Shameless and shameful

On Monday, just across the road from Parliament, Victoria University’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies hosted a lunchtime lecture from Professor Anne-Marie Brady.  The lecture was built around her Magic Weapons paper on the extent of Chinese government/Party influence activities in New Zealand (and elsewhere), and her shorter policy brief with some specific proposals for the new government on how to deal with the issue (I wrote about that latter piece recently here).     (Radio New Zealand also had a good interview with Brady this morning, prompted by the new legislation announced yesterday by the Australian government, as part of its efforts to deal with this official Chinese interference.)

New Zealanders owe Professor Brady a considerable debt of gratitude for, first, writing her detailed paper, and secondly for deciding to put it in the public domain (it was done as part of an international project on Chinese influence-seeking activities globally, and the papers by other scholars have not yet been made public).    Her paper has found a receptive audience internationally (and she mentioned that Francis Fukayama has underway work for a similar paper on Chinese influence-seeking in the US).

Listening to her, one gets the sense that she isn’t that comfortable in the public spotlight.  Many academics aren’t.   In her lecture the other day she felt the need to include a photo of her Chinese husband and her three half-Chinese children –  no doubt a push back against the sort of despicable pre-election attempt to discredit her and her research tried by the then Attorney-General.  It can be a lonely position for an academic when her expert and well-documented research runs head-on into a wall of political indifference (or worse), vested interests, and a media which seems not quite sure whether or not this is a “proper” issue even to be talking about.    It is not as if (I’m aware that ) anyone has seriously sought to question the factual basis of her paper, or has demonstrated major flaws in her analysis and reasoning.   It seems as if there is just a desperate desire that she, and the issue, would go away.    Absent that, the political and business elites simply want to pretend it doesn’t exist.   I hope she doesn’t just retreat to her study.

Her Victoria lecture the other day covered pretty familiar ground (although many of the attendees indicated that they hadn’t read either of her papers so much will have been new for them).     There was:

  • the active efforts (largely successful) of the Communist Party to get effective control of almost all Chinese language media in New Zealand (similar story in Australia) –  and thus the story of the issues she is raising goes unreported in that media,
  • the efforts of suborn former senior politicians, with roles that align their personal economic interests with those of the Chinese authorites,
  • concerns about political donations, especially from individuals/entities with close ties to the CCP, and the associated close ties between political party leaders and China,
  • Chinese government interests in influencing New Zealand, both to stay quiet on issues of concern to China, and to detach New Zealand from its historical defence and intelligence relationships,
  • China’s interests in Antartica,
  • Confucius Institutes, funded and controlled by China, as part of New Zealand universities, complete with restrictions on what can be talked about,
  • efforts to promote ethnic Chinese New Zealand citizens, with those ties to the Embassy/CCP, into electoral politics –  in New Zealand’s case, both Jian Yang and Raymond Huo.

Huo is now chair of Parliament’s Justice Committee – the same Huo who, as she pointed out, is responsible for Labour campaigning for the Chinese vote under a Xi Jinping slogan, and who – Professor Brady reports –  was present at a meeting in Auckland earlier this year in which Communist Party propaganda chiefs (“propaganda” is apparently a literal translation of the role/office) met with local Chinese language media to offer “guidance” on how issues of interest to China should be reported.   A serving member of New Zealand’s Parliament…….

Brady noted that the Communist Party’s United Front work has always been an integral element in how the Party works, but that the efforts are now being undertaken with an intensity and importance that is greater than at any time since 1949, when the CCP took power.  It is a China that has thrown off Deng Xiaoping’s injunction (post Tiananmen) that China should mask its growing power and bide its time.

When it came to the New Zealand government, in some respects I thought Professor Brady pulled her punches (although she was happy to note that she couldn’t understand how it was that National Party MP Jian Yang – self-confessed Communist Party member, former member of the Chinese intelligence services, and someone who has acknowledged misrepresenting his past on residency/citizenship application papers –  is still in Parliament).   I’m not sure how much of that is tactical –  giving the new government a chance, hoping to be heard by talking constructively.   I fear that any such hope is misplaced.

In just the last week we’ve had a couple of episodes that confirm that the new government is quite as craven –  indifferent, obsequious –  as its predecessor.

A month or two ago, at the time of the 19th Communist Party Congress, it came to light through the Chinese media that the presidents of both the National and Labour parties had been sending warm greetings and congratulations.   This last weekend, the Labour Party went one step worse.

