Cherry picking on Chinese influence.

Concern about Chinese influence operations in Western democracies has increased over the last few years, including here in NZ. The concern stems from the fact that, although not espionage or intelligence gathering per se, such operations–which involve money spent on individuals and organisations, establishment of pro-China fronts and media outlets, and placement of individuals linked to or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party in positions of corporate and political importance–corrupt Western democratic systems and undermine the political, social and economic values that underpin them.

The impact of Chinese influence operations has been the subject of considerable discussion in Australia, to the point that politicians have been forced to resign because of undisclosed ties to Chinese interests and intelligence agencies have advised against doing business with certain Chinese-backed agencies. As usual, the NZ political class and corporate media were slow to react to pointed warnings that similar activities were happening here (people may remember my essay on a Chinese fifth column from a few years ago). It was not until Canterbury University academic Anne Marie Brady published an essay last year on so-called Chinese “magic weapons” that the extent of Chinese influence in the local political and corporate worlds was revealed and became a matter of public interest.

It is significant that Brady’s work was first published in the US for a think tank focused on Chinese international affairs, and her first public exposure happened in Australia at a parliamentary committee hearing. That is because, unlike the US and Australia, NZ politicians are not particularly interested in digging into the nature and extent of Chinese influence on the party system and government policy. This, in spite of the “outing” of a former Chinese military intelligence instructor and academic as a National MP and the presence of well-heeled Chinese amongst the donor ranks of both National and Labour, the close association of operatives from both parties with Chinese interests, and the placement of well-known and influential NZers such as Don Brash and Jenny Shipley in comfortable sinecures on Chinese linked boards, trusts and companies.

As I have written before, there is enough to this pattern of behaviour to warrant scrutiny from NZ intelligence agencies and the police. But we also need to put Chinese influence operations in perspective. How are the Chinese any different than the Indians or Polynesian groups when it comes to infiltrating political parties, other than the amount of money available to them? How are these influence operations substantially different than those of other governments such as the US, which funds an array of scholarships, visitor programs, parliamentary delegation junkets and the like? How are Chinese backing of friendship and solidarity groups different than those backed by other foreign governments? How is Chinese corporate fund raising, “fact-finding” and conference travel and other ear-bending efforts any different than the lobbying of corporations, business associations, advocacy groups, etc.?

The answer seems to be that the Chinese are authoritarian, have lots of money to spend on making friends and influencing people and do so in a clearly transactional fashion, much as they do via their chequebook policy in the South Pacific. The implication is that they engage in corrupt practices when necessary and will not adhere to the strictures of democratic governance other than as lip service when it comes to pursuing their interests. Since NZ is, in essence, just another Pacific Island nation, why should this come as a surprise? In fact, the more interesting issue is why, fully knowing that the Chinese are using influence operations for purposes of State that go beyond international friendship or business ties, do so many prominent New Zealanders accept their money and/or positions on front organisations? Is the problem not so much what the Chinese do as as a rising great power trying to enlarge its sphere of influence as it is the willingness of so-called honourable Kiwis to prostitute themselves for the Chinese cause?

Last week the beat up on Chinese influence in NZ took a strange twist. At a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCESRC) hearing, an ex-CIA analyst said that the Chinese had penetrated the “political core” of the country and that in light of that the US should reconsider keeping NZ in the Five Eyes signals intelligence sharing network.

The absurdity of these remarks needs to be deconstructed, not only for what was said but for what was not said. Let it also be noted that although nominally a bipartisan agency of the US Congress, the USCESRC has increasingly become a China-bashing forum, something that has been accentuated under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who oversees Commission appointments) and President Trump. This also matters because the witnesses called to testify before USCESRC are often cherry picked for their views on matters of US-China relations.

In his case the ex-CIA analyst rightly pointed out that, in contrast to the US and Australia, the NZ political elite were blasé about the extent of Chinese influence in local politics. But he took a step too far, downplaying the record of the previous National government and criticising the new Labour government for casting a blind eye on pernicious Chinese influence within its ranks (the only mention of National was a reference to the Jian Yang case). He then jumped the shark by recommending that the US and other 5 Eyes partners reconsider NZ’s membership in the signals intelligence sharing partnership.

