Why we need to be concerned about National Party M.P. Jian Yang


During the weekend, on my Twitter account RobertGlennieNZ, I asked Tova O’Brien, reporter for Newshub if she would take up the case of National Part Member of Parliament Jian Yang, and his reluctance to do what I believe is a basic responsibility of any Parliamentarian: to front the media on reasonable request.

If @TovaOBrien wants to do something useful for New Zealanders, how about getting on the case of Jian Yang. If a Member of Parliament will not front the media, they should not be in Parliament. You are entitled to ask him the hard Q’s Tova, even if he does not like it. Democracy.

It was a largely spur of the moment thought, having just read an article about the difficulty of getting Dr Yang to talk to New Zealand media. I was expecting a few likes, retweets and replies. What I was not expecting was 313 likes; 60 retweets and 20 replies – Twitter activity levels that I thought would have been akin to someone standing for Parliament. Perhaps I struck a chord with people because the overwhelming feedback was positive, but the matter clearly resonated with many.

There was one reply that stood out among the responses. One person argued on Twitter that whilst it was neither right, nor wrong, Mr Yang had made a decision not to engage the New Zealand media and we should respect it.  Another one said that Mr Yang will speak to media, but it is only Mandarin written/spoken media, which in a predominantly English speaking country is no use at all to the vast majority of New Zealanders; New Zealand journalism or New Zealand democracy.

I disagree. Yes, Mr Yang clearly made a decision. However Mr Yang holds an elected position in our Parliament. Whilst he is a list Member of Parliament who came in on the back of National’s party vote instead of winning an electorate seat, he has the same responsibilities as the other 119 Members of Parliament. In as far as Mr Yang is not prepared to talk to New Zealand media upon reasonable request, I believe he should not be in Parliament.

So, one might wonder why I am expending an entire article on Mr Yang. The fact of the matter is that there is more to the story of him in Parliament than most people realize and because of that, I am going to delve a bit into his history prior to becoming a National Party Member of Parliament, because there is a story to be told. Much of the evidence below comes from the work of Professor Anne-Marie Brady, a Chinese politics specialist at University of Canterbury.

Dr Jian Yang grew up in Jiangxi Province in China and attended the Australian National University where he earned a Masters of Arts and a Doctorate of Philosophy. During the 1980’s Dr Yang had a period where he was in the Chinese military in a civilian non-ranked capacity. Whilst in the military worked in the Peoples Liberation Army (P.L.A.) Airforce Engineering College and the Luoyang P.L.A. University of Foreign Languages.

Although Mr Yang has claimed not to have directly taught Chinese spies, he has admitted that he could reasonably be viewed as having done so virtue of his teaching. Official Information Act documents show that he did not disclose his military intelligence work. And further questions were asked in 2017 in Australia about his time in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I was prepared to ignore those, as they are in the past, but more recently Dr Yang has been linked to the Chinese United Front, an organization working to push Chinese activities and influence in New Zealand. He was also invited to attend a military parade in Beijing to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China in 2019, which suggests to me that even if he is a New Zealand citizen, he is maintaining some sort of high level relationship with the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

It strikes me as interesting that organizations across the political spectrum are refusing to buy into the National Party claim that Dr Yang has their confidence and that we should not be concerned. The Taxpayers Union for example say that Mr Yang has a responsibility to talk to the media. Political commentators such as Michael Reddell have expressed frustration at not being able to get Mr Yang to talk to English speaking media.

Dr Yang could resolve much of this fairly immediately by talking to the New Zealand media. As long as he refuses to do so, they are – as are New Zealanders – entitled to draw their own opinions about his actions and the motive for them.

Lessons from Russia


A  film about a German film maker Werner Herzog meeting former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, has brought back to public attention some basic lessons from Russia. As the largest of the countries that used to make up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Russia was the economic and military mainstay of the Soviet bloc, with garrisons in a dozen different nations – Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Albania. But when it collapsed a series of blunders by the west that continued for nearly a decade and contributed to the current stand off we find ourselves in today with a revived Russian bear, hollowed out whatever ideological victory the west might have had.

I believe one of the biggest mistakes made since the Cold War ended was the abject failure to rehabilitate Russia and the other former U.S.S.R. members. The period from the end of 1991 when the U.S.S.R. formally dissolved after voting itself out of existence on Christmas Day that year to when Vladimir Putin, a former K.G.B. agent became President in 2000 was a time of ethnic, social and economic instability. Few in the west seemed aware of the changes – even less probably cared.

No effort was ever made to help Russia or its fellow former Soviet Republics with a transition to an economic system not reliant on 5 Year Plans that here almost always excessively ambitious. Subsequently massive job losses were announced across the board. Wages plummeted. An American volcanologist writing about colleagues around the world said that one of his Russian colleagues was reduced to $35 a month in income. The concepts introduced by the last Premier Mikhail Gorbachev were perestroika (openness) and glasnost (reforms)meant well and were absolutely necessary, but thanks in large part to the west rolling around in the victory over its eastern rival, they failed.

