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Political interference

Written By: - Date published: 10:35 pm, November 20th, 2018 - 82 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, Free Trade, infrastructure, trade, United Nations, us politics, war - Tags:

China certainly has interfered  in New Zealand politics, most notably by the offer of a free trade deal which delivered huge benefits to our economy.  Party and government officials all stressed to us that they were grateful for New Zealand’s support for their accession to the World Trade Organisation,  the rule-based trade body. The US and Australia in contrast want to build a military base on Manus Island north of Papua.

China’s rise in the 21st century world is built on trade. The US response to the threat they perceive to their past dominance is overwhelmingly military, as indicated by the 2017 National Security Strategy. China’s Belt and Road initiative is massively investing in infrastructure, ports, road and rail along both its pathways to the benefit of its locations. America is busy building military bases, with new ones springing up in Australia even before the latest Manus Island proposal.

The US is pulling out of the rule-based organisations such as the International Criminal Court, the JCPOA arrangement with Iran, the Paris Climate accord, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty. Bullying has become the order of the day, with neocon Mike Pompeo  calling for China and Iran to behave like a “normal” country. And the people of Manus Island say nobody asked them about building another military base there.

The Vice-President Mike Pence, mocked the Belt and Road Initiative calling it “a constricting belt and a one-way road.”. But the US have come very late to the Pacific party, offer much less money for peaceful infrastructure, and India is decidedly cool on the US/Australia definition of our part of the world as the “Indo-Pacific” not Asia-Pacific.

Pundits here are already saying New Zealand will have to take sides, shift its traditional unaligned position, and choose between the elephants in the room. Some have pointed to indications that our small foreign policy establishment is tilting towards a more US-friendly stance, although one could argue that is their default position except when Labour is in government. Simon Tisdall writing in the Guardian today opines that while China is winning the war of influence in the Pacific, New Zealand will have no option in the end but to side with the US.

Whether it was Kirk, Lange or Clark, Labour in government has never been frightened to stand up for peaceful and free trade, and against war, nuclear or otherwise, that was not sanctioned by international rules. I think it is again time for a real debate about whether we support the trade party or the war party in our region. I know where I stand.

82 comments on “Political interference”

  1. Ad 1

    No, Mike, it’s not clear where you stand.

    If you “stand” for the “trade party” above the “war party”, then you are about where the current New Zealand government is right now.

    Except the “trade party” isn’t a country; it’s simply any country you are trading with and within. That is, it follows the stalwart positioning of Helen Clark who saw trade as a perpetual instrumental rationality: everything was tradable. Same as Roger Douglas, Mike Moore, Jim Bolger, and Jenny Shipley.

    “Honest brokers”, our default diplomatic position, are the same as “comprador bourgeoisie”: brokering literally means trading.

    If you “stand” for China above the United States, just say so and then defend it. It’s more honest than a post spent dancing around your handbag.

    Prime Minister Ardern’s principles that she keeps referring to are a palimpsest. And that is precisely what we need. We are taking the sustained position that we are open for business.

    • Bill 1.1

      Sheesh Ad.

      Mike didn’t write that it was clear where he stood. He wrote that he knows where he stands.

      That aside, I’m not entirely sure why you cast the positioning as binary – ie, either with us or against us, a la Bush – “If you “stand” for China above the United States, just say so…”

      What’s wrong with a position that is supportive of any good things the US and China do, and critical of any nonsense they indulge in; a position that jettisons idiotic tribalism and pom-pom cheerleading?

      Slight segue. I recall reading excerpts of a English woman’s memoirs around the time GB was fading as a world power. It was interesting insofar as it echoed much of the same “stuff and nonsense” that some people try to construct around the prospect of China’s influence eclipsing that of the US – except in that historical instance, the target was the US.

    • Mike Smith 1.2

      Sorry Ad I don’t go in for that binary global for-or-against stuff. But in case it wasn’t clear, I am opposed to Pence, Pompeo and Bolton’s approach to diplomacy and threats of war, and to Trump’s my way or the highway approach to trade. But there are many American voices I consider far more balanced. Jeffrey Sachs’ recent book looks like it will be a good read base on this review in the American Conservative.

  2. Cinny 2

    Choosing implies one has run out of options.

    • Incognito 2.1

      Choosing implies that one accepts this as a binary, e.g. for or against. Somebody recently claimed here that Brexit was a similar gambit: stay or leave.

      It takes imagination and guts to carve out your own path and not bow to others.

  3. McFlock 3

    China is expanding its influence politely, but that can change quickly. Just as the yanks might pivot back towards a more intelligent foreign policy, especially if the republicans lose in 2020.

    Picking sides makes smaller nations pawns – we might sneak in to be one of the back row, but still a piece to be sacrificed to protect the king.

    Smarter nations will keep out of it unless an inevitable conclusion becomes apparent.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Yes, remaining non-aligned is the best option. The Guardian writer left out the question of balance. Since it is the crucial element in the situation, that was rather remiss.

    Buchanan usually gets it right but suggesting that we will need to take a side isn’t helpful at this point. He needs to think about a three-legged stool. Stability is provided by the third leg. Take it away, the thing falls over. The third leg does not have to choose between the other two legs to make the stool stable.

    The analogy works on the basis of parity. Obviously we lack parity as a single player in the game. That applies to all the regional countries involved too. However, if you consider the possibility that all of them acting in concert constitute the third leg of the stool, you can see how triangulation brings balance into the bipolar tug of war between China & the USA. As long as Pacific nations form a consensus to remain non-aligned, actively mediating the balance, the necessity of taking sides is averted.

