“Free from interference” – Ardern

In an interview earlier this week the Prime Minister claimed, once again, that New Zealand politics was free from interference from the People’s Republic of China (or anywhere else).     Were that statement true, it seems pretty clear that we’d be unique.  And yet she makes it anyway.  (And, of course, no leader of any other political party challenges her fairyland denial.)

I could, but won’t, link to stories and reports of PRC interference activity in pretty much every other country.  There are the obvious places like Taiwan.  And there are the places New Zealanders barely even think of, such as Greenland.  And almost everywhere in between – Tonga, Palau, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Papua New Guinea, Australia, the United States, Greece, Israel, numerous countries in Africa, the Maldives, Pakistan, Malaysia, Cambodia and so on and so on.   There just isn’t anything that unique about New Zealand –  indeed, Anne-Marie Brady’s paper was written as one case study of how the PRC operates in many different countries.

What about Australia, for example?  There was a new, and substantial, article out yesterday.   It opens this way

CHINA has a concerning plan to infiltrate and interfere with Australia at the highest levels. And it has national security experts on high alert.

And proceeds to quote extensively a number of Australian experts in the area.

Here is Prof Rory Medcalf of ANU’s National Security College

But a determined focus by China to influence and take control of the “tone and policy choices” of decision-makers in the West has been a game-changer for spying, he said.

“In some ways, the espionage problem is probably worse than it was during the Cold War.”

and

But a determined focus by China to influence and take control of the “tone and policy choices” of decision-makers in the West has been a game-changer for spying, he said.

“In some ways, the espionage problem is probably worse than it was during the Cold War.”

and

Professor Medcalf claimed China operated entire departments whose goal is “to co-op and exploit goodwill and friendly voices in foreign countries in order to increase China’s power and influence” abroad.

“That’s all kinds of seemingly innocent friendship societies and business lobby groups and so forth, but it provides a bridge for long-term Chinese influence,” he said.

In a New Zealand context, think Yikun Zhang or Raymond Huo, for example.

Another expert

The telecommunications giant Huawei was blocked from bidding to develop and rollout Australia’s 5G mobile network due to security concerns.

According to ASPI cybersecurity expert Tom Uren, it would have been impossible to employ Huawei without some degree of risk.

“The main concern is that they could covertly intercept our communications and get access to our devices — computers, phones, anything with a signal,”

Perhaps the PM thinks this just isn’t an issue here?

Controlling members of the Chinese community in Australia seemed to be a major priority, Prof Medcalf said.

“We’ve got a large and diverse number of Chinese communities — 1.2 million people approximately — and the Communist Party wants to silence descent and criticism. In order to stay in power, the Chinese regime needs complete content from its own population.

“Criticism anywhere is a threat, especially criticism that can echo from outside within China.”

Summing up

But what is the actual goal of this new and unprecedented era of espionage, particularly for a participant as active as China?

“It differs from country to country but I think there are three or four key objectives for China in respect to Australia,” Prof Medcalf said.

“China wants to weaken the Australia-US alliance to reduce the possibility that Australia would support America in a conflict in the Asian region.

“It’s also trying to silence Australia’s independent voice in the Indo-Pacific region to make it less critical of Chinese policy. Many countries in South-East Asia look to Australia to be a solid voice. If that can be silenced, other voices can potentially be silenced as well.”

China also has an interest in growing its technological advantage in both a military and civilian sense, and Australia is home to both quality, cutting-edge research and sensitive materials shared by allies.

“And as I’ve pointed out, the final goal is to do with seeking to control Chinese communities in Australia,” Prof Medcalf said.

“It’s really important to note that this increased awareness is not about being anti-Chinese. It’s about protecting Australia and Australians. That includes Chinese Australians. If we let foreign powers intimidate communities here, we have failed to protect their freedoms.”

Perhaps one day our Prime Minister could enlighten us on where she thinks the issues, and threats, are so different (non-existent apparently) for New Zealand?      She might, perhaps, one day, comment on the presence in our Parliament of a former PLA intelligence official, Communist Party member, and close associate of the PRC Embassy.  No problems there either I guess?   There are none so blind as those who determinedly refuse to see.

It all seems to be part of the same scared-of-your-own-shadow, never ever risk upsetting Beijing, policy –  betokening a craven lack of any self-respect (let alone engaging honestly with voters) that has come to increasingly characterise New Zealand governments and political parties over the last decade or more.    Mostly it probably doesn’t need overt Beijing pressure: rather our political “leaders” have trained themselves to anticipate potential pressure points, with discretionary grovelling (adulation of the regime from party presidents Haworth and Goodfellow) thrown in for good measure.

