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China is in New Zealand to stay

Written By: - Date published: 1:06 pm, March 28th, 2017 - 39 comments
Categories: China, Globalisation, International, us politics - Tags:

At this moment, the U.S. government is signalling in its budget that it is in an accelerated retreat from aid and soft power influences, and a further retreat from international allegiances of any sort: the U.N., NATO, NAFTA. The U.S. proposed budget will shrink the power of its state as never before.

And on the other hand, the Chinese political and business leadership are in town.

In such a moment, New Zealand bears some similarity to Singapore.

Singapore has long had an outsize influence and strategic importance because it controls a vital access point through the Malaccan Straits for the maritime trade routes connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia. The U.S. valued Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, because among other things he was an ardent Cold War warrior determined like Holyoake and Muldoon to stop the spread of Communism in the region. While in political terms Lee verged towards authoritarian, Singapore would never become a Chinese ally. China harbours no illusions about Singapore’s allegiances.

New Zealand is no threat to anyone’s shipping trade. But by being the first to sign a Free Trade Deal with China, it signalled to the United States and to its other traditional allies like Australia that it was still prepared to be ‘turnable’ in its international allegiances. In a different way to Singapore, New Zealand is an axial point in China’s place in the world.

It’s worth reflecting for a moment on what New Zealand would be buying into with truly deepening ties into China. In recent years, China has taken a leading role in the establishment of a new set of international economic institutions, including the New Development Bank, the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, the AIIB, and the Silk Road Fund. Together these are counterweight entities to the Western-led International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the European Central Bank, which have dominated the global financial order since after the Second World War.

China is arguably the only country in history, after Britain and the United States, with the capacity to shape and lead a global system of finance and trade. China is not (yet) proposing global financial dominance – it has consistently promoted the AIIB and other organisations as complements, not competitors, of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. But their strength will accelerate.

The Chinese and New Zealand governments share a spirit of utopian capitalism, both driven by the belief that as long as state-owned enterprises continually withdraw or dissolve and are replaced by private firms, they will both be blessed by some miraculous market power with perpetual innovative capacity for value-added growth. New Zealand is an object lesson that without an enormous investment in systematic research and development over many decades, scattered concentrations of public capital and expertise fail to make much advance into lifting a country’s future productivity growth.

Donald Trump’s full impact of his budget underscores that we are in a moment of weakening international alliances. CER is the benchmark international model for comprehensive, enduring, and overwhelmingly positive economic cooperation across sovereign states. For those in the remaining international community who pay attention to enduring agreements, they can see that it works. Same applies to the New Zealand-China FTA, which, while it hasn’t been going as long as CER, seen as a major example by which an enormous and growing global power and a very small one can raise significant problems in commerce and iron them out into solutions without major diplomatic drama let alone military threat.

South Korea and Australia are key partners in U.S. efforts to contain China. Yet they, like New Zealand, have joined the AIIB. This is an implicit dissent from overbearing U.S. influence. Only Japan, a holdout from both the TPP and the AIIB, remains a faithful ally, largely because of continued U.S. support for its military. But even Japan may yet join the AIIB. The country is coping with an excess of capital, and is anxious for new outlets for its industrial exports.

The visit from China’s political and business leadership is yet another illustration that as the legitimacy of the Unites States’ sole-superpower status has slipped, the interests of other national blocs and alliances have grown more diverse. It would be a mistake to conceive of China seeking to simply replicate that U.S. hegemony. It would also be a mistake to see China sitting still in the Pacific and across the broader Asian sphere. Growing internal contradictions among the United States and its close allies are deepening by the day. China is actively working out its strategy for its best position in this changing global order. Over two decades of rapid economic growth, China has kept a low diplomatic profile relative to its size and strength. In the coming years, China’s diplomacy will need new ideas and tactics – and taking a pretty high level delegation to a tiny and strategically non-existent place like New Zealand is a clear signal that it is prepared to focus on even the smallest of partners to get it right.

For New Zealand, China is sending the message loud and clear that it can help us with the constraints of growth that we are hitting, particularly in infrastructure construction and funding to corral and sustain that growth. The scale of immigration and net population growth set within New Zealand will no longer be controlled by any future government: the growth has to be dealt with, and China sees where it can help.

The discursive power China is displaying in New Zealand this week will depend on China’s ears as much as its words. New Zealand has a few things that it would be useful for China to take on board. New Zealand has one of the historically fastest transitions from undeveloped forest and native plus settler culture to 90% urbanised, with the remaining agricultural base highly productive and efficient. New Zealand is going through major environmental pressures because of this. But it has done so over the last 100 years with only occasional recourses to really heavy-handed state intervention, and while sustaining a very active and evolving democracy. China could take heed of our successful political dimension, as it seeks to actively manage another further social and economic transition.

