A PRC Fifth Column in NZ? (With Updated Links)

In early December the New Citizen Party registered with the Electoral Commission and declared its intention to contest this year’s elections, starting with the Botany by-election caused by Pansy Wong’s resignation in disgrace from Parliament. Taking a page from the Maori Party, the NCP declared that it would be a vehicle for the representation of new, mostly Asian, migrant’s interests in the NZ political system, interests that are not fully given voice within extant political parties. With an emphasis on economic policy and law and order issues, the NCP proposes to represent not only mainland Chinese migrants, but also Koreans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Singaporeans, Indians, non-native Whites and even Maori and Pakeha (i.e. the Botany demographic). That will be a tall order.

The announced leaders of the NCP include Jack Chen, who was involved in the Chinese takeover bid for Crafar Farms (as a representative of Natural Dairy NZ, a subsidiary of the Chinese government controlled Jin Hui Mining Corporation); disgraced Labour Party candidate Stephen Ching (who solicited bribes for political favours in 2005); the pro-PRC Chinese-language newspaper editor Jerry Wen Yang; and Paul Young, who is also of Chinese descent and a principle of Asia Marketing and Advertising Consultants (Mr. Young handled the registration process and has said that his role as NCP Secretary is a temporary formality in order to meet legal requirements, and that he will stand down once the party leadership is finalised. As it turns out, he is NCP candidate for Botany). Although unconfirmed, there are reports that Sammy Wong, Pansy Wong’s husband and the cause of her demise by involving her in a commercial transaction during a taxpayer trip to the PRC, is part of the NCP leadership or at least involved in its strategic decision-making and financing.

In early January the NCP leadership, minus Mr. Young, met in Beijing to discuss a strategy for winning the by-election and to chart a course for its campaign this year. Holding a major party meeting in a foreign capital is interesting enough, because it shows an overt connection with the PRC that is bound to raise eyebrows in some circles (which is a tame reaction by comparison–some democracies forbid the funding, meeting  and sponsorship of political parties in and by foreign powers). What is more interesting is the question of whether the connection to Beijing is more intimate than the NCP has revealed to date, and extends beyond the usual business links that all political parties cultivate in order to peddle influence and financially support their activities (although the direct connection to a foreign government and/or corporations would be a a step beyond what is the usual course of affairs in NZ business-political party relations).

Under MMP, people have a right to organise a political party as they see fit, and as far as I can tell there are no prohibitions on such parties being organised and funded by foreign agents. But there remains the question as to whether the NCP is not so much a vehicle for the representation of new migrant’s interests in the NZ political system as it is a front for PRC economic interests and a means of political influence-mongering and intelligence gathering. In other words, is the NCP a PRC fifth column?

The reason this question must be asked is that, given its disadvantages in Signals (SIGINT) and Technical Intelligence (TECHINT)-gathering capabilities,  the PRC invests heavily in the ethnic Chinese diaspora for human intelligence gathering work. Using business, student and permanent resident visa schemes in targeted countries, the PRC places intelligence-gatherers in places where they can collect tactical as well as strategic intelligence using a variety of means. It also uses monetary incentives to curry favourable attitudes amongst local elites, all in the interest of furthering PRC strategic objectives in the country in question. Such activities have been amply evident in places such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and the Cook Islands, as well as regional organisations such as the Pacific Island Forum.

All of this is well known to Western security agencies and measures have been implemented to monitor, if not counter PRC initiatives in that field. But what if the PRC were to secure political representation in a foreign government via open electoral contestation within the limits of the law? NZ has already seen a case where a cabinet minister (Wong) was influenced by an individual (her husband) with direct and close connections to the PRC regime. Although her portfolio was not strategically sensitive, she did attend cabinet and caucus meetings where more sensitive issues of national and party policy were bound to have been discussed, and it is not improbable to think that her pillow and dinner table talk with Sammy Wong might involve some of those issues (note that I am not saying that Mrs. Wong would necessarily have any idea that Sammy Wong was a PRC agent if he were one. What I am saying is that the appearance of a conflict of interest extends beyond the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for her travel when on private business on her husband’s behalf, and that may be the more serious reason why she was forced to resign).

If the PRC has direct involvement with the NCP, an electoral victory by the latter would raise the possibility of its entering into coalition with one of the major parties, most likely the party in power. That would give it direct access to NZ government policy deliberations, privileged information about business and security matters as well as offer a means of extending its influence directly into the NZ cabinet. This may or may not be a bad thing, depending on one’s perspective. But the question has to be asked whether Kiwis would accept similar direct US, Iranian, British, Afghan or Australian influence in government decision-making even if it did not involve adversarial intelligence-gathering. Judging from the reaction to revelations in wikileaks cables that some NZ citizens in positions of power provided “insider” information to the US embassy in Wellington, one would suspect that the answer is “no.”

