The Case Of The Problematic Professor


ANNE-MARIE BRADY presents this government with a rather large problem. Her alleged harassment by agents of Chinese national security has all the makings of a cause celebre. Were Professor Brady’s antagonists from any other nation but China the problem confronting Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters would not exist. One has only to recall Helen Clark’s response to the discovery of an active Israeli spy mission underway on New Zealand soil to appreciate the political capital to be made out of being seen to take the defence of New Zealand sovereignty seriously. Unfortunately for Ardern and Peters, however, the Peoples Republic of China is not Israel – it’s New Zealand’s largest trading partner after Australia. When Israel gets angry it cannot threaten to undermine the New Zealand economy. Pissing-off China, on the other hand, can be extremely injurious to this nation’s economic health.

The latest chapter in the Brady saga, a letter from a group of academics, journalists and activists demanding a more aggressive defence of academic freedom, can hardly have improved the PM’s mood. Her hopes of the whole matter quietly disappearing have been dashed. People want answers – not evasions.

But do “people” have any right to answers in a matter as delicate as this one? Is the public entitled to push aside all the geopolitical and economic factors impinging on their government as if they are of no importance?

Prattling on about being the “critic and conscience” of society is all very well, but when New Zealand’s universities are so dependent on the continuing inflow of international students, is it really all that wise to antagonise one of the largest contributors to this country’s educational export trade? It would be interesting to see how the nation’s vice-chancellors would react if equivalents of Anne-Marie Brady started popping up on their own campuses. Each one launching equally uncompromising attacks against the Peoples Republic. How would all that criticising and conscientising affect their bottom-line I wonder?

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And all that Chinese investment in New Zealand’s agricultural sector: all those massive milk treatment plants springing up around the provinces; how keen would the government be to see all that brought to an end? How would Shane Jones respond to the loss of so many well-paying jobs? And David Parker, how would he feel when New Zealand’s perishable exports started piling-up on China’s docks? How would Federated Farmers react to a Chinese freeze-out? Or the Dairy Workers Union, for that matter?

New Zealand lives by its agricultural exports – which is why the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement was so important when the Global Financial Crisis struck. Without it, this country would have had significantly less to come and go on. Chinese consumers saved us from the sort of vicious austerity measures that afflicted the people of the United Kingdom and Greece. The nature of the Chinese system has not changed since 2008. If we were happy then to be given access to the huge Chinese market, are we not happy now? What’s changed?

We all know the answer to that question. What has changed is that the United States is no longer prepared to see China assert its “hard” (military and economic) and “soft” (cultural and propagandistic) power unchallenged. In concert with its principal regional allies, Japan and Australia, the US is pushing back against Chinese expansion into the Pacific – once an American lake but now the location of intense international rivalry. Try as it might (and it tried very hard under John Key and his foreign minister, Murray McCully) New Zealand is finding it increasingly difficult, in the age of Donald Trump, to keep its distance from this looming fight between the Eagle and the Dragon.

Professor Brady is an acknowledged expert on the production and delivery of Chinese soft power – its “magic weapons”. But, the good professor isn’t above advancing a little soft power on her own account. Is it no more than a coincidence that she has been called upon to present her ideas to the Australian parliament? Or that her academic articles and speeches are followed closely, and receive considerable approbation, in Washington DC? That the name of Anne-Marie Brady started appearing in our news media at exactly the same moment as the rivalry between the USA and China ratcheted-up several notches – was that nothing more than serendipity?

Much has been made of President Trump’s extraordinary statement concerning America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. What made it extraordinary was its brutal honesty. For once naked American self-interest was presented to the world without its hypocritical vestments. “It’s about America first”, said the President, truthfully. Almost in as many words, he intimated that if putting America’s interests first means turning a blind eye to a cold-blooded, state-sanctioned murder, then so be it – that’s what his administration (like all its predecessors) will do.

Jacinda can’t really say “It’s about New Zealand First” – that could be misinterpreted, but if she were to say something similar in defence of her continuing silence vis-à-vis Anne-Marie Brady, then she would earn the respect of Beijing and Washington alike. With considerable relief, the advisers to both President Xi and President Trump would be able to tell their bosses: “This New Zealand prime minister, at least she knows how the game of geopolitics is played.”



