Making the Trump administration look less bad

I’m no fan of Donald Trump.  He is unworthy of the office he holds, and almost every week there is new data to reinforce that view.   And if his character is unworthy, there is no offset in the way in which he attempts to govern or in the clarity and excellence of his thought or vision.

And yet, when it comes to the People’s Republic of China, our Prime Minister –  probably with the full support of the Leader of the Opposition –  manages, somehow, to leave the US Administration looking as though –  for the moment at least – it is on the side of the angels.   And as if it is our governments that are simply all about “the deal” –  be it an “FTA” upgrade, party political donations. or just students flowing to our public universities that have made themselves so dependent on not upsetting the thugs in Beijing.

Then there is Scott Morrison.  I guess he probably won’t be Australia’s Prime Minister for long, but a couple of weeks ago he gave a pretty good speech under the heading “The Beliefs That Guide Us”.  Sadly, I didn’t see it reported here at all (from the Australian media there is a good commentary on it here) but it comes in stark contrast to the way in which our governments (present and past) behave and talk (or simply refuse to talk).  Rhetoric is, of course, easier than action, but at least the words were good (emphasis added).

Our foreign policy defines what we believe about the world and our place in it.

It must speak of our character, our values.  What we stand for. What we believe in and, if need be, what we’ll defend. This is what guides our national interest.

I fear foreign policy these days is too often being assessed through a narrow transactional lens.   Taking an overly transactional approach to foreign policy and how we define our national interests sells us short.

If we allow such an approach to compromise our beliefs, we let ourselves down, and we stop speaking with an Australian voice.

We are more than the sum of our deals. We are better than that.

And what does Morrison regard as the “beliefs that guide our interests”?

We believe that the path to peace and liberty demands the pursuit of prosperity through private capital, rights to own property, entrepreneurialism and free and open markets. That is what lifts people out of poverty.

We believe that acceptance should not be determined by race or religion. Rather, we accept people by their words and judge them by their actions.

We believe in freedom of speech, thought, association and religion.

We believe in peaceful liberal democracy; the rule of law; separation of powers; racial and gender equality where every citizen has choice and opportunity to follow their own paths and dreams.

A fair go for those who have a go – that is what fairness means in Australia.

We believe in the limits of government – because free peoples are the best foundation to show mutual respect to all.

We believe in standing by our mates, side by side with nations that believe the same things we do.

Few or none of those things would be embraced by the People’s Republic of China, or the Party that controls it.  As he goes on to point out, by omission in listing the sorts of nations which do.

From the United Kingdom and the democracies of Europe to the United States and Canada. From the state of Israel to the city state of Singapore. From Japan and South Korea in North Asia to New Zealand, across the ditch.

He goes on later to observe, of Australia’s participation in various conflicts

We have done this because we believe it is right. Being true to our values and principles [will] always be in our interest.

Whereas, so it seems, in our Prime Minister’s mind (and that of her Opposition counterpart) not only are the two in constant tension, but the values and principles of this nation are constantly sacrificed to some short-sighted, limited, and mercenary conception of “interest”.    It is shameful to watch.

What of the US Administration?  You might think, as I do, that the focus on the US-China bilateral trade deficit is wrongheaded and economically illiterate.  Which isn’t to say that there are no real economic issues that it is right for the US Administration to take the lead in addressing –  with, so it appears, pretty widespread endorsement across the political spectrum in the US.  Even if you think –  as I generally do –  that intellectual property protections generally reach too far, and even if you recall that most rising powers have attempted to gain an edge by purloining the technology or insights of firms/countries nearer the technological frontier, China’s approach is particularly systematic, aggressive, and unacceptable.  It needs to be called out.  China doesn’t offer anything like an open market in many areas (services and investment notably), and if  –  in the longer-run –  those choices will mostly harm the Chinese, I don’t have any problem with a big and powerful country attempting to encourage change.  They are the sort of changes most in the West probably looked towards when China was allowed into the WTO.  It was clearly a sick (if opportunistic) joke when New Zealand agreed to deem China a “market economy”, when it remains far from that –  and, in many respects, getting further from it.

But it isn’t just about trade and investment.  Last month, the Vice-President gave a pretty forceful speech on the Administration’s approach to the People’s Republic of China.    There was a trade dimension

Over the past 17 years, China’s GDP has grown 9-fold; it has become the second-largest economy in the world. Much of this success was driven by American investment in China. And the Chinese Communist Party has also used an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies doled out like candy, to name a few.

