Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Campaign 2017: Buy a journalist a drink today

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  • simon g,

    I don't think the Financial Times is controlled by the NZ-LabourBot, but never mind.

    I watched Jian Yang's media conference and he dealt with the issue pretty well. He tried to explain the reality of life in China, especially given the story goes back even before Tiananmen 1989. But he (or his National bosses) were silly to think a matter of public record would just be ignored, and silly now to claim that publishing that record is "defamatory". Of course he isn't some dodgy alien 5th columnist, he's simply somebody who had to survive (and eventually succeed) in a totalitarian state. No scare story here, really.

    The underlying problem is that, to be bunt, New Zealanders don't know shit about China. And a large part of the blame for that lies at National's door. If you worship a model that sees dollars and little else, then China is reduced to being a source of cash, not a country with a long, fascinating and tumultuous history, not a country where so much has happened so fast in recent years and that we should be watching documentaries about on a public TV channel that we don't have. Not really anything at all except an ATM (to coin a phrase).

    They didn't bother trying to educate the public before, so they're doing it 10 days before an election instead. Bit late.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1213 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls, in reply to Neil,

    Are you implying guilt by association with China and suggesting this is purely a racist smear?
    Because (trying to be objective, and not normally a racist person) I'd think somebody with a history of working for a foreign intelligence agency - whichever nation it happened to be - ought to have their loyalties questioned, regardless of race or geopolitical alignment. Deception and duplicity, you know, it's what spies *do*.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 293 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to simon g,

    The underlying problem is that, to be bunt, New Zealanders don’t know shit about China.

    pretty much.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Trevor Nicholls,

    Are you implying guilt by association with China and suggesting this is purely a racist smear?

    The left smearing Chinese people based on poor information? Not out of the question. One of the CCP’s 80+ million members, taught at a military academy followed by a languages university? Holding a non-combatant military rank? None of these things are particularly unusual.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to simon g,

    The underlying problem is that, to be bunt, New Zealanders don’t know shit about China. And a large part of the blame for that lies at National’s door.

    Unfortunate that no other party thought it useful to do this. Although Labour did venture into the language issue.

    Since Nov 2016 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • simon g, in reply to Neil,

    Which was widely condemned on here by many of us, including me.

    But there's a government in charge, and making decisions, and setting agendas, and just saying "Opposition too!" is nonsense (really, do we have to play these games?).

    Gordon Campbell nailed it years ago. Key not giving a toss about Liu Xiaobo was the day we found out that defending Chinese people was not National's concern. Only power. Only cash.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1213 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to simon g,

    I don’t think the Financial Times is controlled by the NZ-LabourBot, but never mind.

    "Newsroom has worked with the Financial Times in Hong Kong to investigate Yang’s background."

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to mark taslov,

    None of these things are particularly unusual.

    Agree there. Certainly no fault on the part of the individual. What is unusual is that given the National Party had full knowledge of this background, that it did not exclude the individual from standing as a Member of Parliament. If they made that judgement, then that's just plain weird and unusual.

    My Dad was a US serviceman during the Korean War - his job was that of cryptographer. On leaving the service, the government gave him a scholarship to study - no entrance exams required and I'm not sure he actually 'graduated' from High School. He didn't like the way the degree programme (physics) was structured, so he just did papers he liked (physics and Russian language being his favourites).

    Before he got a degree (it was unlikely he'd have got one anyway, as he wouldn't take the mandatory schedule of papers for a BSc), the government gave him a job here;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argonne_National_Laboratory

    And when he left that (and government service altogether) at the age of about 30, the spies knocked on his door unannounced to have a chat and physically verify he was living where he said he was living every year for the rest of his life.