The (hypothetical) situation of the NCP being used as a PRC front with intelligence-gathering duties within parliament is made all the more interesting by recent changes ordered by the National government with regards to the SIS spying on MPs. The result of the scandal caused by revelations that the SIS spied on Green MPs for decades, John Key ordered that the SIS no longer spy on MPs. That means that a NCP MP working for the PRC could conduct his or her intelligence-gathering activities with relative impunity unless there are provisions in the revamped domestic espionage and counter-espionage charter that specifically provides for exceptions to the no-spying-on MPs rule. But if the exception is invoked that could undermine broader counter-intelligence efforts with regards to the PRC. The conundrum produced by this hypothetical but potential scenario, in other words, is quite exquisite.

Less people feel that these questions are occasioned by racial or ethnic bias, let it be clear that it is not. The questions refer to the PRC, an authoritarian regime, and not to the Chinese or any other ethnic group. As mentioned in a previous paragraph, the same questions could be asked of local political parties directly controlled or overtly influenced by any other foreign power regardless of regime type. So the issue is about who controls the NCP as opposed to who ultimately will represent it.

Bringing the issue up may seem provocative and perhaps un-PC, but given the Beijing meeting, the people currently in NCP leadership positions and given the PRC’s modus operandi when it comes to deploying intelligence assets and extending its influence into foreign governments, it needs to be raised.

In light of the above, for its own sake and in the interest of democratic transparency it behooves the NCP to open its books and reveal its links (should they exist) to the PRC, directly or indirectly. It behooves the NCP to make clear where its loyalties lie and to disprove apriori the suspicion that it may be working as a foreign-backed front in the NZ political system. And given that the Botany by-election will be held in less than two months, that process of proactive accountability needs to begin now.

UPDATE: Since there is some debate as to how I came to my speculation in this post, here are a couple of links that detail PRC intelligence-gathering characteristics: http://www.stratfor.com/node/156898/analysis/20100314_intelligence_services_part_1_spying_chinese_characteristics

and : http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110119-chinese-espionage-and-french-trade-secrets

Upon reading the links, does my conjecture still seem crazy (or bigoted)?

68 thoughts on “A PRC Fifth Column in NZ? (With Updated Links)

  1. And whatsmore they will implant chips into your heads as they hack into bloggers through their websites….They are already watching through your laptop cameras and through the holes in your I-pad…be afraid.

  2. Given my research of late into Asian and US interests etc, I would be concerned there might be an intimate connection with PCR. It would however, not surprise me the least that would seem the case, given that we have borrowed heavily from PCR during our Recession crisis 2008-2010. So my answer to the question of a 5th Column would be: yes I do believe it might be true- for the short term as strategic positioning for a long term goal. And yet this kind of “conflict of interest” on the part of NCP is quite telling of our Election process. How long have these individuals lived in NZ? I would propose a law change to the effect that no-one can apply to be a party if, say, they have only lived in NZ for 5 years (US law has it at 9 years before even getting into Congress).

    Second, I do not for a minute think NCP would even get 0.5% of election night votes. I am convinced NZ is not ready for a full multi-ethnic Parliament. Also to form a lobby group will be too overt of the Chinese as per getting influence or intel, which appears the reason for the setting up of a political party, perhaps?

    2011 will instead be focused on two key facts: North American Union and the development of an Asian Union, which I submit maybe the true motive for the Pacific Partnership Treaty as a vehicle for such a move. If this scenario be true, it would be questioning the reason for a Chinese (or Asian) political party in NZ

  3. A range of ideas come to mind.

    1. Does China see MMP as a problem in exerting influence over (co-alition) governments? This development would not help MMP at the referendum later in the year.

    2. Is this a form of protest at the government saying – we have to recognise opposition to farmland sales to foreigners because we are a (MMP) democracy. That it may cost National and ACT parties votes from “new citizens” (who can act as fronts and partners to foreign ownership buyouts, with willing local agents as well as farmers seeking higher sale prices for their land).

    3. China has traditionally taken an interest in the well-being of its nationals in other countries (SE Asia). Now we are one of these countries with a Chinese minority and one which is growing because of immigration.

    4. The idea of being a patron of new citizens in immigrant receiving nations is transformational. Is New Zealand a test run for other western nations such as Australia and Canada? Or is this to be seen as a consequence of having a free trade connection?

    This certainly confuses the idea of containment of China. Many new citizens here migrate from countries which seek the USA to contain China – ASEAN nation migrants, India (including Fiji), some Pacific countries and South Korea.

    Given the Echelon nations of the old leadership order
    are all immigrant receiving, this policy enables China to link itself to demographic change within these nations as it becomes a global power.

    Is it a regional strategy to confound containment, or a wider policy to have new world citizenship leadership influence where the USA has had old (European inheritance) world citizenship leadership influence?

    Demographic change as linked to change in ownership of the world’s capital?

  4. Quentin:

    I agree that the short-term prospects for the NCP are low, but given current demographic trends in NZ it is the medium-to-long term that I am interested in (and it should be said that the NCP could be quite competitive in March should it pick an attractive candidate). Residency requirements will not necessarily prevent intelligence collectors from using political fronts as vehicles (think of the use of so-called “sleepers”), so I am not sure that imposing US-style residency requirements are a solution.