Let’s be very clear: for the previous nine years National was in power, the deepening of Chinese influence was abided, if not encouraged by a Key government obsessed with trade ties and filling the coffers of its agrarian export voting base. It was National that ignored the early warnings of Chinese machinations in the political system and corporate networks, and it was Chinese money that flowed most copiously to National and its candidates. It is not an exaggeration to say that Chinese interests prefer National over Labour and have and continue to reward National for its obsequiousness when it comes to promoting policies friendly to Chinese economic interests. In fact, it is National that had a Minister, in the person of Judith Collins, attempt to use her position and manipulate the NZ ambassador to China into pushing her husband’s dodgy Chinese-backed business.

All political parties protest that they strictly adhere to campaign finance law and on paper they clearly do. But the whiff of dark money, dirty politics and other forms of unacknowledged influence trading has long clung to National in a measure not shared with its opponents. Put succinctly, contrary to what the the ex CIA analyst intimated, the influence of Chinese interests has been strongest when National is in government. And it is not just the Chinese who have availed themselves of the favourable climate operative during National’s tenure.

Not that National is solely to blame when it comes to trading favours. Labour clearly has consorted with some unsavoury Chinese donors and it remains to be seen if it will be any different than National now that it is out of the wilderness and back into government. But if foreign penetration of the “political core” is such a concern, it is surprising that no serious mention has made either at home or abroad of Winston Peters’ ties to Russia via the horse industry and beyond. In fact, when one looks at Peters’s links to an assortment of industries and interests, it is not just foreigners who appear to have an inside track on his thinking. Even so, the notion of a “political core” being compromised assumes that a whole array of constituent groups, from unions to manufacturers to iwi, are in the pockets of the Chinese no matter who is in government. Perhaps they are, but if so, I have not heard about it.

Labour may have the likes of Raymond Ho in its ranks and some dubious Chinese businessmen among its supporters, but it comes nowhere close to National when it comes to sucking up to the Chinese. That is why Jian Yang is still an MP, and that is why we will never hear a peep from the Tories about the dark side of Chinese influence operations. For its part, Labour would be well-advised to see the writing on the wall now that the issue of Chinese “soft” subversion has become a focal point for Western democracies. After all, Chinese influence operations that work to subvert basic value structures do so against a backdrop of aggressive Chinese cyber attacks and intelligence gathering in the countries in which influence operations are most prominent, NZ included.

But that is also why the recommendation that NZ be excluded from 5 Eyes is ridiculous. First, because for all of the talk about counter-terrorism, the bulk of counter-intelligence efforts by NZ (through the SIS and GCSB) and its 5 Eyes partners are directed at state actors, China in particular. Even if the NZ political elite were totally compromised by the Chinese, the security bureaucracies would insulate their operations from political interference and would likely work with the Police to demonstrate when and where politicians were acting on behalf of Chinese rather than NZ interests. It is the NZ intelligence community (NZIC), more than anyone else, who know the full extent of Chinese activities in the country, and the NZ intelligence community is fully ensconced in Anglo-centric democratic intelligence networks. It is therefore not likely that the NZIC would overlook the type of Chinese influence operations that result in capture of NZ’s “political core.”

Secondly, getting thrown out of 5 Eyes is not simply a matter of being told to take one’s toys and go home. The equipment at the listening posts at Waihopai and Tangimoana and at GCSB headquarters in Wellington is acutely sensitive and there are numerous citizens of partner countries working at those installations. Dismantling and removing equipment, files, archives and other sensitive material from such facilities will be time consuming, diplomatically fraught and operationally vulnerable, especially when it is well known that the Chinese, foremost amongst others, are extremely interested in them.  Institutional history, to include linkages with 5 Eyes partners and broader security networks, would have to be purged in order to avoid it falling into adversary hands. So getting kicked out of 5 Eyes involves much more than a rebuke, and, given NZ’s taskings within the 5 Eyes network, it is precisely the Chinese who will benefit the most from the expulsion.

If the US and other 5 Eyes partners are as worried about NZ being compromised by the Chinese as the ex-CIA analyst suggests that they are, a message of concern would have been sent to the NZ government in at least three ways: via diplomatic communications from the US embassy (which undoubtably has sent reports back to the State Department about the prevalence and impact of Chinese influence operations and intelligence gathering in NZ); by a diminishing of intelligence feeds from those partners in an obvious fashion; and by direct communication between the intelligence chiefs involved. This could well have been the purpose of the visit by the US Director of Intelligence to NZ a few weeks ago and if so, the gravity of the concerns have now been made clear to the Ardern government. However, the PM as well as the Opposition leader have both said that nothing has been brought to their attention that causes them to believe that NZ’s political system has been compromised by Chinese agents.