Nor was any effort made to address the fact that these countries, having just spent the better part of a human life under a totalitarian regime directed from Moscow and upheld by local puppets, did not understand democracy. No effort was spent on helping them build new institutions, removing the corruption that came with the Communist command-economy and teaching those that were trusted with the transformation of the institutions how to go about their jobs.

After the Cold War ended former Soviet Republics found themselves with abandoned military hardware and infrastructure that Russia could not afford to maintain. Literally rusting in ports in Archangel, Odessa, Sevastopol, Murmansk and others were Soviet warships whose crews were weeks or even months behind in being paid. Many of them had nuclear propulsion and some had nuclear weapons or the means to store nuclear weapons on board. The poor state of repair no doubt contributed to the Kursk submarine disaster in August 2000.

But perhaps the greatest cost to the west was political. Having failed to help with Russia’s rehabilitation it was now consigned to watching the rise of Mr Putin, whose vision of Russian greatness has only been matched by his cunning. Using divide and conquer tactics he has partially annexed the strategically important Crimea. He managed to build up Russia influence in Iran and Syria, prolonging the civil war in the latter and tacitly endorsing the anti-American sentiments of the former.

Now, the west wonder why Russia went down hill following the Cold War and why Mr Gorbachev, who is now 88 is issuing an old but familiar warning once more: demilitarize politics between the U.S. and Russia or else. The warning signs have been there all along, but in racing to think that Francis Fukuyama’s “End of history” thesis was somehow the future, we forgot the past.

 

China will not tell New Zealand what to do


So, Beijing is getting grumpy with New Zealand for taking a stand on Hong Kong. What a surprise.

There are very good reasons to be thoroughly alarmed by Beijing’s actions with regards to Hong Kong’s sovereignty. And as of Tuesday New Zealand time the Chinese government rubber stamped the law that would enabled the crack down on the rights of Hong Kongers. Within a day, following defiant protests, 300 people had been arrested on grounds of violating the security bill, which criminalizes the right to anti-Police, pro-independence slogans, the possession and/or display of any Tibetan, Hong Kong or Taiwanese flags.

This is in direct contravention of the One State Two Systems rule that China’s Deng Xiaoping and Prince Charles on behalf of Britain had agreed to when they worked out the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1984.

I envisage a major flight of western capital and western country nationals from Hong Kong in the coming weeks and months, particularly if Beijing’s crack down on the protests continues with the intensity of yesterday’s events. And indeed I am already aware of New Zealanders based in Hong Kong looking at properties around New Zealand with the intention of leaving as soon as they have something secured.

Along with the brutal repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang Province, one starts to see a picture of a grotesquely totalitarian regime bent on staying in power at any cost. If one then adds the desire to take Taiwan back and its clashes with Indian forces along the line of control, we see an expansionist power as well.

New Zealand needs to take a number of steps fairly immediately to reduce the influence of the Peoples Republic on our affairs. Some of the steps are domestic and some are on the foreign stage. Domestically we need to ban foreign political donations so that New Zealand politicians cannot be bought out by foreign interests, politicians and businesses. We need to get the National Party to remove Jian Yang from its candidate list for 2020 until the Electoral Commission is satisfied that he is not a Chinese Government plant. Internationally, we need to do more to assist our Pasifika neighbours in terms of infrastructure projects, building up their legal institutions and education systems.

Beijing wonders why so many countries get annoyed with it. We are annoyed because in all these years since it began to open up following the death of Mao Tse Tung, China has steadfastly refused to understand that human rights are not just a western construct. They are a universal construct applicable to every man, woman and child across the planet. Its brutal subjugation of hundreds of millions of people, puts it on par with the United States and Moscow for destructive negative influence on the global well being of humanity. Unless and until this changes, Beijing, like Moscow, Washington D.C. and the capitals of other human rights abusers will continue to be subject to the criticisms levelled at it by N.G.O.’s fellow Governments and individuals.

Dear Jacinda: The weather is a metaphor for our current politics


Dear Jacinda Ardern,

It is a grey old kind of day here in Christchurch as I type this. Looking out the window at the dreary overcast drizzly weather wafting past, it seems to be a bit of a metaphor for the world at the moment. Grim. Dreary. No sign of getting better any time soon.

No doubt as you watch other countries including some that New Zealand is meant to be great mates with struggle, you must be counting your lucky stars that you are Prime Minister of New Zealand. You must be extremely grateful not to be having to manage the unravelling nightmare of COVID19 in the United States or quietly despairing in Down Street at the sight of huge numbers of people at the beach, without any regard to social distancing.

But going back to that metaphor, compared to the world, it is relatively sunny in New Zealand. Big powerful cumulonimbus clouds might be roving around on the horizon with their wild volatile problems, but thus far thanks to your leadership we have managed to avoid them. I hope you keep that way, and I am sure most of New Zealand want you to keep it that way too.

