A leading Chinese politics expert is facing a review by Canterbury University over a research paper critical of New Zealand universities’ connections with China.
Professor Anne-Marie Brady, whose research specializes in Chinese efforts to influence politics in Western democracies, co-authored the article Holding a Pen in One Hand,
Gripping a Gun in the Other with Jichang Lulu and Sam Phelong.
The article, which was published in July, alleged that through co-operations between New Zealand universities and Chinese tech companies or universities, the Chinese military could obtain New Zealand’s innovative and sensitive technology for its own use. It was also submitted to Parliament’s Justice select committee.
The University of Auckland was mentioned in the paper. It claimed that the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NWPU) and the National University of Defence Technology (NUDT), which both have links with the University’s Engineering Faculty, had strong connections with the Chinese military.
Both universities, which held academic exchanges with the University, were responsible for the research, development and production of weapons and military equipment, with the NWPU specializing in aerospace and maritime navigation.
The paper named materials scientist and university professor Gao Wei as a member of a think tank that was used by the Chinese Communist Party to advance its interests, claiming he “lives abroad, but whose heart is concerned with the development of the Ancestral Land.”
The article also alleged similar connections were present at Massey, AUT, Canterbury, Otago, and Victoria universities.
An Auckland University spokesperson told Stuff in August that the claims made in the paper on Gao were wrong, saying that he had never conducted military research in New Zealand, China, or in any other country. They also said the university had no evidence of staff members, students or visiting academics unlawfully transferring University of Auckland research or technology to China.
Canterbury University launched a review in August, after academics mentioned in the article in New Zealand and overseas complained about its claims. The university’s deputy Vice-Chancellor Ian Wright told Stuff that complaints have accused the paper manifested “errors of fact and misleading inferences”.
Brady had been told not to publicly comment on the complaints to protect her privacy.
More than 160 academics and supporters on China-related matters from New Zealand and other countries, including Labour MP Louisa Wall and former MP Clare Curran, have signed an open letter saying they were “dismayed” by the review.
“We, who know this area, can see no manifest errors or misleading inferences based on the evidenced material provided in the report.”
“The paper does not make ‘inferences’. People who study it may draw some, but that does not mean the paper made them, misleading or otherwise.”
The letter called for an apology from Canterbury University’s Chancellor Cheryl de la Rey.
This was not the first time that Brady’s research has led to controversy. Her 2017 paper, Magic Weapons, argued that Chinese student associations in New Zealand tertiary institutes were part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front network to “manage” and “guide” overseas Chinese students and scholars.
It also claimed newly-elected Labour MP Naisi Chen, who is a former law student at the University of Auckland and President of New Zealand Chinese Students and Scholars Association, had close United Front connections. Chen had since denied these allegations.