Given my antipathy towards authoritarians, I hold no particular affection for the PRC. But I do recognise that it does so as a maturing great power and accept that its behaviour is not going to change any time soon unless action is taken to circumscribe its activities in the West–a problem for societies founded on notions of freedom of association, movement and speech (including of opinion and the press). Because these rights are seen as Achilles Heels to be exploited by authoritarian rivals such as China and Russia, it should be expected that they will continue to be used as avenues of exploitation by them (as has been well demonstrated in the US).

What I deplore the most, though, is attacks on left-leaning governments (such as they are) like the current Labour government in NZ for supposedly going soft on Chinese influence pandering when in fact it has been right-leaning governments, not only in NZ but elsewhere, that have most assiduously courted Chinese investment and better diplomatic ties in spite of the PRC’s authoritarian character and dubious record when it comes to human rights and adherence to international conventions. For the NZ media to pick up and bang this hammer when it is part of an orchestrated attack on the Chinese by the US doing so for geopolitical reasons of its own demonstrates how shallow and uncritical reporting has become in Aotearoa. The issue is serious, which is precisely why it should not be subject to partisan manipulation or, ironically, pressure from allied states.

So yes, NZ has a problem with Chinese influence operations on its soil, particularly the willingness of NZers to serve Chinese interests for a handful of coin. But no, it is not just the fault of Labour and no, it is not as bad as has been alleged by the ex-CIA analyst. Nor is what the Chinese do in terms of influence mongering that dissimilar to what many other entities do when pushing their message in the NZ political system.  So let us take better notice of the phenomenon and address it for what it is without succumbing to the apocalyptic diatribes of people whose concern about Chinese influence operations has  less to do with the particularities of NZ and more to do with the broader strategic competition that sees China on the rise and the US in decline.

BONUS LISTEN: Here is an interview done on RNZ by the ex CIA analyst in question. Readers can form their own opinions as to whether he sounds like an authoritative and credible source for the claims he has made:

26 thoughts on “Cherry picking on Chinese influence.

  1. The solution is to take all foreign money out of our political parties by using this issue to justify state funding them and banning any foreign donations.

    For Labour this should be a particularly straightforward political management problem. Appoint a commission to look into Chinese influence, profess horror at it’s findings, then whip up enough of a patriotic panic to pass state funding legislation.

    Not only would Labour be doing the right thing, they’d also be nicely kneecapping their political opponents by ending one of their biggest funding sources, so win-win for the country and Labour there.

    The only losers would be those in the Quisling class like Shipley and Brash who might suddenly find their Chinese handlers less interested in them.

  2. Good suggestion. The problem is not just foreign dark money either. But outlawing foreign campaign contributions is an obvious start. The next issue is the enforcement capacity of the State in discovering and punishing illegal contributions. My view is that the latter, as in so many other areas, is lacking.

  3. I would also like to see the government take PRC control of local Chinese language media seriously as well. The first step would be the creation of a Chinese language newspaper perhaps funded as an addition to RNZ (who I would also fund to run a Chinese language desk as part of RNZ International), to counter Chinese control of the NZ Chinese language media.

    We need to take the propaganda war seriously.

  4. The answer is absolutely not state funding. That simply reinforces the status quo. Agree on no foreign funds. Would you agree with a limitation to New Zealand tax resident citizens. It matters not how much money is raised and spent. Just that there is a level playing field.

  5. It should be common knowledge that the National Party has much closer links to the PRC and the Chinese community in New Zealand than the NZLP. Labour and its coalition partner, New Zealand First, have taken a stand against Chinese economic influence in New Zealand, and the links that the governing parties have formed with the Chinese community do nothing more than prevent the National Party from having a complete monopoly of political influence in that demographic.
    So why is Peter Mattis (presumably, though not explicitly, speaking on behalf of the CIA) singling out the Labour-led government for criticism over its alleged involvement with the PRC and the Chinese community? Why not direct his criticisms to the National Party (which is much more deeply involved in the Chinese community) as Pablo and other left-leaning commentators have done? Were Peter Mattis’ comments really “absurd” as Pablo suggests? Not at all. Mattis said what the committee wanted to hear itself, and more to the point what it wanted the New Zealand government, and the National Party to hear. Labour will learn that it “must do better” in support of the Trump administration’s anti-China campaign, and National will get the message that it would still be the preferred party of government as far as the U.S. is concerned, just so long as it reverses its China policy. It makes sense, of course, to put pressure on both major parties but at the present moment it makes more sense to concentrate that pressure on the Labour-led government, with help from Professor Brady, the other Five Eyes partners, and other members of the Intelligence Community in New Zealand. Without the heat coming on Labour, National would have no cause to alter its policies. But if Labour is thrown on the ropes by a well coordinated anti-China campaign, then National would have sound political reasons to seriously consider ditching its China-friendly policy.