I was reading a piece the other day that reminded me of visits in times past by people Beijing was most unhappy with.  There was the Dalai Lama for example, or democracy advocate and imprisoned (and then exiled) dissident Wei Jingsheng.   Looking up the latter’s visit in 2002 I stumbled across this piece, from the days when ACT was more courageous.

The chairman of the Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement – Wei Jingsheng is in New Zealand for a week. Mr Wei has spent nearly 20 years in jail in China. He wrote some of the more famous statements calling for democracy 10 years before the Tianamen Square protests.

Parliaments around the world have honoured Mr Wei for his principled stand for democracy. The Australian Parliament last week put on a function for him. Then he comes to Helengrad. Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff only agreed to meet him in his electorate office. Rodney Hide attended a function for Mr Wei on Saturday night at Auckland’s Dynasty Restaurant, organised by the Auckland Chinese community. He was surprised to see Jonathan Hunt attending a Labour Party function in the next room.

“This is a stroke of good fortune,” thought Rodney. “I’ll introduce the Speaker to Mr Wei.”

“I’d be honoured to meet him,” Hunt said, “but at the appropriate time” – ie after China becomes a democracy.

The Speaker let Tu Wylie camp in Parliament but he won’t meet the man whom millions of Chinese recognise as their “Nelson Mandela”.

At least Goff met him somewhere.

There was the reminder that in 2002 then Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton and Foreign Minister Phil Goff had met the visiting Dalai Lama at Parliament.

(These days, Phil Goff funds his mayoral campaign with a large mainland donation, and is routinely photographed with prominent United Front figures and visiting members of the brutal regime in Beijing.)

A few years later, Helen Clark was willing to have only a chat in an airport lounge in Brisbane, and by the time John Key took office he was ruling out such a meeting altogether.

And so we move forward in time. In 2015, MFAT –  at the request of their minister – was issuing warnings to National MPs not to attend Falun Gong celebrations, because the Chinese wouldn’t like it.  Or two years ago when then Deputy Prime Minister Bill English refused –  at the last minute, having previously accepted the meeting  – to meeting two leading figures in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.  Mr English denied this cancellation had anything to do with Chinese political pressure, while conceding that

Mr English said a scheduled meeting with Anson Chan and Martin Lee did not go ahead earlier this week after he was informed there were diplomatic sensitivities.

In other words, the PRC Embassy saw that the message got to MFAT, who strongly advised the Deputy Prime Minister to cancel.   Back in those days –  was it only two years ago – there was even an Opposition spokesperson willing to take a stand.  Just before leaving politics, Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman, who did meet with Martin Lee and Anson Chan –  both highly respected figures –  noted

The government should not have cancelled the meeting with Mr English, he said.

“It is a point of principle that New Zealand decides who it meets with, without interference from other countries – it’s very, very simple.

Who supposes now that either Labour or National leaders or ministers –  maybe not even the most junior of backbenchers –  would agree to meet Martin Lee, Anson Chan, the Dalai Lama, Wei Jingsheng.  Or those investigating serious claims of official murders to support organ transplant businesses. Or…or…or.

What MP or Minister, let alone Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition will call out some of the most egregious abuses of recent times –  the mass imprisonment in Xinjiang?

Call it interference, call it influence, call it whatever you like, but it is an approach totally out of step with New Zealand values and aspirations, and all too much in step with Beijing.   And, on the other hand, both National and Labour party president seem to fall over themselves to praise the regime and its leader.

Call it coincidence if you like (but no one will believe it) but our (hand selected) ethnic Chinese list MPs, aren’t New Zealand born and raised, but recent migrants with strong ongoing ties to the Beijing regime, both never ever heard having uttered a disapproving word of Beijing and its approaches.   Same goes, it appears, for Yikun Zhang’s associate Colin Zheng –  who National Party president Peter Goodfellow is keen to encourage into the candidate selection process.  Is it remotely likely that either main party would countenance an ethnic Chinese candidate who was themselves Falun Gong, or someone with the House Church background, or who advocated vocally for independence for Taiwan, or who simply spoke out strongly against all manner of PRC human rights abuses and foreign policy aggressions?    What planet does the Prime Minister think we live on when she claims there is no PRC interference/influence on New Zealand politics.  In areas like these, New Zealand politics seems almost totally compromised by Beijing?

