The debate on PRC influence on Q&A

Late last week I posted as a standalone item the comments that Peter Jennings, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (and former senior Australian defence strategy official), had made in response to my post about last week’s Asia New Zealand foundation roundtable on People’s Republic of China (PRC) influence/interference in New Zealand.   Jennings was pretty critical of successive New Zealand governments’ attempts to pretend there is no issue.

This morning someone pointed out to me that Jennings had been interviewed on TVNZ’s Q&A programme on Sunday, so I took a look.  His comments were pretty moderate (especially about New Zealand), and largely focused on the Australian situation, and the new foreign interference laws passed with support from both the Liberal-National coalition and the Labor Party.   He highlighted issues around political donations, the Sam Dastyari affair (Labor senator forced to resign over inappropriate activities in this area), and noted that, between Federal and state Parliaments, there was concern that Dastyari’s wasn’t the only worrying case.

Re New Zealand, he noted that New Zealand seemed to face similar pressures as Australia, and that things weren’t that different in Canada, in the UK, and in many EU countries, and that in his view it would be smart if New Zealand and Australia tried to align their approaches.   While noting that New Zealand and Australia had different geographies and different strategic imperatives, he noted some risk to the bilateral relationship (important to both sides) if our governments don’t take the PRC intrusions seriously.

Corin Dann, the interviewer, pushed back, suggesting for example that Sir Don McKinnon would see things differently.  McKinnon is, of course, head of the government-sponsored China Council, designed never to see anything concerning, never to say anything upsetting, about Beijing and its activities.   As Jennings noted, there is an interest in having an effective relationship with the PRC, but that all countries needed to recognise that there were downsides as well as upsides in relationships with such a massive power, in the process of being more dictatorial.   He argued that even if officials were confident they had things under control –  something he was explicitly sceptical of in his comments here –  it was important for governments to take publics with them, and engage in open dialogue on the issues, risks, and responses.

Dann again attempted “what-aboutism” – every country spies, there is no military threat etc.  Tell that to Taiwan –  or countries with lawful claims in the South China Seas –  was my reaction, but Jennings was a bit more emollient, simply pointing out that countries like ours did not engage in large scale intellectual property theft by cyber-hacking etc.

And finally, asked about the PRC backlash to the new Australian laws, Jennings noted that the PRC (and some its populist media) didn’t like the new approach, but that the relationship goes on.  He argued that there was a mutual interest in a “steady relationship”, and that the PRC would come to recognise that Australia couldn’t do less than say “thus far and no further”.   Given past PRC attempts at economic coercion (which I wrote about here) that seemed optimistic.

All in all, it was pretty emollient stuff, and there wasn’t even any material bad-mouthing of New Zealand governments –  an approach which, fair and accurate or not, tends to get the backs of New Zealanders up.

But it was still all too much for two members of the Q&A panel, political scientist Bryce Edwards and former Minister of Defence, Wayne Mapp.  The word “overwrought” appeared so often that one could almost use it to describe their reaction.

Edwards began claiming that there “no compelling evidence of a problem” in New Zealand, and asserted that the new laws continued Australia’s journey down a path towards being an authoritarian illiberal state, where people could no longer participate freely in political debate and protests.  To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what he was on about – and I hold no brief for the specifics of Australian legislation.  The BBC –  no right-wing authoritarian outlet – summarised the law thus

The laws criminalise covert, deceptive or threatening actions that are intended to interfere with democratic processes or provide intelligence to overseas governments.

They are designed to include actions that may have fallen short of previous definitions of espionage.

Industrial espionage – the theft of trade secrets – is among new criminal offences, while people who leak classified information will face tougher penalties.

The government also plans to ban foreign political donations through a separate bill later this year.

But I presume that what Edwards is on about is material in this Guardian article.   But even if the specific points the critics make were sound  –  and both government and opposition disagree with them – they are details, perhaps even important ones, not a challenge to the basic proposition about PRC activities and agendas in Australia and similar countries.

Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp then joined in, claiming that Australia would not put any pressure on us to follow suit, because our political donations laws were very tight.  That would, presumably explain how former Foreign Minister Phil Goff was able to get a very large donation to his mayoral campaign from a PRC-based donor, through a charity auction organised by, among others, Raymond Huo?  I’m not disputing that the New Zealand laws are tigher than Australia’s, but here is the relevant section from my post on the Asia NZ roundtable last week.