But there was so much more. The military position for example

And using that stolen technology, the Chinese Communist Party is turning plowshares into swords on a massive scale…

China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined, and Beijing has prioritized capabilities to erode America’s military advantages – on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies.

Beijing is also using its power like never before. Chinese ships routinely patrol around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan. And while China’s leader stood in the Rose Garden of the White House in 2015 and said that his country had “no intention to militarize the South China Sea,” today, Beijing has deployed advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles atop an archipelago of military bases constructed on artificial islands.

and systematic issues with a more individual impact

Nor, as we hoped, has Beijing moved toward greater freedom for its people. For a time, Beijing inched toward greater liberty and respect for human rights, but in recent years, it has taken a sharp U-turn toward control and oppression.

Today, China has built an unparalleled surveillance state, and it’s growing more expansive and intrusive – often with the help of U.S. technology. The “Great Firewall of China” likewise grows higher, drastically restricting the free flow of information to the Chinese people. And by 2020, China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life – the so-called “social credit score.” In the words of that program’s official blueprint, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven, while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

And when it comes to religious freedom, a new wave of persecution is crashing down on Chinese Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims…

Last month, Beijing shut down one of China’s largest underground churches. Across the country, authorities are tearing down crosses, burning bibles, and imprisoning believers. And Beijing has now reached a deal with the Vatican that gives the avowedly atheist Communist Party a direct role in appointing Catholic bishops. For China’s Christians, these are desperate times.

Beijing is also cracking down on Buddhism. Over the past decade, more than 150 Tibetan Buddhist monks have lit themselves on fire to protest China’s repression of their beliefs and culture. And in Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned as many as one million Muslim Uyghurs in government camps where they endure around-the-clock brainwashing. Survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uyghur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith.

And the sort of influence activities that Anne-Marie Brady has written about here

I want to tell you today what we know about China’s actions – some of which we’ve gleaned from intelligence assessments, some of which are publicly available. But all of which is fact.

As I said before, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests. It’s employing this power in more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies and politics of the United States.

The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials.

He explicitly championed Taiwan as an example of a better way –  a country, actively threatened by China, and which is not only free and democratic, but more prosperous than China.

As far as I can see a few people in the US quibbled at the margins, but there was no great dissent from the broad thrust of the speech. It characterises the regime, and its threat, in a way that many or most experts seem to regard as pretty descriptively accurate.  The PRC is a threat to its own people of course, but abroad –  to countries in the region who espouse the sorts of values Scott Morrison talked of, and in the internal political processes of countries like our own, Australia, or the US (and many others).

It wasn’t just a one-shot effort from Pence, who is representing the President at this week’s summit meetings.  In the Washington Post yesterday there was a report of new interview with Pence.  With political theatre in mind, the interview took place as Pence’s plane flew across the contested South China Sea.  The report included

The vice president said this is China’s best (if not last) chance to avoid a cold-war scenario with the United States.

In addition to trade, Pence said China must offer concessions on several issues, including but not limited to its rampant intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, restricted access to Chinese markets, respect for international rules and norms, efforts to limit freedom of navigation in international waters and Chinese Communist Party interference in the politics of Western countries.

and ended thus

I asked him what would happen if Beijing doesn’t agree to act in Asia in a way that can avoid a cold war with the United States.

“Then so be it,” Pence said. “We are here to stay.”

Who knows whether his boss really means it – or will still mean it in six months time –  but at least it was being said.   And there is an interesting article in today’s Financial Times, highlighting the apparent bipartisan support (including among business leaders) for a more robust stance.  There was also an interesting Bloomberg column which observed

Trump usually gets the blame (or credit, depending on where you stand) for souring relations. He’s not the real culprit, though. The man truly responsible is China’s president. Xi has altered the course of Chinese policy in ways that made a showdown with the U.S. almost inevitable, whoever sat in the White House.

Even that interview wasn’t all that can be set to the credit of Mike Pence in this sort of area: speaking out about manifest evil, actions that don’t align with the sorts of values countries like the US, Australia, and (once upon a time at least) New Zealand sought to espouse and –  rather imperfectly to be sure – operate by.  There was Pence’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, where he talked plenty bluntly and openly.