The Chinese Communist Party held a congress in Beijing for representatives of such political parties from around the world (300 from 120 countries) as it could gather to its embrace.    Most of them were from developing countries.  Nigel Haworth, the President of the New Zealand Labour Party, attended.   Here is how one Chinese media outlet reported the event.

The CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High Level Meeting was the first major multilateral diplomacy event hosted by China after the recently concluded 19th CPC National Congress.

It was also the first time the CPC held a high-level meeting with such a wide range of political parties from around the world…..

During the closing ceremony, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi stressed that the meeting was a complete success with a broad consensus reached. He also said CPC leaders elaborated on the new guiding theory introduced by the 19th CPC National Congress.

“The innovative theoretical and practical outcomes of the 19th CPC National Congress not only have milestone significance for the development of China, but also provide good examples for the development of other countries, especially developing countries,” Yang said.

The Beijing Initiative issued after the meeting states that over the past five years, China has achieved historic transformations and the country is making new and greater contributions to the world.

It also highlighted that lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity have increasingly become the aspiration of people worldwide, and it’s the unshakable responsibility and mission of political parties to steer the world in this direction.

“The most important thing between the 18th and 19th CPC party congress was the belt and road initiative,” according to the Russian Communist Party’s Dmitry Novikov. “And the most important thing about the initiative is the economic cooperation among various countries. Such cooperation leads to the promotion of relations in culture and politics.”

And the President of the New Zealand Labour Party was party to all of this.    In fact, not just a party to it, but someone who was willing to come out openly in praise of Xi Jinping.

Here he is, talking of Xi Jinping’s opening speech  (here and here)

“I think it is a very good speech. I think it is a very challenging speech. I think he is taking a very brave step, trying to lead the world and to think about the global challenges in a cooperative manner.  Historically we have wars and we have crisis, but he is posing a possibility of a different way of moving forward, a way based on collaboration and cooperation.  Making cooperation work is difficult, but he think that’s a better way for mankind. I think we all share that view.”

It is shameful.     Probably not even Peter Goodfellow would have gone quite that far –  if only because there might have been some (understandable) rebellion in the ranks if he had gone that public.

This is the same Chinese Communist Party (and associated state) that

  • flouts international law, including with its aggressive expansionism in the South China Sea,
  • denies any political rights to its own people,
  • that is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people (and which only just pulled back from its forced abortions practices),
  • lets dissidents die in prison,
  • has no concept of the rule of law,
  • persecutes religious believers (Christian, Muslim, Falun Gong or whatever),
  • actively interferes in the domestic politics of other countries in all manner of different ways,
  • and so on.

In her lecture the other day, Professor Brady mentioned Haworth’s comments, but this was one of the places she pulled her punches.  She asked, rhetorically, if we could imagine a New Zealand political party president attending a Republican Party convention and making such public remarks.   Or even a Russian political event.    At one level it is a fair point –  Haworth’s participation in this CCP event, and his positive comments, have gone totally unremarked in the New Zealand media (or from Opposition parties), in a way that would be simply inconceivable in those other cases.    But at another, it falls into the trap beloved of China-sympathisers and people on the left (one such academic at her lecture attempted this), of drawing a moral equivalence between, say, the United States and the UK on the one hand, and Communist China on the other.    A much better comparison would be to ask if we could imagine a major New Zealand political party President attending Nazi Party congresses pre-war or Soviet Communist party congresses?  And whether, even if it had happened, we would look back now with equanimity at associating so strongly with such an evil.  Such is the CCP.   The fact that certain New Zealand firms make a lot of money trading with them –  or that our political parties appear to raise large donations –  doesn’t change that character.

Former National Party Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, was apparently also at the meeting, speaking warmly of China’s One Belt One Road initiative (all about geopolitical influence).

Yesterday, we had yet more proof of how far gone the New Zealand authorities (and the new New Zealand government are).     As I’d noted a couple of weeks ago, Victoria University (specifically its China-funded and controlled Confucius Institute) and the New Zealand Institute for International Affairs put on a half day symposium (celebration?) of 45 years of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China PRC).   Not a word of scepticism or criticism was to be expected from the programme –  there wasn’t for example an opportunity for Professor Brady to present her work, and alternative perspectives on it to be heard.

Quite late in the piece, reportedly, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs agreed to be a keynote speaker at this forum, his first major speech as Minister.  Winston Peters had, in Opposition, occasionally been heard to express some unease about the activities of the PRC in New Zealand, including the questions around National Party MP Jian Yang (recall that even Charles Finny, former senior diplomat, noted that he is always very careful about what he says in front on Yang and Raymond Huo, given their closeness to the PRC Embassy).   In office, the Rt Hon Winston Peters not just tows the MFAT line, repeating the same obsequious words as former National Party ministers, he takes it up another step.