There was clear unease, from people in a good position to know, about the role of large donations to political parties from ethnic minority populations –  often from cultures without the political tradition here (in theory, if not always observed in practice in recent decades) that donations are not about purchasing influence.  One person observed that we had very much the same issues Australia was grappling with (although our formal laws are tighter than the Australian ones).  Of ethnic Chinese donations in particular, the description “truckloads” was used, with a sense that the situation is almost “inherently unhealthy”.

Dr Mapp went on to claim that there was no need at all for new laws in New Zealand, lauded New Zealand’s role as a pioneer in relations with the PRC, and highlighted favourably the New Zealand government’s choice to eschew the term “Indo-Pacific” in favour of “Asia-Pacific”.   I can’t excited about that latter point –   New Zealand has no exposure to the Indian Ocean, and on the other hand Asia is a big place, including Israel and Syria as well as the east Asian bit.  But Mapp went on to declare that concerns about New Zealand were ‘overwrought” and that he would put his trust in his former National Party colleague Don McKinnon, over the perspectives of Peter Jennings.   The McKinnon approach, like that of the China Council more generally, has been to consistently pooh-pooh any concerns, and in the article I linked to a few lines back even asserted that

To suggest we are too scared or cautious to ever rock the boat with China is simply incorrect.

I think most of us –  agreeing or disagreeing with the stance –  will take the evidence of our senses over Don McKinnon’s make-believe.

At this point, Anne-Marie Brady’s work, and her Magic Weapons paper, finally came up.  Bryce Edwards volunteered that she had raised some points, especially about particular MPs (Jian Yang and Raymond Huo) and their closeness to PRC interests, that hadn’t really been debated, and which needed to be debated.  But this was all too much for Wayne Mapp, who asserted that we hadn’t had the debate because we didn’t need to –  the claims were all overwrought.  Weirdly he then went on to assert that we wouldn’t go down the Australian path because we don’t have overwrought debates like the Australians do.  One can only assume he was determined to keep it that way, and keep on avoiding debate and serious scrutiny of the issues.

So, for example, one can only assume that Dr Wayne Mapp, former Cabinet minister, former military intelligence officer, former law professor, and current Law Commissioner, is quite unbothered about such facts as:

  • his own party putting Jian Yang on its list and, through successive elections, never disclosing his past.
  • that past included study and work as part of the PRC military intelligence system, and
  • membership of the Communist Party
  • (experts point out that no one voluntarily leaves the Chinese Communist Party, and that given his military intelligence background he would only have been allowed to go abroad if was regarded as politically sound)
  • Jian Yang himself now acknowledges, after the media exposed his past, that he had withheld key details from the New Zealand immigration authorities, and that the PRC authorities had encouraged him to do so,
  • that in seven years in Parliament he has never once said anything critical about the PRC regime, whether about Tianammen Square or more recent abuses (domestic and foreign),
  • that a prominent former diplomat and lobbyist has gone on record of Jian Yang (and Raymond Huo) that both are close to the PRC embassy, and that he is careful what he says in front of either man.
  • or about the efforts of his own former Cabinet colleague, Chris Finlayson, to tar Anne-Marie Brady as some sort of xenophohic racist –  one of the more despicable events of the last election campaign.

No, according to Dr Mapp, there is no problem here, just a few “overwrought” claims.

But, as I’ve pointed out previously, calling things “overwrought” or “sensational” is no substitute for dealing with the specifics of Brady’s paper.  I’m not aware that anyone has rebutted anything much in her paper, despite plenty of opportunities over almost 10 months now.  They aren’t just about Jian Yang, or even Raymond Huo.  There are the party presidents grovelling to the regime, whether for fundraising or trade purposes.  There are things like a former MP trying to block out from local Council minutes any record of listening to citizens with an alternative view on the regime.  And it isn’t as if the issues and threats are all in past either –  I was told just this morning about a university which has, under pressure, withdrawn, permission to screen a documentary on campus about aspects of the PRC regime.  And much of it is about pressure on New Zealand citizens of ethnic Chinese orientation, unseen to most of us, but no less real for that.