  6. Interesting take, Geoff.

    But that is why I felt the need to refute Mattis. We should not be pressured into exaggerating the Chinese presence in our political and economic systems any more than it is. National needs to be held to account for allowing what penetration/infiltration of the “political core” has occurred. And we need to place Chinese influence operations in proper context vis a vis the influence mongering of other countries, private agencies and the like. Because it seems to me that certain sectors of the NZ political elite have a big “For Sale” sign on their on their foreheads, and it does not matter who the buyer is so long as they have the cash or other rewards to offer.

  7. I tend to agree with Geoff on this occasion as Mattis did take a veil swipe at that “No Mate Party’s” about Dr Jaing, that some MP’s have close tires with China and the concerns of political donations to both parties at the last elections. But you are also correct that the “No Mates Party” should be held accountable for it action over the last 9yrs of their term in office as it’s pretty disgusting after having read Ron Asher’s book “In the Jaw of the Dragon- How China is taking over New Zealand” and I’m about to start reading Clive Hamilton’s book “Silent Invasion- China’s influence in Australia” the preface to his book is a interesting read btw.

    Thanks again for a wonderful insight to your POV on this tropic. Do you have POV at the Governments reset in the South Pacific and the review of the 4 or 5 principles of the last DWP which see the dumbing down of RNZAF’s ASW and ASV Capabilities among some of the other big tickets items of the $20B re-equipment upgrades.

  8. Pablo, have you changed your position on Jian Yang?

    Maybe I am misreading you but your “Is He A Spy” post seemed to be very sceptical about the idea that Jian Yang was any kind of intelligence agent. But here, you seem to be saying that National would not have allowed him to become an MP if not for Chinese influence?

  9. Erewhon.

    I remain of the opinion that Jian, who I know personally and have spent a fair bit of time with in the past, is not an intelligence agent. However, I do think that he was encouraged by elements in the Chinese community to run for office in order to take advantage of National’s need to cultivate the Chinese electorate (he told me once that he was selected almost exclusively as a liaison with the Chinese community in spite of his strong academic writings on Chinese foreign policy, particularly in the South Pacific, which I would have thought would have been a strong selling point to the National leadership).

    His background (similar to mine in that regard) as an instructor of intelligence agents makes him especially attuned to the political vagaries of the moment, including the disposition of his party towards various policy issues (which become government policy once in office). He would be able to share his insights with members of his community and the can find there way up the information chain to people in Beijing with or without the intercession of the Chinese embassy or others working in a (however covert) official information-gathering capacity.

    Again, all pretty similar to what other politicians do for various constituencies without falling into the “spying” category. Plus, I am not sure that he was ever granted a classified security clearance. I could be wrong on this and he did in fact hold one, but if so I am more concerned about the (yet again) failure of the SIS to properly vet him given his misleading statements on immigration forms rather than the substance of anything that he might have heard/read in a classified setting (which if I understand correctly did not involve military or intelligence matters since his remit was on foreign affairs and trade ).

    Having said all of that, I think that National would have been wise to allow him to stand down before the election given the controversy surrounding him–that is, drop him because of the negative political optics rather than any sin that he may have committed. That they did not speaks to its better read of the electorate or inability to find a replacement, perhaps, but his presence will dog National from now on and will carry over to any other ethnic Chinese candidate that it presents to the electorate. Labour may have some issues of its own in this regard but it would be foolish not to capitalise on his presence to push the fifth column meme as hard as it can. Conversely, Geoff’s interpretation above is very plausible and may allow National to escape further scrutiny on the question of Chinese influence.

  10. EXKF:

    Thanks for coming around again. I do no have space here to discuss the Pacific re-set and DWP recommendations but will write about such things in the future. For the moment and in brief, I believe that the re-set, while generally a good thing, may be a case of too little too late given the hold that the PRC now has on the PIF community; and, as usual, the priorities outlined in the DWP betray a lack of grounding in a broader, coherent strategic perspective that geopolitically situates NZ as a small maritime nation in a shifting international environment where asymmetric and unconventional threats are as prevalent as are conventional ones and in which NZ’s foreign policy often works at cross-purposes to its security interests. But more on that later.