Of course, it isn’t all about party donations – disclosed or not, carefully kept below disclosure thresholds or not.  Trade matters too, but again that is simply to make the point about how New Zealand leaders have allowed themselves to be cowed by Beijing.  Decent countries don’t engage in attempts at economic coercion when someone says something they don’t agree with.  Beijing does, repeatedly.  And our politicians behave like battered wives, making excuses for their abuser, and reluctant (with less excuse than the abused wife) to actually make a stand.   If anything, they feed a sense a vulnerability, with lectures (false) about New Zealand economic dependence on China, and encouragement to the tourism and export education industries to make themselves more exposed to trade with a country that has proved quite willing to use threats and economic coercion to bring countries back into line.  (By contrast, there have been calls recently in Australia for universities to look to better manage their exposures, to reduce their vulnerability to future disruptions to the flow of Chinese students –  a rather more robust approach than anticipatory caving in to Beijing’s preferences.)

The measure of what you value is the price you are willing to pay for it.  Our politicians seem to put almost no value on a robust independence from Beijing, even though in New Zealand’s case the maximum conceivable downside (in economic terms concentrated in tourism and (subsidised) export education) is so much smaller than for many countries nearer China.  Too many donations, and too much pressure from a few entities at the “big end” of town, all aided and abetted by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Our universities, where you might in some ideal world hope for a robust defence of freedom, and freedom of speech, seem more interested in business deals with PRC government entities –  see, just this week, Victoria University’s membership of a partnership of universities to promote the Belt and Road Initiative.

A commenter asked me the other day what I thought should be done.  My response was along these lines.

There are also gradations of response. I’m not suggesting NZ put itself in the vanguard of an international move to consistently fight the PRC’s domestic human rights abuses – dreadful as they are, and good as the occasional word would be. It would be a good start if our political parties stopped praising the regime and its leader, stopped telling stories (self-serving) about our economic reliance (stressing instead that we make our own prosperity), and agreed – perhaps in some sort of accord – that (that includes the Phil Goff mayoral campaign) would not take donations from abroad and would not take donations or support/associate with people regarded as having strong ties to the PRC and its United Front organisations. The removal of JIan Yang and Raymond Huo from Parliament would be good – quietly perhaps (outcome matters more than noise) – and – wary of identity politics as I am – I’d be delighted to see selected for lists or seats ethnic Chinese NZers who were (say) Falun Gong practitioners, advocates of Taiwanese independence, or (individually) willing to speak up and speak out about the human rights abuses.

Mostly these aren’t matters of legislative change, but about self-regard and self-reliance.

(And, of course, for other –  macroeconomic –  reasons I would sharply reduce our immigration targets generally, which would have the incidental, but helpful ,specific side effect of stopping future influxes of Beijing-sympathetic migrants, and allow more space for the existing ethnic Chinese NZers to build and maintain independent and diverse media, community associations and so on.)

We can’t change the world.  But we can change ourselves, demand better from our politicians, look out better for the interests of our fellow citizens, the ethnic Chinese New Zealanders, many of whom never came from the PRC at all, and many of those who did came to embrace the sort of freedom, democracy, and rule of law that has long prevailed here.  Sadly, the current crop of politicians have no interest, and simply abet the Prime Minister in her absurd claims that there is no PRC interference/influence in New Zealand –  the PRC being not just any state, but one of the more heinous on the planet.

Finally, many readers will already have seen it, but Anne-Marie Brady posted this last night.

The list is longer than is immediately visible there. It brings together links that demonstrate something of the character and connections (and alleged treatment of people in his own home area), and sympathies/loyalties of Yikun Zhang, the man both National and Labour are happy to court – and to honour.   Both sides should be ashamed.  Both should urgently revisit their fundraising, and if they had really discovered any decency would consider returning all and any donations arranged by or on behalf of Yikun Zhang and others (no doubt a small group at his level) of his connections and apparent loyalties.

And voters in Southland might start demanding answers as to quite what their mayor is doing trailing round China with Yikun Zhang, such a close associate and supporter of such an evil regime.