    • tc 4.1

      Yet another opinionated article lacking the balance that not taking any sides represents.

      Typical and good points Dennis.

      • Dennis Frank 4.1.1

        David Parker seems to have the right approach: “We’re trying to position ourselves, to a certain extent, as the bridge between China and the US” he told Newshub Nation on Saturday. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2018/11/nz-could-be-a-bridge-between-us-and-china-david-parker.html

        “In the last three weeks, I’ve been to Washington, Ottowa and to China and recently to the APEC negotiations and I’ve done that because we have a bit of a reputation as the honest broker and it’s times like this we should draw upon that reputation.”

        • Dennis Frank

          Ha! Pablo’s critique of Parker’s stance is well-reasoned and robust. I’m not convinced his negativity is fully-justified, but recommend giving it due consideration: http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2018/11/a-bridge-too-far/

          “On trade, New Zealand has an addict-like dependency on agricultural commodity and primary good exports, particularly milk solids. Its largest trading partner and importer of those goods is China. Unlike Australia, which can leverage its export of strategic minerals that China needs for its continued economic growth and industrial ambitions under the China 2025 program, New Zealand’s exports are elastic, substitutable by those of competitors and inconsequential to China’s broader strategic planning. This makes New Zealand extremely vulnerable to Chinese economic retaliation for any perceived slight, something that the Chinese have been clear to point out when it comes to subjects such as the South China island-building dispute or Western concerns about the true nature of Chinese developmental aid to Pacific Island Forum countries.”

          Yes, Labour & National have been busy painting us into this dependency corner for the past quarter-century. They have indeed created a substantial limit to our sovereign agency. Our government ought to make it a strategic priority to diversify out of this corner.

          “The dilemma is exemplified by the island of Melos during the Peloponnesian Wars, when Melos expressed neutrality between warring Athens and Sparta. Although Sparta accepted its position Athens did not and Melos was subjugated by the Athenians… separating and running trade and security relations in parallel is practicable because the former do not interfere with the latter and vice versa. But when trade and security relations are counterpoised, that is, when a country trades preferentially with one antagonist while maintaining security ties with another, then the makings of a foreign policy conundrum are made. This is exactly the situation New Zealand finds itself in, or what can be called a self-made “Melian dilemma.””

          • greywarshark

            Yes, Labour & National have been busy painting us into this dependency corner for the past quarter-century. They have indeed created a substantial limit to our sovereign agency. Our government ought to make it a strategic priority to diversify out of this corner.

            I remember a scene from the film The Graduate where a ‘coming’ man advises the young Dustin with one word about the future. He confides the future is ‘plastics’, while Dustin says dutifully ‘Yes sir’.

            Pablo gives us the word for now in his paragraph above – it is diversify– it’s not a new word, it is just that the farmers and rentiers that have been running the country didn’t want to hear it, and sent those that said it to coventry,


            • Dennis Frank

              That paragraph was mine, in between his, see the quotation marks and lack of? No worries, diversify is the message indeed, has been for a long time now, and it is happening somewhat – just not enough. And we all ought to remember that there’s a class of humans that perform this essential function: entrepreneural capitalists. A crucial sub-class. Ain’t no other kind of human ever creates new business in new places…

              • KJT

                Actually it tends to be entrepreneur Governments. Like Singapore, and New Zealand in the 50’s.
                All our large successful business started with Government help and backing, from dairy to farm fencing.
                Now we are suffering from the delusion, that it is only individuals, that make a country prosperous.
                And, unlike successful countries we will expect new business to magic out of thin air.

                • Dennis Frank

                  That’s true. Failure to replicate that stuff in the modern era tends to suggest the theory is currently non-viable. Japan was successful with a public/private partnership model until the early nineties, since when the model has flat-lined. I’d like to believe governments can pick winners, but unless working examples of this show up again the idea won’t regain traction. Dunno how South Korea works the balance…

                  • KJT

                    South Korea, China, Singapore, Costa Rico, California, to name a few, seem to be doing rather well with their State intervention.

                    The pursuit of purist deregulation, “free trade” and a “hands off State” is certainly not giving us the success predicted. In fact the logical conclusion, is that we become an unequal, impoverished commodity producer.

        • Gabby

          Parky says bridge but I reckon he’s seeing us as the guy who holds the wallets and watches while they step outside to settle matters. We don’t get to keep the wallets parky.

        • SaveNZ

          “We’re trying to position ourselves, to a certain extent, as the bridge between China and the US”

          I’d agree with that, a bridge to be walked over.

          The smarter play is to for NZ to be outside of all the influence of China and US and need nothing from either and therefore NZ could be a genuine bridge.

          If NZ relies heavily on US or China because our government failed to keep NZ independence and have no plan B, aka we are too reliant on China for Trade and they own too much of our key industries in particular agriculture and we are are too reliant on the US and 5 eyes for security, then our voice is not independant and both countries and NZ know it.

          The reality is NZ means little to nothing to either country and so if anything goes wrong the last thing they will care about is NZ. They will strip the assets and US will take care of No 1.

          Sadly our politicians have failed to make the people of NZ number 1 in their policies and gone the lazy way with side of donation (China) or gave donation (US) to appease them.

          • solkta

            in NZ we are too reliant on China for Trade and they own too much of our key industries in particular agriculture and for the US we are too reliant on them for trade.

            Do you have any evidence that Chinese nationals/corporations own more agricultural land in new Zealand than those from the US?

            • SaveNZ

              Silver Fern farms, Tegal, Wrightson’s are all former NZ companies that now have significant interests by China. Buying water seems also popular by China. Wrightson’s also have seed companies that are subsidiaries.

