The PRC and New Zealand: an Australian perspective

In response to my post yesterday about the Asia NZ Foundation roundtable on foreign interference/influence in New Zealand, I received this comment, which I’m elevating into a post of its own because of its source, and because otherwise only a small number of readers would now see it.

When officials are assuring you everything is under control, that’s the moment you know that everything is not under control. As a long-term New Zealand watcher I am deeply disturbed to see how the political and bureaucratic establishment in Wellington wants the problem of Chinese interference in domestic politics to be swept under the carpet.

The idea that the Australian debate on this topic is ‘unhelpful’ is simply ridiculous. Successive Australian governments have ignored the problem but now it has become so painfully obvious that Canberra has had no choice other than to take a stand and set some limits on Chinese Communist Party interference. I believe that a substantial reason why Canberra acted was because of the public focus on the problem.

China will continue to suborn the NZ political system unless your Government is prepared to push back. If the problem is not addressed in time this will become a serious problem for the NZ-Australia bilateral relationship.

My suggestion is that the Australian and NZ Prime Ministers should meet with their intelligence agency heads and have a frank, closed-door discussion about the extent of the problem of Chinese interference in both our countries. We can actually help each other here.

Pretending there is no problem, or failing even to utter Beijing’s name isn’t sophisticated statecraft, its just a failure to come to grips with a major problem for both our countries.

The comment is from Peter Jennings, who has been Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute since 2012.

Peter has worked at senior levels in the Australian Public Service on defence and national security. Career highlights include being Deputy Secretary for Strategy in the Defence Department (2009-12); Chief of Staff to the Minister for Defence (1996-98) and Senior Adviser for Strategic Policy to the Prime Minister (2002-03).

I’ll leave his much-more-informed comment as it stands, just observing of his suggestion of a meeting of our two Prime Ministers etc, that for such an event to occur there would have to be a willingness and desire among political leaders on this side of the Tasman to acknowledge and confront the issue.  In fact, what we see in public is a desire to minimise, or to deny that there are, any serious issues, and to refuse to deal even with issues in plain sight.

8 thoughts on “The PRC and New Zealand: an Australian perspective

  1. Peter Jennings is entirely correct and he offers sound advice. It would be a good for our Prime Minister to meet directly with her Australian counterpart to listen to what Australia has to say on this issue that is so important to New Zealand’s future. I would leave most officials outside the room for a good part of the “conversation”. Their track record on these matters is not impressive. The Wellington establishment needs a major shake-up and new direction.


  2. You have to wonder what John Key was thinking here?

    John Campbell
    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 there’s something (I genuinely believe) It would be lifting our confidence to a certain degree about how we see ourselves 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.

    Campbell just finishes with :Thankyou Prime Minister and it is all over the medias head.


    • Thinking John Key’s comments were OK except that NZ didn’t get wealthier per capita, I entered “”fastest growing oecd countries”” into Google and it returned too much information among which was “”Immigration: NZ has the fastest growing population in OECD””; but the countries that have made efforts to open themselves up to foreign involvement and also achieved growth seem to be countries that were fairly poor to start with but with an eductated populace.


    • It has always raised doubt in my mind that John Key resignation was rather influenced by the NZ National government decision to stand by the Palestinians in the UN resolution UNSC Resolution 2334 leading to the condemnation of Isreal. The timing of his resignation was just months prior to the UN resolution votes.


    • It rather sounds like the Australian government is moving towards authoritarian type of government where free speech is completely curtailed in the National security interest. People’s rights are being trampled on in this rather hasty approach.


  3. New Zealand politicians appear to be working on the small target idea.In public at least. Interestingly if you read various online news outlet comments on China and it’s rising influence, the general public seem to be switched onto the debate and are generally well informed. But the big question in my mind is, are we really switched on to what seems inevitable in the very near future? i.e. the advent of the new technology revolution heading at us at incredible speed and the strategic implications of this, particularly now that China is at the leading edge.
    I have just read this article by the Atlantic Council and found it very informative in this area.

    Thanks for your insightful commentaries.


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