Former New Zealand PM Shipley disavows piece in China ruling party's official paper
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's former prime minister has denied writing an article attributed to her by the official newspaper of China's ruling communist party that praised the Asian giant's economic development at a time of strained ties.
The first-person opinion piece, published under Jenny Shipley's name on the website of the People's Daily on Monday, and headlined, 'We need to learn to listen to China,' had become its top-read English-language story by Thursday.
"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 New Zealand Herald newspaper, adding that she had not been aware of the piece.
Shipley, who is the chairwoman of the New Zealand subsidiary of China Construction Bank, did not respond to Reuters' request for comment on Thursday.
The People's Daily, which published a Chinese version in the newspaper on January 23, did not immediately respond to telephone calls to seek comment.
The item drew backlash from Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that its timing was "very unwise".
An intelligence agency decision in November, rejecting participation by Chinese technology giant Huawei in New Zealand's 5G network, has left politicians and foreign policy analysts worried about relations with a key trading partner.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's first visit to Beijing has faced scheduling issues and China last week postponed the New Zealand launch of a major tourism campaign.
Shipley said she had been interviewed by a Chinese newspaper in December for a feature article that had already been published, the New Zealand Herald said.
An article with comments on topics similar to those in Monday's piece ran last month on the website of China Daily, a separate state-run newspaper, but was couched in the third person and put Shipley's comments in quotation marks.
New Zealand's first female prime minister, Shipley led the country from 1997 to 1999 as head of the center-right National Party.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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