The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed inroads into Australia and New Zealand, giving the regime a strong influence over local media, academia, business, and politics. That influence may jeopardize intelligence sharing with other democracies.
The issue of CCP influence is now making headlines in Australia and New Zealand, after word spread of an April 5 hearing of the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Peter Mattis, a fellow of the China Program at the Jamestown Foundation, told the commission in April that Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party in New Zealand accepted donations from donors tied to one of the CCP’s overt spy agencies, the United Front Department.
“I think because it has gotten very close to the political core,” he said. “One of the major fundraisers for Jacinda Ardern’s party has United Front links, that you have to say this is close enough to the central political core of the New Zealand system that we have to think about whether or not they take action and what kinds of action.”
Mattis also said former New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English had ties to Jian Yang, a member of the New Zealand parliament who was likewise exposed to have ties to the to the United Front, as well as formerly to the Chinese regime’s military intelligence, in a series of articles in 2017 by local news outlets.
Because of this connection, Mattis said, “anything on China that was briefed to Bill English was briefed to Mr. Yang Jian, and therefore it may not be sort of official day-to-day access, but in terms of the conversations, the briefings, it was entirely present within the system.”
Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute, explained during the hearing that the United Front Department works to “control, indoctrinate, and mobilize non-CCP masses in service of Party-defined objectives.”
Due to the nature of the CCP operations, and their deep influence in the New Zealand system, Mattis said it should raise concerns over the security of U.S. intelligence information in the “Five Eyes” program, which is shared with New Zealand.
Under Five Eyes, the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand share intelligence information. The program includes highly sensitive information collected by the intelligence agencies of each respective country, including from the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and National Security Agency of the United States.
Sen. James Talent (R-Mo.) said during the hearing that the CCP’s United Front Work operations “deserve more scrutiny—and a careful response.” He added that Australia and New Zealand are Five Eyes members, yet “have seen a sharp rise in political donations and media investment from United Front Work Department-affiliated entities, and even individuals affiliated with the United Front Work Department and People’s Liberation Army holding office.”
“Beijing also incentivizes political figures in Australia and New Zealand to parrot its line on issues it deems important,” he said.
Talent also noted that the CCP may be testing operations in New Zealand and Australia, which it may later attempt to use against other countries, including the United States.
“It’s important for the United States to consider that China may be testing methods of interference to probe for weaknesses in democracies in order to use the same techniques against Western countries in the future,” he said. “The United States, its allies, and its partners should understand China’s goals and recognize China’s determination to achieve them.”
The Epoch Times has reported extensively on the CCP’s subversive operations for more than a decade, which include its United Front Department (formerly known as the United Front Work Department) and its Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.
The agencies work through the diaspora of overseas Chinese hometown associations, student associations such as the Chinese Student and Scholar Associations (CSSA), and other groups that the agents attempt to draw into their networks while also attempting to expand the CCP’s influence over foreign politicians, academics, businesses, and journalists.