But Prime Minister, we have some lumpy cumulus clouds overhead that threaten to spoil things a bit, and they are ones that you can control as Prime Minister. One of those clouds is David Clark, trying to accidentally blot out the ray of sunshine that is Dr Ashley Bloomfield. I know you said you were annoyed with Mr Clark and said that if it were not for COVID19 and the need for a stable leadership team, he would be gone. Fair enough. But that was then. That was before Mr Clark threw Dr Bloomfield under the bus a few days ago.

I am sure Mr Clark is a nice guy in person, but he is going rain on your parade unless you take the Health portfolio of him, like now. New Zealanders don’t like that ray of sunshine being blocked and have noticed the cloud that is blocking it. The cloud needs to move along.

As for the grey old dreary kind of weather that is afflicting Christchurch at the moment, it is fortunately not as volatile as the thunderstorms that have been crossing Auckland and the Bay of Plenty of late. But as a rental car groomer at a service yard near Christchurch Airport, the dreariness in the sky is startlingly appropriate in terms of describing the global outlook. Planes are coming and going. I hear their engines as they disappear into the cloud from the runway a few hundred metres away. The complete absence of foreign tourists, being a reminder that the COVID19 storm is raining heavily in many countries. The constant drizzle is a metaphor for the single figure COVID case numbers being caught in isolation – the fact that it has for the most part not turned to rain, hopefully trying to tell us that the strategy of isolation is working.

My American friends can hear thunder. It is the thunder of a COVID19 storm that is far from finished and reminds every time I hear of a new rumble through the media of just how lucky we are in semi-sunny New Zealand. Now if you do not mind, we would love for you to please move that cloud along for us.

Cheers.

 

A stark contrast between the United States and New Zealand in war on COVID19


Yesterday a truly disturbing announcement was made about COVID19. Whereas the first 1 million cases world wide had taken 3 months to reach, the most recent million new cases took a mere 8 days. 125,000 cases or the equivalent of the entire population of Otago every day coming down with COVID19. And as we ramp up our efforts to keep the border secure, the contrast in handling the emergency between the country much of the West looks to for leadership and a country of two moderate size islands and a host of smaller ones 11,000 kilometres away, is becoming ever more stark.

New Zealand has made a few mistakes. We should have never allowed people in on compassionate grounds. From Day 1 we should have sent everyone to quarantine without exception. The Police should have gone in hard after a few days grace and done away with warnings and education.

I know there is a whole lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda in there, but if you look at earlier articles, you would see that I have acknowledged the mistakes. You will see that New Zealand has been – and I cannot say this with enough emphasis – very lucky to have had both the Opposition and the Government largely on the same page. For election year reasons as well as holding the Government to account, there have been obvious disagreements. When we look at how the Opposition and Government have worked or not worked together in other countries only then do we realize that for all their many faults, there are worse things than National and A.C.T. in politics.

But New Zealand has done very well to control COVID19 to the extent that we have. It has been a combination of circumstances and a brilliant response. New Zealand’s geographical location, so often the curse of the country in terms of our relevance to the rest of the world has paid rich dividends in this instance. Contrast that with Canada which has the United States on its border; France with Spain; India with Pakistan. The response, which was in the history of New Zealand, unprecedented, planning, announcing and implementing a complete national shutdown with the speed that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did was always going to catch some people out; was always going to have a couple of teething issues simply because so much had to happen so quickly, adequate planning simply was not possible for everything. Much of the desperate politicking by National and A.C.T. at the moment has nothing to do with COVID19 and is simply about the General Election on 19 September.

Before people say “the United States is much bigger than New Zealand, so more cases and fatalities should be expected”, yes that is true. But not on the disproportionate scale that the United States now finds itself in. The United States has 66x New Zealand’s population of 5 million people, but it also has vastly greater resources available to it, both in terms of Federal Government finances, equipment, personnel and so forth as well as an immense bank of knowledge to draw upon.

If the United States had some how managed to keep its cases strictly proportionate to New Zealand, prior to our case numbers starting to climb last week, the key equations would have been:

  • 1504 (N.Z. total cases) x 66 = 99,264 cases
  • 22 (N.Z. total deaths) x 66 = 1,452 deaths

If we were pragmatic we would acknowledge the social, geographic, economic disparities across the United States and the fact that a vastly larger population would bring individuals with a vastly greater range of medical conditions. On that basis, for arguments sake, one might then make a 3-4 fold allowance cases and deaths. But even that, horrible as the statistics are – and remembering EVERY life lost is a tragedy for a family somewhere, there or here – the following statistics still look comparatively good to what is actually happening in the United States;

  • 99,264 cases x 3 = 297,792; x 4 = 397,056
  • 1,452 deaths x 3 = 4,356; x 4 = 5,808

I honestly do not know what the answer is in the United States. With 2 million casualties and 120,000 dead it is clear that the United States has an unprecedented medical emergency on its hands, especially as the U.S. moves into the hottest months of its calender year. With major holidays such as Independence Day still a month away and an election campaign to come, the U.S. struggle to contain COVID19 is only going to get more and more desperate. It is not nice to see a country you were told to look up to in Primary School as a nation that New Zealand should aspire to be like, suffering like this, but it is one time I am truly, truly grateful that the lottery of citizenship had me born in New Zealand.