PRC State-Sponsored Trash Talk/Media Infiltration in New Zealand

New Zealand Professor Anne-Marie Brady recently translated an anonymous poison pen letter on Chinese media infiltration in New Zealand and gave it to the New Zealand Parliament. This new information fits the pattern seen around the world and discussed in He Qinglian’s recent book published in Taiwan 紅色滲透:中國媒體全球擴張的真相 [Red Infiltration: the Truth About the Global Expansion of Chinese Media] that examines Chinese Communist Party and government infiltration and efforts to control Chinese language media outside of China.  https://gaodawei.wordpress.com/2019/05/28/he-qinglian-concerns-as-taiwan-faces-red-infiltration/   

See also Professor Brady’s work on Chinese Communist Party united front work and attempts to infiltrate Chinese communities overseas.

Read Professor Brady’s submission to the New Zealand Parliament and her paper “Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping” to understand better the pattern the letter discussed here fits into.

Supplementary Submission to the New Zealand Parliament Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Foreign Interference Activities, 2019 Professor Anne-Marie Brady My qualifications to speak on this topic: I am a specialist in the politics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China) and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Party-State system; as well as polar issues, Pacific politics, and New Zealand foreign policy. I have published ten books and close to fifty scholarly papers on these topics. I was educated in Auckland, Shanghai, and Canberra. I am a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker with dual degrees up to PhD level in Chinese Studies and Political Science and International Relations. I am a Professor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury, as well as a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, and a member of the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (New Zealand). I have taught graduate and undergraduate courses at East China Normal University, Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, Beijing University, and Renmin University.

My comments in this submission are based on conclusions in my research published over the last thirty years. In researching these papers and books I referred to many thousands of Chinese language CCP materials and the comments I make here are based on those sources, as well as secondary sources on the CCP’s united front work. Justifications for supplementary submission of materials: I am forwarding my paper “Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping” as a supplementary submission document, as the paper was referred to several times during the oral submission meeting of the Justice Select Committee Inquiry into Foreign Interference on May 9, 2019. One of the members of the Justice Select Committee also asked for concrete examples of how New Zealand is being affected by corrupting, corrosive, and coercive foreign interference activities and the paper provides many examples which answer this question.

From Professor Brady’s Twitter feed:

Not Merely Trash Talk but Evidence of PRC Infiltration of NZ Domestic Chinese–language Media

The interesting thing here is not so much the Chinese language trash talk literature here explicated but that it is state-sponsored trash talk.  Students of Chinese language will find the notes interesting in themselves!

I have copied extensive excerpts from the file since I suspect many people will be put off by the trash talk and may not persist to the notes. This is not mere trash talk about a New Zealand politician but state (or should I saw Party) sponsored trash talk in NZ domestic Chinese language media and direct PRC interference in New Zealand domestic affairs.

Read the entire file at https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/52SCJU_EVI_78888_JU67811/e6823069b9502f8828fa31a9cfe381b0896d1a39

Cover Letter to Anonymous Expose Translated the New Zealand Parliament by Prof. Brady

Prof. Brady’s introduction to the English translation of the letter


Translator’s Note: As requested by the Justice Select Committee1 I have translated the Chinese section of an anonymous letter I received on February 13, 2018, which I provided as a supplementary submission to the Committee. The letter is relevant to the Justice Select Committee’s Inquiry on Foreign Interference Activities in New Zealand as it provides concrete examples of how the Chinese government directs New Zealand’s Chinese language media. The model of control for the diaspora media is similar to that in the Chinese Mainland, it does not matter who owns the media outlet, they must work within CCP censorship guidelines or be forced out of business. 2 The only exceptions are Falungong papers and a few other hardy dissident media platforms. The diaspora commercial media–like the PRC media— operates “between the Party line and the bottom line”. 3 

The anonymous letter alleges that the Chinese government is behind an “evil and obscene attack” on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the New Zealand Chinese media (as well as against the Right Hon Winston Peters). This translation translates an example from the New Zealand Chinese media of that slander against the New Zealand Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Peters. This translated section is from a post on the HouGarden website in January 20184 and screenshots of user posts in response to the original story. HouGarden is a Chinese language, New Zealand-based news and property website.5 The letter outlines how the Chinese government is allegedly directing and controlling the New Zealand media Chinese-language platforms via a combination of incentives and punishments. The letter provides photographic evidence to back up these claims. 