China can also observe New Zealand’s parallel rapid urbanisation with little regard for rural culture or ecological sustainability: if the government fails to address severe social contradictions caused by rising wealth inequality, environmental deterioration, and public sector distrust, then China’s slogans of “infrastructure-based developmentalism” will have little persuasive power overseas.

New Zealand may not resemble Singapore in regional strategic importance, but in the strategy of ideas, China’s visit here underscores our value in the contest of global concepts and alliances.

39 comments on “China is in New Zealand to stay”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Same applies to the New Zealand-China FTA, which, while it hasn’t been going as long as CER, seen as a major example by which an enormous and growing global power and a very small one can raise significant problems in commerce and iron them out into solutions without major diplomatic drama let alone military threat.

    Can’t say that I’ve ever seen that. In fact, the last time something came up China mentioned stopping our goods at the border and we quickly kowtowed and apologised for our impertinence.

    New Zealand has one of the historically fastest transitions from undeveloped forest and native plus settler culture to 90% urbanised, with the remaining agricultural base highly productive and efficient. New Zealand is going through major environmental pressures because of this. But it has done so over the last 100 years with only occasional recourses to really heavy-handed state intervention, and while sustaining a very active and evolving democracy.

    What a load of bollocks.

    Our massive destruction of the environment was because of the government giving massive subsidies to the farmers.

    • Ad 1.1

      Do you mean:

      – National’s Agricultural Production Council from the mid 1960s?
      – Increased subsidies to farmers in the 1970s?
      – The Livestock Incentive Scheme of 1977?
      – The Land Development Encouragement Loans of 1978?
      – The Supplementary Minimum Price scheme of 1978?

      The destruction of the forests was already well underway by then.

      It’s not all about the government.

      But what China can take away is that it takes really, really smart government to encourage the transformation of farming and not ruin the land.

      • inspider 1.1.1

        Maori deforested about 25% of NZ pre colonisation

        • ropata 1.1.1.1

          yeah, we had to grab all the Maori land first, to really destroy the environment on an industrial scale

        • mauī 1.1.1.2

          and Maori had worked out sustainable food systems and were living connected with their environment whilst changing their environment. Which is different to the european model that has destroyed most of what’s left of the environment through disconnection and unsustainable practices.

          • DoublePlusGood 1.1.1.2.1

            That’s rather romanticising Māori settlement of New Zealand. They did slash and burn a substantial amount of the original forest.

            • mauī 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Depends what you call slash and burn. Burning native forest to create native scrubland to give you more food sources (from both birds and plants) so you can survive is quite different to what europeans did which was burning native forest to replace it with introduced pasture grasses for mostly profit motives.

              I would bet too that doing it the Māori way an original forest could regenerate reasonably quickly as you’re resetting the forest back to it’s starting point to grow again. The European way you’ve stuffed the forest as all that grass you’ve put in blocks it from coming back.

              • DoublePlusGood

                Burning native forest so you can drive out moa, burning native forest to create scrubland, clearing areas for kumara planting – Māori well stuffed huge areas of original forest that clearly was not restored by the time of the arrival of Europeans.

                (And, speaking of moa, this landscape change was clearly not sustainable for many species)

          • Phil 1.1.1.2.2

            and Maori had worked out sustainable food systems and were living connected with their environment whilst changing their environment.

            … and native american’s only ever killed a ‘sustainable’ number of buffalo. And they never, ever, killed a pregnant one.

            *eye roll*

  2. Rightly or Wrongly 2

    I don’t have too much of an issue with trading with China.

    It is better to trade with and maintain ties, and talk with the Chinese than treat them like the ‘yellow peril’ that they were once seen as.

    Obviously the Chinese like to push their weight around in their own back yard, and they seem to want food security for their people, however i would say that the world is better off with a prosperous China than an isolated, angry, and militaristic China.

    Chinese folk for the main are hard working, dedicated to their families and businesses, and don’t go wandering around with their hand out for freebies.

    A lot of kiwis pale in comparison to their legendary work ethic.

    • rod 2.1

      Perhaps we will all become rich Commies.

      • ropata 2.1.1

        Arguably less corrupt than the Nats — at least they (the Chinese Commies) aren’t selling out their own people and nation to the highest bidder

    • simonm 2.2

      Absolutely. If you ignore the colonisation of Tibet with Han Chinese, the violent suppression of all dissenting voices to the Chinese Communist Party, and the organ harvesting from live Falun Gong prisoners, the Chinese are a really great bunch to work with.