  1. Disheartening to read what you write here.
    Trump no doubt has other reasons beyond real politick to not punish MbS, who has acted with increasing carte blanche thanks to Trump. But surely there are some things done that cannot go unpunished, that are so against the laws of the world and decency. And as for China influence in NZ, if it is true that Chines operatives are venturing into intimidation and tampering with cars to intimidate the academic, then this cannot be permitted. Or can it? Is that what you are saying? We are already bought and owned…

    • We need to gets some guts and sort it we cant have the Chinese coming here and doing this trade or no trade we have to maintain some principles and ethics. Someones needs to be held accountable for their actions otherwise we are opening the flood gates for more bullying and intimidation now is that what we want and where does it end ?

    • Indeed, the tone is disappointing. It always starts with a bit of softening up of dissident voices. She’s clearly got under their skin.

      Brady pointed out, in detail, the links between Chinese nationals, Chinese organisations and NZ people and organisations and how their influence was being wielded.

      Can Chris Trotter cite the “uncompromising attacks” he alleges Brady has made on the PRC?

      The analogy with Saudi Arabia doesn’t hold. Saudi Arabia isn’t infiltrating or muscling in on US academics who are critical of them. You may want to include the Carlyle Group and the confluence of interests between the Bush family and the bin Ladens but that’s a bit old hat now.

      Yes, we trade heavily with China. Are we so dependent on them that we’re happy to trade away a bit of sovereignty for 30 pieces of yuan?

      Seems to be that Chris Trotter is advocating for realism of the nature of Weinstein and a starlet. Lie back and enjoy it honey cause that’s the way it works round here.

    • Agreed. Also, to portray Trump as merely being honest and nonhypocritical, as revealing the real US, is nonsensical. With any luck at all Trump will only be a world leader (if he can be called one — already an irrelevance to the US’s own allies) for four years, maybe less. Then you’ll be left with the Chinese leader for life, Chris. Will that simplify your moral dilemma, or worsen it?

  2. We could start again to make our own railway rolling stock and infrastructure with steel and components half sourced from China and half from the US (or Japan and Australia)?

  3. Yes, we were bought and owned some time ago. Chinese intelligence penetrated our cabinet, something also played down by the current government. We are no longer in control of our economic future, we dismantled our non-agrarian economy and sold the leftovers to the highest bidder. Now we are selling the agrarian part too. We can either choose capitulation as Chris Trotter suggests or start to reclaim what we once took for granted.

    The Chinese government exert a large degree of control over their recent diaspora. This is evident from the well dressed individuals coordinating pro China demonstrations during the visit of one of their leaders. New arrivals are made to register and their thoughts and actions carefully controlled. The extent of this will become obvious if push comes to shove at some point. Perhaps this sounds like some hysterical conspiracy theory? Better hysterical than naive.

    • Brave words, Alan. And, a few years ago I would have been uttering them myself. Much reading and research into our nation’s history has, however, convinced me that we have never been an independent nation.

      All of our brief life as a colonial society we have been the plaything of an imperial power. First Britain, then the USA, and now we are being fought over by a USA desperate to halt its imperial decline (with the Aussies playing the role of Uncle Sam’s enforcers) and the rising global power, China.

      The only tangible difference between the Chinese state and our own is that ours encourages the fiction that its citizens are free, and the Chinese does all within its power to reassure its citizens that their lives are getting better. Frankly, the Chinese assertions are easier to defend.

      • No China is not easier to defend, nor are its ‘assertions’. China has no compunction in jailing or disappearing whomever displeases them for whatever flimsy reason, at least the semblance of the rule of law still exists in the US playbook.

        • Interesting that you think the rule of law still exists in the US playbook.

          And you know so much about how the Chinese government works from reading Western news media reports no doubt.

  4. while the world has changed so much since the likes of the WB Sutch/Razgovorov affair, larger Nation geo political power dynamics remain

    if China gets a serve over Brady related matters, who stands to benefit? god damn US Imperialism is who

    academic freedom to investigate is surely an important matter, but Brady is not so far convincingly non partisan in the manner of a Nicky Hager, some of the Professors that comment publicly on issues from Banking to Foreign Affairs, really make you wonder what the hell they teach to students!

    • So we should not stand up for academic freedom, or object to possible intimidation oif a citizen by actors for a foreign government if/when that would please the Americans.