    Instead, I think NCP transparency and proactive accountability will do much to dispel any who/what questions that may arise along the lines I have raised above.

  5. Under MMP, people have a right to organise a political party as they see fit, and as far as I can tell there are no prohibitions on such parties being organised and funded by foreign agents.

    The Electoral Act prohibits donations in excess of $1500 being made to candidates or registered parties from an overseas person (which would include the PRC).

  6. Thanks Graeme, for the clarification. Of course, that would not prevent an overseas government, person or corporate entity from channeling funds to NZ-based person(s), who could then make small or large donations to NZ registered parties as s/he or they see fit. Or is that incorrect?

  7. The Electoral Act prohibits donations in excess of $1500 being made to candidates or registered parties from an overseas person (which would include the PRC).

    What about to individuals or trusts who then pass it on to the party or candidate? Easy-peasy.

    It quite clear that the NCP is a disloyal front for the Chinese government. That a fifth column of Chinese migrants who have greater loyalty to Beijing than New Zealand exists in this country has been obvious since the pro-China rally several years back in Aotea square.

    The question is what are we going to do about it before suddenly the PRC decides the electoral treatment of the NCP and “it’s” citizens in this country demands they send a squadron of warships?

  8. Frankly, a rag-tag bunch of discredited individuals with zero chance of political success rattling about in Beijing worries we a lot less than government ministers spending weeks on “study leave” in the US….on our tab, what’s more….

  9. The point, ak, is that the NCP may not be so rag-tag or zero chance as you may think, and it may be much less transparent in its behaviour than some USAID junket to DC for inexperienced but nevertheless NZ-committed politicians. But you can be the judge of that.

  10. Pablo,

    Thanks for the clarity about residency. You’re right. Maybe I was meant to say that I am concerned about having too many small parties in the House. Will they have the strength of a Greens or UnitedFuture. Or will they be like ACT or NZ First? Juicy at election time but lacking real substance in Parliament. Further, if they intend to campaign on a single issue- that won’t work. On the other hand, to have precious votes taken away from the Majors and the credible Minors will definitely hurt. If conspiracy theory can analysis, then I would say having votes taken away from certain parties may be a true objective.

    Credibility is the key this year’s election: let’s see who has it.

  11. Thanks Graeme, for the clarification. Of course, that would not prevent an overseas government, person or corporate entity from channeling funds to NZ-based person(s), who could then make small or large donations to NZ registered parties as s/he or they see fit. Or is that incorrect?

    Somewhat incorrect. Contributors of more than $1500 to a donation must be identified to the party. Overseas persons cannot contribute more than $1500 to a donation.

    The could potentially contribute to multiple donations by the same person, or by different people, but it is possible that this would be considered circumventing the prohibition on large foreign donations. The exact scope of the offence of circumvention is untested and unclear.

  12. The most likely result of the NCP running will not be the NCP getting anyone elected, but rather gifting several percentage points to NZ First, who probably will be praying the NCP run this year.

  13. Quite an interesting little piece. Chinese in NZ (as shown in the Crafer Farm debacle) are not very transparent regarding their financial links and are usually doing things bordering on illegal. I think this will trip the NCP. Also, National and Labour have a fair number of Asian-ethnic candidates. But a spy/strategic link to the PRC is a bit of an absurd accusation (sort of almost like linking the Maori Party with the group caught in the anti-terror raids). Until there is further evidence, I see the NCP’s meeting in Beijing as only an offshore party conference – and there is nothing unlawful about that.

    If there is evidence of NCP connections with the PRC, it could expose a new strategy for the PRC to exert overseas influence via democratic mechanisms as opposed to purely gaining lobbying power via economic and diplomatic means. But we should not view this as only a PRC-phenomenon. I think it is safe to say that in the last 65 years, the US has pretty much sponsored (and even militarily supported) dozens of political parties and leaders in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

    From the way I see it, the Chinese are better off pursuing influence via the FTA. Its also not like the Chinese lack human intelligence. Estimatations put 1000+ intelligence operatives operating in Australia. The Chinese have military attaches that are military diplomats (nothing espionage at all, in fact NZ has attaches in Beijing) who are always welcome to observe NZ military exercises etc. In other words, the Chinese have more to gain via existing means than trying to politically infiltrate a party.

    But from another viewpoint, let’s assume the NCP activities are genuine, legal and reflect some of the views of Kiwi-Asians. While it will probably take a few elections for the NCP to win a seat or two, assuming they even last through this election, I think it is a healthy development in our democratic system. Why should we pursue bilateral politics? Bilateral approaches cannot work for a multicultural society.

  14. Wilson.

    We agree that as a legitimate vehicle for the expression of new migrant’s political interests under MMP, the NCP is a good thing. We also agree that the NCP can serve as a legitimate vehicle for the political aspirations of emerging capitalist factions. We even agree that, should the PRC be involved with the NCP, it represents a new approach to extending its influence abroad, an approach already used by other countries.