“The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” Pence said.

And then there is the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, our Prime Minister.

On the day the Chinese deputy foreign minister warned other countries not to “obstruct” China’s growing activity in the Pacific, it was as if our Prime Minister was just falling into line when, in an interview yesterday, she refused to even address the issue of China’s activities in the Pacific.

When she met Aung San Suu Kyi –  who, as far as I can see has no New Zealand economic “interests” to threaten –  her language seemed to be much more muted than Pence’s

“We, of course, share the concern of the international community around what has happened in Rakhine State, and the ongoing displacement of the Rohingya,” Ardern said following the meeting.

As the Newsroom report puts it

[Aung San Suu Kyi] has also been stripped of the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Weisel award and Freedom of the City awards, which were revoked by Edinburgh, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle.

While in Singapore, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Suu Kyi was “trying to defend the indefensible”.

But Ardern said she did not detect any defence from Suu Kyi during their meeting.

And US Vice President Mike Pence also had firm words for Suu Kyi during the pair’s meeting in Singapore.

“This is a tragedy that has touched the hearts of millions of Americans. The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse.”

Suu Kyi was brief in her remarks, saying each country knew their own situation best. “So we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening and how we see things panning out.”

Sounds pretty defensive to me.   When the Trump Administration and Mahathir Mohamad are more willing to speak out on human rights abuses than a New Zealand Prime Minister, something is very wrong.    “Kindness” and “empathy” might be her watchwords, but I didn’t suppose she meant them for tyrants and those who abet gross and systematic abuses.

And what of the PRC regime.  Here was how the Herald reported her

Ardern said before her meeting with Premier Li that she would be raising human rights issues with him but they were kept to the closed door session.

In her opening remarks she said: “New Zealand’s relationship with China is incredibly important to us. We see that relationship being incredibly important not just from an economic perspective but from a regional perspective.”

Only sweetness and light in public –  this, after all, from someone who only a few months ago pledged stronger ties between Labour and the Chinese Communist Party –  and if she politely indicated in private the odd area of possible difference, who really cares?  I’m sure the Chinese won’t.  After all, her party president is on record –  not behind closed doors – lauding the regime and its leader.

Has she ever said tried to lead ther discussion and debate at home about the character of the regime?   Has she ever said anything openly critical about one of the most dreadful regimes on the planet –  about its activities at home (a couple of weeks ago she said she “might” raise Xinjiang privately) –  and –  more importantly –  about its activities abroad, let alone its activities in New Zealand?  Even “small” things like, for example, the presence in our Parliament of a former PLA intelligence official, close to the PRC Embassy, who acknowledges misrepresenting his past to get into the country, and who has never once said anything critical of the regime.  Decent people shake their heads in disbelief (as I do each I write this), but not the Prime Minister.   Or arranging –  with the National Party –  to award a Queen’s Birthday honour to a non-English speaking Chinese-born businessman, who associates closely with MPs (and mayors) from all sides of politics, seems to arrange party donations (partly with a view to getting additional MPs into Parliament) and who the record shows is very closely associated with the Chinese Communist Party and the regime –  back in China, and here.

The local media seemed taken with the fact that Mike Pence was reported to have asked to be seated next to our Prime Minister at one of the summit dinners.  But strangely, while the local media talked up how the PM might raise such issues as steel and aluminium tariffs, or even speculated on the (manifold) political and personal differences between the two of them,  I didn’t notice anyone speculate on the possibility that China, and New Zealand’s rather shameful and supine attitude to the PRC, might have been among Pence’s list of talking points, amid the pleasantries and fine food.  I’m sure our allies welcomed the P8 purchases, and even the additional money New Zealand and Australia are (for how long?) throwing at the Pacific, but someone who won’t utter an open word of disapproval of such a regime, who won’t even speak out about the disgrace of Opposition MP, Jian Yang, who does nothing –  and refuses to openly take seriously –  the domestic interference issues is hardly someone showing any sign of living by those sorts of values that Scott Morrison enunciated in his speech.  And yet I suspect they represent rather well the values of most individual New Zealanders –  just not our political classes, who seem to act as if “values” are just some nice-to-have for other people, not something integral to how they live and act and speak.