              So there is a monopoly forming. With seed, meat, land, water all with significant controlling interests by China and not sure how many Fonterra farms are now owed by Chinese former or current nationals.

              Not sure how much horticultural land has gone to Chinese investors.

              All China needs to do to crash NZ farming is to raise prices or screw up the seed or biosecurity or what have you and the rest of NZ farmers will go bankrupt. Then those with money can buy them up, cheap. Whose got money, China!

              Since you can buy NZ citizenship it is more about who was a former Chinese businessman now NZ citizen who now owns yet another farm or agricultural asset of NZ.

              The reality is that anyone who is Chinese (or Kiwi) exporting to China needs to keep the CPP on their good side or they will not be allowed to export there.

              • solkta

                So you don’t have any evidence. Investment from US and Australian nationals/corporations has also been significant and happening for much longer. While i think this is problematic i also think it is important not to be racist while attempting to understand the issue.

                • SaveNZ

                  Investment from US and OZ companies is mostly independent from their governments. That is not the case with China where the CPP still have significant influence and unlike the other countries mentioned is not a democratic country run by cycled governments.

                • greywarshark

                  China is a large additional entity that is turning up in a large part of our lives still left to us after the 5-Eyes countries come in, dwell and deal here. Racism is something separate to the concerns and wariness that we should all feel when looking at the various large powers looking at us with measuring eyes.

                  Racism does occur in our society for sure, but looking at structural matters requires a clear, focussed mind on power and financial strength and how it will affect us. We must keep this in mind all the time while thinking how our autonomy has lessened, and remembering the various trade agreements we have as listed below. They are with a number of different countries and races, and we have to be able to assess these people and countries in a direct way seeing the advantages and disadvantages and trying to understand their tricks, which they will also do about us. The ‘new’ trade agreement ((CPTPP), also known as TPP11 or TPP-11) does not have the USA or China. So how do we weave all our relationships together so they are round us, but not so some strangle us or steal all we have while they smile and shake our hands?

                  Present free trade agreements:
                  Australia: Closer Economic Relations (1983)[5]
                  China: New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement (2008)[6]
                  Thailand: New Zealand and Thailand Closer Economic Partnership (2005)[7]
                  Singapore: New Zealand and Singapore Closer Economic Partnership (2001)[8]
                  Brunei: Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (2005)[9]
                  Chile: Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (2005)
                  Singapore: Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (2005) – Auxiliary to New Zealand and Singapore Closer Economic Partnership
                  Association of Southeast Asian Nations: – negotiating along with Australia since (2004)[10][11][12]
                  Malaysia: Malaysia–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement announced on 2 June 2009[13][14]
                  Hong Kong: New Zealand–Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership (2011)[15][16]
                  Taiwan: Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu on Economic Cooperation (2013)[17][18]
                  South Korea: NZ-Korea Free Trade Agreement (2015)[19]

                  Proposed Free Trade Agreements
                  New Zealand is negotiating bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with the following blocs and countries:

                  Mercosur: New Zealand-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement – negotiating since 2010 [20][21][22]
                  The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, a multilateral trade agreement involving 4 countries with which New Zealand has existing trade agreements – Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, and Australia – and nations with which New Zealand does not have an existing FTA:
                  United States: New Zealand–United States Free Trade Agreement[9]
                  Peru: Negotiating alongside the United States, Australia and Vietnam to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership[23][24]
                  Vietnam: Negotiating alongside the United States, Australia and Peru to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership[23]
                  Japan: Conducting feasibility study as of (14 May 2008)[25]
                  Gulf Cooperation Council: Negotiations began in 2007 and concluded in 2009 but the agreement is not yet in force [26]
                  India India–New Zealand Free Trade Agreement – negotiating since 2007 with the establishment of a JSG (Joint Study Group) looking at the feasibility of an Indian-NZ FTA.[27]
                  Russia Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus Free Trade Agreement – negotiations began in 2010[28] but are currently suspended[29]
                  Kazakhstan Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus New Zealand Free Trade Agreement – negotiations began in 2010[28] but are currently suspended[29]
                  Belarus Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus Free Trade Agreement – negotiations began in 2010[28] but are currently suspended[29]
                  EU New Zealand-European Union Free Trade Agreement – negotiating since mid-2018, planned to conclude by 2021[30]
                  See also
                  United States free trade agreements

                  Then there is the new and extensive Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
                  with 11 nations, a lot of them not ‘Anglo’ people. But we need to assess and understand them and criticise what we don’t like not be fettered by PC; they won’t be.
                  The eleven countries’ combined economies represent 13.4 percent of the global gross domestic product, approximately US$13.5 trillion, making the CPTPP the third largest free trade area in the world by GDP after the North American Free Trade Agreement and European Single Market.[6]

            • Tamati Tautuhi

              Please supply supporting evidence.

          • Gabby

            If we’re not good little boys and girls our joint ventures mysteriously go tits up I notice.

            • SaveNZ

              Funny how milk, meat and horticulture , spoils if the cargo is turned back or held at dock due to ‘paperwork’ or other issues.

            • SaveNZ

              @Gabby, haven’t you noticed even when we are good little boys and girls our joint ventures mysteriously go tits up. Aka all the billions Fonterra has wasted on joint ventures have not benefited NZ farmers! Funny as individual farmers go bankrupt many willing foreign buyers though…

          • McFlock

            If we have no connections with either major player, there is no loss to them to either impose a boycott or generally ignore our sovereignty – EEZ fishing, for example.

            If we align with one, we make an enemy of the other.

            We need to tread the middle – have enough contact with both to remain a consideration, but not align so closely with one that we alienate the other.