Translated by Professor Anne-Marie Brady, University of Canterbury, New Zealand6   

Warning: the translation, as well as the Chinese original, contains vulgar language that may offend some readers.


From Professor Brady’s notes to her translation of the letter: 

2. As discussed in Anne-Marie Brady, “Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities Under Xi Jinping,” conference paper presented at the conference on “The Corrosion of democracy under China’s global influence,” September, 16-17 2017,https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/magic-weapons-chinas-politicalinfluence-activities-under-xi-jinping. 3 Zhao Yuezhi, Between the Party Line and the Bottom Line: Media, Market, and Democracy in China, Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998. 

4 The original post is here: https://nz.hougarden.com/news/winston-petersgodfather-24012018, but the comments section has now been removed. 

https://nz.hougarden.com/news/localhttps://nz.hougarden.com/. 6 I am a specialist in the politics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China) and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Party-State system; as well as polar issues, Pacific politics, and New Zealand foreign policy. I have published ten books and close to fifty scholarly papers on these topics. I was educated in Auckland, Shanghai, and Canberra. I am a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker with dual degrees up to PhD level in Chinese Studies and Political Science and International Relations. I am a Professor in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Canterbury, as well as a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC, a nonresident Senior Fellow at the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, and a member of the Council on Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (New Zealand). I have taught graduate and undergraduate courses at East China Normal University, Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, Beijing University and Renmin University.


  My comments in this translation and in my submission to the Inquiry on Foreign Interference in New Zealand are based on conclusions in my research published over the last thirty years. In researching these papers and books I referred to many thousands of Chinese language CCP materials and the comments I make here are based on those sources, as well as secondary sources on the CCP’s united front work. 


7 老皮, Lǎo Pí which can be translated as “Old P”, “Old Skin”, “Old Pi”, “Old Leather”, “Old Fur”, “Old Naughty”, “Old Rascal” and potentially also interpreted to mean “Old Fart”, “Old Bum”, plus many other dialect interpretations listed below, is the colloquial nickname commonly used in the New Zealand Chinese language media to refer to the Right Hon Winston Peters, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition government (2017-). The phrase could be interpreted as insulting and pejorative. It is certainly not the correct transliteration of Mr Peters’ name in Chinese and it is unusual to see media outlets using a potentially derogatory nickname in reference to a person’s actual name. The following remarks are based on consultations with colleagues and native speakers of Chinese of different age groups and linguistic backgrounds. Thanks to the many who assisted with this translation; more than can be listed. 


The official translation of Mr Peters name is: 温斯顿·彼得斯, is phonetic, using standard non-offensive characters for transliteration of the common English names “Winston” and “Peters” [the characters used mean: Warm. This. Pause –That. Obtain. Those]. It is the norm in Chinese translations to use non-offensive characters to transliterate foreigners’ names. Chinese dictionaries list standard transliterations of common foreign names. Xinhua News Service sets the norms on how foreign political leaders’ names should be transliterated and there is an official translation available. Yet in the New Zealand Chinese language media, the Right Hon Winston Peters’ name appears frequently as 老皮, or else as “皮特斯” a transliteration using the character 皮 (as discussed above, the surname Pi, skin, leather, fur, naughty, raffish, rascal, along with other meanings) as the choice of first character for his name. 


In 2017, the CCP formalised its efforts to implement censorship controls over the Chinese diaspora media, see “The 2nd Overseas Chinese New Media Summit Forum,” Sina, August 30, 2017, http://news.sina.com.cn/o/2017-08-30/doc-ifykpuuh9583106.shtml. This policy has been the unwritten rule for at least 20 years. As the anonymous letter I submitted to the Justice Select Committee illustrates, regardless of who owns a foreign Chinese language media outlet or China focused media outlet, it must now conform to CCP censorship guidelines or it will be forced to close by means of intimidation such as removal of advertising or vexatious court cases. Thus, given that New Zealand’s Chinese language media are under pressure to closely follow the “Xinhua line” in their reporting of China-related issues, it is unusual and significant that they are using the 老皮 phrase to denote Mr Peters. 


