China casts long cloud over NZ poll

China casts long cloud over NZ poll, by Jamie Walker.

The governing National Party has kicked nine points clear of ­Labour on a vote of 46 per cent, putting Mr English in the box seat to be returned on Saturday.

The 1News Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour had dropped seven points in a week to 37 per cent under charismatic leader ­Jacinda Ardern, who has struggled to neutralise an attack by Mr English that Labour would increase income tax. …

The China issue:

Both parties were blindsided yesterday by a study into China’s “soft power” that tracked an increase in donations to New Zealand political parties as state-backed Chinese firms move to take strategic stakes in the country’s dairy industry.

The report by researcher Anne-Marie Brady, of the University of Canterbury, singled out a $100,000 donation last year by six Chinese donors who had attended a lunch with Mr English’s predecessor as prime minister, John Key, over the bid to change the New Zealand flag.

Professor Brady noted the Chinese donors want “the Union Jack removed from the New Zealand flag because it reminded them of the history of British imperialism in China”.

Professor Brady said New Zealand was of strategic interest to China for a number of reasons, including the responsibility Wellington maintains for defence and foreign ­affairs of the Pacific territories of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau which “potentially means four votes for China” at international organisations. …

Professor Brady identified possible military applications for technology tests allegedly carried out on dairy farms owned by ­Chinese firm Shanghai Penxin. These involved industrial balloons used to deliver broadband services. …

“New Zealand is … useful for near-space research which is an important new area of research for the (People’s Liberation Army) as it expands its long-range precision missiles,” Professor Brady wrote.