Kalendis Octobribus: Jichang Lulu does Wellington

Which doesn’t allude to any improper goings-on with the Duke, but updates my recent incursus into New Zealand politics.

My previous piece (‘United Frontlings always win’) illustrated how successful the CCP’s united-front tactics have been in embedding the Party’s agenda into both sides of New Zealand politics. The definitive version of said piece has itself been embedded into a post on China Heritage, with an introduction and links supplied by Geremie Barmé (to whom I also owe the ducal line). For a fuller discussion of PRC influence operations in New Zealand, I refer you to the Magic Weapons report by Anne-Marie Brady.

 

For he’s a jolly &c.

Characteristically for Xi Era strategies, democratic power shifts have been hedged against. My post, originally written before last week’s election, focused on two United Frontling MPs: Yang Jian 杨健 of the National Party, who originally refrained from disclosing his PLA intelligence background (part of a “system” too “complicated” for the public to understand); and Raymond Huo (Huo Jianqiang 霍建强) of Labour, with active UF links and famous for using a well-known Xi Jinping quote as Labour campaign slogan.

yang
Yang Jian 杨健

 

raymond
Raymond Huo (霍建强)

Yang and Huo had been given safe places in their party lists and were reelected as expected. There was a third candidate from a PRC-linked organisation, Chen Naisi 陈耐锶 of the CSSA (Chinese Students and Scholars Association). Chen said she is “not in the least bit interested in politics” (Brady Report, p. 23); that lack of enthusiasm, or perhaps the fact that, unlike the senior United Frontlings, she was competing for an electorate seat, prevented her from entering Parliament.

Despite increasing media exposure of the CCP’s influence activities, the major parties remain unperturbed. Among other reasons, Yang, whatever his (now well-known) military background, is valued as an effective fundraiser for his party (the Nationals, not the CCP). According to Michael Reddell, National Party president Peter Goodfellow once said that “the Chinese are more important than the farms – they don’t complain and they pay up.” In exchange for donor herding, political parties seem happy to outsource the political representation of the Chinese-speaking part of their constituency to individuals cultivated by an authoritarian foreign power.

 

An inquiry into the nature and causes

A little problem for the Frontlings-in-every-basket strategy has emerged, however. The election resulted in a hung parliament; although the Nationals obtained the most seats, these aren’t enough to form a majority government. Both possible coalitions (led by the Nationals or Labour) need the support of a small right-wing party, New Zealand First, whose leader Winston Peters has become the ‘kingmaker’. Peters had been the only politician who called for an inquiry into Yang’s case; although I thought at first that was just one of those things people say during campaigns without quite meaning them, Peters has now repeated those calls days ago. If Peters makes that a condition in coalition talks, the only way for Yang to avoid the scrutiny he clearly doesn’t appreciate would be to step aside.

It’s not immediately obvious what such an inquiry would inquire into. The alleged ‘allegations’ about Yang allege things he has admitted himself, and had been hidden in plain sight in the Chinese press for quite some time. Were the scrutiny to be directed at the National Party’s vetting of a candidate with such a background, they would normally jettison Yang rather than be exposed to the ordeal. Perhaps Parliament’s time, letterhead and bottled water could be put to better use if the inquiry examined the larger issues discussed in the Brady Report, which are slowly percolating into mainstream media; but so far no politician has displayed such an inclination.

 

A celebration of Frontlinghood

For the time being, Yang fears no inquiries and has smilingly attended the National Day (国庆节) reception at the Chinese embassy. Even though, sources claim, guests tended to avoid him, he did get to pose with the PRC ambassador, with a military attaché attached for good measure.

guoqing
乡音 via Brady’s Twitter

Further to the kalendae octobres mood: China Heritage has a piece on the anniversary of the People’s Republic, whither let me refer you.

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5 thoughts on “Kalendis Octobribus: Jichang Lulu does Wellington

  1. Following these notes with interest.

  2. Thanks for the interesting commentary.

    I must say that I am torn on these sorts of cases. On the one hand, the Chinese government trying to influence New Zealand’s politics is clearly problematic. On the other hand, Western countries should not become China’s mirror image, constantly paranoid about “foreign powers” interfering in their “domestic affairs”, and they should not stop Chinese immigrants from entering politics. I think Yang should be left alone, as long as he can prove that he is not currently loyal to the Chinese government itself.

    • I don’t expect the big guys to get into trouble. Anti-Chinese paranoia is a problem indeed, but as far as I can see, the upper classes will never attack their own people (and this includes Chinese upper-class people). However, they may well target vulnerable ordinary citizens of Chinese descent instead, who are far lower in the social pecking order.
      I think that clearly problematic interference needs to be reported, and I think that this makes posts like Jichang’s important.

  3. […] within both sides of New Zealand politics (“Skirt lifted, jewels unveiled“; “Kalendae octobres“). That description might eventually need an update, but not before a government is formed, […]

  4. Thanks for these comments. Apologies for the late reply. For more on PRC influence in New Zealand, I have a new post ‘copiously updated’ after the emergence of the new government.

    Here’s a recent take on Yang’s case from Matt Nippert, a NZ journalist.

    @jixiang

    What you say is quite sensible in a general way. This short update post doesn’t provide much background on Yang, and it’s understandable you’d give him the benefit of the doubt. There’s more about the United Frontlings in my previous post and other pieces linked there.

    I’m not sure if you mean anyone specific in New Zealand is stopping Chinese immigrants from entering politics. Yang Jian was ushered into politics by the National Party establishment, who continue to defend him even after his background in military intelligence and CCP membership were revealed.

    If anything, United Front efforts, as facilitated by the major political parties, have achieved the effective disenfranchisement of the Chinese community, or at least those in it who’d appreciate other Chinese representatives than those linked to CCP organisations. For all intents and purposes, China’s political system holds extraterritorially for the NZ Chinese diaspora. Political representation is outsourced to organisations controlled by the UFWD.

    This is the exact opposite of inclusiveness and participation. It’s a form of ‘cooperation’ between the PRC government and the political and business establishment of (in this case) New Zealand that uses the Chinese community as a tool. Both UF doctrine and, if the ‘pay up and don’t complain’ quote above is correct, National’s president are saying this explicitly.

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