There was the published text, which was bad enough.   In entire speech he could only manage this, that might be pointed to for a modicum of self-respect.

New Zealand supports a stable, rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region in which free trade and connectivity can thrive.  We urge parties to resolve disputes in accordance with international law, on the basis of diplomacy and dialogue.

New Zealand and China do not always see eye to eye on every issue; we are different countries and New Zealanders are proudly independent.  However,  China and New Zealand have a close, constructive and increasingly mature relationship.  Where we do have different perspectives, we raise these with each other in ways that are cordial, constructive and clear.

“New Zealanders” might be proudly independent, but it isn’t clear that our governments are.  At a New Zealand event –  so it wasn’t even a matter of talking politely in China itself –  our Foreign Minister can’t bring himself to name any specific concerns or risks (despite rising international unease, and the material documented by Professor Brady).   And if he ever has concerns he’ll raise them in “cordial” way………”cordial” and direct interference by a foreign power in New Zealand, undermining the freedoms of hundreds of thousands of our own people (ethnic Chinese) doesn’t strike me as the sort of words that naturally belong together.  At least in a country whose government retains any self-respect.

But then it got worse, at least according to the Stuff report of how Peters departed from his written text.

“We should also remember this when we are making judgements about China – about freedom and their laws: that when you have hundreds of millions of people to be re-employed and relocated with the change of your economic structure, you have some massive, huge problems.

“Sometimes the West and commentators in the West should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcome for those people, rather than constantly harping on about the romance of ‘freedom’, or as famous singer Janis Joplin once sang in her song: ‘freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose’.

“In some ways the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everyone’s economic futures in their plans.”

It is so remarkably reminiscent of the Western fellow travellers of the Soviet Union in decades past –  tens of millions might die, but not to worry, a new Jerusalem is on the way to being built.   Basic rights and freedoms might be trampled on, or simply not exist at all, but not to worry….what is freedom after all?

Personally, I don’t think the biggest issue in the China/New Zealand official relationship should be how the Chinese party/state treats its own people –  abominable as that is.  The issues people like Professor Brady are raising are about the direct, systematic, in-depth, interference by another country  –  a hostile power, run by a regime with mostly alien values –  in the domestic affairs of other countries.  Our own most of all.  International expansionism and defiance of the rule of international law might matter too.  And none of that has any connection whatever to improvements in material living standards in China.

And what to make of the nonsense claim that “the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everyone’s economic future in their plans”.  That is about as ignorant as it is offensive.

I’ve shown this chart before

Here is a chart showing GDP per capita for China, and a range of now-advanced Asian countries/economies.  I’ve shown each country’s GDP per capita as a percentage of that for the United States for each of 1913, 1950, and 2014, using the Maddison database for the 1913 observation and the Conference Board (which built on Maddison’s work) for the more recent observations.  Data are a bit patchy in those earlier decades, but 1913 was before China descended into civil  and external wars (from the late 1920s), and 1950 was the year after the Communist Party took control of the mainland.

asia gdp pc cf US

What stands out is just how badly communist-ruled China has done economically, and especially relative to the three other ethnic-Chinese countries/territories.  Substantial re-convergence has happened in all the other countries on the chart, but that in China has been excruciatingly slow.  A few buoyant decades (the aftermath of which we have still to see) struggle to make up for the earlier decades of even worse Communist mis-rule.

Or how about this one, using Conference Board data for real GDP per person employed (they don’t have real GDP per hour worked for China, but estimates are very low)?

china GDP ppe

Even on official Chinese data, the record is pretty poor: China barely matches Sri Lanka which was torn apart by decades of civil war, and doesn’t even begin to match the performance of the better east Asian economies (none of which has anything like the waste, the massive distortions, of China).   Surely China is best seen as a (potential) wealth-destruction story?  Taiwan’s numbers might be a reasonable benchmark for what could have been.  Taiwan threatens no one.

Just to cap an egregious speech, the Opposition foreign affairs spokesman indicated that he didn’t disagree with what Winston Peters had had to say  (well, after his government’s track record of cravenness, he would, wouldn’t he).

I came home from Anne-Marie Brady’s lecture the other day and pulled off the bookshelf my copy of The Appeasers, written in the 1960s by Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott, a heavily-documented account of British appeasement of Germany from 1933 onwards.    As I started reading, lots seemed to ring true to today.

