Written By: - Date published: 12:58 pm, February 18th, 2019 - 52 comments
Categories: australian politics, China, Europe, Globalisation, International, Media, national, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges, uk politics, us politics - Tags:
There have been lots of recent comment about how the Government is mucking up the relationship with China.
The evidence is somewhat scant.
There was the Air New Zealand plane that was turned around. This has been mentioned by Audrey Young and others and Simon Bridges tweeted about it without even the most cursory of examinations:
Audrey Young said this:
Were it not for the news that the Chinese Government had cancelled a gala event it was hosting in Wellington to mark the China-NZ Year of Tourism, the souring relations may have quietly fermented away as they have for months.
But on top of the Air New Zealand plane turning back mid-flight to Shanghai, it took on greater significance and prominence.
The airline’s explanation of what happened was so sketchy that it took days for it to emerge that China had not turned the plane back and in fact had no part in the move.
Young’s other example, cancelling a gala event, is hardly the stuff on which hard conclusions can be drawn. And she is conceding that the Air New Zealand problem is definitely not related to any possible issues.
The other evidence, supposed increased difficulties in getting goods into China and a not so happy review of New Zealand as a tourist destination also fall well short of being conclusive proof . Especially in relation to trade where it appears that import hiccups are at an all time low. From Radio New Zealand:
MPI director market access Tim Knox said it has not not received indication of anything out of the ordinary in China’s border clearance procedures for New Zealand products.
New Zealand has an extensive trading relationship with China, valued at more than $NZ28 billion a year.
“As with any large trading relationship, temporary technical trade issues can occur from time to time with products at the border,” he said.
Each month China Customs publishes a list of food import non-compliances that have led to product rejection at the Chinese border. No New Zealand product appeared on the latest December 2018 list. Non-compliances concerning New Zealand products in 2018 were the lowest since monitoring began, Mr Knox said.
And the not very friendly tourist review in the China media? Again from Radio New Zealand:
China foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told international media that it was wrong to interpret the travel notices as ‘warnings’ against Chinese tourists against travelling to New Zealand.
“Those insisting such an interpretation are evidently either making a big fuss over nothing or harbouring ulterior motives.”
And apparently a drop in student numbers is further evidence of problems. But you would expect changes to take a lot longer to feed through than what is claimed.
Of course care needs to be taken with the relationship and we are in a delicate position and in danger of being caught up in the US China tensions.
Certainly the GCSB banning of Huawei equipment will have attracted attention. It is hard to understand how New Zealand could not go along with that decision, given the clear views of the other five eyes nations. I do agree with Mike Smith when he says this:
Spark wants Huawei’s 5G technology because its the best and the cheapest. The GCSB spooks don’t want us to have it because 5Eyes, and because the US has yanked their chain. The Prime Minister says no decision has been made – the media and the world think it is a goneburger. We should support New Zealand’s Spark, not US corporate interests.
The U.S. government has initiated an extraordinary outreach campaign to foreign allies, trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in these countries to avoid telecommunications equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co., according to people familiar with the situation.
Bloomberg News opines that “The Spy Masters’ Case Against Huawei Is Flimsy: The Chinese phone maker’s biggest offense may be it’s too successful. So as consumers we should be asking why we are to be denied the best available technology. I like my Huawei phone.
And some of the other members relationship with China is considerably more rocky than New Zealand’s. Like the UK who has had a Ministerial visit by Chancellor Phillip Hammond cancelled after another Minister advocated sending in an Aircraft carrier into disputed waters to show China who is boss. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian has this colourful description:
The defence secretary’s brain has gone absent without leave. Gavin Williamson said in a speech today that he intends to send his new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, round the world to frighten China. He will equip it with a squadron of F-35 fighter jets, purchased from America. In addition he wants to build two British military bases, one in Asia and the other “in the Caribbean”. They are to “strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass”.
The UK is denying the cancellation is related to the speech. But the speech was pretty incendiary.
How about America?
Well POTUS has engaged in an all out trade war with China for several months now. And his comments about China are not the sort of comments on which durable relationships of trust are based on.
And how about in Australia where a Chinese billionaire with Communist Party links and a former major donor of the Liberal Party had his immigration status revoked and replied by calling Australia a giant baby?
Compared to the UK, the US and Australia New Zealand’s alleged misdeeds are pretty minor.
National’s stance on the issue is fascinating. They have taken to attacking the Government and to raise objections at every opportunity. It makes you wonder what National’s rank and file think of this fulsome defence of communist China.
Michael Reddell, a conservative commentator on economics, and self proclaimed former supporter has not held back:
Over the past couple of years the depths the [National] party, its leaders and MPs, have been plumbing have become more visible. In 2017, in government, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRC on the Belt and Road Initiative. In that document they – Simon Bridges as signatory – committed to “promote” the “fusion of civilisations”. Plenty of people will probably dismiss such statements as “meaningless”, the stuff of official communiques. But decent people – under no duress whatever – don’t sign up to things suggesting that today’s equivalent of Nazi-ruled Germany is a normal and decent regime. Of course, they would probably dispute the parallel, but that’s just willed deliberate blindness.
Later that same year we learned the National Party had had a former PLA intelligence officer, Communist Party member, sitting in its parliamentary caucus. It seems to be generally accepted that Jian Yang, of such a questionable background, is one of the party’s largest fundraisers. Presumably the leaders (John Key and Peter Goodfellow) were aware of his past, but let’s be generous and assume that most of the caucus was as unaware as the public. But for the past 18 months, everyone has known. They also know – because Jian Yang acknowledged as much – that he deliberately misrepresented his past to get into New Zealand, telling us that Beijing had told him (and others in his position) to do so. Breathtakingly, there is no sign that official agencies in New Zealand have done anything about those admissions, but National is now out of office so I guess one can’t blame them for that.
But what the National Party – leader, president, MPs, and all those holding office in the party – is responsible for is the fact that Jian Yang still sits in Parliament, still sits in the National caucus, is still National’s spokesman (on a couple of minor portfolios), with the express support of successive leaders, and (apparently) in ongoing business relationships with the party president (he who trots of to Beijing to praise the regime and its leader). And not one MP, not one national councillor, no other officeholder – not one – has broken ranks, and been willing to openly question (or deplore) just what has gone on. Doing so might, I suppose, jeopardise their individual futures. But values are the things you are willing to risk, to pay some price for. Rumour hath it that some people within the party aren’t entirely comfortable, but so what, if you aren’t willing to do, or say, anything?
Is Simon Bridges and National really saying that we should go against the other 5 eyes nations and let Huawei set up our 5G network?
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Mike Smith that if at all possible we should continue to use Huawei equipment. And I personally would be very relaxed at New Zealand leaving the 5 eyes coalition.
The whole incident feels like a National beat up for political reasons.