  5. gsays 5

    I would have thought that with our involvement in 5 eyes, ‘training’ in Afghanistan and delivering KDC to American corporations (bending all sorts of rules to do so), it is quite clear with whom we wish to dance with.

    It feels like we are all in with the U$A.

    • Gabby 5.1

      I’d’ve thought the Chinese would view our 5eyes involvement as immensely helpful to them. Comrade Colonel Jian has never objected in his public utterances.

      • gsays 5.1.1

        I have missed something, how is our involvement in 5eyes helpful to China?

        • Exkiwiforces

          New Zealand is seen as the weak link within 5Eyes for China to hack into due our economic tries/ farm debt by other members of the 5Eyes. There was a push before the last election by Canada to have us booted out of the 5E’s if the “No Mates Party” got back in. It’s open source, but I can’t remember where I seen it atm.

          • gsays

            Ahh, cheers xkf.
            Funny that, to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t had our elections hacked yet.

            I take it the threat of being asked to leave if the tories got back in is related to their having an MP who spent time in spy school.
            Receiving$100,000 donations from prominent businessmen that they try to hide wouldn’t be too flash either.

            • Exkiwiforces

              That was one of the reasons IRT the “No Mates Party” Political contacts with the Chinese, there were others like the job done on the CHCH academic by the Chinese Security Services and the Chinese buying up large within all sectors including the next gen mobile services etc of the NZ Economy.

              IRT the NZ Elections, our Electoral Commission is highly regarded with the OECD and in the 5 Eyes community, unlike a few other nations within West. It would take a very brave nation to fudge an election result in NZ and expect to get a away with it. Our Electoral Commission does a bloody good job, it needs everyone to in the community to help stay ahead of the pack so any 3rd parties etc don’t have a whiff of getting their way. That means having an effective 4th Estate, NGO’s and a well funded Security Services etc.

  6. SaveNZ 6

    OK, so your point seems to be NZ needs to side with China, a country that is not a democracy, a totalitarian state. This is a place that freedom of speech is not allowed and political activists are executed and their family sent a bill for the bullet. It has massive issues from pollution to counterfeit foods. Not exactly the ideal place to get too far into bed with.

    As soon as it became obvious that the Chinese trade agreement was not about trade but about Chinese businesses buying the assets of NZ and repatriating comrades here to enforce the CCP to expat Chinese as well as influencing Mayors councils etc all around the country with free trips, warning bells should have been ringing. Now we have the evidence how easy it is to just buy your way into NZ parliament.

    Since the free trade agreement significant amount of Kiwis lives have gone backwards. Economically it is a short term fix of cash, that will be a massive long term liability.

    China did not buy the milk or butter, they bought the farm.

    Yes, US is completely dysfunctional but that is because they have embraced neoliberalism and then used that to divide their country.

    NZ does not need either country that badly. The free trade agreements are more Freebie trade agreements as seen by free water and so forth being given away because our politicians are too stupid or (in the case of woke lefties too worried about racism so therefore felt compelled to give away the water to rich individuals and steal from the poor).

    • SaveNZ 6.1

      Also US never helped us with Rainbow Warrior and apparently they knew about the French agents, because they did not agree with Greenpeace. So US security intelligence is really about what is good for the US not what is good for NZ and what will keep NZ safe. So US might be good allies but if our government puts all their eggs in one basket and does not keep NZ independent, they are the basket case.

    • At last someones sees.

  7. SPC 7

    I would question whether National’s default position is pro USA, they are a creature of money and they bow down to it. And China has the money.

  8. SPC 8

    As for the massive investment by China – there is the preponderence of loan finance and then in the aftermath of claiming occupation or ownership rights to ports in lieu of repayment.

    It’s an investment/methodology that is designed to diminish the sovereignty of nations – its just an expansion of their vertical integration in trade (whereby they buy up international resources) into distribution.

    It has similarites to colonialism (obtaining the means to extract local resources) and imperialism – the Roman roads etc.

    It is designed by, and for, China. And it certainly is not foreign aid.

  9. SaveNZ 9

    Loans are really loan sharks..

    Eight countries in danger of falling into China’s “debt trap”


  10. DJ Ward 10

    Your first paragraph.

    It’s not a free trade deal in that NZ products still face restrictions getting into China. The benifits are not all great either. Take F&P Apliances which China purchased. All the NZ manufacturing was closed down and its property liquidated resulting in huge job loses. All that’s left is its logistics infastructure, used for Haier products, and it’s intellectual property creators, due to F&P product developement teams being world leaders. Other than wages NZ now gets no benifit for what it creates.
    China routinely ignores rulings by UN bodies.
    US and Australian military moves are a response to China’s military takeover of the South China Sea, in defiance of UN rulings.

    Your second paragraph.
    China’s Belt and Road initiative is not without a price for the nations that sign up to it. There is strings attached as impoverished nations loose sovereignty to debt obligations. The projects are capitalist acts of enabling exploitation. Yes a road will be built, for the trucks to carry out exploited resources. Benifits for the locals exist but it’s accidental to the capitalism and exploitation. China is effectively annexing territory in the South China Sea and building military bases. The US is responding, attempting to protect its allies and vulnerable nations from a hostile invasion by China.

    Paragraph 3
    The US exempted itself from the ICC long ago. China ignores it. An example is its present ethnic cleansing activities. The Paris Accord was as pointless as trying to stop China, and India, building new coal fired stations. The US is pulling out of the arms treaty because China has out developed the US in nuclear weapons capability due to the US obeying the treaty rules but China has no rules.

