, I have no problem with Gareth Morgan spending millions of his own money to try to get his party into Parliament, and I’m not sure how countries with state funding cope with attempted insurgent new entrants. I’m also uneasy about attempts to restrict use of private money by people and bodies other than political parties to advance ideas/advocate causes etc.


      • Gareth Morgan if he actually believes at all in TOP tax policies, now owes Inland Revenue $15 million in taxes. His Capital Gains from the sale of Trademe netted him $47 million in capital gains. He should put up or he should just stop being involved with TOP.

        Also all TOP members should start to pay tax on their own homes. If they do not then they should also just resign from TOP.

        A CGT should also apply to Green Party members and to Labour party members with respect to their investment properties, share portfolio, inherited properties.

        Live by your principles or resign.


  8. Michael, you commented that “And the National Party Opposition won’t be pressing her to – not only do they have a Communist Party member in their caucus, but their party president was also offering warm fraternal greetings to the butchers of Beijing.”

    But Jian Yang has stated he is no longer a member of the CCP – as was pointed out in this earlier article;

    “Mr. Yang conceded that he had taught English to spies, but said he had never been a spy himself, was no longer a member of the Communist Party, and had been contracted and paid only as a so-called civilian officer.”


    • The established understanding among China experts (whom I’m simply channelling) is that that claim shouldn’t be taken very literally – that, in effect, the only way out of the Party is death or expulsion.SImply “not paying your dues” doesn’t count (apparently).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. How can Key make such obsequious comments about the CCP leadership when he must know that they are, among other things, complicit in the heinous killing and organ harvesting of dissidents and religious minorities in great number? The fawning over this regime is unbelievable.


  10. The Chinese dictatorship is the number one threat to No Zealand, with a bullet (or a tank, or a submarine, or a warship, or a whole lot of all these and more). The Chinese dictatorship is carrying out a full neo-colonial programme in No Zealand, which is clear even for a primary school child of moderate intelligence to see.

    The China apologists are busy lining their own pockets and/or being willfully ignorant of the true state of affairs; they remind me, at best, of those who argued against tackling the Nazi threat and appeasing the Nazis. As soon as the Chinese dictatorship invades its Poland equivalent the truth will be too obvious for even these apologists for an organ-harvesting, expansionist and monolithic dictatorship, the likes and size of which the world has never seen before, to deny.


  11. I found key’s speech on winning the last election troubling (including Campbells acquiescence)

    What do you want to be remembered for?”
    “Going back to that main point I think it was Muldoon who famously said “I want to leave the country in no worse condition than I found it”.
    “Isn’t that a low ambition?”
    “Yes I want to leave the country in better condition than I found it and if theres something (I genuinely beleive) It would be lifting our confidence to a certain degree about how we see our selves in the world and what we think we are capable of achieving. Now I think individually there is masses of ambition that sits out there there but can we actually take that and convert that to take the opportunity .
    And I always thought what was happening in the opposition of politics (of course they would oppose National, that’s their job actually apart from everything else) but it was a bit negative about our place in the world. So we played a bit about whether people coming here was a good or bad thing whether people should invest here was a good or bad thing, or whether we have a trade agreement with parts of Asia was a good or bad thing, but actually in my mind, the reason that I want to say yes to those things is because they are the opportunities that reflect our opportunities to both get wealthier (which is all about what you can do with that money) and then ultimately the opportunities for Kiwis. I’d like New Zealanders to feel (after my time as Prime Minister) they have become more confident outward looking nation more multicultural.


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