Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley has denied writing a pro-China opinion piece attributed to her, according to a report published by The Guardian on Wednesday.
The op-ed, titled “We need to listen to China,” was published earlier this week by the People’s Daily — the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. A note at the bottom of the piece said unambiguously that it was authored by the former prime minister.
The article itself sang the praises of Chinese efforts on poverty reduction and gender equality, and it applauded the Belt and Road Initiative — an investment campaign introduced by China as a way to create a vast global infrastructure network inextricably tied to the country.
The piece bearing Shipley’s byline was the most-read article on the paper’s website on Wednesday, according to The Guardian. However, the former prime minister said the story was artificially constructed from an interview she did with a different Chinese state-run newspaper last year, according to comments reported by CNN.
“It is important for the foreign minister and prime minister and others to understand that I would never think of getting into a public situation like this at such an important time for New Zealand’s relationship,” Shipley said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald.
This controversy comes at a time of heightening tensions between New Zealand and China. Relations between the countries were strained after Chinese tech giant Huawei was temporarily banned from participating in the country’s rollout of 5G — the upcoming generation of mobile networking technology that’s set to drive a host of tech innovations.
Shipley came under criticism for the op-ed, including from New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who said the former prime minister a”selling out New Zealand interests,” according to the Herald.
The Guardian said Shipley turned down an interview request and has declined to comment further. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The People’s Daily did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment sent to its general inquiries email address.
The Guardian said China experts suggested Shipley had made an error in speaking with the newspaper at all given the People’s Daily’s “habit” of fabricating stories.