    Where we seem to disagree is on the possibility that the PRC might use the NCP as an intelligence-gathering platform. Intelligence-gathering focuses on more than military issues, and regardless of existing assets, the more a state can penetrate additional aspects of another state’s power structures the better picture it will get of the decision-making process in the targeted state. Given the PRC’s track record in the Western Pacific and elsewhere in this regard, I do not think that it is absurd to speculate on that possibility.

  15. To re-assure folks, even though I am of Chinese ethnicity, I am a New Zealand citizen and my commitment is to democracy and the rule of law. If the NCP is indeed an avenue for the PRC to spy on us and to politically infiltrate us, then shame on them and shame on the Chinese.

    But it is concerning that political parties in NZ often play the “race card” – whoever is most successful in appealing to the Asian community wins the Asian vote (see Rodney Hide in Epsom or the battle for Howick). I fear that the NCP will manipulate the NZ-Chinese communities’ frustrations to get into power…

    In summary, I wanted to offer an alternative view as opposed to mainstream accusations of the NCP (see above). But in my own opinion, I am as suspicious as you guys are.

  16. But don’t let these comments and debate become an avenue for Paul Henry-type racist remarks. I don’t tolerate racism and false accusations of my ethnicity. Nor do we want to return to a John Howard/White Australia policy.

    Fifth generation Chinese being pro-Beijing…concerning? Perhaps. But perhaps our fear is generated by our misunderstanding? How many of us have bothered talking to members of the Chinese community (not just your friends)?

    What pissed me off with media during the Pansy Wong debacle was when the journalist enthusiastically said “let’s talk to some of the Howick constitutentees to get their views on Pansy”. All the people they interviewed were Pakeha. That gives only one side of the coin.

  17. The colonial legislature, aka the New Zealand parliament, gives allegiance to the British monarch, while most Maori voters remain loyal to Maoridom. From the inception of the colonial regime New Zealand politics has been race-based.

    The wave of new immigrants from China will inevitably seek to find their own place in the sun, and it is to be expected that they will remain loyal to China, its culture, and its political institutions, just as New Zealanders of British descent have remained loyal to British culture and political institutions.

    The only surprise about the “pro-PRC Chinese party” is that it has been such a long time coming.

  18. Wilson.

    Just to reiterate: my concern is not with the creation of a race based party or the ethnicity base of the NCP. My concern is with the potential use of the NCP as a platform for the projection of a foreign (authoritarian) regime’s interests, influence and intelligence-gathering capabilities in NZ. I would have the same concerns if that foreign power were the US.

  19. Well, haven’t we all suddenly come out of the woodwork! This issue may end up live on TV as debate or quietly disappear.

    I am curious at the timing of NCP considering a stand here, even though we all agree that it is after all election year – but why this one?

    I am not that considered about spying – there are a million or so other ways to get intel. Reading the Internet, national or local newspaper, become a tourist etc.

  20. Dont you think you are being a little harsh. People like Paul Spoonley and joris de bres have argued for years not to show bigotry like this Pablo. I am ashamed to call myself a kiwi.

  21. Dan:

    Perhaps you reading skills are not up to scratch. No where in the post is there even a hint of bias or prejudice, something that is reiterated in the comments. In fact, I explicitly stated that my concern is about manipulation of the NCP by a foreign government, not a race of people.


  22. No doubt one result of this new party will be that the exemption for parties winning an electorate seat from having to reach the 5% threshold is even more likely to go in any reform of MMP “in 2014”.

    That means, it will end ACT and United’s usefulness to National and thus their place in parliament – leaving the National Party dependent on either FPP watered down to SM or a future without real allies in MMP.

    Historically there was a 19th C Pakeha vs Maori struggle, with the settler dominating parliament and government decision-making for their benefit at the expense of Maori. And the concept of a multi-cultural society within a bi-cultural nation identiy for the 21st C, that developed by the end of the 20th C, is a work in progress.

    However not much can be expected of the NCP, as migrants are too diverse to the collected under one umbrella, it’s really more indicative of a state of mind amongst some Chinese about the role they can play in the world. To what extent this is the Chinese of China or the first generation Chinese in New Zealand is too early to say.

    Of more impact is the $200,000 donation to the National Party by one of the group trying to buy Crafar Farms, and the recent buy into Wrightson the rural real estate agency. If one door closes keep a look out for other opportunities as they come available …

  23. Wilson, I’ve got to take issue with your statement that “Chinese in NZ… are usually doing things bordering on illegal.”

    Pablo, while I won’t argue with your ideas about PRC intelligence’s focus on HUMINT and the potential for political parties to be vectors for that influence, I personally would need to see more evidence or the New Citizen’s Party being influenced by the Chinese government than a single meeting in Beijing and some of its members working for the Chinese government as a sign that this is likely to be the case.

  24. Hugh, sorry my statement was a bit of a generalisation. But there are a string of cases involving high-profile Chinese activities such as the Crafer Farm fiasco, that will hurt the prospects of a Chinese political party (in the eyes of the wider public anyway). This is not to say that all Chinese businessmen and women or ordinary citizens and residents and students do illegal stuff.

