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China’s Exploitation of Civilian Channels for Military Purposes in New Zealand

In 2017, a Chinese military company proudly announced production of an innovative cargo drone, marketed as suitable as an armed one-use military cargo plane which could drop off supplies in difficult mountainous terrain. China’s contested mountainous border with India would be one such location. The plane’s technology originated from a well-known New Zealand company that had once been owned by New Zealand taxpayers. The technology had been transferred in a deal that was endorsed by the 2008-2017 New Zealand National Party government. Praising the BAIC-Pacific Aerospace partnership in 2014, then Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, remarked—without any trace of irony—“Relationships like this demonstrate that we don’t just export dairy and lamb to China, but also our technology.”

New Zealand has indeed increasingly been exporting innovative and sensitive technology to China. As this paper by Wilson Center Global Fellow Anne-Marie Brady outlines, some of these exchanges appear to breach New Zealand's domestic laws and international commitments. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is using civilian links with Western countries to access cutting-edge scientific expertise with military-end-use. China’s exploitation of civilian channels for military purposes raises national security, as well as reputational, ethical, and intellectual property risks for New Zealand. New Zealand’s experience of grappling with China’s covert military links may be relevant for other nations as they too re-assess their scientific, commercial, and educational relations with the PRC.

About the Author

Anna-Marie Brady image

Anne-Marie Brady

Global Fellow, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States & Global Fellow, Polar Institute;
Professor, University of Canterbury and Executive Editor of The Polar Journal
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Asia Program

The Asia Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The mission of Kissinger Institute on China and the United States is to ensure that informed engagement remains the cornerstone of U.S.-China relations.  Read more