    Dad was never a spy - just a guy working on/with military classified stuff.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2014 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    This is the reporter who broke the story.

    http://www.chinafile.com/contributors/jamil-anderlini

    He's fluent in Mandarin, because he's racist ..

    https://www.victoria.ac.nz/chinaresearchcentre/programmes-and-projects/china-symposiums/trump,-china-and-the-region-where-to-from-here/jamil-anderlini

    There's a lot more but the FT is subscription only. You can Google his extensive writing. I think calling his journalism "smear" is the real defamation here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1213 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    This is how the story's being reported in the UK:

    The prime minister, Bill English, told reporters he had been aware of Yang’s background and did not believe the Chinese politician had tried to hide it. However, in a Chinese-language interview with the Financial Times, Yang reportedly asked repeatedly that information about his academic past in China be omitted from any article about him. “You don’t need to write too much about myself,” he reportedly said.

    Tom Phillips, China-born New Zealand MP denies being a spy, Guardian (13 September 2017).

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    The audio for that is on the Newsroom website. It's not damning (my Chinese listening is very rusty, but I got the gist, the subtitles are fair).

    Again, I don't think the original story is a Shock! Horror!, but the cynical dismissal of all criticism (see the PRC's response) is the part to push back against.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1213 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to simon g,

    I don't think the Financial Times is controlled by the NZ-LabourBot, but never mind.

    No - it isn't. It's owned by the Japanese Nikkei Group, for connoisseurs of media irony. Read into that what you will.

    And to be honest, I think it's perfectly legitimate to ask if there would be the conspiratorial hysterics over this if Jian Yang was a white immigrant and had taught at, say, Sandhurst or West Point. (Two military-linked institutions where you don't need to be a party member and high-ranking intelligence officer to hold a post.)

    I don't think so, and if that makes me "cynical" well I wish New Zealand, and its media, didn't have such a long and shabby history of Yellow Peril Journalism.

    Agree there. Certainly no fault on the part of the individual. What is unusual is that given the National Party had full knowledge of this background, that it did not exclude the individual from standing as a Member of Parliament. If they made that judgement, then that's just plain weird and unusual.

    No, it isn't Katherine. What's weird here is that you apparently think it's OK to exclude someone from public service because you suspect they're a spy by association -- no hard evidence let alone a conviction required. If Bill Sutch was still alive, I'm sure he'd have some thoughts on that.

    And I'm sorry, you can't say "no fault on the part of the individual" when you're attacking his integrity and saying he is unfit to be an MP in the first place. I've noticed the media is trying to spin this off into an allegation that Yang made a false declaration on his citizenship application. This is an incredibly serious charge, and I"m still waiting to see any receipts as opposed to a lot of nudge-nudge wink-wink innuendo.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12359 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The underlying problem is that, to be bunt, New Zealanders don’t know shit about China.

    Bearing that in mind, can I open a sweepstake on this ending up as the 'Manchurian Candidategate'...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7480 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Winston Peters interview with or by Espiner?

    Espiner did but manage to get his integrating badgering loop tape running during the last 20 seconds. It’s not good journalism, when only Winston Peters gets say a compleat sentence. We could be run by bullies, with no clean air for deep thinking introverts to even breath. I will buy him a Coppers ultra light.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    because you suspect they’re a spy by association

    No, I don't think he's a spy by association. My point is that given his background the Chinese intelligence community will be interested in him - highly likely monitoring him in some way - just as US intelligence kept in touch with my Dad routinely until he died.

    Had my Dad decided to run for elected office in Russia and having been successful in being elected, you can bet your bottom dollar they'd have had a far more heightened interest and the surveillance on my Dad would have been stepped up.

    There are all kinds of risks to NZ to my mind associated with this. It's just the sort of association that is best avoided regardless of the quality of the individual to do the job of an MP. As one of the experts in these matters commented:

    "It is something I would have hoped that his colleagues in the National Party would have put to him in the vetting process ... because certainly on its face, it would be quite disconcerting."

    "There are countries with whom we are friendly, but there are no friendly intelligence services."

    I agree with him - and would have the same thought about it regardless of country-of-origin, but more so for the world super powers.