31 thoughts on ““Free from interference” – Ardern

  1. One politician, admittedly near the end of his political career, is willing to do something subversive of the Chinese Communist Party. Phil Goff used Chinese influence to become mayor.
    Quote from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11712664
    “” fundraising dinner at the Imperial Palace restaurant in Ellerslie where bidding on a book, The Governance of China, written and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, started at $5000 and sold to a phone bidder from China for $150,000. “”

    But now in a subtle rebuke for Beijing Mr Goff has used Council funds to sponsor ‘NZ Taiwan Day 2018’.
    https://ourauckland.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/articles/events/2018/10/nz-taiwan-day-2018/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ourakl_edm&utm_content=NZ%20Taiwan%20Day%202018%20%7C%20OurAuckland

    Despite the title it lasts two days and I hope to meet Mr Goff and thank him at the event. With luck I may meet Taiwanese consulate officials along with Raymond Huo, Dr Jian Yang, Yikun Zhang or his protégé Colin Zheng too.

    A quick search for GPD per capita reveals we have much to learn about productivity from Taiwan.:
    ($50,300) – Taiwan
    ($38,900) – New Zealand
    ($16,700) – China

    Liked by 1 person

      • If Taiwan a smallish island near a big neighbour can be four times wealthier per head than China then why can’t Kiwis be four times wealthier than Australia? It isn’t as if Australia ($50,300) has a smarter more stable government.

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      • This is where Michael’s location location location argument falls over dramatically. We do have a big neighbour ie Australia. It boils down to our NZ penchant to follow the path laid down by Mao’s gang of 4 that Agriculture and primary industry is the crowning glory of a NZ communist economy.

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      • I gave a rather glib response to Bob’s initial comment. Key thing to remember is that the NZ and Aus economies are both totally dependent on natural resource extraction/utilisation. Both have pursued huge population growth anyway – irrational in a fixed resource situation – and it hasn’t worked out too badly for Aus simply because they had so many new natural resources to develop. By OECD standards, Aus productivity is still well below the leading group.

        By contrast, Taiwan, Japan, S Korea, Singapore (the rich Asian countries) produce stuff that isn’t reliant on stocks of natural resources, but ideas, integrated manufacturing processes and supply chains etc. That model works – even for an embattled small country – where there is a concentration of other people/market/suppliers etc. One could not replicate Taiwan here – the businesses would always be more valuable/profitable somewhere nearer the centre of econ affairs.

        The big difference is that 10 years hence I’m optimistic NZ will still be independent (and moderately prosperous). Taiwan seems more likely to have been conquered and subsumed into an underperforming China. For all its faults and failings, incl around the PRC, I’d choose NZ anyday (altho think we should do what we can to support Taiwan).

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Warning – never under-estimate Jacinda Ardern

    Heard her being interviewed on TalkbackZB by hard-right Motor-Mouth-Mike

    She is too smooth. She handled everything he threw at her. He attacked from every angle

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    • From your second link: “” ‘There are tens of thousands of people [at the ‘re-education school’]… They have some problems with their thoughts’ Xinjiang resident “”

      The concept and scale of this horror troubles my thoughts too.

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      • Those re-education camps are really actually re-education camps. I know a Chinese chap in NZ that was released a year ago after 8 years of re-education. He relayed that there was a lot of study of Mao’s writings and communism ideology and he also participated in a Orchestra by the prisoners for the guards and the prison had a massive library which he took charge of. One of his duties was to translate the prison manual from Chinese to English.

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      • Eight years of education – sounds like two degrees, a masters and a PhD. I might have achieved more with my education if they had surrounded Aberdeen university with razor wire and watchtowers and had personal instructors making me work every day including Xmas ~ all that time I wasted drinking coffee, listening to jazz, playing snooker and billiards, trying to get girls to notice me, in the pub drinking when they didn’t.

        BTW if they have trouble translating manuals the NZ shadow minister of stats isn’t busy making public statements and has a great reputation for his facility in English as a second language.

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  3. Jacinda thinks the world is a “village”. I assume that is what she meant when she said “welcome to our village little one” – pass the joint.

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  4. A couple of weeks ago both Michael and I linked to a Bloomberg article claiming the Chinese had used their involvement in various IT production lines to implant small microchips into motherboards for servers which enabled those servers to intercept data from whatever systems they were supporting.

    It would appear that that was bullshit, and sadly yet another example of how our technological world has escaped the intellectual and knowledge capabilities of journalists, even ones working for a relatively respected outfit like Bloomberg.

    I doubt many will want to read the linked article, which is from a very focused IT hardware website, but to summarise:
    – The capabilities of memory, power and logic could not have been placed on a chip which was supposedly smaller than many of the chips it was “intercepting” data from, given that they were built with microscopic lithographic techniques not exceeded by anything in China.

    – Some of the claims of such a chip being able to access servers powered off or “dead” are simply not possible in the server architecture of the day.