It is pretty shameful when the Trump adminstration –  for now at least –  puts our country in such a poor light, on such a significant (and potentially a defining) issue. I remain sceptical about Trump’s willingness to follow through (on almost anything) or indeed about US administration’s willingness to pay much of a price to, say, defend Taiwan (and, if perchance, the trade strategy puts real pressure on, the temptation to action  – and distraction – there may only increase –  the Falklands weren’t invaded when Argentina was prospering).  The South China Sea is already, in effect, lost.  And no outsider can do much about China’s awful internal record.  But words still matter.  They express what we care about, what we value (more than just a deal).

And on these issues, the Trump administration at least has the words.  Jacinda Ardern –  and Simon Bridges –  sit cravenly silent.  It is as if, to upend Scott Morrison’s words, they think New Zealand is defined solely as the sum of our deals. It is shameful.

33 thoughts on “Making the Trump administration look less bad

  1. China also wants the Yuan to be the defacto Reserve Currency replacing the USD but has failed to get it anywhere close. As far as a military power is concerned China is still very much a decoy military like how the Brits fooled the Germans with balloon tanks. If anyone has bought a Great Wall SUV would attest to. Looks great brand new but after 3 years it is a pile of movable junk pile on wheels.

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    • They’d have to open up their economy quite dramatically to become a serious reserve currency. But to do so would go against everything in the way Xi Jinping has been playing things. One doesn’t hear much of that aspiration these days.

      Re the military, I guess it is an asymmetric situation. China isn’t proposing to take on the US military across the world (where it would, clearly, lose), but to take Taiwan – after enfeebling enough of the Taiwanese elite, and perhaps amid a US consumed by “what to do about Trump” and exhausted after 17 years of war (Iraq/Afghanistan) – might be viable. It would be a stunning blow to US prestige ex post, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

      Probably 9 PMs out of 10, the Argentine invasion of the Falklands would have succeeded.

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      • Not sure about taking Taiwan by force and having anything left. Most Taiwanese I meet when there for business would prefer to burn the place to the ground than hand the country over.

        Unfortunately our leaders would rather roll out the red carpet if threatened. Hoping for a spot in any Vichy Government formed.

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      • I recall reading Henry Kissinger’s book on China, in which he noted that Mao’s attitude to the risk of (nuclear) confrontation with Russia in the 50s or 60s had been that China could afford to lose a couple of hundred million people, and would still be strong.

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  2. I would hope Mike Pence gave Ardern a strong serve on China at the Singapore Summit. I don’t think he would have asked to be seated next to her because of her reputation as a wit and raconteur! And he risked getting an earful of glib “progressive” doublespeak in return.

    Supine, craven, spineless, shameful – there isn’t a thesaurus large enough to adequately describe New Zealand’s cowardice and wilful abandonment of any moral standards in respect of China.

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  3. Jacinda Ardern is publicy a communist so I am unsure why you would expect her to behave any differently with her Chinese communist comrades?

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      • I don’t think it is an exaggeration. I am pretty sure they share the same ideological heroes, and at the very top is Karl Marx. With Jacinda Ardern it is about ideology. With the incumbents of the National Party they can always be persuaded by the US eg, all NZ legal restrictions and constraints were set aside when the US, FBI made a special request to launch a raid on Kim Dot Com’s residences when clearly he has not breached any NZ laws. Don Brash is another example. Quite happy to receive payments from his Chinese masters but when crunch time comes he was prepared to back Australians banks monopoly profits and happily leave the Chinese banks struggling to compete bringing knives to a gunfight in NZ.

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  4. I totally agree with Ex Mfat.

    China has systematically failed to fulfil its the promises it made when it signed the WTO accord. See US

    https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Reports/China%202017%20WTO%20Report.pdf

    as a good outline of their behaviour and the US response. The argument that China supports free trade is laughable and their rankings in the annual WEF report attest to little progress on any front.

    China’s behaviour on the world stage is truely frightening. Whether its militarising the South China Sea against its near-neighbours, intimidating Japan, engaging in an “anti-corruption drive” which is purely a witch-hunt against anyone who questions the supremacy of President Xi, using the OBOR to attempt to lock-down poor countries into debt-traps, attempting to corrupt the ruling elite (including our own), using the United Front network to engage in political manipulation inside other countries, organ harvesting of “criminals”, setting up a gulag system for Uyghur’s on a massive scale… I could go on.