It was a pretty extraordinary performance from Dr Mapp in particular.  As Jennings had usefully pointed out, it is not as if these issues are unique to New Zealand  But the sustained denial –  whether wishful thinking or a deliberate choice to look the other way –  of any issue, any risk, any problem, does seem to be something rather more specific to successive New Zealand governments and the Wellington establishment.  They seem willing to sacrifice self-respect, and any interest in our friends and allies in other democratic countries including in east Asia, for the mess of pottage –  some mix of trade for a few firms, and keeping the flow of political donations flowing.

27 thoughts on “The debate on PRC influence on Q&A

  1. Very good to raise the issue of China’s ancient method of control of other nations through trade. It would also be informative to know about the economic control of an even more dangerous entity Islam. Ninety five percent of lame are killed by Muslims here but how much Islamic money is in NZ? Certainly there is strong influence as eight years ago david carter banned kosher meat to please Malaysian Muslims.


    • Indeed, I would be more concerned with the 1000 unvetted muslim refugees currently allowed into NZ under our refugee quota for each and every year. The Green Party led by our newest Green Party Muslim MP Golriz Ghahraman wants to push that number to 5,000 unvetted muslim refugees each and every year.


      • Yes, you are right to be very concerned about Muslim immigration. But Islam takes over a country using multi attacks: immigration (second highest deed after jihad), infiltrate media, government and economy. This has happened to once Hindu Pakistan, Buddhist Afghanistan and Christian Egypt, lebonen, Syria, turkey and all of N. Africa. Europe is now in real danger particularly because the majority of the population still do not understand Islam and are deceived by useful idiots (predominantly left leaning liberals who can not grasp facts).
        However there is a good example of informed leadership: Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. Look into his unvarnished understanding, throughout his long political career, of the menace of Islam, and the various means he deployed — diminished funding for madrasas, limits on the Muslim presence in the armed forces, strict monitoring, through reporting requirements, of Muslim conversion efforts, bans on the hijab and other head covers for police and nurses — to comprehensively hold Islam in check. And it worked. Muslim Malays today make up 14% of the population of Singapore, just about the same percentage as in 1990. The Bumiputra system, which has unsurprisingly done damage economically to Malaysia, was successfully kept out of meritocratic Singapore. The results are there for all to see:

        Malaysia has exports of $227.70 billion, while Singapore,with one-sixth its population, has exports of $435.80 billion. The GDP of Malaysia is $304 billion, and of Singapore — with that much tinier population, has a GDP of $275 billion. The GDP per capita is $16,800 for Malaysia, and $60,800.00 for Singapore, an astonishing difference given that they began from roughly the same starting point, forming a single political unit at independence.

        I would not be surprised that there is considerable Saudi money in NZ but like in Europe allot is hidden unless you know where to look. As Islam is far more dangerous than China (while not diminishing any activity against their bullying) an investigational report should be completed into Islam.

        Why the silence, are you already frightened dhimmis?


  2. Please do not abandon this subject. I will not be voting for National or Labour until they treat China as they would any other country. Just a mild criticism of excesses in Tibet or Falun Gong or recent treatment of the Uyghur muslim minority – any rational discussion would allow me to vote for either of them – it is the deafening silence that is my main concern.

    From Wikipedia: “”On 22 January 2013, the Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against the People’s Republic of China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration. On 19 February 2013, China rejected and returned the Philippines’ Notification. “” and “” The Tribunal concluded that, as between the Philippines and China, there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources “” and “”In April 2015 new satellite imagery revealed that China was rapidly constructing an airfield at Fiery Cross Reef, in addition to its ongoing dredging activities in the Spratlys. In September, China had completed a 3125-metre runway.””
    It has been claimed that Admiral Zheng He reached NZ 600 years ago. Would our government be quiet about ignoring international arbitration if China claimed the Chathams? Surely we should be supporting the international rule of law.


    • In just a modicum of defence of the government, this comment appeared in the acting PM’s speech the other day
      “We see some troubling developments. In the South China Sea, claimants in the various territorial disputes have acted in ways that challenge international law and norms. Artificial island building in contested waters, construction, and militarisation risk escalating tensions. Hence, New Zealand urges parties to resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law and in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. ”

      But even then he couldn’t bring himself to name the villain country………


    • I was watching Youtube on that very topic of chinese vessels approaching NZ waters but apparently they arrived in the midst of a tsunami and a wall of flames from a comet strike in open waters. Don’t think many sailors or ships survived the ordeal to lay claim to NZ with Admiral Zhang He, limping home to China with most of his flotilla shipwrecked or burning.

