Former New Zealand prime minister Jenny Shipley has denied writing an article in a Chinese state-run daily effusively praising Beijing amid heightened tensions between the two nations.
The article, “We need to learn to listen to China”, was published on Monday under Shipley’s byline in the Communist party’s People’s Daily and heaped praise on Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” economic and trade diplomacy initiative.
The piece appears to be based on an interview with Shipley in December by a different state-run paper, the ChinaDaily.
Following sharp criticism, Shipley’s response appeared to confuse the two publications as she told New Zealand Herald “I have not spoken to the China Daily since December”.
New Zealand’s first female prime minister added: “I would never think of getting into a public situation like this at such an important time for New Zealand’s relationship.”
An appendix to the People’s Daily online article was changed on Wednesday from “The author is former prime minister of New Zealand” to “Dame Jenny Shipley is former prime minister of New Zealand. The article is based on the interview by a journalist with People’s Daily on December 2018.”
The article came amid a fierce spat between Wellington and Beijing over the participation of Huawei equipment in a planned 5G network.
New Zealand intelligence agency GCSB has warned Huawei’s participation carries “significant security risks”.
Australia and the United States have similarly moved to block the company’s 5G involvement over fears the equipment could act as a backdoor for Chinese intelligence activities.
Beijing has labelled such concerns as “groundless” and responded with a veiled warning to Chinese tourists not to visit New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday appeared to be considering a compromise, saying talks were under way between GCSB and Spark to see if the fears about Huawei’s involvement could be addressed.
She also sought to ease concerns the issue was becoming an irritant in relations with China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, describing the two countries’ relationship as complex but mature.