    China’s behaviour under Xi Jinping is dangerous for everyone and until/unless they are prepared to work within established international norms, they need containment. The combination of India, Australia, Japan and the US – along with smaller countries such as ourselves, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines can easily contain them, if we choose. We don’t need to be offensive but we do need to be firm.

    China’s demographics and their horrifically imbalanced economic and financial system mean that their expansion since 1983 isn’t going to continue and their ascent is not a foregone conclusion.

    But our politicians need to face up to what’s going on and to face it squarely and with some grit. China needs to be told that meddling in New Zealand’s domestic politics is unacceptable and concrete measures need to be taken to wind back their influence including the closure of CCTV and Confucius Institutes and strict rules on entry into New Zealand’s Parliament and contributions to our parties.

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    • That is what the Belt and Road initiative is for. It is try and continue with China’s annual growth rate exporting deflation to the rest of the world.

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  5. I can understand NZ political leaders choosing appeasement. I don’t approve but given the ease with which blaming a government can become blaming a people and the large recent immigration of Mainland Chinese to NZ it is just about understandable. Where I am baffled is that all parties are the same. Surely the Greens or NZF should see political advantage by calling out Jian Yang and even Raymond Huo?

    Many New Zealanders have little interest in politics. It is the same as most Britons who were uninterested in Hitler and his actions until the war but those who were interested in politics were decidely vocal.

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    • Not when the Primary sector needs a 1.4 billion market for its produce. Personally my opinion is that we should just drop our primary sector exports and get on board the Rocketlab type leading edge industries which we just gave away to the US for $200 million. That company has just raised as much as $1 billion to expand its manufacturing into the US and the UK to launch rockets in NZ. Finally ACC has invested at a premium when we could have kept it a NZ company but of course we were too eager to cull cows and payout to Kiwifruit growers $1 billion instead. Talk about dumb and dumber.

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      • Bernard Hickey on the Q&A Panel of Newshub Nation last weekend finally gives credence to Muldoon’s think big projects that have all turned out very successful, although still bringing up the excessive loans taken up by NZ.

        The only way we are going to get higher skills and improve productivity is to move the economy away from Primary Industries. It is a wasted effort to try and paint property investment as a non productive versus productive investment as Grant Robertson and even Michael Cullen is keen to suggest. Just plain dumb and dumber when a person like Sir Michael Cullen should know better.

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  6. But I don’t think that is the reason for their silence – and it wouldn’t explain the somewhat greater forthrightness of authorities in Australia and Canada. As it is, were it the reason it would be a shameful betrayal of those ethnic Chinese who have been here for generations, or who came from non-PRC places, let alone those who left the PRC for something like the values NZ has historically stood for.

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  7. I think the appropriate way of handling the PRC is first to be polite and respectful but also to make it clear to them that there are some things we won’t tolerate. And to use their own language back at them.

    We expect the PRC not to meddle in the internal affairs of New Zealand just as they expect us not to meddle in theirs. Under that banner we pull the plug on CCTV (and RT) and we clamp down on their political activities here. I’m sure the SIS knows exactly what they’ve been up to.

    We politely withdraw from OBOR saying that we prefer to work within an internationalist framework under the World Bank.

    We say to them in no uncertain terms that we vote the South Pacific as our sphere of influence – in conjunction with Australia – and we highlight to them that just as they view the South China Sea and the nine dashed line as their sovereign sphere, we view the territory from Papua to Kiribati.

    China is a big country but it has big problems. We are a tiny issue for them. So long as we don’t poke their eye, I doubt it would even be noticed by any serious players.

    Oh, and we need to remember, they need our logs and they need our meat and dairy products. Trade provides two-way benefits and as a commodity exporter we have the ability to sell on global markets to others.

    I recall meeting Bill English to discuss the possibility of a Taiwan-NZ FTA – as I’d been approached by the Taiwanese trade minister about the possibility. Bill’s initial reaction was negative “The Chinese won’t allow it” to which I explained the changes circumstances in Taiwan at the time and how to approach Beijing. We did that and have the FTA. Australia didn’t and the door for them has been closed. We just need to understand who we are dealing with and how to approach them. We really aren’t that important.

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    • You make a lot of sense, Peter – I don’t see us as all that important to China either. But I do see us as quite important to the US given we are a Five Eyes partner. I read somewhere that the other members of Five Eyes now refer to the alliance as Four Eyes and a Wink.

