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Response to reporting about China by Professor Anne-Marie Brady

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In the closing weeks of 2017 a  view of China was widely promoted in the media that challenges New Zealand’s autonomy from China. Professor Anne-Marie Brady has been suggesting that New Zealand’s  (and Australia’s) democratic process is under attack from Chinese influences, and recommends the public  view her paper “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping”. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/magic-weapons-chinas-political-influence-activities-under-xi-jinping  This was a paper presented at the conference on “The corrosion of democracy under China’s global influence” supported by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, hosted in the USA , September 2017.

 

We must thank Professor Brady for stimulating this debate. This is a response to that paper.

It is concerning when we read the author’s two paragraph on NZCFS (p.34). We are alerted to a misrepresentation of NZCFS and incorrect statements.

She states “The Xi administration’s strategy of working more with local governments for economic projects has now revitalized the CPAFFC, as well as the local equivalents they work with such as in New Zealand, the New Zealand-China Friendship Society (NZCFS). NZCFS, like their parent organization, went into decline from the 1980s on, and struggled to attract membership. Now thanks to significant support from both the PRC and the New Zealand government, a re-invigorated NZCFA is again promoting China’s interests, but this time it is an economic agenda—One Belt, One Road. “

NZCFS is an independent and autonomous New Zealand registered Non-Government Organisation. What is implied in the reference to NZCFS ’parent body? Is this evidence that we are in fact propagandists for the Communist Party of China? In the same paragraph, is ‘NZCFA’ a misprint of NZCFS, or another body?  Certainly re-invigorated, to suggest NZCFS is again promoting China’s  interest in an economic agenda  through the One Belt One Road is a spurious claim to make. As with other China issues, NZCFS would like to appreciate the potential this initiative provides to global harmony, and this is a complex policy requiring in-depth understanding.

Professor Brady continues: “In 2012, a wealthy Chinese property developer with close connections to the Chinese government, Simon Deng Li, donated 1 million yuan to the New Zealand China Friendship Society to enable it to expand its activities. In the same year CPAFFC donated a further 1 million yuan. These two donations have now been “localized” by being linked in to the New Zealand government’s Winston Churchill Trust, which provides research funding. Only those who are members of NZCFS may apply for the Winston Churchill Trust fund for projects on China. The society has also used the two donations to subsidize New Zealand journalist and youth visits to China, as well as art exhibitions, book publications and other activities that promote a non-critical view of China in New Zealand.”

As all members will know, we have enjoyed the two donations, released over a 5 year draw down period, to further our goals of increasing friendship and understanding between the people of New Zealand and China. Nearly all NZCFS  branches have benefited from the funds’ opportunities. To suggest this is promoting a ‘non-critical view of China in New Zealand’ is an interesting external evaluation. NZCFS would claim otherwise: most of the projects are exchange programmes that do the exact opposite in that they provide participants with the opportunity for real engagement with their peers in China, free from the anti-China rhetoric that has dominated western reporting from within New Zealand. To suggest that they were influenced by non-critical propaganda is to treat the participants,  and NZCFS,  with contempt.

Further, the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and NZCFS partnership has established a fellowship, administered by the NZ Department of Internal Affairs. This is available to all New Zealanders, not just NZCFS members, as Professor Brady claims. It is for travel to China to gain knowledge, understanding and experience of Chinese culture and values, and sharing of New Zealand culture and values in China.

To support her arguments about the vast global network of Chinese influence she makes much use of a 1997 report, ostensibly issued by the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and Canadian security agencies, titled “Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada”. It is cited five times in the paper.

In Professor  Brady’s report the full citation given to the “RCMP” report is: RCMP-CSIS Joint Review Committee, “Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada,” June 24, 1997, http://www.jrnyquist.com/sidewinder.htm. This gives the appearance  that the RCMP are the source of the report, thus  giving the appearance of credibility. But the report is not available on any Canadian government source. The link cited by Professor Brady  is the web page of Jeff Nyquist, an American blogger who is no stranger to conspiracy theories. On his website Mr. Nyquist also has written articles in which he claims that 9/11 was a Russian conspiracy, the US Democratic Party is controlled by communists, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 was actually a very clever plot to lull the west into a sense of complacency preliminary to a nuclear attack by Russia and China.

As  evidence of China’s “ drawing New Zealand ever closer politically, economically, and also militarily to China” Professor Brady cites a background paper from the New Zealand Centre for Strategic Studies. In fact in the footnotes to her own paper (p.57) Ms. Brady refers to the document as “New Zealand Expands Military Links with China” while the actual title of the paper is “NEW ZEALAND EXPANDS DEFENCE TIES WITH CHINA”. This brief, 3 page paper does note that the Chinese and New Zealand military have developed a cooperative relationship with the Chinese navy – in exercises for disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping mission alliances.

Summary

NZCFS has a 66 year history of engaging in friendly relations with China. Our key goal is to develop friendship through increased mutual understanding between the people of the two nations. While no country is perfect, we consider it important that a Chinese perspective of what China stands for, and how China will contribute to the global community in the future is an essential part of the debate.  It is to be expected that China wishes to independently present their values and policies to the world rather than having these reported and often misrepresented through western commentators.

 It is unfortunate to see this being challenged in a paper that does not entirely stand up to scrutiny, as obvious from the above examples, and has been so widely promoted. It is to the credit of the New Zealand government that the concerns have not been taken too seriously. It is to the credit of a number of prominent New Zealanders that they have the status to represent New Zealand in a range of sincere relationships with China.