      But what was interesting on that Youtube production was that some of the earliest inhabitants of NZ was pale with freckles, had red hair and green eyes.


    • Here is a classic example of a clueless and uniformed comment. Your simplistic and indoctrinated mind thinks that it is discrimination against the Uyghur muslim minority. It is truly amazing that you think discrimination is always wrong. So you have no problem with your daughter dating a drug over lord? Behaviour in a community dictates how you are treated. As many Han Chinese like every other non-Muslim living near Muslims have been killed. As the motivating impulse for Muslims to kill, rape and subjugate whatever their nationality or physical location comes from their three religious books (with hundreds of verses encouraging killing and over 10% of this material is virily anti-Semitic noting Hitler’s mien … was 7%), it makes common sense to do something. Or perhaps you do not mind Muslims killing non-muslims and raping young girls all over the world?


      • I’m not going to delete this comment, but it pushes my limits. What you say in it is quite abusive and very broadbrush. If you want to continue commenting in this vein, please offer specifics, preferably documented.


  3. Both main parties would appear to be putting a higher value on the electoral importance of the recently-arrived Chinese diaspora than on addressing the increasing threat posed by the PRC to New Zealand’s security. If I recall correctly wasn’t Jian Yang one of National’s most effective fundraisers? Large-scale immigration can certainly influence our future, not always for the better. One can only hope the Australians make their concerns known loud and clear to the present government as Peter Jennings has suggested. I hope they are not too “overwrought” by what they may hear.


    • If by electoral importance you mean political party funding and maybe active support then you are right. If you mean the Kiwi residents who are visible Chinese then I’m not so sure. From an admittedly limited number of such Chinese acquaintances I hear complaints about the Chinese govt. In North Shore a couple of Falun Gong supporters used to sell their newsletter. Many Chinese are from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines and in the case of one friend born in NZ 75 years ago. A disparate group but cleverly marshalled by the Chinese Communist Party. They realise it is cheaper to put a few agents into NZ than it is to build another aircraft carrier. I don’t blame the Chinese govt for being smart; it is our govt that should be a smarter.


      • Looks to me that there is plenty of blame to share around. Hitler still bears responsibility for World War Two, not the appeasers (for all their faults). And it doesn’t look as tho the PRC is planning to stint on the aircraft carriers.

        (Which is not to say that I think there is any direct miitary threat to NZ, or to the European countries the PRC is suborning, or to Canada. but that isn’t the point – something a bit beyond Finlandisation probably is.)


    • Ex Mfat, the voter numbers do not support your contention. 70% of NZ is still predominantly White and 15% Maori. The recently arrived Chinese diaspora is not a higher value from a voting standpoint after you start to strip out Singaporeans, Vietnamese, Koreans, Malaysians, indians etc.

      However, it is actually the NZ Agricultural industries which is the NZ rural sector that the government whether Labour or National or NZFirst is trying to appease. All these Free Trade Agreements benefit the Agricultural export sector. It is the Agricultural Export sector that needs access to the Chinese market. It does not benefit the rest of NZ.

      In fact the Export Agricultural sector pays less than 5% tax. It is a heavily government subsidised export sector by the rest of NZ taxpayers.


      • Correction; In fact the Export Agricultural sector contributes less than 5% of the total tax collections of the government.


  4. Two minor points – firstly, the Hon. Dr Wayne Mapp was a territorial army officer in the NZ Intelligence Corps – whilst not wishing to knock the contribution that our reservists and part timers make to the NZDF, I have the opinion that Wayne Mapp was over confident in his military abilities and strategic awareness based off a few weeks’ service a year. He is not well regarded as a defence minister, obsessing with getting ‘value for money’ from the NZDF, and the current dire state of defence infrastructure and equipment is a result of this neglect.

    A superior example of someone who has transitioned from very effective military service into politics is Andrew Hastie, representing an electorate from Western Australia in their federal parliament. Ex infantry and then SAS officer with multiple combat tours to Afghanistan, Mr Hastie has been vocal and effective in calling out PRC influence activities in Australia.

    Unfortunately, I see noone in NZ parliament, or even the wider security / foreign affairs establishment willing to be either so bold or astute.


