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Home Politics China - NZ Relations Part One: ‘Magic Weapons’ China’s Interference in NZ Politics

Part One: ‘Magic Weapons’ China’s Interference in NZ Politics

Professor Anne-Marie Brady
Supplementary Submission to the New Zealand Parliament Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Foreign Interference Activities, 2019

Professor Brady is a specialist in the politics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China) and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Party-State system; as well as polar issues, Pacific politics, and New Zealand foreign policy.

She has published ten books and close to fifty scholarly papers on these topics. She was educated in Auckland, Shanghai, and Canberra. She is a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker with dual degrees up to PhD level in Chinese Studies and Political Science and International Relations.

She is a Professor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury, as well as a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, and a member of the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (New Zealand).

She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at East China Normal University, Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, Beijing University, and Renmin University.

My comments in this submission are based on conclusions in my research published over the last thirty years. In researching these papers and books I referred to many thousands of Chinese language CCP materials and the comments I make here are based on those sources, as well as secondary sources on the CCP’s united front work.

Justifications for supplementary submission of materials:

I am forwarding my paper Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping” as a supplementary submission document, as the paper was referred to several times during the oral submission meeting of the Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Foreign Interference on May 9, 2019. One of the members of the Justice Select Committee also asked for concrete examples of how New Zealand is being affected by corrupting, corrosive, and coercive foreign interference activities and the paper provides many examples which answer this question. […]

The topic of the paper was commissioned by the book editor, but I found out a lot more than either he or I had expected. The paper summarises my thirty years of research into the CCP’s international united front work, which includes efforts to control the Overseas Chinese diaspora, to influence foreign elites and public opinion, as well as espionage. The paper uses New Zealand as a case study to illustrate how under Xi Jinping, united front work has become an essential component of China’s new foreign policy approach.

My research for this paper uncovered a concerning pattern of activities, one that was not widely understood in New Zealand—though the evidence was in front of us. My job was to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and make sense of it for the non- specialist. The footnotes stretch to ten pages and they draw on internal CCP sources as well as reports in the New Zealand and Chinese media.

In late August 2017, when I had a final draft of my paper and was sure of its conclusions I tried to reach out to relevant agencies in New Zealand to alert them to my findings, but I did not get a response. I sent my paper to my academic peers and university colleagues to get their thoughts on it and what I should do next. The day before the Arlington workshop began on 16 September 2017, I finally decided that I had to go public with it. I knew it could be years before the book the paper was commissioned for would be published, and in the meantime, the situation could have worsened. I understood that in raising these issues I could potentially put myself and my family at danger, but I felt that it was one of those rare times when the critic and conscience role of the academic, which is in my job contract and enshrined in New Zealand legislation, really meant something. I released my paper to a website everyone in the world with an internet connection could access, the website of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, because I am affiliated there as a Global Fellow.

The information in my paper is of public interest and New Zealanders had a right to know what the concerns were in a timely manner. Foreign interference activities can only thrive if public opinion in the affected nation tolerates or condones it. In New Zealand, unlike Australia, the topic of China’s expanded political interference/influence activities had not previously been raised publicly—although New Zealand intelligence officials did discuss concerns about these activities at a Five Eyes meeting in June 2017.

In an unusual step, in October 2017 the new Coalition government’s national security briefings were released to the public, with the section on espionage featuring discussion about hacking attacks and “attempts to unduly influence expatriate communities” and advising Prime Minister Ardern to “openly provide information about public security issues to the public.”

My paper wasn’t just important for New Zealand. It shone new light on a topic of great global interest: the CCP’s covert activities via international united front work. The paper has been a catalyst for a global conversation on this issue. Commentators have described it as “devastating”, “bombshell”, “essential reading”, “a weighty academic report”, “an exemplar study”, and a “sputnik moment”.[…]

I know that many of the people in New Zealand who have been caught up in CCP united front work activities did not understand the nature of those activities, or how they are understood on the part of the CCP government, as evidenced in the first section of my paper.

We should not look back, now is the time to look forward. People should not feel ashamed for having been involved in such activities. We need to come together to be part of the solution. A non-partisan agreement by our political parties to address this issue is crucial. New Zealand needs to find a way to maintain a constructive and sustainable relationship with the PRC and the CCP government, one which maintains healthy boundaries—as we have with all our other diplomatic relationships. The Justice Select Committee’s Inquiry into Foreign Interference is an important step in developing the means to achieve this.

Magic Weapons:

China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping

In September 2014 Xi Jinping gave a speech on the importance of united front work— political influence activities—calling it one of the CCP’s “magic weapons”. The Chinese government’s foreign influence activities have accelerated under Xi. China’s foreign influence activities have the potential to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the political system of targeted states.

Key points:

  • CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping is leading an accelerated expansion of political influence activities worldwide.
  • The expansion of these activities is connected to both the CCP government’s domestic pressures and foreign agenda.
  • The paper creates a template of the policies and modes of China’s expanded foreign influence activities in the Xi era.
  • The paper uses this template to examine the extent to which one representative small state, New Zealand, is being targeted by China’s new influence agenda.

Executive Summary:

In June 2017 the New York Times and The Economist featured stories on China’s political influence in Australia. The New York Times headline asked “Are Australia’s Politics too Easy to Corrupt?,” while The Economist sarcastically referred to China as the “Meddle Country.” The two articles were reacting to an investigation by Fairfax Media and ABC into the extent of China’s political interference in Australia, that built on internal inquiries into the same issue by ASIO and Australia’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2015 and 2016.

The media and official reports concluded that Australia was the target of a foreign interference campaign by China “on a larger scale than that being carried out by any other nation” and that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was working to infiltrate Australian political and foreign affairs circles, as well to acquire influence over Australia’s Chinese population. The story is continuing to play out in the Australian media, with more and more revelations of China’s political interference appearing almost daily.

The focus of media attention has been on Australia, but the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) attempts to guide, buy, or coerce political influence abroad are widespread. China’s foreign influence activities are part of a global strategy with almost identical, longstanding approaches, adapted to fit current government policies. They are a core task of China’s united front work; one of the CCP’s famed “magic weapons” that helped bring it to power.

[…] New Zealand’s relationship with China is of interest, because the Chinese government regards New Zealand as an exemplar of how it would like its relations to be with other states. In 2013, China’s New Zealand ambassador described the two countries’ relationship as “a model to other Western countries”. And after Premier Li Keqiang visited New Zealand in 2017, a Chinese diplomat favourably compared New Zealand-China relations to the level of closeness China had with Albania in the early 1960s.

The BFD. Associate Professor Anne-Marie Brady. Photo: University of Canterbury

To be continued…

To read the submission in full you can download it below.Full-evidence-text Download

View the Original Article Here

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