      Pence might have asked to sit next to Ardern to tell her the Wink will no longer be tolerated. We can’t forget that Helen Clark’s NZ chose not to be a part of G W Bush’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and the non-nuclear ships issues is still somewhat ‘live’ (although I think there have been some concessions on that on the US part more recently – as didn’t they choose to declare one of there ships as non-nuclear so as to enter a port here recently)?

      Geopolitics – it’s going to be important for NZ. I think we have to strengthen and align our diplomatic relations and geopolitical bonds with Australia, and perhaps go where they go. I just don’t think we can try and aim for the neutrality of Switzerland here in the Pacific in this day and age – we have history that they don’t.

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    • When John Key visited China when National was the government, China rolled out the red carpet accompanied with a full military contingent honouring the visit. China did not do that for the Australian premier or the US president Obama.

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  8. While I lament the inaction of our politicians, we must remember it is the New Zealand public who elect them. So the question to me is: why is the average New Zealander so nonchalant about the China? Until the public cares the politicians won’t.

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    • There is something to that point, but on this one I think the appropriate emphasis is the other way round. Politicians should be expected to provide some leadership, including by highlighting issues/risks that might not be apparent to most voters (they don’t people directly in the way, say, high house prices do).

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    • You would have to blame our economists for this problem. The public firstly has been told by our economists that all we can do well as a nation in the export sector is agriculture. Since we export 90% of our produce we need people to eat our produce. China has eagerly offered us their 1.4 billion people for our produce and even gave us the very first FTA that they have ever signed with anyone in the world. Of course the public believes we need China as a result. Compare that with the US. FTA with NZ as an ally and a friend? Forget it little bug. No way hosay.

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  9. I have the feeling Ardern is cut from the same cloth as Tony Blair – a superficial, narcissistic personality where truth has no value. There is only the ‘message’ that has to be ‘positioned’. She is at most a spokesperson, but even then light on detail and understanding. I am not against career politicians per se – there have been many good examples if they have the right fundamentals. But she has no real life experience or even substantial academic or intellectual foundation to draw on. A non-academic degree from university, a couple of soft policy jobs in London, and then straight to PM.

    The China situation is one example among many but it illustrates her limitations well – I doubt if she can understand, intellectually and emotionally, the motives and geo-political strategy of a country like this. The idea of national competition outside the economic sphere (e.g. espionage, invasions, client states) must be for her an historical detail – something from the Napoleonic to WWI era, assuming she is aware of it at all. I think she believes what she says when she says we have a lot in common – which is far worse than the pure economic cynicism you (rightly) identify in the various other NZ actors.

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    • I agree with you before Damoyo. Ardern had absolutely no achievements to show for all her time in Parliament before she found herself in the leadership of the Labour Party. She was chosen for the role of PM by Winston Peters for his own reasons.

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    • She did grow up under the Blair government in London as a senior Policy Analyst in his final years in government. Perhaps it is her policies that ended the Blair government?

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  10. “Commentary in local Chinese-language media has been an [sic] especially heated, with a recent op-ed by Morgan Xiao – published simultaneously by SkyKiwi, the Mandarin Pages and the New Zealand Chinese Daily News – describing Brady and other New Zealand-Chinese democracy activists as “anti-Chinese sons of bitches” who should “get out of New Zealand”.”
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12160570

    So now the Han-Nazis are saying that New Zealanders born in NZ have to “get out”? Bring on the civil war and throw these colonists into the ocean… bring back ANZUS for sure.

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    • Han Nazies in NZ? Can’t be that many to start a civil war. I think all that is required is just cancel a few foreign work permits. ANZUS is never happening until we allow the US nuclear war ships to dock in NZ waters and that is never happening under a Labour government.

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  11. For a good article about China’s developing social credit system

    http://newsletter.spectator.co.uk/c/13vrBmsIp4UK5HiORmKAsRGUx

    It contains this quote: “” moral authority has been a central part of Chinese politics for the past two millennia. ‘China never had a separate church in the way that western countries did, and so the moral authority of the church is also held by the state. This isn’t just about people obeying the law; it’s about the state claiming the moral authority to define what virtue is, and then demanding that people live virtuously.’ “”

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  12. Agree wholeheartedly with your commentary, but wonder if you could provide a couple of the weekly examples of data displaying Trump’s “unworthiness” for office?