      The real choices are

      an adult and being true (a democracy supporting a rules based order and human rights and multilateralism), rather than caring what any of the bullies think
      being a compliant to each and every power that might bully us (follow the dollar)
      being part of some us and them global/regional power game

  5. Thank you Chris for injecting a little sanity into this debate. As i stated in a previous reply i hold no brief one way or another re. China, but do like to know from which direction my information is being fed. Apart from being a global fellow at the wilson centre Pennsylvania ave. washington dc, a PHD at the university of Canberra and the author of numerous books demonizing China, i can find little else (although writing all those books would have surely taken some time.) on professor Brady. It would appear that we can either put up with a little soft meddling from china (To whom we owe almost all of our present lifestyle) or we can follow the bomb half the world to oblivion, (purely in the interests of democracy and nothing to do with arms sales) USA.

  6. Its good to see Chris Trotter recognising that NZ has always been a colony of UK and is now a colony of both the US and China. That is the economic reality that should guide our discussions. As a start that means that we see China and US as imperialist rivals for control of the NZ economy.

    The notions of ‘soft’ (political/cultural) and ‘hard’ (economic/military)power obscure this process. Britain always relied on its soft power (empire loyalty- Royalty – better Brits etc) to justify its economic domination. The US supplanted the UK as the main imperialist influence during and after WW2 when its military operations and subsequent victory in the Pacific set the new normal for the region.

    We can see this soft power leading to very hard power after the failure of US intervention to stop the Chinese revolution of 1949, that is, a fusion of political and economic objectives symbolised by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles heading a NZ Cabinet meeting to entrench our alliance to contain the ‘Red menace’.

    This remains the US stance, hyped up by Trump propaganda that China remains a ‘communist’ country. It is also the stance shared by Anne-Marie Brady. In other words the dominant ‘soft power’ in NZ in the post WW2 period has been the cold-war ideology projected by Hollywood’s cultural imperialism. This is the US ‘soft power’ that has morphed into the ‘war on terror’ and pivot in the Pacific to contain China’s born-again economic power.

    China today is no longer a bureaucratically run centralised economy (leaving aside the question for now of how socialist it ever was) that stagnated and stalled in the 1970s because it excluded the working masses from democratically managing the economic plan. It was forced to restore capitalism to revive economic growth. Its political and economic character today is that of state monopoly capitalism.

    So China’s current trajectory is as a massive state capitalist regime that has emerged as the major rival of the declining US. The ‘one party’ label is a diversion since all imperialist powers are ruled by parties that are equally dedicated to the growth and preservation of capitalism. Both US and China are the essentially the same underneath the turbulent political/cultural surface – capitalist imperialist powers.

    So when it comes to debating NZ’s role in relation to these two rival powers, we need to ignore the diversions about ‘communism’ as justifying special attention to China’s expansion into NZ, to focus on the reality, that China is trying to make up for its belated re-emergence as a great power, against an already well established rival.

    Therefore we need to be equally opposed to both as they continue to impose their imperialist interests in extracting profits and rent from NZ at the expense of those who produce the wealth – the majority working class. We cannot trust our politicians not to sell-out to one or other US and or China. It is their role to manage the extraction of wealth by imperialism by placating resistance to our colonial oppression. In return the politicians are paid off with part of the profits in favouring one or other power.

    The biggest threat to NZ’s future is to allow its politicians to keep selling out control of the economy to either or both powers. That is the road to a third world war between the US led bloc and the Russia/China led bloc of nations, in which NZ will be dragged into taking sides of one versus the other. This will be a disaster for the Pacific and the World

    That means we have to fight for an anti-imperialist politics in the streets and workplaces, demanding that all agreements with imperialist powers be revoked and replaced by an independent global stand that aligns the interests of the working majority in Aotearoa with workers and oppressed in all countries, but in particular, in the imperialist countries where they are in the position to remove their own exploiting class from power.

    • I have tried to explain to people on other sites that National have never changed, they blame Labor for everything, take from the poor and give to the rich, cut services with total abandon, do the scare campaign on the economy etc, tell us Labour is irresponsible and all the time National MPs are shocking economists only get in the black through service cuts, never take blame or criticism for anything they do, and as the “Adults in charge” last time have proved they are the immature ones that do not even play fair between themselves let alone New Zealanders. It has been consistent BS from National as long as I can remember and Labour has always been their scapegoats and what National fear monger about always magically disappears when they win office again, like the dire debt we were in under Clark, ummmm GFC memories anyone, we actually did really well under Labour at that time. Bridges, Benefit and Adams are all saints now, well they all have the monk hair cut and that can`t be a good thing…, ok sorry end rant…,

    • The difference.
      When we were a colony of the UK & US, we could say that was true pretty much without fear of being softened up.
      As a putative colony of China, China would rather (insistently) that we didn’t say that.