    • ropata 2.3

      woohoo.

      it’s great having unquantifiable amounts of farmland and houses going to foreign investors with no concept of human rights or environmental responsibility.

      and seeing chinese flags all over the north shore, really inspires a sense of how much our new immigrants are embracing new zealand and want to contribute to society.

      I didn’t realise that having our economy held to ransom by a foreign power who wants to swallow up our public assets and lands and water, and colonise Auckland, is a “brighter future”.

      /sarc (obvs.)

      • BM 2.3.1

        I’ve seen the old red flag down here in Hamilton.

        Bit surprised at first, but then again I guess it’s no different to all the Poms living here who proudly fly the union jack, buy everything from English themed shops and socialise at English pubs filled with English people.

        • ropata 2.3.1.1

          Now we get to experience what the original Maori went through when the Poms started coming here en masse. Initially profitable trade and cultural ties with the British Empire then things turned to custard for Maori…

          • Ad 2.3.1.1.1

            It’s going to be a different country – other than land ownership, what in particular makes you anxious?

            • ropata 2.3.1.1.1.1

              If you think China taking over our government, resources, and economy is a Good Thing™ for the people/environment/democracy of Aotearoa, I have a bridge to sell you.

              So much for the nation state as a defender of liberal ideals. This is how democracy dies — rotted from within by greedy parasites and simpering accomplices. This shit makes me sick.

          • mary_a 2.3.1.1.2

            @ ropata (2.3.1.1) … 100% spot on there.

        • Grant 2.3.1.2

          U.K have 68 million people…. China 1.5 billion… do the maths!

          • BM 2.3.1.2.1

            I’m sure the Poms aren’t here to take over, what makes you think the Chinese are?

      • Johan 2.3.2

        To ropata: After our gov’t allows the buy-up of farmland and other lucrative resources, we as Kiwis, will end up as tenants in our own country. China and much of Africa does not allow the buy-up of massive amounts of land, why do we allow such foolishness?

        • ropata 2.3.2.1

          Sleepy hobbits… too busy eating and sleeping to realise that Saruman is about to enslave the Shire

          I need a break, this thread is really pissing me off

      • Rightly or Wrongly 2.3.3

        Isn’t multiculturalism great?

        What happens if you replace Chinese with Middle Eastern folk who wish to wear burkas and do not wish to integrate?

        Are they colonizing as well?

  3. lloyd 3

    One thing China could note is that our largest company is a co-operative, Fronterra is owned by the farmers that supply it with milk. it is a model that could be used for conversion of State owned companies into more competitive capitalist firms without the terrible results of the destruction of communist organisations in Russia.

    It is a pity New Zealand has not done enough to spread the co-operative concept, both internally and externally. It is also a pity that Fronterra has never added its employees into the co-operative owners of the company. Its a pity someone buying a Fronterra product cannot read about the ownership of the company that makes the product – on the product when that person buys it. That co-operative ownership means there is a direct connection all the way from the farm to the supermarket. The ownership is an incredibly valuable selling argument that Fronterra never seems to realise they posses and it should give Fronterra products a competitive advantage in any market.

    • DoublePlusGood 3.1

      ‘more competitive’ – lol, this conceit that the private market can do better than the state is ludicrous at this point.

  4. Tamati Tautuhi 4

    I can remember as a child being told NZ will be the food basket for Asia but if we sell off the productive land there is no benefit to New Zealanders?

  5. Antoine 5

    I’m honestly not sure where the idea comes from that China wants to learn anything from NZ (except for highly specific things like ‘how best to produce agricultural product X’).

    • Tamati Tautuhi 5.1

      Not a problem if we are involved in Joint Ventures however when they take ownership of the Assets I think then we have a problem ie the buy up of Auckland houses by Asian Investors.

  6. Tamati Tautuhi 6

    China have recently rebuilt Suva Port, Fiji, they are obviously doing it for a reason, access to resources such as sugar and fisheries?

    • mary_a 6.1

      @ Tamati Tautuhi (6) … and a secure stand in the Pacific.

      • Carolyn_nth 6.1.1

        Indeed. the important question is, “What’s in an NZ-China deal for China?” ie why bother with such a small country. Similar question as asking about what was in the US-dominated TPPA for NZ?

        The government are kidding themselves (or lying) about the massive potential (long term) benefits of both for NZ.

  7. Tamati Tautuhi 7

    NZ is the ideal country to make a military move on Australia if required to do so, that is why JK has been snuggling up to Obama and vice versa the USA were interested in
    re-establishing a military presence in the South Pacific, however I think Trump is more interested in tidying up the mess at home in the USA and the Middle East?

    • exkiwiforces 7.1

      I can’t agree more with your comment. China is playing the long game here while as muppets in the west are playing a short game. Sun Tuz is a most read for Chinese in the Military and Foreign affairs department.

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