Two situations are never fully alike.  For a start, New Zealand isn’t a “great power” and China is (as Germany was becoming again).    And Germany had little real interest in interfering in domestic British politics –  and there was no large German diaspora in the UK to attempt to corral and control.    But there is a lot of the same willed blindness to the evil that the regime represented.    In the 1930s, it wasn’t the bureaucrats who were the problem –  from the very first, British Ambassadors in Berlin recognised and reported on the nature of the regime, its domestic abuses and its external threats.     There were various forces at work it seemed –  a fear of Communism (and thus Nazism as perhaps some sort of bulwark against something even worse), unease and even guilt over some of the Treaty of Versailles provisions, the fear of new conflict (only 15 years after the last war), and often some sort of admiration for the order the new German government was bringing to things (and some philo-Germanism among many of the British upper classes).  As Gilbert and Gott summarise it

“Like alcohol, pro-Germanism dulled the senses of those who over-indulged, and many English diplomats, politicians and men of influence insisted upon interpreting German developments in such a way as to suggest patterns of cooperation that did not exist.”

Britain and France could (and should) have stopped Germany earlier.  New Zealand can’t stop China, of course, but we can assert ourselves, and reassert some self-respect, for our system, our freedoms, and for the interests of like-minded countries.    We can call out, firmly (not cordially) Chinese influence-seeking etc where we see it –  as the Australian government has been much more willing to do.  We can cease to pander to such an obnoxious regime that not only abuses its own people (including failing to deliver economically) but represents a threat to its neighbours, and which persists in seeking to interfere directly in other countries, whether in its neighbourhood or not, whether with large ethnic Chinese minorities (as NZ, Australia, and Canada) or not.  Our politicians shame us by their deference to such an evil power –  and frankly, one that has little real ability to harm us (as distinct from harming a few vested interests).

In her lecture the other day, and in her policy brief, Anne-Marie Brady called for our political leaders to insist that none of their MPs will have anything further to do with entities involved in the PRC United Front efforts.   That would certainly be a start –  though the Jian Yang stain on our democracy really needs to be removed altogether –  but it is probably a rather small part of the issue: we need political leaders who will recognise  –  and openly acknowledge –  the nature of the regime, and stop fooling themselves (and attempting to fool us) about the nature of the regime they defend, and consort with.   Perhaps our leaders are no worse than, say, British Cabinet ministers in the 1930s who enjoyed hunting with Hermann Goering, but if that is the standard they are comfortable with, New Zealand is in an even worse place than I’d supposed.   In their book, Gilbert and Gott quote from the former head of the British foreign service:

“Looking back to the pre-1939 era Vansittart wrote: “I frequently said that those who ask to be deceived must not grumble if they are gratified”


I said that I thought Professor Brady was inclined to pull her punches a bit.  Asked what New Zealand can do,  she began her response claiming that “Australia can be more forceful”.   No doubt Australia is, and will remain, more forceful –  we’ve seen in the DFAT Secretary’s speech, in the ASIO report, in the foreign affairs White Paper, and in the new legislation details of which were announced yesterday.  But “can” isn’t the operative word.   If trade is your concern, Australia trades more heavily with China than New Zealand firms do.  If distance is your concern, Australia is physically closer to Asia –  and the waterways of the South China Sea.  Our political leaders – National, Labour, New Zealand First, Green –  could speak out, could act forcefully.  But they won’t.

Shameless and shameful.


UPDATE: As I pressed publish, I discovered that I’d been sent a link to some other reflections on Peters and Haworth by China expert Geremie Barme.





41 thoughts on “Shameless and shameful

  1. Agreed. However, have the politicians shamed ‘us’ because ‘we’ have also been deceived? Taking a view on China and her values leads my mind to the wider question of whether NZ values have changed if it’s roughly right the volume of consumption has become the main criteria by which NZ governments are judged. If new laws were proposed to enhance the protection of the political process from foreign influence, would ‘our’ values rise above the likely threat of a reduction in the consumption basket?

    Liked by 1 person

    • My concerns are more with the food I consume increasingly having to be Halal in accordance with Muslim law. Not too sure why some of you are so concerned about China and communists? They look increasingly more like Capitalists in a guided democracy these days. My consumption of KFC is coming under attack by muslims who should just accept that NZ is a Christian country and should just go home if they have a problem eating NZ food as is.

      “We fit in with your rules in your countries, you fit in with the rules and ways of New Zealand. Your choice, go home or adjust,” one person wrote on social media.

      “Don’t like how things are done in NZ and our culture then don’t come here,” a woman commented.

      “‘I think it is so rude to go to another country and expect them to change their way of doing things to fit your beliefs and what you have in your country.”