    – Many components of logic and memory chips require thousands of pin connectors, and these would somehow have to be accessed for interception to be possible in the first place.

    – Such interception would result in power usage, fluctuations and data signals on the circuits that would be easily detected as anomalies during routine system testing, reboots and restarts

    – for all these reasons a software hack of servers would make far more sense.

    Also, some of the “sources” aren’t too happy with what Bloomberg did to their interviews and the article points out that folk like Apple CEO, Tim Cook, are sticking their necks way out in denying all this, unless they’re absolutely certain.

    Time for Bloomberg to pull the story I think. I feel a little embarrassed because this is somewhat in my world and I should have picked up on at least some of the implausible bullshit of the Bllomberg article.

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  5. These are indeed the isles of the blessed. No Russian spies and no Chinese Communist Party interference in our politics (despite considerable documented evidence to the contrary). Ardern is either very poorly advised or insincere.

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      • Can you name a sitting MP who is a member of Mossad, has close ties with the Israeli embassy and has never ever been heard to say anything the Israeli govt might find upsetting?

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      • If you can actually name a spy then he is not a very good spy. But we do know that Israelis do have spies because they have actually been caught and tossed out of NZ. They were either incompetent or unlucky I guess.

        “In 2004, two Israeli intelligence (Mossad) agents, Eli Cara, 50, and Uriel Kelman, 31, were caught and jailed for trying to illegally obtain New Zealand passports. A third suspected Mossad agent, former Israeli Europe-based diplomat Zev William Barkan, 37, stole the identity of a tetraplegic Aucklander to fraudulently obtain his passport. The police also sought another person who they thought were linked to passport fraud”

        https://www.newshub.co.nz/general/nzs-recent-history-with-israel–overview-2011072013

        The Southland Times reported that one Israeli crushed in a van was found with at least five passports and was part of a group suspected of trying to hack into the police computer system.Three Israelis who escaped from the van in which their companion was killed reportedly left the country within 12 hours.There were also reports of a confrontation between armed New Zealand police and an unaccredited Israeli search and rescue team in the disaster zone.

        https://www.sbs.com.au/news/suspected-israeli-spy-killed-in-nz-quake

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      • GGS: you missed “”The Lillehammer affair was the killing by Mossad agents of Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan waiter and brother of the renowned musician Chico Bouchikhi, in Lillehammer, Norway, on 21 July 1973. The Israeli agents had mistaken their target for Ali Hassan Salameh, the chief of operations for Black September.””.
        I can understand any spy wanting a foreign passport which gives immediate access to maximum number of countries would think of New Zealand – having foreign accent or appearance is not unusual for modern Kiwis. I have a conspicuous English accent myself. However there seems to be no evidence that any recent NZ governments have been in the pocket of any specific Israeli political party.

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  6. A few possibilities for the PM’s position on CCP interference in NZ domestic affairs:
    1. She knows there is interference and is lying because she’s scared of upsetting Beijing
    2. She has been briefed by SIS/GCSB/DPMC and doesn’t believe them
    3. She does know and has secretly launched a counteroffensive/investigation that she doesn’t want to prejudice (in which case she’s lying, but for good reason (but also means she was naive during that pre-election debate)
    4. Andrew Little has been briefed by GCSB/SIS but hasn’t told the PM.

    Only one of these (3) isn’t worrying at some level, but we’ll never know unless someone gets lucky with an OIA request (accidentally not withheld for national security reasons)

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    • 5. She is scared of leaving herself open to attacks from both National on the one hand and the Greens on the other if she says anything, after the debacle of Labour’s “Chinese names” exercise a year or two back, and disrupting Labour’s efforts to build up the donation flow.

      I don’t have a strong view how much of each explanation is true, but do note that when the Defence Policy paper earlier in the year made a few mild comments on PRC expansionism, Simon Bridges had a go at them for risking upsetting Beijing.
      https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/361896/nz-s-defence-strategy-risks-wrath-of-china-simon-bridges

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      • I guess the indians must be feeling quite miffed with the 2 chinese are better than 2 indians from Jami-Lee Ross and with Simon Bridges in agreement. Having come across a few indian nurses at the hospital where my mother had to go in for some checkups, they seem to behave as if the hospital belonged to them, refusing my mother a change of nappies and informing her that these nappies were very expensive and one was quite persistent trying to vacate the bed as soon as possible without even the doctors final diagnosis as to whether she needed to stay in hospital or not.

