International Coalition Backs Embattled Expert on Chinese Foreign-Influence Operations
Almost 150 China-focused experts and scholars signed a letter this week expressing their support for Anne-Marie Brady, a professor at New Zealand's Canterbury University, whose work on the Chinese Communist Party's foreign policy interference is on the agenda One review was by the school's vice chancellor.
The paper that sparked the review reads, "Holding a Pen in One Hand, Grabbing a Gun in the Other," Brady's investigation into how the Chinese People's Liberation Army has infiltrated civil society and higher education in New Zealand for military research purposes. The CCP "is preparing China for an inevitable war that the Chinese leadership believes is inevitable," Brady wrote in the newspaper. "The New Zealand government must work with companies and universities to develop a strategy to prevent the transfer of technology for military end-use to China." The report alleges that New Zealand universities - including Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University, and Lincoln University - have partnered with Huawei, claiming scholars participating in the Beijing Millennial Talent Program.
University of Canterbury Vice Chancellor Cheryl de la Ray ordered a review of the report after Brady submitted it to New Zealand Parliament last summer. De la Ray has reviewed the paper because it contains "blatant factual errors and misleading conclusions," Canterbury's assistant vice chancellor for research, Ian Wright, told Stuff, the country's largest news website. A number of the academics and universities mentioned in the document have rejected Brady's claims.
Brady declined a request for comment, saying that she had been instructed by university administrators not to discuss the request. But the scholars who signed the letter this week have defended the integrity of their fellowship, claiming that the allegations against them are unfounded. Among them are Adrian Zenz, the researcher who started a public reckoning of the CCP's drive to exterminate its Uighur population in Xinjiang, and Clive Hamilton, the Australian professor who wrote a book that draws public attention to the political China's interference in his country.
The letter describes the "groundbreaking" character and "profound international impact" of Brady's work:
We, who know this area, cannot identify any obvious errors or misleading conclusions on the basis of the evidence contained in the report. The paper does not make "conclusions". People who study it may draw some, but that doesn't mean the paper made them, misleading or otherwise. Since Professor Wright publicly voiced the allegations, a group of us colleagues have revisited Professor Brady's parliamentary bill. We find no basis for the allegations in it. Some of the links in the comprehensive sourcing have been out of date since she submitted them, but these urls will still work if placed in Wayback or archive.today.
We are disappointed that the university's position on the allegations will not be followed up, explained or clarified immediately. The impression made by this published report should have been corrected to show that the university did not intend to approve the complaints, nor to approve or accept complaints to the university as a suitable method of criticizing the academic work. The silence has been interpreted as collaborating in defamation against a highly respected scholar whose work is consistently based on solid social science methodology.
Brady was previously harassed for her work on Chinese influence. She has been the target of break-ins, postal tampering and theft of bank information in recent years, she told the New Zealand Herald in 2019. The reason for this is no secret: her work on China's political influence in New Zealand paints the picture of a country whose participation of international organizations, close access to Antarctica, the dairy industry, and research into technologies with military applications have made it a tempting target. New Zealand's value to Beijing is also "a soft underbelly for access to Five Eyes information," she wrote of the intelligence partnership, which also includes the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.
Brady's troubles raise further questions about the real extent of the CCP's influence in New Zealand and around the world, and how people who are embarrassed about their ties to the Chinese regime quietly deal with dissent. Charles Burton, a senior official at the MacDonald Laurier Institute in Canada who was one of the organizers of the letter, described it as "unfortunate that this matter is being brought to a secret university court" without due process or public scrutiny. Burton also says he feared some HR departments might see this situation as an invitation to take similar Beijing-friendly steps in the future.
There is no evidence that Canterbury undertook any review of Brady's work at the behest of the Chinese government, making the episode even more worrying. Eventually, when foreigners interested in maintaining their links with the CCP suppress scholarships that are impractical for their strategic goals, it becomes all the more difficult to counter the regime's aggressive, vicious foreign policies.
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