    I appreciate your sensitivity and support against racism Hugh. But if you are so sensitive about it, you should have stepped into this discussion much earlier to critique the article itself. It isn’t Pablo who is making the Chinese spy remarks – his source comes from the article which we are discussing all along.

  25. I agree Wilson, it would have been better if I’d leapt in earlier I agree, but I didn’t read this thread until today.

    I’ve noticed a worrying tendency for discussions about Chinese businesses and government influences in New Zealand to devolve into tired old “yellow peril” tropes about the insidious Chinese, straight out of the Gold Rush era. I expect this wasn’t your intent, but this is part of the danger – loose language on the part of those who aren’t racists can provide inadvertent fuel to those who are.

  26. Thanks Hugh. Good point. We don’t need another “yellow peril” psyche to overhang NZ. Articles like this, while important in safeguarding our democracy, also have the unfortunate side effect of being twisted by the media and manipulated by xenophobic folks to advance a White New Zealand (or a strictly Pakeha/Maori New Zealand).

  27. Wilson:

    Just to be clear: I did not “get” my idea from the post from any one article (and I am not sure which article you are referring to anyway). I have been an observer of, and have written about, PRC strategic policy in the South Pacific for the last six years or so (you may wish to avail yourself of the two-part series on PRC-US strategic competition in the Western Pacific that was published in http://www.scoop.co.nz in September 2009). It is from these observations that I draw my inferences (which themselves are not definite conclusions due to the opaque nature of the subject). The announcement that the NCP had formed and the Beijing leadership meeting are what prompted this particular reflection on what is an ongoing interest.

    Hugh. It has been a while since you graced these pages. Surely you agree that we can have discussion about the possibility of foreign government manipulation of a NZ-based political party without sliding into race-baiting or encouraging those who do. I explicitly and repeatedly stated this is not about race but about foreign government control. In fact, under MMP I have zero problem with race-based parties of any sort since people are free to politically organise as they see fit. Thus the post has nothing to do with the ethnic composition of the NCP per se and all to do with the possibility that it serves as more than a vehicle for the realisation of new migrant political interests–something stated at the onset in the post.

  28. Wilson

    Nor do we want to return to a John Howard/White Australia policy.

    Yes we dont, But to be fair under john howard we saw the largest influx of migrants from asian than in any other time in history so where is the evidence that john howard was running a white australia policy thats abit absurd to say that.

  29. Dan, the effectiveness (or not) of the policy doesn’t change the fact that there was a conscious appeal to those good old days when there was one.

    Although the White Australia policy ended under Whitlam’s Labor government in the 70s, Howard tried to revive it, first explicitly while in opposition, then (after being dumped from the Liberal leadership because of it) more surreptitiously once in government.


  30. Like winston stoped talking about it when he was in bed with labour 2005-2008. It was just rhetoric from howard and abbott is doing something similar. But it wont change 300,000 a year is here to stay in aussie despite the claims that only 180,000 will be allowed.

  31. My apologies Pablo. I didn’t realise you were the one who wrote the piece, and I congratulate you for spending the time and effort to write a stimulating, controversial but also eye opening contribution. Just a misunderstanding dude so let’s chill.

  32. Yes Pablo, my comments about race-baiting were directed at Wilson and his (now withdrawn) statement about Chinese people in general, not at you.

    That being said if you don’t view the ethnic composition of the party as prima facie evidence of its potential as a vector for Chinese government influence, then all we’re live with holding up the case for the prosecution is the meeting in Beijing and the fact that some of its members have worked or work for the Chinese government. I don’t really view that as a very strong indicator.

    I think your views are informed less by any racial issues as by what Kissinger identified as “locked room syndrome”, where we assume our adversaries have some sort of comprehensive plan when they are, in fact, blundering as blindly as we are. I don’t doubt that the PRC government would like to have influence in New Zealand, but I doubt that have any consciously formulated strategy to implement it, just a series of ad hoc, largely defensive measures aimed principally at preventing criticism of their own policies either from the NZ government or the expat Chinese community.

  33. Just to be clear myself: As a person who studies Chinese foreign policy and strategic issues myself (my summer research is on the PLA’s military diplomacy, I just want to caution that there are no right or definite views on China – in fact a lot of people including myself have been wrong on many occasions and Chinese foreign policy can change quite quickly and unpredictably. Its not like all the Chinese leaders and intelligence services sing from the same song sheet either. The views and debates within the CCP are pretty diverse. I won’t be surprised if the senior Chinese leadership does not know about this meeting with the NCP. The military, intelligence service, business circles, etc, might be meeting with the NCP without the rest of the CCP knowing.

    What am I trying to say? Well the situation is not as straight forward as it seems. If indeed Chinese officials are meeting with members of the NCP, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs might not actually know about it (see China’s ASAT test, Chinese submarines caught in Japanese waters, the launch of China’s new stealth fighter – all events that have demonstrated that not everyone in the Chinese government are always on the same page).

    Regarding race – I am not accusing your piece or your comments as racist. I was merely highlighting the dangers of it being manipulated by “Paul Henry Fans” for such a purpose. Just putting it out there.

