First Helen Clark, then John Key, prostrated themselves before the CCP and all the while these sneaky little scumbags have been undermining our democracy. I can’t wait to see the next op-ed from John Key telling us all that the Chinese are our best mates: it can’t be far off after the latest revelations in Stuff about illicit activities by the CCP in New Zealand.

Over the course of two years, in an effort to understand the nature and extent of CCP influence and interference in New Zealand, we spoke to dozens of people, and one by one they told us the apologue of the boiling frog: the tale being, of course, that a frog suddenly plunged into boiling water will jump out, but one placed in tepid water won’t perceive the danger. “Once you realise it’s boiling,” said one, “you’re already dead”.

Such a grave warning will inevitably mean that we and the sources for our investigation will be accused of xenophobia or sinophobia. The Chinese Embassy (which did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for the documentary) will no doubt – post-publication – label us anti-China, as its Consulate has in the past.

These accusations are undone, though, by the fact that the majority of our sources are Chinese New Zealanders.

We can’t name most of them, for reasons which will become apparent when you watch.

But this is their story, though it’s one that belongs to all of us: Their warning that China’s foreign interference is corroding our democracy.


Now, we must take care because this is a story by Paula Penfold and we know she is prone to over egging the pudding, but where there is smoke there is fire.

The CCP are not our friends – they never will be our friends – and if there is any country that we would go to war with I’d pick China as the one we’d be fighting, long before any others.

How foreign interference is defined is important, to distinguish it from normal and open diplomatic relations, which every country engages in. The activities the SIS is concerned about are those that are intended to influence, disrupt or subvert New Zealand’s national interests by deceptive, corruptive or coercive means.

Little and officials talking bluntly and naming countries was a strategic decision to bring into the open what usually only those with security clearance are privy to: that the threat environment is “rapidly evolving” and will require “a rapidly evolving response… in order to stay ahead of those who wish to cause us harm”.

‘’We want to demystify the threats we face,’’ Hampton told Stuff Circuit, adding that public awareness is the agency’s most important tool for defending those threats.

The threat environment report highlighted an anonymised 2022 case of a foreign state secretly working with New Zealand-based community figures to persuade someone with political influence to change their position on a “subject of sensitivity”.

What that subject is remains open to conjecture, but there are a number of sensitive areas on which the CCP seeks to sway opinions: its persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, for example. The Chinese Government knows it’s been successful when its talking points on Xinjiang are publicly repeated by people with influence, describing detention camps as “vocational training centres”.

Those influencers have been groomed, and fooled into thinking they’re talking to a Chinese community grassroots movement because they’ll hear the same thing from a number of different people. But it’s a coordinated effort, each person acting on instructions, and each required to report back and provide evidence they have undertaken the actions required of them.

You might think of this as an elaborate and cynical form of PR, aimed at tilting perceptions in China’s favour, which might not seem any different from the diplomatic actions of other states, but for that important definition: the practices are deceptive, corruptive, and coercive.

Then there’s the more sinister practice the SIS calls “societal interference”: acts targeting those perceived as dissidents – Chinese New Zealanders who oppose the CCP.

“Social media monitoring, media manipulation, deploying networks of motivated community contacts and covert intelligence operations are some of the tactics used to achieve their goals.”


Some of the influencers haven’t been duped: they are duping us, and one of these is John Key. Make no mistake: he’s a lock for the CCP. He wants a board position on a major Chinese bank like he wanted a knighthood. He’s that shameless.

The CCP are not our friends and we need to disabuse ourselves of the nonsense that they are.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news,...