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Increasing China's political influence in NZ

UC academic examines increasing China's political influence in NZ

A leading University of Canterbury academic is calling for New Zealand to take the threat of China’s growing political influence in its affairs more seriously.

The international shift away from positioning the United States as the centre of global power means that, more than ever, small states like New Zealand must consider their foreign policy, says Professor Anne-Marie Brady from UC’sPolitical Science and International Relations department.

Professor Brady says Australia is planning to legislate against foreign interference activities and may ban all foreign political donations. She says New Zealand should follow suit.

Professor Brady, acknowledged internationally as an expert on Chinese affairs, recently presented a paper to a conference in the United States titled Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping.

In the paper, she notes that: “Even more than his predecessors, [Chinese President] Xi Jinping has led a massive expansion of efforts to shape foreign public opinion in order to influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies.”

Professor Brady told Newsroom that: “New Zealand has to consider its own national interests and at the same time consider the views and requests of partners we work with. For instance, China’s power is growing, as an economic and military power, and like other great powers, China uses trade as a tool of its political power. This is a risk to New Zealand if we become too dependent; because there will be times we disagree with China and have to protect our interests, to the potential detriment of our trade relationship.”

She also told ABC’s The World Today programme that the use of dairy farms for near-space balloon launches by a Chinese company would also be happening in Australia and around the world, saying: “what we are experiencing in New Zealand and in Australia is happening, has been happening for a very long time in Canada and all over in Europe, in the European continent, in the UK and Africa and the Pacific, it's happening in the United States, too.”

Foreign policy Pop-up Think Tank

Understanding the challenges small nations face in a changing global environment was also the focus of a two-day Pop-up Think Tank that Professor Brady hosted at UC, earlier this year.

Under the Chatham House Rule, diplomats, defence analysts, graduate students and academics who specialise in foreign policy came from around the country in June to workshop issues that New Zealand and other small states face in the changing global environment. Exploring ideas for addressing those issues was an important part of the discussion.

“We wanted to create a constructive, respectful, relaxed environment where people could try out new ideas and do the in-depth policy analysis that needs to be done,” says Professor Brady, who coordinated the Think Tank.

Among the topics covered were the New Zealand Defence Force and its diplomatic role, how we can respond to the Trump administration, how to balance trading relationships with China, and Māori enterprise and their expanding trade with China. Presenters each delivered a 1500-word policy brief on an area of focus.

The challenges that small states are facing and will face in the future have no quick fix, but the valuable conversations sparked at the Pop-up Think Tank led to participants requesting the event be held again.

The Think Tank was held with funding from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as part of the Small States in the New Security Environment project, as well as with supporting funds from the New Zealand Association of Political Studies and the UC College of Arts. The project is a preparedness initiative examining the defence and foreign policy choices and challenges for small states in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Oceania. The research team is led by UC’s Professor Brady and Professor Baldur Thorhallsson, University of Iceland, working with Professor Margareta Šešelgytė, Vilnius University, and Professor Alan Tidwell, Georgetown University. A second conference will be held in Iceland in 2018 to continue the discussion of findings from the project.

About Professor Anne-Marie Brady

Professor Brady researches Chinese domestic and foreign politics and polar politics. She is editor-in-chief of The Polar Journal, and has published ten books and more than forty scholarly papers on a range of issues including China’s strategic interests in the Arctic and Antarctic, China’s modernised propaganda system, New Zealand-China relations, New Zealand foreign policy and competing foreign policy interests in Antarctica. Professor Brady is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC, US, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a member of the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. She is a fluent Mandarin speaker with dual majors in Chinese, Political Science and International Relations.


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