    Paragraph 4.
    Peacefull infastructure involves enabling berthing for its warships and the exploitation of natural resources by its fishing fleets.

    Paragraph 5.
    NZ will have to side with the US as China is flexing both its military muscle and its financial muscle. If you think the US behaves badly, and it certainly has, China will make the US look like saints in comparison.

    Paragraph 6.
    China is in breach of the UN rulings, invading territory and building military bases in that territory. It is responsible for one of only two annexation events since WW2 with Tibet. It is attempting too and its military is invading foreign territory. It is ethnic cleansing Ughurs. We should be proud of our morality towards war. But in this case the US is not the enemy.

    • SaveNZ 10.1

      +1 DJ Ward

      The benefits from China (and other freebie trade agreements) are completely overstated and it has become like the Emperors New Clothes in NZ when many people are saying it was a great deal when it is not because we now have so many other problems of overcrowding and increasing welfare needed, housing and infrastructure that the public are told to pay for, higher interest rates than most of the world, plus our NZ brand of trust is eroded for education and food etc.

      Our assets are sold like F&P and we are left with crumbs from former giants of NZ industry. Likewise the cost of food is increasing locally because so much is exported and now we are getting poorer quality imported crap instead. We can’t even afford to eat our own quality food anymore. Likewise health spending is up because people having huge problems of obesity and diabetes and tooth decay from eating cheap crap food.

      Neoliberalism is touted because MBIE and all the other neoliberal government agencies whose consultants will be out of a comfy job if the government does real research of what is going on, and they don’t want that!

      Think how many neoliberal’s are profiting and make a living from free trade propaganda advice to government. No way you are getting independent advice now from government advisors, they are on the gravy train and ain’t giving any advice that might stop their gravy.

      • In Vino 10.1.1

        The mention of Tibet bothers me: I hate seeing us all following blathered propaganda lines in ignorance of history.
        Throughout history, when China’s dynasty was strong, Tibet was always the 5th province of China. Sorry if you did not know that.
        The USA knew it. The US Department of Information issued detailed documentaries during World War 2, titled “Why We Fight” (Frank Capra).
        In Series 3 of this long documentary is an episode called “The Battle of China”.
        Here there is a whole passage on ‘Tibet – the 5th province of China’. Like it or lump it, that is what the USA was preaching before Mao and the Communists unexpectedly took over China.
        Of course, we all know how evil Communism is, don’t we? So when the increasingly strong Communist regime decided to take China’s traditional 5th province under control again, we got in our media the full propaganda treatment. As a teenager I drank in the reports of Godless Red Chinese troops separating children from their parents, forcing the parents into pits, encouraging the children to urinate upon them before the children were taken away for evil indoctrination. And Lo! Tibet had suddenly become an autonomous, free, independent nation!
        I now suspect that happened when the Communists took over and the US-backed Govt of Chiang Kai Shek retreated to Taiwan. For years afterwards the USA along with NZ, etc (obedient servants) perpetuated the lie that Taiwan was the true China, and that Red China did not exist. Absurd!
        So I am now wary when people quote Tibet as ‘one of only two annexation events since WW2’. That is just Western propaganda.
        What the USA did in Vietnam was far worse… and we were told endless lies about Vietnam, too.
        I am not saying that the Chinese are angels or benevolent rulers of Tibet.
        I am just pointing out that our lies and actions in various countries are no better than the Chinese ones regarding Tibet.

  11. Anne 11

    What I would like to know… who started this “war of words” between the US and China – a war of words that could easily escalate out of control as has happened in other parts of the world – and why?

    I have a fair idea which country it was, but would like an unequivocal answer before adding my two-cent worth.

    • Dennis Frank 11.1

      Trump would be the short answer, no doubt. Obama did appeasement, or perhaps one could gloss that by framing it as fudging the issue. GWB did nothing that I noticed, according to the philosophy that if you ignore a problem, it doesn’t exist. Clinton was gung ho neoliberalist hands across the water with China…

      So really, the war of words serves to reframe Americans: making America great again is a work of perception, not reality. Ok, if you can point to a yank corporation that has actually relocated operations from China back to the USA, you could argue there’s substance to the rhetoric. Early days for that, eh?

      If you focus on the South China Sea part of the jockeying, escalation derives from reciprocity, so if the Chinese dictator wants to play the regional hegemon game, the USA will have to help other countries in the region via supply of weaponry. My take is that China is still too weak strategically to do more than a little judicious copycat base-building. Only one aircraft carrier.

      • Morrissey 11.1.1

        Obama did appeasement…

        Equally, China appeased the aggressive and threatening U.S. regime.

      • Anne 11.1.2

        Thanks Dennis Frank. Just what I wanted to know. Will chew the cud on that one.

      • SPC 11.1.3

        The South China sea islands, are a means to establish a form of dominance over ASEAN while without carrier strength. First there is the rejection of ASEAN nation claims to their 200 mile economic zone, and placed military capability to challenge any naval presence by them near the artificial islands.

        As for their security dependence on the USA, the created area of conflict is one where they have placed aircraft (after saying they would not do this), it is one within range of other air bases and numerous mainland missiles.

        It is not just a challenge to ASEAN sovereignty, it is a direct challenge to the US to do anything about it. In the absence thereof, they win and if there is a confrontation, they win.

        Trump’s trade war has to be seen in that light.

        • Dennis Frank

          Yes, strategic moves in a chess game. If they move beyond positioning to intervention in shipping routes, such provocation will force a real escalation. And international law remains sufficiently nebulous that China can flout it in regard to any assertion of maritime economic zones.