      • There are plenty of local Halal shops that sell fried chicken. There is no reason to force everyone else to eat Halal food other than a clear intent to force a Muslim ideology onto a Christian society.


  2. Thank you for repeatedly publishing those comparisons of GDP for China and other SE Asian countries. They were a surprise to me and I guess 90% of Kiwis.

    China is acting intelligently in its own interests (that is the interests of the government of China which is not entirely aligned to the interests of the Chinese people). They prefer to have trade than military conquest which is roughly how I see the old British Empire. But the British decided it worthwhile to have a minor war to enforce opium consumption in China. So we cannot rely on future Chinese governments acting in New Zealand’s best interests for the sake of trade.

    This issue was of little concern to me until you started writing about it. What persuades me that you are right is the fact that you are quoting informed academics and bureaucrats who have extensive experience living in China. If they have any bias it would be to be pro-China. In fact they are pro-China just skeptical of the current and future good intentions of the communist party of China.


    • You would not be pro China if you are from Taiwan or Hong Kong in the dissident camp. Therefore Prof Brady with pics of her chinese family could well be dissidents in Taiwan or Hong Kong and her study could be extremely biased. Its like the tobacco companies paying for scientific research on smoking.


      • And her study is out there for anyone to scrutinise, challenge, disagree with etc.

        The allegation Chris Finlayson made was that she wrote this stuff because she was just anti-foreign. Which was both shameful and wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Given the PRC spends at least twice the amount of its defense budget on internal security, it is simply cheaper for them to start a war to distract from internal issues than to deal with them.

      It should also be noted that their historical military doctrines consider war as first best contacted economically & politically, then only in the final stages do they switch to open conflict.


      • Warlords in China control tens of thousands of trained and armed militia groups. If you think Somalia is bad with its Warlords having hundreds of rebel militia, China’s problem is in multiples of hundreds ie tens of thousands of armed militia with their own fiefdoms. Difficult to control. China’s military is mainly domestic focus and to keep China from breaking apart. They do not have the resources to start an external war otherwise they will be fighting on 2 fronts. No military general would advise opening up a new front when you are still busy fighting the first front for 5,000 years now since the Chin dynasty.


  3. The difference between China today and China yesterday is a lot of freedom to move around freely today in and out of China. That brings about a sense that China is receptive to change. Money politics is certainly being played but China as a military threat is a minnow compared to the USA. In any fight they would rely mostly on Russia for any military confrontation. The young guns have never been in war and used to the rich life and video games. To compare with Germany is just scare mongering.


  4. It is certainly an arguable point, and I’m happy to debate it, but i intend it as a realistic comparison (or with the Soviet Union) not as scaremongering. If you want military issues, look at the SCS or the recent confrontation with India, or the repeated threats to Taiwan or to intimidate Japan around the Senkakus. If you want to focus on direct interventions in foreign politics, today’s CHina is far worse than Germany (at least to the Western countries – their interference was with ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia and Austria). If you want restrictions of freedoms of their own people, today’s china looks at least as bad – arguably worse – than Germany or the Soviet Union (partly because of the power of technology).

    I’m not saying China will actively invade many other countries – taiwan may be the exception – but if the West pulls back (as the US probably will – there is no will far conflict in the W Pacific these days) – China won’t have to; they can intimidate and buy off their neighbours and cow them into submission.

    I”d say your receptiveness to change story would have been fairly persuasive 15 years ago, but less so now that the Party is reasserting absolute control. Perhaps it won’t last long – i hope not – but while it lasts it is a reall threat. And in our small area of the world, we can say “do as you will in your country, but we won’t kowtow and we won’t accept that sort of interference in our country.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • China’s latest aircraft carrier is a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier from WWII previously a rusting floating bucket. It has all the looks of intimidation but I suspect where armour plating should be, they probably put in a lot of plastic. A lot of China is money politics. Its military is more to scare than real. Its bark is worse than its bite and more to give its own population a sense of pride, stability and strength. More a show pony than an actual race horse.

      That show of strength is more to placate its own people. What you need to understand is China is made up a huge number of powerful warlord factions. Each faction is more than able to control its own military and is more than able to decide to be independent. To keep China as one country has been the preoccupation of China’s military since China became a united China under the Chin dynasty.


      • The type 001 carrier had its keel laid in 1983. 001a keel was laid 2013 & was launched this year!

        Which is not remotely from WWII


      • Apologies I was thinking the Communist Cold war when I wrote WWII but really the Communist Cold war did arise out of WWII. Still a rusting basket though.