A NZ-based website has discussed the significance of the New Zealand Chinese language media using 老皮 to transliterate Mr Peters’ name. This analysis concludes that the term is pejorative and it is meant to insult, see https://www.kannz.com/winston-peters/


According to University of Pennsylvania Sinologist Professor Victor Mair, in Dongbei topolect the term 老皮子 indicates people who are raffish or disrespectable. In Shaanxi 陝西 topolect “老皮” has a complex and essentially disapproving meaning: it could mean “老油條” (sic, “slippery customers”, “devious geezers”), people who are considered “很二” (reckless), and those who behave like scoundrels. The term “老皮” may also have an ironic meaning. For example in Shaanxi topolect, Tom cat in Tom and Jerry is referred to as “老皮”. (Victor Mair, email communication, 16 May 2019). The term also appears in a variant form in Wuhan topolect as 老耶皮 nao3ye1pi, a derogatory term for an older person. See Dictionary of Wuhan Dialect, Jiangsu Publishing House, 1995, and an example of the term in use here http://bbs.cnhan.com/thread-20983041-4-1.html (Jichang Lulu, email communication, May 21, 2019). 


A google search of “老皮 Winston Peters” in the news media appeared 98 times. For example the NZME publication the Chinese Herald, sister paper to the NZ Herald, often uses the term. See for example: 

 8 宝宝 Bǎobǎo,is a pet name that could be translated as “bubbie”, “baby”, “bubs”, darling”, “precious”. Here it appears to be used ironically. 

9 干爹, gandie, traditionally meant foster father, adopted father, or godfather. But in modern usage it has come to mean “Sugar Daddy”. It is used to describe the relationship between an older man and a much younger woman. An example of use by netizens is a China-based Wikihow page on: “How to fish for a sugar daddy” 如何钓到多金“干爹” https://zh.wikihow.com/%E9%92%93%E5%88%B0%E5%A4%9A%E9%87 %91%E2%80%9C%E5%B9%B2%E7%88%B9%E2%80%9D See also PRC state-media usage: China National Radio via People’s Daily Online listing the heroines of Sugar-Daddy Culture. 细数“干爹文化”的女主 角们(组图) http://legal.people.com.cn/n/2013/0228/c188502-20629417.html And some New Zealand-relevant sources http://www.chinesenzherald.co.nz/news/socialmedia/this-is-us-20180523/ 

新西兰一周收入 8000 纽币,“找干爹”网站毁三观! https://m.sohu.com/n/419626621/ 

10 This sentence parodies a famous Tang dynasty couplet by Wang Bo 王 勃, “落霞与孤鹜齐飞,秋水共长天一色” from the poem “Preface on King Teng’s Pavilion” (滕王阁序). Victor Mair has translated the key phrase as “Evening clouds descend and fly along together with a single lonely wild duck/Autumn’s waters coalesce in a single shade with the outstretched heavens.“ (Victor Mair, ed., Columbia Anthology of Traditional Chinese Literature, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, p. 550.) Email communication, Professor Olga Lomová, Charles University, May 21, 2019. 

11 钦定 qinding, a term used when the imperial court issues a decree. 

12 一对狗男女, yidui gou nannű. This is an extremely vulgar term in Chinese, as it is in English. An explanation of the meaning here: https://zhidao.baidu.com/question/106417414.html  13 In other words: a warning, not a reward. 


14 啊登 Ah Deng is a mildly disrespectful name for Prime Minister Ardern, see also 阿爾登, which commonly appears in Taiwanese reports on NZ. Ah Deng simply repeats the sound of Ms Ardern’s name in Chinese characters without any particular meaning. However, the official translation of Jacinda Ardern’s name in Chinese used by the PRC government and in the PRC media is: 杰辛达·阿德恩. In this translation of Ardern, the characters for her surname can be translated as “Ms Moral Empathy”. 

15 Commonly an abbreviation of the phrase 扯鸡巴蛋, a vulgar term which is equivalent to “what a wank”. 

16 老来得子 Refers to a popular love story in Chinese of intrigues concerning the children of a young woman and her much older husband. https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E8%80%81%E6%9D%A5%E5%BE%97%E 5%AD%90 

17 On the current Confidence and Supply Agreement of the Green Party to the Coalition government see https://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/NZLP%20%26%20GP%20C% 26S%20Agreement%20FINAL.PDF

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Retired now, translated Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and studying some things. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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