Foreign Minister Winston Peters has launched a stinging attack on former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley after an article appeared in China's "People's Daily" under her byline complimenting China on its reforms and the Belt and Road Initiative.

But Shipley did not write the piece, which appears under the Online opinion section. It is headlined "We need to listen to China" and carries Dame Jenny's byline and on Tuesday night was the fourth best read piece on the website.

She was interviewed by the state-run newspaper in December for a feature article which has run already and was surprised to learn a new piece had been published under her name.

The story which appeared online for China's 'People's Daily'.
The story which appeared online for China's 'People's Daily'.

"I have not spoken to the China Daily since December," she said.


"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 told the Herald.

It appears that the paper has rerun a large part of the previous article under Shipley's byline.

Peters made his comments on the same day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that David Parker would be attending a Belt and Road conference in Beijing in April - seen as part of effort to improve relations.

Peters has never forgiven Shipley for sacking him as Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister in a coalition Government in 1998.

When asked by reporters to comment on the People's Daily article carrying Shipley's byline, Peters questioned her credentials to chair the China Construction Bank NZ and he referenced the BNZ crisis of the early 90s when she and he were both in the National Party.

"It is actually extraordinary that some who has so little knowledge of banking, for example, should be in the second biggest bank in China," Peters said at Parliament.

"If you know about the BNZ and that scandal and the Winebox and everything else, she exhibited no financial understanding of commerce whatsoever, so what do I make of this is that there is somebody else just selling out New Zealand interests."

When asked if he was really saying she was selling out New Zealand he said: "Yes, I've said that for a long time."


The article first appeared on Monday but does not mention the strained relations between China and New Zealand which were accentuated when the GCSB objected to Huawei's involvement in Spark's 5G plans.

In fact it does not mention New Zealand at all. It praises China and President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative.

"The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China is one of the greatest ideas we've ever heard globally. It is a forward-looking idea and, in my opinion, it has the potential to create the next wave of economic growth."

It says that in Xi's keynote speech at the annual Boao Forum, he remained committed to opening its doors to the rest of the world.

"While China continues to think about how it can open wider to the world, we should learn to listen to China."

The spat comes on the same day that Ardern foreshadowed a more active engagement in the Belt and Road Initiative in a bid to improve relations - and despite earlier misgivings about it by Peters.


Ardern said conversations were ongoing with China about infrastructure projects.

Belt and Road is a term for Beijing's infrastructure projects and economic activity in other countries launched five years ago by Xi Jinping.

Despite criticism that it has left many states with massive debt to China, National signed a memo with Premier Li Keqiang in 2017 for a commitment to work out some projects that would fit under its umbrella.

The Coalition Government ostensibly assigned a Foreign Affairs official to negotiate a plan with China but almost half-way through its term, nothing has come of it and when questioned about it, Peters has repeatedly said he was waiting for his counterpart Wang Yi to explain exactly what the Belt and Road was.

It has effectively been in storage or at the very least given a low priority.

At a reception on Monday held by the NZ – China Council, at which Madam Wu was present, MFAT deputy Secretary Ben King also mentioned that work on the Belt and Road was continuing.


Wu thanked the NZ – China Council for a report on the Belt and Road Initiative it released in May last year saying it had been well received by her Government and the public and private sector.

An earlier version of this story wrongly said Dame Jenny Shipley had written an opinion piece for the People's Daily.