  34. Hugh: Your second point is very well taken. As for the first, I guess it is a matter of waiting to see how the NCP evolves over the next months and years. My hope is that my speculation is eventually proven wrong.

  35. Hugh…despite our differences, thanks for your previous comment. It nicely supports the one I just posted up. Great minds think alike? lol.

    Hugh is right – the Chinese govt might be blundering just as blindly as we are. In fact, its probably already bigger news here than it is over in China (for reasons why, see me and Hugh’s posts above).

    But the “danger” (not accusing you Pablo of…well…er…making accusations) of this discussion is that people will think the Chinese nation and government are all acting as a single sinister entity. It’s not.

  36. A logical conclusion to be drawn is perhaps the Chinese government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or even the military or intel services are NOT involved.

    Rather, a more reasonable explanation is if the NCP is meeting with anyone, they are meeting with business entities – entities that have a vested interest in the NZ market and perhaps discussing with the NCP how Chinese businesses could better “operate” in NZ and how the NCP’s policies could fit within this scheme.

    If you know much about Beijing, its not just a political hub. Its a cultural, commercial, sporting, technological hub for all of China. Just because someone or something meets in Beijing or does its business there DOESN’T mean they are automatically linked to the Communists.

  37. I rather think too much has been read into all this. Pablo’s piece is clearly marked out as speculation and tea-leaf reading rather than anything based on hard evidence, and he’s shown plenty of willingness to reform his statements in light of evidence as it emerges. There’s been no argument that the meeting in Beijing is evidence that the NCP is a CCP front; only that it’s one indication amongst many, and one which, if true, would accord with the PRC government’s strategic intel priorities.

    That said, it’s been an interesting discussion, and I don’t mean to pour cold water on it.


  38. I don’t think China needs a local party to influence NZ. Its already capable of buying NZ many times over, and the only reason it doesnt is that its busy buying elswhere and NZs have a long history of being anti-Chinese.
    Besides, as has been pointed out, Britain had much more influence in the 19th century, and the US in the 20th (and still does), behind the scenes, much less transparent that setting up a political party.
    China and US are on a collision course and NZ is one of the many countries to feel the fallout.
    Instead of worrying about ‘authoritarian’ influences (I would say the US record of invading other countries is pretty authoritarian) lets join forces with the masses in all these countries who have a common interest in replacing their capitalist ruling classes and avoiding a cataclysmic collision.

  39. The issue is not about post-colonial loyalties (that is sooo last century) versus modern expat loyalties (which is an insult to the bulk of new migrants–such as myself–who desire to be Kiwis in the full sense of the term). It is about a 5th column, which has a specific meaning that apparently some folk simply do not understand.

    What seems to have gotten lost in all of this is that the PRC would have an interest in getting into government decision-making circles given NZ’s close “strategic partnership” with the US, including complete intelligence sharing (remember the Wellington Declaration in November anyone?). Having access to government decision-making on matters of industrial, trade and export, and military-intelligence security policy would be a gold mine for an interested foreign power.

    Given its track record of placing assets in positions close to government authority in several states with less strategic significance than NZ and given the close PRC government connections of some of its founding leaders, it is not crazy or bigoted to speculate about ulterior motives at play when it comes to the NCP. I could be wrong but I certainly ain’t crazy.

    As for the global masses rising up to prevent a clash of capitalist titans–yeah, right.

  40. Having access to government decision-making on matters of industrial, trade and export, and military-intelligence security policy would be a gold mine for an interested foreign power.

    Why don’t they just read wikileaks like everyone else?

  41. Dave Brown:

    Not sure about NZ history being anti-Chinese. I was born here and have not a recollection of that happening here.

    Everyone else:

    My reading of Chinese foreign policy is that it does change according to strategic long term objectives. Right now, as far as Asia Pacific is concerned, they are doing everything to deface American influence in the region (FTA with NZ, warship visit would piss US foreign policy establishment off rather nicely). In the long term view which I believe is always a central view of Chinese foreign policy is that they service strategic relationships in order. If NCP is a way of cementing a kind of strategic relationship, even if done indirectly, then it will be to their advantage in what could be the next 25 years. If NCP doesn’t get in parliament – ok – so Chinese foreign policy will keep trying to build on what they have started with NZ with that view of curtailing US influence south western Pacific.

    For me, after reading a bit more, I am seeing clearly, that the next few years will be quite interesting, starting with Election year.

  42. And to be clear, again: It might not be even remotely connected to the Chinese government, military, etc. There may be entirely private entities working with the NCP that the Chinese govt do not know about it. Sure I am not ruling out that if the NCP gains ground in NZ politics the Chinese govt will take advantage of it. But I don’t believe they are, at the moment, a driving force behind the NCP, let alone making the NCP’s agenda. It’s more feasible to consider entirely private business entities behind the NCP.

    Remember what I said earlier: Just because someone goes to and does business in Beijing does not mean they are a freakin Commie or a spy. Beijing is a economic hub of China as well and all the top private business dogs meet there for a lot of reasons.