  11. Long term I think it would be wise to work with China rather than trying to cut ourselves off from them.
    They are not just catching up with the west but going right past us at high speed.
    In the future expect to see amazing advances in regenerative medicine and cancer treatment coming out of China.
    Then there are the electric cars and buses coming out of China.
    The only way to stop China will be to have a large war with them.
    Having the media teach us to fear China wont be tenable in the future because China is going to solve many of the worlds problems and there will be tremendous goodwill towards China.

  12. Peter:

    A good example of China solving the worlds problems
    is in Africa. Their investment in infrastructure
    projects is HUGE.

    First world nations have seriously missed the boat in that regard

  13. Peter:

    A good example of China solving the worlds problems
    is in Africa. Their investment in infrastructure
    projects is HUGE.

    First world nations have seriously missed the boat in that regard

  14. Chinese scientists regenerate lungs using adult stem cells brushed from a patients airways.

    The regenerative technology is amazing and a promising cure for many chronic lung diseases,” said Xu Jinfu, chief doctor of Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital.

    Though it is still in its infancy, Zuo has a lot of confidence in regenerative medicine, saying his team is studying liver, kidney and uterus regeneration.

    “I am glad to see many patients recovering and returning to normal lives. Millions of patients are in urgent need of a new treatment. Regenerative therapy is likely to be the biggest hope for them.”

  15. “… Chinese scientists regenerate lungs using adult stem cells brushed from a patients airways…”

    I saw it on the internet, it must be true.

  16. Even if these medical breakthroughs really happen, apartheid South Africa gave the world heart transplants. It didn’t make the world love apartheid South Africa.

  17. It is cute how pro-Chinese people will occasionally visit this blog and expound on why the PRC is a benevolent, or at least benign power.

  18. In the second half of the twentieth century when British power was in decline, the empire in disarray, and British technology and culture no longer world leading, many New Zealanders turned to the United States for political, economic, cultural and technological leadership. That move was fiercely resisted by traditionalists who regarded American culture as brash and superficial, the exercise of American power as crudely aggressive, and American technology as unnecessarily innovative. New Zealand is now teetering on the brink of a similar period of cultural shift away from the United States and is moving tentatively towards an opening to China. History, Karl Marx wrote, repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce and in New Zealand the farce of colonialism, in its changing forms, has perennial appeal. There will be some who want to see the old show in new settings, with new wardrobes and different actors speaking in different accents, and others who will want to keep things just the way they always were. Colonialism in New Zealand is samsara, the “suffering-laden cycle of life, death, and rebirth, without beginning or end”, or at least it will be until New Zealanders realize that the choice is not about which colonial master they should follow, but about whether they should serve any imperial overlord at all. The problem is that so many New Zealanders remain British, American, Australian, Indian or Chinese in their heart of hearts, and so every couple of generations we have these debates over which foreign power we should follow. In the end that bigger question reduces to, and is resolved by the answers to a couple of very simple questions namely “Who will buy our produce?” and “Who will best gratify our desire for toys and trinkets?”

  19. @Geoff FIscher – I think the first part of your post is completely wrong. Firstly the loss of Force Z and the defeat at Singapore in 1942 was the end of any pretense of British power east of Suez. New Zealand (along with Australia) were extremely clear eyed as to the reality of the collapse of British power in the Pacific. From 1942 on, we fully aligned ourselves with the United States in the Pacific, effectively slowly withdrawing from the European war to focus on a role as a US supply base (one that suited the Americans, since they were determined that the defeat of Japan would be an unambiguously American triumph – and it also suited us, since by 1944 war weariness was seriously affecting NZ and Australia) while having an insignificant military presence in various backwaters. After WW2 within a decade we signed up to SEATO and ANZUS. Just because a significant British influenced cultural snobbery towward the USA did and does remain in NZ should not disguise the security realities we quickly and enthusiastically signed up to.