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  7. Michael,

    I listened to Jacinda Ardern’s Radio NZ interview and in fairness to her, she does say that the issue of Chinese interference is ‘a live item for me’ that ‘we’re never not looking’ and that ‘constant vigilance’ is being applied.

    I take that to mean that the NZ national security establishment and intelligence services are indeed doing their job. The problem is that NZ politicians have no appetite to tell their voters what is really going on.

    Contrast that to the very active political debate in Australia and even more strident comments by US Vice President Mike Pence in a speech to the Hudson Institute earlier this month (which I write about here: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-us-shift-on-china-australias-options-narrow/.)

    New Zealand’s allies are showing increasing alarm about China’s disruptive role in regional security, their industrial scale use of cyber and human intelligence to steal intellectual property and their active promotion of United Front organisations and political donations to ‘influence’ local politics.

    NZ political and media sensitivities being what they are, I’m loath as an Australian to offer any advice, but it must surely be a worry to some in Wellington that NZ’s closest partners are taking a radically different approach to dealing with China. How will this impact on Wellington’s relations with Canberra and Washington DC?

    You will know of Hugh White book, The China Choice, which argued that Australia’s ‘ultimate’ choice was between siding with the US or with China as the two countries contested for primacy in the Asia-Pacific. If New Zealand has a China choice it is surely between Canberra and Beijing. So what Australia thinks about China should matter to New Zealand.

    Does what New Zealand’s leaders think about China matter to Australia? Most certainly. I regret that Canberra doesn’t pay as much attention to NZ as the relationship really deserves, but the current passivity among NZ’s leadership towards Beijing’s influencing of your own political system is most certainly being watched with concern in Canberra. I ask a genuinely open question: does NZ still value the defence and intelligence relationship it has with Australia?

    Regards,

    Peter Jennings

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Peter.

      I agree with your interpretation of the PM’s comments about potentially illegal stuff (intelligence agencies etc keeping an eye out etc etc). That is consistent with what I heard at the event I wrote about here https://croakingcassandra.com/2018/06/27/foreign-influence-and-the-wellington-establishment/ , and with what was made public of the post-election advice of the intelligence agencies.

      But I guess in NZ’s case I think the bigger issues – especially around the integrity of the political system – are probably about the not-illegal stuff (political donations, people like Jian Yang in Parliament, the extreme fear of ever upsetting Beijing etc). There she seems quite comfortable – or at least claims as much in public – that there just isn’t a problem. As she is content to have Raymond Huo chairing a major parliamentary committee, to have campaigned among the Chinese community using a Xi Jinping slogan, to have her party president praise Xi and the regime, to honour Yikun Zhang, and not to call out the Jian Yang situation as unacceptable, her (in)actions suggest that complacency is her real view.

      On your questions, parallels to the NZ situation in 1984 strike me. As then, presumably the defence and intelligence establishment highly value the US and Australian defence and intelligence relationship. I’m assuming that the purchase of the P8s announced a few months ago suggest that at least some in political leadership do too, although I can’t help wondering whether if the election votes had fallen differently and Labour and the Greens had formed the government whether the purchase would have been made at all. In 1984/85, most of the political establishment didn’t really want to break up ANZUS, but not enough cared enough to pay the price (small substantively, large – perhaps – in domestic politics) to have stayed.

      And perhaps that is the problem now. There is no strong political lead to foster the relationships with Australia or the US, and the extreme public antagonism towards Trump (understandable in many respects) and angst (justifiable or not) about Australia’s (a) treatment of asylum seekers/illegal migrants, and (b) the deportations of NZers who’d lived a long time in Aus means that the residual public goodwill to either country is much weaker than it should be. As is probably the case in most countries, the public doesn’t pay much attention to foreign policy (and there is very little coverage of the China issues more generally), and a sense of a remote country, not threatened by anyone, with a bit of a hankering in some circles to assert some dubious “independence” for its own sake. If somewhere along the line NZ was dropped out of Five Eyes, it is hard to see it would result in any serious political backlash – most would be indifferent, and many might well welcome it.

      All that said, I don’t blame the public (very much). The bigger issue is the fundamental lack of seriousness among the political leadership on both sides of politics.

      On Australian interest in things here, as I recall it one reason Aus Labot in the mid 80s was so upset with David Lange was the perceived risk of NZ type attitudes getting a stronger hold in the grassroots of the ALP. In the current situation, for all that the debate is much more robust in Aus than here, and leadership of both main parties seem better, you actually have higher profile more vocal defenders of Beijing (Bob Carr) than we do here.

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