Dame Jenny Shipley denies writing pro-China opinion piece

Dame Jenny Shipley has denied writing an opinion piece for a Chinese state newspaper.

The article, titled 'We need to listen to China', was published on the People's Daily website on Monday. It appeared in the opinion section and featured Dame Jenny's byline.

The former New Zealand Prime Minister says she didn't write the piece - and there are conflicting reports on whether she ever spoke to the People's Daily at all.

NZME reports she was interviewed by the newspaper in December 2018, and that the opinion piece was based on comments she made at the time.

However, CNN reports Dame Jenny told them the opinion piece had been written based on an interview she gave to China Daily, a different state-run newspaper, during a 2018 visit to China to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Republic's economic reforms.

"As part of this visit a number of leaders including myself were interviewed by the China Daily and this subsequent feature article was written and published without further reference to me," she told CNN.

Dame Jenny Shipley denies writing pro-China opinion piece
Photo credit: Getty/People's Daily

She said she hasn't spoken to the China Daily since December, and had not been told her remarks would be republished as an opinion piece.

Newshub has attempted to reach Dame Jenny for clarification.

The piece was full of praise for President Xi Jinping, in particular his cross-continent infrastructure development strategy.

"The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) 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.

She also complimented China's progress on women's rights

"I want more women, like myself, to sit at the same table while sharing the responsibility and create the future together with men."

While the piece does not mention New Zealand, Dame Jenny was criticised for seeming to have written it in the middle of what's been called a tense rift between us and China.

Last year the GCSB blocked Spark from using Huawei equipment in its planned 5G network, which experts have said was a "loss of face" for China.

The People's Daily recently published an article claiming tourists are turning away from New Zealand and, in December and January, the Chinese consulate issued warnings that travel here is unsafe.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has denied that China's relationship with New Zealand has soured, instead calling it "complex".

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters slammed Dame Jenny on Tuesday, under the impression she had written the flattering opinion piece.

While speaking to media at Parliament he accused her of "selling out New Zealand interests".

Dame Jenny has close business ties to China and is a member of the NZ-China Council, as well as the chairperson of the China Construction Bank.