    Secondly, the only real issue WAS the (rather slight) cultural shift. Moving the HQ of the Anglo-Saxon empire 6000km west from London to Washington DC barely changed the circumstances of our engangement with that empire. We were still a client state of an English speaking, Atlantic orientated liberal democracy made up of white Anglo-Saxons who had a gigantic Navy that guaranteed our security in what remained the deepest of geopolitical backwaters. As long as we spent the barest minimum in treasure and blood to keep everyone happy our security policy was easy to define. The difference with China, a racially and culturally foreign power that is a brutal, lawless dictatorship with no democratic traditions and an Orwellian thirst for control could hardly be starker.

    However, I do agree with this bit as to the realities of New Zealand as a sovereign nation in 2018 “…that the choice is not about which colonial master they should follow, but about whether they should serve any imperial overlord at all…” The trouble with this statement though is that for a century New Zealand has become addicted to defense on the cheap. Living in one of the deepest backwaters of Anglo-US hegemony since our inception as a nation, and not having the shock administered to our establishment the bombing of Darwin and the battles on the Kokoda trail had on the Australians we’ve deluded ourselves that such as it was such it shall always be. Worse, we are led by a combination of an establishment internationalist left wing suckled on a diet of anti-militarism, cultural cringe and middle class embarassment at the expression of popular nationalism and a culturally self-loathing establishment right wing that is ideologically wedded to mercenary laissez-faire globalism and now keenly whoring itself for easy Chinese cash. Neither of them are interested in having a debate that might end up with us spending more on weapons and turning off the tap of all those nice political donations and highly paid sinecures for little work on the boards of various obscure Chinese banks and organisations. A big chunk of the National party in particular is already owned by Beijing, they just haven’t had their chain yanked. Yet.

  20. My reading of your comment Sanctuary is that you are more precise about the timing of the shift in primary alliance (1942) and the reason for the shift (the eclipse of British military power in this hemisphere). Fair enough, and I would not dispute that New Zealand’s relationship with the US has been focused largely on security, with not so much attention paid to trade and other issues. In my view that has been a source of weakness for the alliance, and one of the reasons why New Zealand has been a half-hearted and occasionally troublesome partner to the US. I don’t have such a harsh view of the PRC as yourself and Pablo, but I do believe that it is not in New Zealand’s long-term interests to move from dependency on the Anglo-American empire to a similar dependency upon the PRC, and I do agree that the alternative (national sovereignty and political independence) must come at a cost. A cost that is well worth paying in my opinion, indeed a cost that cannot and should not be avoided. I also agree that neither the left (Labour-Green parties) or the right (National) have demonstrated understanding of the nature of the problem or the dangers of inaction, have a strategy to address it, or the commitment to give effect to such a strategy. At best they consider where their short-term political and party interests lie, at worst their personal financial interests. Long-term national interest hardly gets a look in. It is no exaggeration to say that New Zealand political establishment is sleep-walking towards disaster.
    By the way, I grew up in an era and a particular social context where the cultural and technological rivalry between traditionalists (pro-British) and progressives (pro-American) was fiercely contested and so I do believe that military security was not the only factor at play in New Zealand’s shift to the US, or the resistance to that shift which is still evident in lingering anti-American sentiment.

  21. “…. I don’t have such a harsh view of the PRC as yourself and Pablo…”

    The PRC is a brutal, lawless and totalitarian dictorship with places zero value to the importance of human life, let alone human rights. It has an Orwellian blueprint for total state control of every aspect of it’s citizens lives, with the aim of creating a compliant and obedient population of drones in order to entrench the CPC in power forever. A world dominated by a China with it’s current leadership model would be dystopian beyond belief.

    Quite why people think China is in anyway a benevolent influence on us is beyond me. We may have to sup with the devil, but let’s keep a long, long spoon while we do it.

  22. “…what is your verdict on the DPRK…”

    My verdict on a savage psuedo-communist totalitarian state built around the complete subjugation of the will to a cult of worshiping a dynasty of dictators elevated to the status of Gods?

    Hard to tell.

  23. North Korea is not the big issue. China is. Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un both need a non-aggression pact. Trump for domestic political reasons, and, more importantly, as a way to tighten his grip around China. Kim to buy time during which he can pressure China to do more to support his side. Obviously those are divergent aims, and a non-aggression pact can only last for a brief period, after which it must develop into a full military alliance or break down into open conflict. The problem for Western propagandists is that over the next couple of years they may have to carry out at least one, probably two, handbreak turns over the DPRK. I am sure they will be up to it, but thankful that I won’t be sitting alongside them as they carry out the difficult manoeuvres.

  24. Seems like what you’re saying is, you don’t have a verdict on the DPRK

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