          They called the UN bluff on Tibet after their invasion, and the UN eventually rewarded their refusal to conform by promoting them to the Security Council. That precedent assures the regime that international law is irrelevant.

          Ironic that Trump is anti-UN. The common ground that he shares with the Chinese dictator is gnosis that the UN is mere window-dressing for international relations. The bipolar interaction currently masks their co-dependency. Your reference to the trade war has the post-gfc Chinese ownership of America’s debt as deep context, eh?

          • SPC

            I would tend to doubt that Trump is acting out of any deep strategy, or as part of any informed consensus as to the future plans of the USA.

            He’s an nationalist/isolationist (thus his association with Buchanan’s party) and trade wars are part of his world view.

            The whole of their establishment has to be aware relative economic growth leads to China being a larger economy and having greater capacity to undertake an arms race (and their cost of production and staffing is lower), quite apart from the fact that the USA has debt and a continuing budget deficit (1T a year).

            They are dependent on the dollar remaining a world reserve currency to keep debt costs down. They will find just easing away from QE will slow their growth back a bit, losing reserve currency status later (its got to happen at some point) will end their world power capability. It’s a marker, or line in the sand, for the end of an era.

            • Dennis Frank

              “I would tend to doubt that Trump is acting out of any deep strategy, or as part of any informed consensus as to the future plans of the USA.” If it were merely the blow-hard, I’d agree. When you factor in all them think-tanks a different picture emerges. Just the CFR alone would suffice, but there’s an almighty confluence of powerful opinions at the top level of USA Inc.

              Any president, red or blue, acts on the basis of that collective advice. No matter how flaky, the figurehead knows with unassailable confidence that he cannot lose no matter what happens. https://www.google.com/search?q=top+think+tanks+usa&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b

              • SPC

                If most of America’s allies are waiting for Trump to go for normal relations to resume, because they see him as departing from “American/informed consensus/collective advice” policy, are they going to be disappointed?

                • Dennis Frank

                  I expect so. His trajectory has remained anti-establishment, well past the time when I expected him to shed that stance, so it wasn’t just reading the zeitgeist. He’s shrewd. The mid-terms may induce a bit of a centrist shift, but compared to the couple of dozen precedents that the Archdruid cited recently, he’s bang in the middle so he’ll probably feel cautiously encouraged.

                  What I’m suggesting is he’s playing to two different crowds: to the media & public, he’s the rebel; to the powers that be, he’s the pragmatic mover & shaker they need him to be…

    • DJ Ward 11.2

      Trump made it clear to the US people that China was engaged in unfair trade. That US companies and US workers were at a disadvantage. He unlike most politicians said he would address the issue of trade with China, was voted in, and is working on that promise.

      The US in effect paid large tariffs and import restrictions, ownership restrictions, in trade with China. China had effectively no barriers to trade with the US.

      China has a controlled currency, extremely low wages, nearly no workplace safety, a normalised policy of land confiscation for Buisiness, subsidised energy. The US and for that matter NZ cannot compete when conditions of trade are so profoundly the advantage to one party.

      Think of it this way. Many here support the living wage. $20 hr. That’s if you can get those jobs as we have lost 10s of thousands of jobs by turning a blind eye to slave like Chinese wages. If you support the living wage, and protecting NZ workers then you would be hard pressed buying anything these days.

      Trump appealed to the working man in his election campaign. He has created hundreds of thousands of working class, blue collar jobs, as a result of his desire for free and fair trade. The Dems and MSM offered nothing other than identity politics.

      • SPC 11.2.1

        Trump is not an advocate of fair free trade, but of bilateral deals where American market size can be leveraged to extract American first terms.

        His low standard domestic labour and environment policy is one designed to advantage American business over competition from nations with higher standards – somewhat hypocritical given the rhetoric when contending against the unfair advantages of Mexico and China.

        All of the issues about unfair trade practices by China can be raised with the WTO and or by reform of the WTO – but then fair free trade is a multilateral thing and Trump believes in America first.

        • DJ Ward

          Yes he does believe in America first.

          If Jacinda doesn’t put NZ first what would you say about Jacinda.

          “Heh NZ I have just done a trade deal. I put the other nations benifit as the primary concern in my decision. Yes I realise it creates a significant advantage to the other nation. But we must not protect NZ interests”

          The WTO is about as powerless as a protester in a dingy trying to stop whaling.
          China ignores UN rulings.

  12. SaveNZ 12

    Already our government free speech is slowing…

    Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad warns Ardern of China’s actions in South China Sea


    • Wayne 12.1

      How does the Malaysian PM speaking his mind restrict our free speech? These meetings always have a public/private component.
      On the China issue, nearly a decade ago the Vietnamese Minister of Defence was saying to me that China was the forever enemy. Well, that might be the Vietnamese view given their 1000 year history of numerous Chinese invasions, the most recent being in 1979, when China lost.
      But that was the last major Chinese attack on anyone. Loosing that war resulted in the current Chinese military modernisation and the South China Sea reclaimed island bases. China and South East Asia have a deep history, not all of which is good.

      • SPC 12.1.1

        The artificial islands in the South China Sea are inventions not reclaimed land.

        And apologising for the Chinese assertion of hegemony over ASEAN/provocation to the USA, as of some deep history, is what one could well expect from those of the show me the money party.

        ps in the game of realpolitic, the South China Sea play is leverage over Taiwan.

        • DJ Ward

          It is leverage over Taiwan.

          It is reclaimed land in terms of the common use of the term.
          In the extreme.
          Back in the ice age this area was a vast area of land not sea. The Chinese are simply returning the land to its natural state. In confiscating small islands and reclaiming the land from the sea so it can land warplanes, and fire missiles.