  7. Of course we have been held by the apron strings since colonisation – Britain orginally and of course we still bow to the royals which disgusts me. But then we started following the USA sadly we have now got caught up with a whole lot of their customs that I for one don’t want. China – Ardern should not be so weak, she should call the dogs in. Of course they are going to say ‘not us’… really – if I were Brady I would be bloody nervous, I think she is anti-China in a way but the recent stuff about soft power will be absolutely true. And the National Chinese MP who is ‘not interested in politics but wants our government to understand where China is coming from’, what the hell is he doing in parliament, he left his country of birth presumably because he thought the grass was greener on the other side, he should bugger off back there. We deport people for all sorts of reasons and he should be one given his comments.

    I want us to have independent foreign policy, independent of the two nearly warring big boys and of Britain. A policy made by Kiwis for Kiwis first and foremost.

    • The EU is also splintering so all around the globe qwe are entering unsure times.

      Time to button down the hatches.

      A global hurricane is comming; – as the titians clash against each other looking for NZ and other weaker countries as a spoil of plunder.

  8. Sovereignty is not and has never been an absolute concept.

    The issue with giving China a free pass in its New Zealand influence efforts its government, to say nothing of its people, does not share our liberal values or care for their advancement.

    All states engage in a range of conduct to advance their own interests. One needs to be an adult about that. Sometimes those things will be bad things, and we shouldn’t pretend that either our historical friends or even we have a perfect record.

    For all our faults, here we at least try at the sorts of rights set out in sections 9-27 of the NZBORA 1990.

    That’s just not compatible with: 1) the holding of a million of one’s own people in ‘vocational’ camps; 2) forcing millions more to live with government informers; 3) state-sponsored organ harvesting, etc, etc.

    The geopolitics are no doubt delicate at the moment, but the day we say our core rights are up for compromise in order that our material wealth or trade relationships are maintained, or the day we same the game is already up, well, we had better have a think about whether those rights should be in the statute book at all. And once they’re removed, hadn’t we better think about what is left for our nation to be ‘about’?

  9. Anyone for a few games of 1) geopolitics 2) investigating a crime, 3) arresting someone, 4) trying them in court, 5) having a jury decide whether or not they’re guilty then 6) holding forth with views about it all?

    Or shall we just play 1 and 5?

  10. how would he feel when New Zealand’s perishable exports started piling-up on China’s docks?

    This has already happened, Chris.

    A little-publicised incident took place in July 2013 when New Zealand exports were held up at Chinese ports. The official ‘line’ was that there was “confusion over paperwork”.


    At the time, NZ was putting together a free trade agreement with Taiwan – which Beijing considers a “breakaway province”.

    The NZ-Taiwan went ahead and was signed, but China indicated limits/caveats which we are not privy to. Diplomatic/trade ‘muscles’ were ‘flexed’. Someone caved.

  11. Jacinda is playing the game as well as it can be played for in the real world she knows she has everything to lose and zero to gain by pretending that NZ’s voice or opinion have any actual impact in Beijing or Washington.
    Defending some biased academic muffit or highly ethical academic muffit is one and the same; a zero sum game.
    It never ceases to amaze me how some people are prepared to put other people’s incomes at risk over matters that are of no or little interest to the people that live week to week. Luckily we have a PM who does and priorities their well being over the dubious value of (in this case) academic nativity at best or an alternate agenda at worst.

  12. It seems at some point we will have to choose sides and I personally prefer a US that despite Trump undoubtedly retains a vein of respect and compassion for others to a China that makes no bones about anything other than it’s own self-advancement.

  13. There are some questions to be answered.What conclusion you come to will depend on your degree of credulousness and gullibility.
    Cui Bono- For whose benefit. Why would China attack a person who is synonymous with an anti China stance, when the blame will obviously be put at their door? Who has a track record of false flag events just like this? Who is trying every trick in the book to demonise the two great rivals of the U.S. Empire Russia and China, as it slowly loses influence militarily and economically?
    The U.S. attempt to gain control of the Crimea as a Nato base and successful coup d’etat in the Ukraine, the Skripal poisoning, the CIA construct of the alleged Russian doping, the White Helmets, the false accusations of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, when the U.S. did actually successfully interfere in the Russian elections in 1995.These false flag events are only the most recent.And how many countries has China invaded recently?In the last 20 years the U.S. Empire has invaded 7. This is just the CIA doing their usual criminal activities!!!

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