    We also have to be careful not to apply old Cold War theory to this. The danger in US foreign policy at the moment is that it has tried to apply Cold War thinking and strategies against China and terrorism – clearly it has not worked. We have to be careful ourselves, especially as progressive Kiwis who are not burdened by Cold War thinking, to stop thinking from pure realist terms and seeing the Chinese as a new Soviet Union with a devious and sinister plot to take over the world and with things like the KGB etc. Chinese domestic and foreign policy is, for the most part, rational and pragmatic, just as US and EU foreign policy is.

    If we choose to apply Cold War theories and paranoia to this and future Kiwi-Chinese activities, we risk turning Australasia into our own little fantasy Iron Curtain and thinking of ourselves as at the forefront of the crusade against Communism. I mean, its Post-Cold War. Grow Up.

  43. Pablo you are saying China is behaving like any normal imperialist power. Projecting soft and hard power.
    I agree.
    That’s the reality, the world is becoming a battleground of two blocs – US led and China led.
    Is this peaceful? No. Its zero-sum.
    Who will stop it?
    Clearly not those with an interest in war.
    Clearly those with an interest NOT to go to war but who are on the other side of the zero-sum class war.
    Ergo, the workers in all of these countries whose exploitation,misery, etc serves the interest of the imperialists.
    Or some sort of imaginary international civil society inhabited by petty bourgeois intellectuals?
    Yeah right.

  44. Dave, the notion that the interests of Chinese peasants and factory serfs match those of the minimum-wage workers of New Zealand and comparator first-world countries is one of the most abiding and egregious delusions of modern socialism.


  45. Dave:

    Do you seriously believe some form of neo-proletarian revolution is actually going to be generated in opposition to US-PRC strategic competition any time soon? More broadly, besides nationalism and an assortment of other alienating factors manipulated by governments for their own ends, the material interests of workers in a globalised economy may not in fact coincide and may in fact be in conflict. That augers poorly for a global resistance that will generate mass support.

    Hence, you will need to update your rigid orthodoxy in order to get with the times so as to better understand what types of counter-hegemonic praxis might work and what will not. As for the jibe about intellectuals–how’s your revolution going these days?

    Wilson: Your point about the heterogeneity of PRC interests is valid but your reference to “Cold War” thinking is not. Being pragmatic about a rising power’s use of a variety of means to secure advantage and ensure the continuity of its rise has nothing to do with the ideological divide of the Cold War and all to do with simple power politics, which the PRC plays quite well. So stop inferring assumptions in my thought that are simply not there.

    Phil: Since the US embassy would not be involved in any NZ govt discussions that the NCP might someday be a part of it, wikileaks will not factor (unless, of course, they receive material from a NZ or PRC-based source).

  46. Wilson, you’re quite right to emphasise the heterogenous nature of the PRC’s government. This is another aspect of the locked room fallacy – because a foreign country’s government and customs are opaque, we don’t see the cracks that divide it, the breakdowns of information, and all the other factors that make it generically hard to communicate effectively in a complex organisation. This leads us to presume that, just as “they” have a long-term plan while “we” are short-sighted, that “they” are unified behind a single goal while “we” can’t make our minds up. This obviously starts to look pretty scary. It’s a pattern that has occured throughout history – it certainly has a rich tradition in Cold War political thought even if it’s not a specific product of that thought.

    Lew, while I agree that Pablo has labelled his post as speculative, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth questioning why he choses to speculate on this matter, not some other. To me the the founding of the NCP offers only a very weak indicator of organised Chinese government interference in New Zealand politics.

    I also think that the idea that New Zealand’s close proximity to US decision making makes it a tempting target for infiltration is pretty unlikely. Firstly, there’s little sign that New Zealand receives much important intelligence from the United States – the flow seems to be entirely one way, so theoretical Chinese sources in the New Zealand government would only be able to feed incorrect information to the US. Not that giving a rival fake information is valueless, but with the multitude of US sources, it’s unlikely to be a good return on the investment of gaining influence in even a small government. Secondly, it presumes the US would be unaware of Chinese influence in the NZ government and wouldn’t change their intelligence sharing on this basis, which seems a pretty major assumption, since political parties, at least in New Zealand, are by their nature pretty open institutions (in comparison to covert networks). Thirdly, if the Chinese really do want to gain influence in the highest echelons of the NZ government to gain access to US intelligence, it seems far cheaper and more reliable to bribe or blackmail officials than to try and finance political parties. Financing a political party to participate in government in order to gain access to an intelligence feed strikes me as like buying an entire soft drink distribution company so you can make sure your local store has the brand of drink you like.

  47. Hugh, the first point about the closed room is a really good one — to which I’ll only add that huge, opaque, top-down systems such as obtain in authoritarian states tend to be less — not more — efficient than those which are comparatively more open and subject to imperatives of good governance.

    Re the rest, I think it’s fair to ask ‘why pick this angle’, but also a bit pointless. Pablo’s professional interest in and experience with intelligence and security topics of this sort isn’t exactly a secret.