          In taking these islands China blocks the ability of other nations to protect Taiwan. They create a strong defensive line that would cause serious delay in attempts to assist Taiwan.

          China has made it very clear Taiwan is China territory. They will invade at some point. The Chinese dictator says so.

          • Wayne

            Reclaimed from the sea. I am pretty sure that everyone knows the bases were built upon from sand from the atolls, and I was not trying to suggest otherwise.

            I am not convinced they are about Taiwan, given they are basically in the wrong place for that. They are much more about the ASEAN states, in particular Vietnam, The Phillipines and Malaysia.

            I would note that they would be highly vulnerable in a war. Easily quarantined and vulnerable to a B52 strike or similar. They have their value as peacetime leverage.


            I don’t see how you could interpret what I said as apologising for China. More an observation of fact that China has modernised its military as a result of loosing the 1979 war. I would also note that the PLA is no longer primarily designed to defend the homeland which was once its primary mission.

            The PLA now looks much more like an expeditionary force, seemingly designed more like the US armed forces. That is, far fewer ground troops than historically and much more emphasis on naval and air power. In fact the PLA Army is now (as a percentage of the population) no larger than the NZ Army.

            I have spent quite a bit of time analysing the evolution of the PLA, from when I was a Fellow at Nanyang Technological University in 2013. In particular looking at what the PLA will be like in 2030. The growth in the last five years has pretty much followed the expected pattern.

            By 2030 the PLA Navy will have 6 aircraft carriers, as least as capable as the French carrier the Charles de Gaulle. And at leat 2000 fourth and fifth gen fighters. Probably will lack long range bombers but will have lots of median range missiles. Their intent is to be the dominant military force in the East and South China Seas.

            • Tricledrown

              Wayne Your so far out of date with military technology, Vietnam era China has bullied weaker countries into giving up territories and bought off the National Party!

              • Wayne


                What? Do you have any idea at all on what you are talking about?

                • Pat

                  “It is a very doom laden picture that you have of human potential. That 95% of people will be exterminated by climate change.

                  Frankly I can’t imagine that happening. Humans are vastly more inventive and adaptable than you seem to accept.

                  The current 9 billion may reduce, which in fact already happening in much of Europe. By the mid 2100’s the total might be more like 5 to 7 billion. Lets say climate change pushes temps up by 2 or 3 degrees. Deserts may expand in the tropics. Conversely the great food bowls of Europe, Russia and Canada will become more productive. So food won’t be a problem, especially as gene technology expands. Minerals and energy (fusion) will be plentiful. Obviously some coastal cities will need protection or relocation, but that is hardly beyond the wit of humanity. Look at Holland for what can be done.

                  A much more likely future is the elimination of global poverty. With everyone achieving Chinese or southern European levels of wealth and income. Europe consumes far less per capita than the US. If the world does as well as Europe over the next 100 years, it will all work out fine.

                  For the apocalyptic future you prophesy, the world would have had to have been struck by a meteor of the size that wiped out the dinosaurs. And we probably now could take action against such a threat. But an event of that scale could certainly reduce the human population by 95%, but it would take something as severe as that. Climate change occurs over a sufficiently long period of time that adaption can and will be achieved, even if the the temperature goes up by more than 2 degrees in this century.”


                  Oh dear!

                  • Wayne


                    So what is wrong with what I have said?

                    I have read a great deal about climate change. I am not a skeptic, I agree that it is happening. But I don’t believe the human population is going to be reduced by 95% (or anything even remotely like that) as a result of it in the next few decades.

                    That would require the vast bulk (at least 90%) of the land surface of the planet to be literally turned into desert, and with no-one using desalination for irrigation.

                    There is not a single forecast showing such a prospect.

                    • Pat

                      whats wrong is you concede a 2 to 3 degree average increase and continue on to state that it will lead to increased food production and ignore (or simply dont comprehend) the impacts such a temperature increase entail.
                      EVERY informed commentator/scientist is of the opinion that 2 degrees (or more) is incompatible with life as we know it….and ultimately ordered society

                    • Wayne


                      The commentators do not say 2 degrees increase is incompatible with life as we know it, or with ordered society.

                      They say it will change the climate away from what it is now. Warm temperate areas become semi tropical. Cool temperate become warm temperate. Likely more deserts in the tropics, but more biomass in the temperate regions. Different animals and plants grow in these areas. Some are likely to become extinct, others become more numerous.

                      But that is not the same as ending civilisation. Or dooming the great majority of humankind to death. It does mean change. A lot of it.

                      Humankind can adapt to that. Just as they did in prior cool and warm periods. The warm period of the eighth to tenth centuries and the cool period that followed. These were changes in the order of 2 degrees.

                      Of course a warming of say 4 degrees would be much more drastic. For instance Greenland would melt. There are no serious predictions of 4 degree increases in the next 80 years. Maybe on a longer timescale.

                    • Wayne


                      Your reference confirms the point that I made. A 2 degrees increase is not the exterminating event you seem to imagine. For that you need to go well in excess of 4 degrees increase.

                      I am aware of tipping points, that lead to runaway changes. That tends to be major changes in ocean currents, rather than runaway temperature increases. You after all have to have some mechanism that drastically traps heat (beyond the existing potential of CO2).

                    • Pat

                      Do you really lack the capacity to extrapolate?
                      2 degrees increase IS an extinction event for a significant portion of the world (you appear happy with 3) ….how many are you willing to cast aside for your comfort?
                      The EU is in disarray with approx 1 million immigrants….how will they react to 10s or 100s of millions?
                      The western economies will be fine though with their high tech and military…or will they be? How will the western democracies cope with increasing natural disasters and the loss of insurance coverage and the demands of their citizens?….I can tell you now, they wont…best case scenario authoritarianism…if they are lucky.

