Intimidation Knows No Boundaries

This direct threat to a New Zealand academic - her office and home invaded -  is part of the intimidation pattern – transition from hard power to soft power to sharp power.  CCP is always watching.  In this case, Anne Marie Brady has studied Chinese politics, and recently wrote a report describing Chinese government infiltration in New Zealand politics, education, and media.

So, another story of direct threat to an academic, this time in New Zealand, by person or persons unknown.  The unknown perps are generally understood to be a Chinese government-promoted foreign version of chengguan – the plainclothes thugs hired informally by Chinese local governments to maintain street order, help evict farmers, provide household imprisonment services, threaten dissidents, and occasionally beat up or murder government objects of disaffection.  In this case, Anne Marie Brady wrote a detailed research report, titled Magic Weapons, describing the means by which Beijing intends to (surreptitiously) influence domestic and foreign policy in foreign countries using the United Front vehicles.  From the Magic Weapons article -

After more than 30 years of this work, there are few overseas Chinese associations able to completely evade “guidance” — other than those affiliated with the religious group Falungong, Taiwan independence, pro-independence Tibetans and Uighurs, independent Chinese religious groups outside party-state controlled religions, and the democracy movement—and even these are subject to being infiltrated by informers and a target for united front work.

 As in the Cold War years, united front work not only serves foreign policy goals, but can sometimes be used as a cover for intelligence activities.

 The Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Public Security, PLA Joint Staff Headquarters’ Third Department, Xinhua News Service, the United Front Work Department, International Liaison Department, are the main, but not the only, PRC party-state agencies who recruit foreign, especially ethnic Chinese, agents for the purpose of collecting intelligence.

 In 2014, one former spy said that the Third Department had at least 200,000 agents abroad.

 Some Chinese community associations act as fronts for Chinese mafia who engage in illegal gambling; human trafficking; extortion; and money laundering. As a leaked 1997 report by Canada’s RCMP-SIS noted, these organizations also frequently have connections with China’s party-state intelligence organizations.

The crisis of 1989 resulted in the CCP government stepping up foreign persuasion efforts (外宣) aimed at the non-ethnic-Chinese public too. As they had done in the past, in this the Chinese government drew on the help of high level “friends of China” —foreign political figures such as the USA’s Henry Kissinger, to repair China's relations with the USA and other Western democracies. In 1991 the State Council Information Office was set up to better promote China's policies to the outside world. Reflecting the fact that it is both a party and a state body, its other Chinese-only nameplate is the Office of Foreign Propaganda, 外宣办. Soon after, China Central Television (CCTV) launched its first English language channel. China gradually expanded its external influence activities under CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin (1989-2002). While these activities failed to ameliorate negative global public opinion towards the Chinese government and its policies, efforts to promote a positive image of China’s economic policies had much more success.


John Burge, the notorious Chicago police commander who oversaw torture and intimidation in arrests, had nothing on the chengguan in the way of despicable behavior.

Source: Bystanders surround a street vendor beaten by the chengguan, China's municipal police force (Sohu/Fair Use) in Yueran Zhang. Can China's Hated Local Police Reform Their Image?  Atlantic, June 25, 2013.


From the New Zealand Herald, quoted in the South China Morning Post (!) -

According to The New Zealand Herald, Brady said her office on campus was broken into in December, and her home burgled last week, with computers, phones and USB storage devices stolen while other obvious valuables were overlooked.

Brady said the latest burglary was preceded by an anonymous letter threatening “pushback” against opponents of Beijing’s interests, with the warning: “You are next.”


And the intimidation is not a new story.  China has always blocked entry to China of scholars and writers it found to speak or write too honestly.  Minxin Pei, Andrew Nathan, and Perry Link are examples.  And -

Intimidation of foreign journalists in China in 2011 (actually, rather a constant)  Intimidation

And - Kevin Carrico, who was monitored in both the US and in Australia  Inside Higher Ed - Monitoring and Scrutiny of Foreign Professors  This Inside Higher Ed story is worth reading.

And you all know of the threat to Cambridge University Press and other academic publishers regarding demands to censor journals.

Foreigners in China, of course, have always been subject to scrutiny and more.  In recent weeks, Christopher Balding (teaching at the Shenzhen Branch of Peking University graduate school of business) has left China  Balding Out   He writes, "China has reached a point where I do not feel safe being a professor and discussing even the economy, business, and financial markets."   He was threatened in 2015, as was I, although his experience was more extreme than mine.  His office at school was broken into, his apartment also, and he was quite sure his phone was being tapped. 


On to this most recent story  in the New York Times –

Break-ins of Home and Office of New Zealand Academic

Fingers Point to China After Break-Ins Target New Zealand Professor

Ms. Brady’s recent paper, “Magic Weapons,” was published last September. It identified categories of political-influence activities by China in Western democracies, laid out what Ms. Brady said was the Chinese Communist Party’s blueprint for conducting such activities worldwide, and examined New Zealand as a case study of Chinese influence across most spheres of public life.

When Ms. Brady returned home on the day of the burglary, bed covers were rumpled and papers strewn about, but her husband’s laptop was left untouched. She said that it appeared to be a “psychological operation” and the latest in a series of incidents targeting her over her work. She said her computer’s hard drive had been tampered with when she was previously in China, and that Communist Party officials questioned people she spoke with there.

Before the February burglary, she said, she received a letter warning her she would be attacked .....


Do read the original paper,  Magic Weapons China's Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping


This story is also reported by Bill Bishop today at Axios China