    What I'm saying is that, given the knowledge National Party had they exercised their power and position in our democratic process unwisely, very unwisely.

    And just as an aside, as part of the reporting I read that our MPs do not go through NZs security clearance process as is done for our public servants who are working with sensitive information. I was one of those public servants who had to obtain a security clearance before I could take up the job that I was offered. Very important to my mind.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2014 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • dave stewart,

    Just putting seriousness aside for a moment - isn't it hilarious and ironic that the Nat's appear to have been infiltrated by communists. Something about glasshouses, stones, red threat etc.
    And FFS, if the boot was on the other foot you can bet the Nat's boot boys would be doing some stomping, rather than the restraint showed by their adversaries so far. So I don't buy the racial victimisation hypocrisy. There are serious questions which remain unanswered, neatly summarised by Peter Matthis (Analyst of China's military) on Morning Report today:
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201858443/national-mp-seeking-legal-advice-on-military-claims

    Since Aug 2014 • 35 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to dave stewart,

    I’m amused (?) that the legs this story has highlight a lack of public confidence in both the DIA and the SIS; the entire narrative based the assumption that our immigration and intelligence organisations are hopelessly incompetent*, more incompetent than the spy who didn't think to adequately cover his tracks..

    *since 1999

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to simon g,

    He’s fluent in Mandarin, because he’s racist ..

    in context of this election campaign, accounting for Labour’s previous targeting of Chinese people earlier on, and in light of the the timing and likely outcomes this far out, Jamil has certainly not done himself any favours in that regard.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Katharine Moody,

    Personally I'm not convinced that it's all that helpful to attempt to erase the difference between being a cryptographer in the US military and being an English and American Studies lecturer at a Chinese military college.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Do we abdicate all moral judgement, because racists say shit? Here's the thing: North Korea is worse than China. China is worse than Singapore. Singapore is worse than Japan. Those are my human rights reckons, and it can all be debated, but only a "Yellow Peril" racist says that North Korea and Japan are the same. The rest of us should make distinctions, and not be defined by which bigot (or more usually, cynic pandering to bigotry) spoke last. Otherwise we're just giving a free pass to every political bastard from Netanyahu to the Saudis to Mugabe.

    On t'other hand, if the response is "well, China has the cash, and a lot more than Taiwan" then it's not anti-racism at all. It's actually not giving a toss about Chinese people who don't want to live under a dictatorship.

    A good, long read here. He's basically right:

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/09/14/47848/on-standards-in-public-life-and-jian-yang

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1213 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to simon g,

    You’d think it might have been an opportunity to openly criticise the authoritarian regime (being able to use the insider’s perspective he’d gained in his misguided youth) that he had turned his back on in choosing to come to New Zealand. But apparently not.

    Yes isn’t it peculiar how banal things likely family loyalty may come to play as an influence in not publicly speaking out against an authoritarian regime in case the authoritarian regime ends up doing exactly what authoritarian regimes tend to do, to your family members.

    The fact that Reddell selectively omitted this piece of family history from his analysis of Yang’s maiden speech is disappointing:

    Mr Speaker, as an immigrant who witnessed and experienced the many political upheavals in China, I do not take any of the benefits I’m enjoying now for granted. My grandfather was a general of the Nationalist Party, or KMT, which is today the ruling party in Taiwan. When the Communist Party came to power in China in 1949, my grandfather lost all his property, was imprisoned and lived in poverty for the rest of his life.

    As for the national Party; there are enough white faces with a finger in the pie not to singularly target the low hanging fruit.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to simon g,

    A good, long read here. He’s basically right

    I couldn't agree more.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2014 • 760 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    One thing that interested me, from the sprawling section where Reddell explains all the things that Yang should have said (if he were a loyal New Zealander):

    But what of Jian Yang? I had a look yesterday at his maiden speech in Parliament, delivered in February 2012. Maiden speeches are often an occasion for a new member to outline their personal philosophy, and the things that made them who they are, and led them to seek to enter politics. A few are classics – I recall being taught from Sir John Marshall’s in my first year politics course decades ago.