                      I reiterate…you are either stupid or lazy….or worse callous.

                      Sadly you are representative of our politicians.

  13. SPC 13

    With the economic relationship with China comes the expectation of non critical public comment.

    First, assisting the Chinese government with good/controlled media management


    Second, no official public criticism of China.

    Third, with trade comes acceptance of control over access into the Chinese market and the requirement to allow ownership of local assets. Something we gave to advantage an industry polluting our waterways and releasing methane into the atmosphere (the quid pro quo should have been industry standards).

    One could note the development of the capability by China to both identify and manage dissent by Chinese people abroad, but then Saudi Arabia has actually renditioned two refugees from here back to Saudi Arabia, so this is not the worst thing we face with our trade partners.

  14. Siobhan 14

    “China certainly has interfered in New Zealand politics, most notably by the offer of a free trade deal which delivered huge benefits to our economy.”..really ‘Our Economy’, given that most of us are simply workers, or the Economy of Business owners and investors and property speculators?

    Because they are two very different economies, increasingly divergent.

    Even then milk powder and logs we do very well, simple folk that we are, but at what cost to our environment ? And quite clearly Dairy is giving us a good dose of Dutch Disease.

    Your so called “peaceful and free trade”..as if only ‘Free Trade’ can be peaceful. Why?House price inflation and dairy debts and throw away garden furniture and clothing from the warehouse, it cannot and it will not end well.

    • DJ Ward 14.1

      Correct. Not all, but many workers lost out with the deal.

      Workers get paid for chopping down, planting, transporting the trees but both Labour and National signed off 100s of thousands of hectares of forestry land to foreign owners. We get stuff all from forestry.

      Diary also has seen the slow eradication of the family owners into multi farm, foreign owned corporations. Agian some workers get wages but we get stuff all from those entities.

      It is not fair trade if the conditions for workers of the other party are grossly abusive, and environmental standards don’t exist.

    • China has not just interfered in NZ Politics. They have interfered in property, agriculture and resources such as water.
      The problem is the divergence in economic and social culture. The Chinese are unscrupulous and ruthless – this reflects a number of factors: they have had a terrible time with invading hordes – from the Mongols in the 13th century to the Japanese in the 1930s. They then suffered through communism. The Chinese Government ended up owing Stalinist Russia 1.9 billion Yuan by the late 1950s (a lot back then). While Mao Zedong was a liberal leader in many ways, the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 was a disaster – 55 million peasants starved to death in order to try and gain a system of rapid industrial growth through collectivised agriculture that failed very miserably.
      After the Cold War ended, China stayed opaque. They still are.
      Massive human rights abuses. Stomach-churning animal rights abuses.
      The BBC and over-flying sat.s have footage of the detention camps in East Turkestan (“Xianjiang”).
      I trust them way less than I trust the U.S.

      • Mike Smith 14.2.1

        China has suffered through invading hordes – one you haven’t mentioned was by the British in the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century where China was forced to take payment for its exports in opium rather than silver.
        in the last forty years according to the World bank China has lifted 500million people out of extreme poverty, historically unprecedented poverty reduction.

  15. Draco T Bastard 15

    China certainly has interfered in New Zealand politics, most notably by the offer of a free trade deal which delivered huge benefits to our economy.


    That does not excuse their efforts to buy MPs in National nor the fact that they really do have a spy in our parliament already as a National MP.

    I don’t like hearing that Chinese immigrants are refusing to become citizens because they’d have to give up Chinese citizenship but that they get all the benefits of being a citizen anyway. Tens of thousands of them and we get political influence direct from the CCP.

    Party and government officials all stressed to us that they were grateful for New Zealand’s support for their accession to the World Trade Organisation, the rule-based trade body.

    They’re also part of the UN which is also a rules based body and which has rules regarding the sea and artificial islands – rules that they’re ignoring and have, as a matter of fact, told the UN to go pound sand over.

    So, yeah, not impressed by them joining a rules based organisation as they’re just going to ignore it anyway if it goes against their wishes.

    You tried, badly, to sweep the very real influence that they’re using against us under the rug by saying but, but, but, rules based…

    Pull the other one – it’s got bells on.

  16. Brutus Iscariot 16

    Chinese influence is insidious. Don’t forget we still have a CCP spy as a sitting National MP.

  17. Nick K 17

    We should back China ahead of the Yanks. The US is a mess, politically and economically. The average Yank is also lazy and crime is out of control. The Chinese by comparison are hard working, industrious and disciplined. All traits we should be trying to instill in our people.

    • Unicus 17.1

      The US has the most powerful economy on the planet by a country mile .
      One of the major reasons for that is that its workforce is educated imaginative and very very hard working

      The Chinese by comparison are incompetent uneducated and unwilling wage slaves

      Only a fool would write a post like yours – or perhaps of course someone from the CCP.

  18. CHCOff 18

    This is the sort of opinion piece that is coloured by associations.

    Democracy of opinion is poor when it comes to that of associations.

    If you look at the democracy of outcomes, since the free trade agreement with China, the democratic opinion of the public would be correct, it has been a pretty poor trade off.

    It is however not for the public to make the associations with the various trade agreements, that is for the civil servant experts. It is for the public to tell them what hasn’t delivered and what is wanted (which would include general similar value societal systems of partners).

    An independent civil servant class in govt. if so empowered, would obviously look at the free trade agreement with China as one of it’s first things, in such an arrangement.


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