      • The newer 001a keel will have even more plastic. Chinese steel have a propensity towards rusting and dubious certification standards. An even nicer show pony but unproven in war and unlikely to perform to the required war standards in terms of armour plating. Perhaps more a commercial vessel quality with the usual 3 year lifespan.


  5. FIVE men who ran a bookshop in Hong Kong disappeared in mysterious circumstances in late 2015. One was apparently spirited away from the territory by agents from the mainland; another was abducted from Thailand. All later turned up in Chinese jails, accused of selling salacious works about the country’s leaders. One bookseller had a British passport and another a Swedish one but the two suffered the same disregard for legal process as Chinese citizens who anger the regime. Their embassies were denied access for weeks. The government considered both these men as intrinsically “Chinese”. This is indicative of a far broader attitude. China lays claim not just to booksellers in Hong Kong but, to a degree, an entire diaspora.
    China’s foreign minister declared that Lee Bo, the British passport-holder, was “first and foremost a Chinese citizen”. The government may have reckoned that his “home-return permit”, issued to permanent residents of Hong Kong, trumped his foreign papers. Since the territory returned to mainland rule in 1997, China considers that Hong Kongers of Chinese descent are its nationals. Gui Minhai, the Swede taken from Thailand, said on Chinese television, in what was probably a forced confession: “I truly feel that I am Chinese.” 

    China felt it could act this way because it does not accept dual nationality. The law is ambiguous, however. It stipulates first that a person taking a foreign passport “automatically” loses their Chinese nationality and then, contradictorily, that an individual has to “renounce” their nationality (hand in their household-registration documents and passport) and that the renunciation must be approved. According to Mr Gui’s daughter, he went through the process of relinquishing his citizenship. Yet the Chinese authorities considered that his foreign passport was superseded by birth and ethnicity: both Mr Gui and Mr Lee are Han, the ethnic group that makes up 92% of mainland China’s population.
    Ethnicity is central to China’s national identity. It is the Han, 1.2bn of them in mainland China alone, that most people refer to as “Chinese”, rather than the country’s minorities,

    This is the exact opposite policy of our own and they call the white left 白左.
    On the tour bus circuit it has always been romoured that John key told the police to “lay off the Chinese bus drivers”


    • China’s law works on the principle that you are guilty once charges are laid by the state. The legal opinions in court are to the degree of guilt and the harshness of the sentencing not whether you are innocent or guilty.


    • I know a chap, a Chinese National who became a NZ citizen who traded and spent a lot of time in China helping other Chinese nationals move their funds out of China but eventually the Chinese authorities got wind of his indiscretions ie money laundering Chinese Yuan. He was caught by the Chinese secret police in Vietnam as he managed to escape China and into Vietnam and was just boarding a fishing vessel to return to NZ.

      He was jailed but the jail was more a re-education centre. They had well stocked libraries, they had music orchestrar performances by the inmates. If you had money, you could pay for hotwater otherwise you get cold showers. But they were very serious about your re-education and you had to demonstrate that you are a changed person and would contribute to society as a good and helpful person before they would allow you to leave. They do treat you very well in jail if you follow the -re-education programming. If not then I guess you suffer.


  6. Thanks Michael. As a former New Zealand diplomat, now retired some seven years, I was shocked that a New Zealand Foreign Minister would effectively give his blessing to China’s institutionalized abuse of human rights . We are reaching new lows. Utterly craven. Thank goodness for people like Professor Brady and your own efforts, otherwise it’s a rather bleak outlook.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Our politicians remind me of the so called ‘useful idiots’ that were manipulated by the soviets. Also I was struck by this quote apparently from Lenin’s papers, “To speak the truth is a petit-bourgeois habit. To lie, on the contrary, is often justified by the lie’s aim. The whole world’s capitalists and their governments, as they pant to win the Soviet market, will close their eyes to the above-mentioned reality and will thus transform themselves into men who are deaf, dumb and blind. They will give us credits . . . they will toil to prepare their own suicide.’

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ms Ardern said she had not seen any advice that foreign nations had any undue influence in New Zealand.

    National’s leader Bill English said New Zealand’s political donation regime was very transparent, and he was comfortable with the status quo.

    Same old Same old. Vested interests and “xenophobia is so last century” – TVNZ journalistic wisdom.


    • Re the PM, if you refuse to look, of course you won’t see.

      Her “I’ve not seen any advice” reminds me of our experience with a Cabinet minister early in my working life: we sent him a set of papers which he sent up with a comment along the lines of “I have not opened these, did not read them, and do not wish to see them”.