  48. Wilson: Your point about the heterogeneity of PRC interests is valid but your reference to “Cold War” thinking is not. Being pragmatic about a rising power’s use of a variety of means to secure advantage and ensure the continuity of its rise has nothing to do with the ideological divide of the Cold War and all to do with simple power politics, which the PRC plays quite well. So stop inferring assumptions in my thought that are simply not there.

    Hope they are right when they say you are willing to change your views if there is evidence to the contrary of the NCP=Chinese govt links. Otherwise it is not my assumption, but yours and others who read your piece that will make ourselves believe we are under a China-siege.

  49. Wilson:

    Had the NCP leadership meeting been held in Washington DC., New Delhi, Durban or Dubai, and had those involved in the meeting evidenced direct and close links with the governments of the countries in which these cities are situated, I would have written exactly the same thing.

    You can read into my post whatever YOU want to, but please defer from imputing some hidden motive to my post. As Lew said, I have an interest in security and intelligence issues, I have some familiarity with the way in which the PRC operates abroad in those fields and hence I am perfectly within my rights, without being accused of bias or bigotry, to offer an informed speculation on a range of possibilities involved in the Beijing meeting.

    Although you and others have pointed out that the meeting could be entirely benign and just reflect the coming together of various business interests with a stake in NZ, one has to wonder why a new NZ-based party would think to hold it first major meeting in a foreign country. That is either very naive or very clumsy but in any event is not a good look for a party that hopes to be competitive as early as March of this year.

  50. And Pablo, as far as I can tell the only point on which you and I differ is the relative significance of the physical location of the Beijing meeting as evidence of ties to the Chinese government. I would really like to think that that level of disagreement doesn’t require one party or the other to be actually stupid. Seems like more of a judgement call to me.

  51. Your right Hugh, on both counts. I am getting grumpy and should not have resorted to the “stupid stick” remark with reference to either you or Wilson. And yes, it is pretty easy to read ISPs.

    Wilson: Nothing sinister intended. I am deleting the offensive comments I made and those that followed in response (or edited them to take out the flaming).

  52. Phil, isn’t it actual imprisonment, nothing so cushy as house arrest? But you can be good and damn sure that topic was ruled off the protocol agreement in the first hour of negotiations.

    There was some wishful thinking on Twitter earlier tonight about a fortune cookie at the end of the meal, with a message which read ‘Free Liu Xiaobo’. But aside from the diplomatic impossibility of such a stunt, I’m pretty sure the POTUS wouldn’t serve fortune cookies (a Chinese-American invention) to the President of China at a state dinner anyway, so …


  53. Phil:

    Such are the vagaries of diplomacy–the art of hypocrisy taken to stylised levels.

    Also be aware the the PRC insisted that the visit be called a “State” visit and that Hu be feted at a black tie “State” banquet in which US elites would attend. That the PRC is so sensitive about such things is very telling. That the US agreed to the terms is even more so.

  54. Aren’t all meetings between foreign heads of state and the President recognised by the US “state visits”? Or does the term have some further connotations I’m not aware of?

  55. Hugh:

    It may seem silly but there is a significant difference between a “State” visit and an “official” visit. “State” visits are the highest honour, “official” visits less so. In 2004 Hu was received on an “official” visit by Bush 43, something that the PRC regime deeply resented and which it insisted not be repeated this time. It is reflective of the changing balance between the two states that this time the US agreed to the “State” visit, which is most obviously symbolised by a black tie “State” dinner (in official visits the dress code for the welcoming dinner is business suits).

  56. I take it prior to the 2004 visit China had received “State” visits? What’s the usual pattern vis-a-vis State visits? Does Russia get them when Putin rocks up?

    It’s ironic that this sort of thing probably makes little difference in the American public eye – those who are unhappy with Hu visiting the White House are unlikely to be mollified by the visit being downgraded to “official” – but is clearly of pretty major importance to China, presumably due to the high emphasis Chinese officialdom puts on “face”.

  57. Hugh:

    Putnin does get a “State” visit because he is not the (formal) head of state. Medvedev would get that honour. PM Singh of India recently got a State visit, but most often such visits from national leaders are considered “official” unless they are special importance to the US. Interestingly, recent visits by Israeli leaders have all been official (much to the chagrin of US Jewish groups), attesting to the sensitivities surrounding “State” visits.

  58. So the general rule is that a head of state gets a State visit, a head of government gets an Official visit unless they’re considered a good friend? I take it this means that the British PM or German Chancellor wouldn’t be denied the black tie dinner?

    This a whole world of diplomatic protocol that I had no idea of. It’s hard not to see it as trivial and 19th century-esque, but I suppose there’s a certain value in this sort of thing as a reprimand that doesn’t involve anything substantial but is more than just words.

  59. Laminar_flow

    I feel sorry for the young man trying to get the door open. Not sure he was briefed on that one. Also the older man would have had a serious word to him, watch him, and you will see the young guy is being asked to follow the older man.

  60. Davw W

    He is hoping I guess. Getting funding from PRC will be forthcoming due to the result. Also the chinese population from PRC will only get bigger and stronger.

    Also getting people like Paul Spoonley from massey univerity will be very important to craft this party into the political force it deserves to be and that can only be good for kiwis.

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