    • Thanks. I just took the Mapp details quickly from a Wikipedia page, and didn’t realise he had only been in the territorials (altho my main point remains – he should know better).

      Agree re Hastie


      • Absolutely – and I certainly wasn’t disagreeing with you at all – Dr Mapp definitely should have known better. Unfortunately his ignorance / cowardice is not picked up by a media or compliant former colleagues such as Sir Don because they assume from such a background that he is an expert! (Incidentally, Sir Don is son of a former Chief of General Staff and brother to a former secretary of defence, further calling into question the NZ defence / security establishment’s ability or willingness to protect us assist PRC influence).


  5. Bryce Edward’s guest post.

    “Both in New Zealand and globally, the best of the leftwing tradition has always rejected small-minded nationalism, xenophobia and racism. In fact, leftists of an internationalist tradition have always favoured globalization and getting rid of national borders and barriers to migration. Progressive advocates of globalization of course do not defend a handful of rich imperialist countries, including New Zealand, dominating the world’s economy, but instead advocate an integrated and radically egalitarian world economy where production is based on social need and not on private profit. ”

    Wayne Mapp
    “One thing is absolutely clear, Auckland will grow to 2.5 million in 30 years. Around the town centers there will be increased density. But in areas where the norm is townhouse and traditional housing there will be huge resistance to multilevel apartments. Mayor Len of course knows this, and the plan will be adjusted to take that sting out. Typically in these exercises you put your maximum position out for consultation to give some space to pull back. Of course some planners may not understand this political nuance, and probably not some councillors (i.e. Anne Hartley, judging by her reported comments at the meeting).”

    How does he know that? It’s disgusting.


  6. Victor Davis Hanson covers foreign policy and domestic affairs in a wide-ranging conversation about some of the most unexpected developments in world politics: from the seemingly inverse relationship between economic liberty and political freedom in China to the diminishing influence of the Middle East to an America that seems to grow weaker as it grows more prosperous.


  7. Increases in Muslim immigration.

    Monitoring Islamic teaching in their community centres etc.

    Why are we slaughtering lamb for Muslims?

    What Islamic funding is going to Muslims as there are many entities here.

    What economic investment is here.

    Lack of understanding of Islamic practice in court system that have repeatedly not dealt with Muslims raping non- Muslim women here.

    What political influence is being leveraged.

    Monitoring Muslim children in school for violence against girls as is now common in Australian schools with Muslim pupils.

    Ideally ban shariah law.

    Any Muslim school should be checked closely and closed down as they will obviously be teaching shariah law.

    Observing how poorly Australia has dealt with Islam.

    These are key and doing them immediately saves lives, destroyed young girls and violence. Hence, Singapore being a good model.


  8. Phill Goff stopped Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneau from speaking at the Bruce Mason center thereby avoiding dealing with actual evidence of hate speech.

    But far-right expert and pro vice chancellor at Massey University Paul Spoonley says some of what they say is definitely hate speech. They are part of a broad coalition who at their top end would be pro trump but at their hard end (which I regard both of these as being) are very (sort of) white supremacist or believe in the racial superiority of white people. They believe immigration undermines countries, they’re very anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and they’re anti-feminist! I’m very much in favour of free speech but how is free speech going to be advanced by views that are as and hateful as these two. It needs to have a significant treshold in order to deny them entry and we need to be very clear about why we are denying them entry with a public as well as apolitical discussion.

    Little old me could argue against Spoonley on each of those topics (except feminism) and Spoonley would have to hang is hat on it. But he doesn’t have to as Goff got them all off the hook.


    • This is the correct way we talk about Auckland and super -diverse Auckland

      Weighing up the value of ethnic diversity alongside the volume of immigration to Auckland’s character and its future prosperity is a vexed and complex issue – one that is top of mind for many who dwell in the country’s sprawling metropolis, according to a new report by Massey University sociologists.

      A public forum, hosted by an ethnically diverse panel with a breadth of experience in this area, aims to broaden and shed light on the debate about immigration numbers, as well as how both recent arrivals and born-and-bred residents cultivate a sense of belonging.

      The June 6 public discussion,Talking ethnic diversity and immigration in Tamaki Makaurau, is being hosted by the Auckland Knowledge Exchange Hub and RIMU (Auckland Council’s Research and Evaluation Unit) – a joint venture between Massey University and Auckland Council.


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