      Perhaps the PM should consider requesting a meeting with Professor Brady or….since that won’t happen…..vice versa.


  9. I think Winston Peters is exactly right on this. Post-1978, in the “Reform and Opening Up” phase of the CCP’s leadership, China has in fact done extremely well, and it is no exaggeration to say that over this period, the CCP has overseen the greatest poverty-reduction program the world has ever seen. This is bigger than the Marshall Plan in terms of the number of people brought out of poverty! It is true that this development phase has not yet made up for the lost ground under Chairman Mao, but it is still going strong and I would say–give it time and it is likely to be extremely good for China.

    BUT BUT BUT…I’m also with Winston Peters on highlighting the influence of the CCP–and any foreign influence–in our democracy. As the US grapples with the extent and means of Russian influence in their own system, New Zealand must follow Australia’s lead. If the pro-China crowd are correct, and there is no real influence being peddled; the alignment of NZ Chinese newspapers with the CCP just an innocent consequence of the NZ Chinese population now being made up primarily of mainland Chinese migrants…then there should be nothing to fear by introducing more robust protections for our democracy against foreign interests. I’m entirely with you–the current era demands those protections.

    With all that in mind, I’m not going to say you shouldn’t run your more general criticism of the CCP’s governance in China, but in my opinion many people – from many New Zealand Chinese to even Winston Peters, apparently! – may feel this is a bit out of touch. I think you’re on much stronger ground when you–with Ann Marie Brady–raise alarm about CCP influence in New Zealand’s democracy, where the influence properly belongs to the people New Zealand themselves.


    • I disagree about the development story, but I accept that to some extent it is a framing story.

      But i totally agree with your final paragraph: it is the external activities of the CCP/state (including interference in domestic affairs) that should primarily concern govts of other countries. The outraged reaction of the PRC embassy in Canberra to the proposed new laws (which may not really make that much difference – eg to control of the Chinese language media, the role of Confucius Institute, and even the US og Beijing-sympathetic Aus citizens) in some ways tells one all one needs to know.


      • I want to share the impression I get from mainland Chinese friends in China and outside it about why the public’s opinion of the CCP seems to be genuinely and broadly positive.

        It is very typical for people to look from outside and ask how Chinese people can live with the rule of a party that wrought all the horrors of the cultural revolution. It’s not that the country has some kind of collective amnesia – there’s a whole genre of ‘scar literature’ that remembers it all. People support the current government precisely *because* they remember the starvation and cruelty of the cultural revolution, the anarchy and chaos of the preceding Republican period, and the national humiliation of the 19th century. They know that economic prosperity is not inevitable, and while the current government doesn’t provide democratic freedom, it provides the stability necessary for a growing economy and _rapidly_ developing prosperity. One only needs a visit to China, or to meet a few members of its optimistic, ambitious, hardworking young generation, to see that development in a very tangible way. To threaten the current government is to risk regressing to the chaos and poverty and violence of former eras. While it’s unlikely China will see another full-blown civil war, but there’s no guarantee a democratic government in China wouldn’t slide into the kind of middle-income trap other developing-world democracies like India and Brazil find themselves in. Definitely better the devil you know.

        So yeah, let the embassy in Canberra raise a fuss–of course they are–it would be irrational for them to stay silent while their means of foreign influence is being taken away! If New Zealand can demonstrate we won’t be bought, they’ll continue to act in a rational manner and continue to trade with us, unless they want to make an example, which is a risk we’ll have to take. I really hope to see New Zealand act soon, in concert with Australia. I think acting simultaneously with Australia would provide us the best shelter from possible economic retaliation.

        But if we do want to continue an economic and cultural relationship with them, on a respectful and equal basis, and I think we do–we really need to demonstrate good will, that our actions are to protect our own independence, not to threaten them, and so on. I think this is important to underscore which is why I’m pushing back a bit on the China domestic front; why I absolutely think it is great to celebrate their progress by joining in to commemorate their National Day, and so on.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. The well informed debate on this website is unusual. The NZ public see well made manufactured goods from China and the presence of wealthy Chinese and will assume the government of China is benign and astonishingly successful. And the well informed China watchers are out-numbered by the neanderthal anti-Asian racists.

    Today’s Herald report on NZ responses to the Australian crack down on ‘espionage and improper foreign influence’ (tucked away on page A13). It is headlined “PM discounts Chinese influence” and quotes Jian Yang as “No Comment” and Raymond Huo as “Prof Brady’s sweeping generalisation is unfortunate. There is a fine line between what she has alleged and the genuine promotion of the NZ-China relationship”.

