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- China and Russia may value New Zealand as a “soft underbelly” of Western intelligence.
- New Zealand, along with the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, is part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance.
- A report from Canada’s spy agency, which doesn’t reflect the agency’s views, said New Zealand is a “vivid” example of China’s foreign interference in politics.
- An ex-CIA China expert recently recommended that Five Eyes reevaluate New Zealand’s membership because of its lackluster response to foreign interference.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Business Insider that New Zealand’s relation with Canada is “strong” and that Five Eyes is not under question.
New Zealand is the “soft underbelly” of an international intelligence-sharing alliance which may make it valuable to China and Russia, according to a report by Canada’s intelligence agency.
Both New Zealand and Canada, as well as the US, UK, and Australia, are part of the Five Eyes alliance, which has routinely shared sensitive intelligence since 1955. But on the topic of foreign interference a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) places the spotlight solely on New Zealand.
The report outlines how China sees New Zealand as the path to assert its regional influence.
“Extricating New Zealand from these military groupings and away from its traditional partners would be a major coup for the Xi government’s strategic goal of turning China into a global great power.
“New Zealand is valuable to China, as well as to other states such as Russia, as a soft underbelly through which to access Five Eyes intelligence.”
“New Zealand provides a vivid case study of China’s willingness to use economic ties to interfere with the political life of a partner country… An aggressive strategy has sought to influence political decision-making, pursue unfair advantages in trade and business, suppress criticism of China, facilitate espionage opportunities, and influence overseas Chinese communities.”
The report is based on an academic workshop and doesn’t represent the views of Canada’s intelligence agency, but its publication this week is timely.
It recently emerged that an ex-CIA China expert recommended that Five Eyes reevaluate New Zealand’s membership for failing to adequately respond to political interference from the Chinese Communist Party.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Business Insider she has “certainly not had any indication that our Five Eyes membership in the arrangement is under question, nor have I heard that it has been raised with any of my colleagues.”
“I have had no indication that our Five Eyes membership is under question, from Canada or any other of our partners, nor have I heard that it has been raised with any of my colleagues,” Ardern also told us. “I take my steer on these matters from official channels, not opinions expressed at a workshop.”
The CSIS report also said the foreign interference campaign being waged by China’s government is targeting New Zealand and other nations to gain support for its “political and economic agendas by co-opting political and economic elites.”
Attention of China’s foreign influence activities has put New Zealand’s government in an “awkward position,” according to the report, because it “has to clean its own house and deal with the involvement of some of its own senior politicians in United Front activities.”
United Front is the secretive overseas influence arm of the Chinese Communist Party.
“New Zealand must indicate to its allies that it is going to address the issue,” the report said.