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    • Fired Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General
      Skips Armistice Ceremony in France due to the weather. Did not want a bad wet hair day.
      Tweets that he blames past presidents for US and China trade war and any other US malaise.
      Promises PNG funding which we all know he would not actually follow through.

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  13. 1. Inclined to agree with you on this. The decision surprised me. And I don’t think it’s helpful to badmouth members of your cabinet nor is a general instability in cabinet lineup. But ultimately it is his decision and I think he had his reasons. Of itself doesn’t make him unworthy.
    2. Not the best look, but not evidence of anything making him unsuitable for office. If I was American I would rather have a president may miss a ceremony but they are in no doubt strongly supports veterans and border controls – compared with Democrats who claims ICE are reminiscent of the KKK (ironically since they were a wing of the Democratic Party) and wants to abolish them.
    3. Well he is clearly right about the China problem, previous presidents were hopeless on this one and let the problem get worse over many years. He has had the courage to take them on and call them out and wake up the rest of the West. The potential CCP threat to the West’s freedoms and way of life is perhaps one of the most defining issues of our time and I can easily forgive him for (1) and (2) if he stays strong on this one.
    4. Don’t know anything about this, sorry, He has a pretty good record of fulfilling election promises, certainly a far better record than any president recent times, so calling him out on something you think he won’t do seems weak.

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    • Recent examples in the “unworthy” camp (and apologies for not responding earlier)?
      – he displays none of the grace and dignity in the face of adversity that a free country might reasonably expect in a leader. He struggles to manage minimally decent responses to things like the Pittsburgh shooting, the Californian fires etc. I’m no great fan of a “counsellor in chief” role for a head of government, but the contrast between Trump and (say) John Key (someone I’m no particular fan of) was pretty striking. Whatever the details around the ‘wet hair” event in Paris – and I’m inclined to sympathise with him a little on details – on a momentous day in Western/US history he didn’t rise to the occasion, provide a lead etc,

      – yesterday’s statement on Saudi Arabia. Perhaps in substance it wasn’t much different than other administrations (to none of their credit), but the tone was appalling, and lowers the standards of US political life. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, at least there is some recognition of “virtue” and discomfort about those one consorts with. Trump has none of that, and his “leadership” lowers the bar for other abuses/failures, whether by him or his successors,

      – I’d probably put failure to show up in PNG on this list as well. I’m no great fan of APEC, but if one of your signature issues is going to be dealing with the China issues, the minimally responsible thing – to signal seriousness, and marshall allies – would be to show up when regional leaders are gathering.

      Those are just some recent ones to throw in the mix with badmouthing Cabinet members in public, his affairs, his refusal to release his tax records, his draft evasion (in company with people like Clinton and Cheney), his past shady business dealings.

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  14. Thanks for the response, it helps me see your perspective. For the items in your first bullet, I felt his responses were perfectly fine, and seemed heartfelt to me. I pretty much agree with your final bullet points, but would note that from memory Obama didn’t always turn up to APEC (in the midst of the “Asian pivot”)

    On Saudi Arabia, I agree with the general point, but I think Trump honestly laid out the reasons from an economic and geopolitical standpoint, and the tone reflected that, while also leaving open the possibility of action depending on what else is learnt. One small bit of solace could be that Saudi Arabia does seem to be making some small steps towards liberalization. It does trouble me that human rights violations seem to receive less emphasis from Trump, but then unlike you, to me he does seem more moved than Obama over chemical warfare attacks and other atrocities. It’s not quite clear to me whether Trump’s response demonstrates any less leadership than the many other countries who have said little or nothing and who will do nothing in response to this incident. I doubt the UK will drop its arms contract with Saudi Arabia and I’d be surprised if any country at all cut trade as a result of this.

    I think, like the US, our left-wing mainstream media is for the most part biased and partial in its coverage of Trump and I suspect this lack of balance does colour people’s views of him unfairly, and I would prefer more emphasis was placed on the things he has done and is doing, not just his foibles, mannerisms of which most past Presidents have had their fair share. There is a bigger picture here, which to some extent points to the level of hostility, the abuse, slurs, outrageous accusations, defamatory comments against a successful sitting President, is I think unprecedented. The fact that left-wing progressives truly hate him (while at the same time decrying hate) makes me think he is doing something right.

    Sorry this is a bit long and late, I realise you’re pretty busy and will have moved on to other topics now.

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