    From a very limited anecdotal number of Chinese I believe many NZ citizens of Chinese origin are not fans of the Communist Party of China. It should be possible for the media to report the stories about the fate of Falun Gong followers and non-Han ethnic minorities in China and get our two ‘united front’ supporting MPs to contribute their opinions. What NZ needs is a Chinese language media source that is not overly influenced by the Communist Party of China.


    • Not too sure what the issue is with the Falun Gong religion because every other religion can be practiced freely without fear. I am tempted to think that Falun Gong may be a propaganda machine for some dissident group and the reports and pictures of torture may be grossly exaggerated. I think your limited anecdotal would be strictly limited to the Falun Gong or Taiwan or Hong Kong dissidents. Most normal Chinese I meet are certainly fans of the Communist Party of China.


      • If you are referring to Tibet, they still practice their religion freely except with a Beijing appointed Dalai Lama who ensures workers rights rather than the one ousted that supports an entire population of slaves working for the luxury lives led by the elite monks of the Dalai Lama.


      • I wasn’t. I had in mind Christians – Protestant and Catholics – who don’t fall into line with govt attempts to control religion, appointment of bishops etc – but also Muslims in Xinjiang.


      • It is the same control that we would exercise over Imams who try and radicalize devotees into violent and rebellious behaviour. As long as religious leaders preach peace and goodwill amongst people, Beijing has been rather happy with allowing them to practice their religious faith freely. But if they are really dissident groups that have infiltrated as religious leaders then Beijing replaces them.

        In our democracy we would arrest the religious leader as well and hope that they find a more peaceful leader as a replacement. Beijing would do the same. Arrest them and then take positive action and replace them. The worst thing is to leave a vacuum which just leads to a violent replacement as the USA has found when they replace dictators with no replacement plan. The Chinese way is better.


      • “the Chinese way is better”. Each to their own, but I’ll stick to defending sucgh modest freedoms as the right of the Vatican to appoint bishops, regardless of whether they are people the regime approves of.


      • “Most normal [sic] Chinese I meet are certainly fans of the Communist Party of China”. I’m sure these people are representative of the domestic population, so yeah it must be true. Handy that the reach of the CCP is now so pervasive it can keep a closer eye over local Chinese immigrants should any of them feel the need to express a view contrary to that of the CCP. And of course they can be sure no NZ politician will be interested to defend their views should they wish to express them.
        I have to respond to your comment “every other religion can be practiced freely without fear” because it is so spectacularly ignorant I almost couldn’t believe someone who is not allied to the CCP would seriously come out with such rubbish. i’m sure the multitude of Christians who are in prison for no other reason than they are Christians will pleased to learn they can practice their faith without fear. Also, the many thousands of people in the underground church who refuse to politicise their faith by bowing to the CCP as head of their church, who might at any moment be detained, tortured and killed for their organs, will likewise also be relieved. And this doesn’t even touch on the harassment, intimidation faced by many in the “official” church (e.g. church demolished or their crosses torn down.


      • I don’t know how “surprising” it really is to see a communist party with a belief in Maoism aspires to the elimination of religion.

        They are very clear about adherence to Marxism and Marx was pretty clear about what he thought of as religion. It’s certainly no secret that only atheists can be party members.

        As for “the eradication of Falun Gong was what the Party needed to do in order to achieve its ultimate goal: the obliteration of religion, not only in China but worldwide, and the elimination of the concept of God from people’s minds” – I cannot believe the party thinks “obliteration of religion” is its “ultimate goal”. As its source, the report has one guy who watched a video 17 years ago. Reading between the lines, perhaps the official was trying to justify the terrible campaign against Falun Gong saying that the campaign was one part of a larger aspiration whose “ultimate goal” is eliminating religion.

        As for the program taking organs from prisoners executed by the state, including prisoners of conscience according to the Falun Gong, that is a shameful and shocking blemish on the CCP that I won’t try to minimize or deny. At the same time, this was supposed to have been phased out 2 or 3 years ago; undoubtedly there are still rogue hospitals using the practice but it is difficult to know how widespread it is. It would have been nice if the article had cited that report by the apparently anonymous Canadian and American researchers so we could verify the claim.


  11. If it is only 2 degree increase in temperature is great but the problem is that our oceans around NZ has risen by 6 degrees to give you that 2 degrees increase in Wellington.

    The tourism sector is just going to get a boomer of a summer as a island paradise and with warm waters pure icing on top. But we may be selling beef jerky as our top export earner in place of Dairy.


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