National MP Jian Yang has been pushed into retiring from politics after the election, the Herald understands.

His tenure as an MP has been clouded with questions over his links to Chinese spy agencies and his studies at Chinese military institutions.

Yang has always said these associations are above board.

"After careful consideration and talking to my wife and children, I have decided, that after serving three most rewarding terms in the National Party caucus, I will not stand in the 2020 general election," Yang said in a statement this morning.


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Yang said he was proud of his contribution to New Zealand-China relations.

"My trips to China with prime minister John Key, ministers and colleagues are some highlights of my political career. I have witnessed the rapid growth of New Zealand's trade with China and I am pleased to have played a role in it."

The Herald understands that senior MPs in National's caucus had leaned on Yang to retire, even though he had already been assured of a spot on the 2020 party list.

His retirement now means that three of the party's 2020 list spots that had been committed before Simon Bridges was rolled as leader are now vacant: Yang, Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett are all leaving.

Yang's association with Chinese institutes fuelled speculation that he was an officer in Chinese military intelligence and a member of the Communist Party.

In response, Yang said he was not a spy but he taught English to "cadets" at a language school run by the Communist Party's People's Liberation Army.

National Party list MP Dr Jian Yang faces the media in Auckland in 2017 during the height of questions about his ties to China. Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is pictured. Photo / File
National Party list MP Dr Jian Yang faces the media in Auckland in 2017 during the height of questions about his ties to China. Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross is pictured. Photo / File

It was later revealed that Yang had not included his stints at the PLA in his 1997 application for New Zealand residency.


In 2017, at the height of questions about his ties to China, Yang held a press conference where he refuted "any allegations that question my loyalty to New Zealand".

He said he had resigned from the Chinese Communist Party when he came to New Zealand.

He has since repeatedly declined interview requests, including as recently as two weeks ago when Q+A was seeking an interview.

The news of Yang's impending departure was welcomed by NZ First leader Winston Peters, who is also Foreign Affairs Minister.

"It is breath taking, given New Zealand's long democratic tradition, that National has tolerated the intolerable by protecting Mr Yang from being held to account by our media," Peters said.

"He has never satisfactorily explained his past links with the CCP and their military intelligence-linked language schools, nor has he or the National Party ever apologised for his misleading statements when he applied for citizenship.


"It is even worse that when last in government National for over 16 months allowed Mr Yang to sit as a member on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee until he was quietly replaced. This is shocking when you think about it, a low point in protecting some of New Zealand's most sensitive relationships."

In his statement today announcing his retirement, Yang said New Zealand was a great country.

"I have been in New Zealand for 21 years, 12 years in academia and nine years in politics. Politics is demanding and I now look forward to spending more time with my wife and family.

"I am truly grateful for the unfailing support I have received from the party, my colleagues and the wider Chinese community."

He said it had been "a great honour" to represent the Chinese community as a National MP.

"I am proud that I have been able to assist numerous Chinese constituents and enabled the Chinese community to better understand and participate in New Zealand's open and democratic politics.


"I wish Todd and the team all the best to win the election."

National Party leader Todd Muller said in a statement Yang had made a big contribution over the past nine years.

"Jian has contributed a great deal as a National MP during his time in Parliament. His nine years of service have involved a lot of hard work," Muller said.

"As a list MP he has travelled the country, supporting many different communities helping them with different issues. His dedication has helped the Chinese community in New Zealand better understand and participate in politics.

"Jian has served as chairperson of Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee and is currently chairperson of the Governance and Administration Select Committee. He has served both committees with distinction.

"I wish him well for his future endeavours."