Professor Anne-Marie Brady is a well-known expert on China who has often been targeted by Chinese Communist Party agents for her fearless criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In one of her latest reports, Brady raises concerns about the increasing links between universities in New Zealand and China. After some people complained about the report, her employer, the University of Canterbury, has put her work under review. Fortunately, Brady has attracted the support of dozens of international experts who view the university’s action as a threat to academic freedom.
Brady co-authored the report with Sam Pheloung and Jichang Lul, publishing it on the website of the Washington-based think tank Wilson Center. The report revealed that the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is trying to gain access to technology developed in other countries by creating ties with universities. Sometimes, China can influence New Zealand universities and companies to conduct a technology transfer. For instance, a company from New Zealand is known to have transferred drone technology to China that will help the Chinese military send supplies to difficult mountainous terrain.
Brady’s report points out that some of the technology transfers breach New Zealand’s laws and international commitments. The educational links with PLA entities also pose risks to intellectual property along with New Zealand’s national security. Brady sees the coronavirus pandemic as providing a time for New Zealand to reassess its relationship with China and determine what boundaries need to be set while dealing with the Asian nation. The report asks entities from New Zealand to stop entering into contracts that will boost China’s military capabilities. It recommends the government come up with policies to block the transfer of military use technologies to China.
After the report was published, it soon attracted criticism from some academics who accused the paper of containing “errors of fact and misleading inferences.” The increasing complaints eventually forced the University of Canterbury to put Brady’s report on review. She is not allowed to speak about the report until the review process is complete. Some believe that Brady is being targeted by the pro-China network in New Zealand as they fear her exposé will damage their interests. Over 120 international China experts wrote a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canterbury, defending Brady’s right to publish her findings.
“We are disappointed to see no prompt follow-up, explanation or clarification of the University’s position concerning the allegations. The impression left by that published report should have been corrected to show that the University did not intend any endorsement of the complaints, nor an approval or acceptance of complaints to the University as the appropriate way to criticize academic work. The silence has been interpreted as collaboration in slander against a very distinguished scholar whose work has been consistently based on sound social scientific methodology,” the letter states, as reported by MacDonald Laurier.
Chinese exposure risk
A report from Westpac also warns of the risks associated with having close ties with China. The report states that New Zealand’s dependence on China as the biggest export market leaves some sectors of the economy extremely vulnerable. Some of these vulnerable markets include seafood, tourism, universities, and golden kiwifruit. Industries like fruit, meat, and wood were found to be at lesser risk, while the dairy sector was deemed to be at the least risk.
Almost a third of New Zealand’s seafood is exported to China. However, seafood imports from New Zealand only made up 3 percent of imports in China, meaning that Beijing could easily find another supplier should it decide to do so. Golden kiwifruit is the single biggest fruit export of New Zealand, with almost a third of the annual production shipped to China. Only by diversifying its export markets can New Zealand protect itself from Chinese influence.