You almost certainly haven’t heard of Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of Chinese politics at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury. Even so, her work is helping to protect your freedoms.
Three years ago, Prof Brady published a paper called “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping”. It explained how a scandal about Chinese meddling in Australian politics was actually part of a concerted operation by the Chinese Communist Party, called the “United Front”, to expand its influence across the world. The essay, using New Zealand as an example, opened the eyes of other scholars and policymakers to the way their societies were being infiltrated by agents of a hostile foreign power.
It is now increasingly understood that the United Front, often under the guise of legitimate business or cultural entities and using all means from blackmail to technology theft, has been repurposing institutions in democratic countries so that they serve the interests of the CCP. Since “Magic Weapons” was published, all the Five Eyes nations – with the exception of the UK – have begun taking extensive measures to protect themselves.
You might think that her university would be proud of Prof Brady’s work. Apparently not. Her latest paper, submitted to aid a New Zealand parliamentary inquiry, focused on the way Beijing is acquiring and using Kiwi science and technology for military purposes. As with “Magic Weapons”, it is instructive for the rest of the democratic world. The Telegraph has revealed similar goings-on in British academia.
But according to Kiwi media, instead of praising this important work, Canterbury has done the opposite. After complaints from other universities mentioned unfavourably in the paper, it has publicly cast doubt on its conclusions and opened an internal “review” into its author.
More than 120 China experts from around the world have now written to Canterbury expressing full-throated support for her work and dismay at the university’s behaviour. She has, they point out, suffered a campaign of harassment by shadowy actors since publishing “Magic Weapons”, but instead of protecting her, her own university has now gone on the attack.
The situation is so bizarre that you have to ask in whose interests Canterbury’s officials think they are acting. Far from discrediting Prof Brady, the whole debacle suggests we ought to take her work more seriously than ever.
Let’s save face-to-face appointments for those who really need them
I can’t be the only one to find GP phone appointments more efficient than face-to-face meetings. I appreciate that they are infuriating for those who really need to see a doctor, but most appointments do not need to happen in person.
It was always annoying before, when feeling ill, to drag oneself into the drab waiting room of the GP’s surgery and wait, listening to children cry and smokers cough, only to re-emerge an age later with a prescription for some obvious or recurring ailment. Now, I just make sure I have my phone on at the right time and within five minutes of the call, I have a blood test booked or a prescription waiting at a local chemist.
This should be a reminder that the UK is almost unique in its use of GPs to act as gatekeepers to the health service. In global comparisons, GPs rank as the least cost-efficient element of British healthcare, whereas our hospitals offer quite decent value for money.
A long-serving family doctor is a wonderful thing and, when there was less time pressure, the really good ones always offered more than a medical check-up. They were a confidante for patients with personal, mental health or family problems. But that isn’t what you get nowadays. During several years being registered at my local surgery, I don’t think I have ever met with the same doctor twice. Most of the time, an appointment is a fairly transactional event.
For those who really need proper, in-person consultations, they should be available. But if anything good can come from this tedious pandemic, perhaps it will help to update outdated practices still lurking in the system. First the NHS; next, the courts.
Social distancing is a touchy subject
Here is the latest in my collection of Covid inconsistencies, following the strange case of social distancing in the gay sauna queue in Madrid mentioned last week.
The tunnels at London’s South Kensington Tube station, which take visitors to the museums, have been closed. So is the Science Museum’s water play area for children. But its Wonderlab, in which visitors press buttons, roll balls into black holes and run their hands up and down slopes covered with mist from dry ice, is still open.
So is this sort of touching and feeling a deadly threat or a harmless way to learn? Perhaps best not to ask, lest they shut down the Wonderlab too.