    Read without knowing he’d been a member of the Communist Party (well under 10 percent of China’s citizens are), or had been a serving participant in the intelligence establishment, it might seem inoffensive enough, although still a little surprising. To serious champions of liberty, the Tianamen Square protests and subsequent government massacres stand as a continuing charge against the Chinese state and Party. How does Yang deal with them? (they disrupted his plans for graduate study abroad) They are nothing more than “student demonstrations”.

    He can safely be mildly critical of the Cultural Revolution – his parents were apparently sent to the countryside for “re-education” – but never mentions the dreadful evil of the Great Famine, one of the worst man-made (Chinese government made) disasters ever. There are boilerplate references to his support for opportunity and choice, but no attacks on the evil of the one-child policy, still in place at the time Yang gave his speech. Nothing about the lack of freedom of expression, the lack of freedom of religion, the lack of any free alternative to the Communist Party in China. Instead, we get paeans to the “success” of the Chinese government in “lifting millions of people out of poverty”, as if the same government hadn’t driven them unnecessarily further into poverty in the first place – and he has the gall to suggest that “reflecting on the way in which China has achieved its positive change and development gives me a firm belief that the policies of the National Party are in the best interests of New Zealand.”

    And for someone with an academic background in international relations and an expressed interest in contributing on foreign affairs matters in Parliament, nothing at all about Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea, or its advocacy internationally of alternative visions of governance antithetical to liberal democracy.

    It is one thing to be proud of your ethnic background – and China has an ancient culture that once led the world – but Yang showed absolutely no sign of having turned his back on, or a desire to call out, the evils of a repressive authoritarian party and government that has never recanted its mistakes, that has failed economically (compare Taiwan and China for example) and which represents a threat to us, and to countries (and believers in freedom) throughout east Asia.

    And it wasn’t just the maiden speech. As the Financial Times notes, since entering Parliament “he has consistently pushed for closer ties with Beijing and for international policies and positions echoing those of China’s Communist party."

    I can’t think of any offhand but perhaps someone has examples of a Labour or National MP speaking out about the atrocities committed (and that continue to be committed) in China in anything but the vaguest pedestrian obligatory terms this century? Might Shearer have spoken up on issues of this nature while in Government?

    Would it be out-on-a-limb to suggest that Yang here is being criticised for basically following what has been the standard New Zealand Foreign Policy line over successive administrations due to his origins?

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to mark taslov,

    The guy even begins his concluding paragraph with:

    I’m no New Zealand First fan, but…

    It’s quite a remarkable smear job. Yang is apparently guilty of not condemning the Chinese regime.

    I was curious so read Yang’s speech which includes this passsge:

    When the Communist Party came to power in China in 1949, my grandfather lost all his property, was imprisoned, and lived in poverty for the rest of his life. In the first 30 years of the People’s Republic of China the Chinese Government launched one political movement after another, climaxing with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, beginning in 1966. The revolution left behind millions of political victims, including my parents, who were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by peasants.

    Reddell is intent on painting Yang as an unrepentant apologist for the regime but has to twist Yang’s actual words to do so.

    And this is in the context of the Chinese community already having been singled out and someone keen to get this supposed scandal into the news a few days before the election.

    Since Nov 2016 • 142 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Neil,

    Indeed, it’s peppered with cold war rhetoric, false equivalence and a big old dose of the splain. How could Yang have neglected to mention The Great Famine…? The cheek.

    The irony being that as per regulations in that era – 2 generations post revolution as it were – it’s his grandfather’s membership of the KMT that would have automatically precluded him from been allowed to advance in any meaningful way within the military or the state. The military or state at that time of course being the only employers.

    Fortunately our democracy is better than that. ;)

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

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