Cowering and contemptible

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the utter silence, from all New Zealand officeholders (most notably the Prime Minister), about the abduction –  no better word for it –  by the People’s Republic of China of a couple of Canadian citizens, apparently in an attempt to coerce Canada into not proceeding – in the event the Canadian courts find that the other terms of the treaty have been met – with the extradition to the US of the Huawei CFO.

….you have to wonder what goes through their minds when Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters decide to stay quiet, when our traditional allies speak out.   Does it not for a moment cross their mind that one day New Zealand might find itself in Canada’s position, and to wonder who –  if anyone –  might go into bat for us, and for our citizens if they were to be abducted by the regime in Beijing?

By their utter silence, on this as on so many other PRC issues, our MPs and ministers dishonour this country and its people.   Cowering in a corner, deferring to Beijing, is simply unbecoming people who purport to lead a free and independent country.

It isn’t as if any of this is particularly new.  Our Prime Minister won’t speak up about the gross abuses in Xinjiang, won’t speak up about the intensified persecution of other political and religious dissidents, won’t speak up about…..well, almost anything.  But somehow it is a degree more shameful when you won’t even stand up for your friends.   When you are the cowardly one when others around you – in this case, other advanced countries – have been willing to make a stand.  It is contemptible behaviour.

There was more news this week.  We are told that the Prime Minister took a call from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  I suppose she didn’t have much choice but to take the call –  Trudeau has after all been seen as cut from the same left-wing ideological cloth as the Prime Minister.    But the Prime Minister wouldn’t even comment on the call –  has anyone heard from her on anything for weeks now? – instead sending out not even the government’s ‘duty minister’, but just a spokesman for him, to blather and say nothing.

Ardern was not available for comment today but a spokeswoman for duty minister Grant Robertson confirmed Ardern had a brief conversation with Trudeau yesterday.

“Although the cases are a consular matter between Canada and China, as the extradition case relates to a Huawei executive in Canada, there are principles at stake that concern us all.”

What an utterly meaningless statement.

Perhaps, perhaps. the Prime Minister had quietly given her support to Trudeau but just didn’t want to let New Zealanders know?  It never seemed very likely, but a day or so later the Canadian Foreign Minister pretty much ruled out that (exceedingly charitable) interpretation

Ms. Freeland said Canada is grateful for the support it has received in recent days from Germany, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom Britain and the United States.

But not New Zealand, even though the two Prime Ministers had talked just a day or two previously.

When I mentioned this around the dinner table, one of my kids suggested that perhaps New Zealand was just small and had been forgotten.  But, of course, not only is New Zealand a traditional close friend, ally, and partner of Canada, but we are bigger than any of the three Baltics in the list.  Clearly, Canada is receiving no support at at all from New Zealand.

It isn’t the way decent people behave.  But it seems to be an acceptable standard for every single one of our elected officials; cowering contemptibly.

Who knows quite what it is they fear?  Perhaps it is that “FTA”- upgrade, or the trip the PM wants to make to Beijing, or some threat to the success of their year of Chinese tourism, or the flow of political donations, or whatever.    Whatever the rationalisation, it is shameful, and imprudent.   Just as schoolyard bullies try to pick off weak kids one at a time, so the People’s Republic of China.  But Ardern –  and Peters, Bridges, McClay, Shaw et al – simply refuse to recognise the character of the regime.  Perhaps there might be a modest cost to some entities if New Zealand were to take a stand –  on an egregious abuse –  but any worthwhile moral stance almost inevitably involves a cost. It is the willingness to pay a price that, in many respects, marks out the value someone places on their belief.  There is little sign that, when it comes to the PRC, our leaders put any value at all on any beliefs –  just deals and donations.

On which note, the Executive Director of the government-funded pro-PRC propaganda agency, the China Council, returned from his holiday to tweet on this issue.

When I first saw the tweet I was momentarily pleasantly surprised, until I realised that what Jacobi was actually championing was the line that somehow New Zealand could be a bridge between the PRC regime and the rest of the world.  The old “elite New Zealand” delusion that somehow by making nice to evil, never ever uttering a complaint about anything –  recall how upset the China Council was when the Huawei ban was announced – we could influence Beijing for the better.   That’s worked out so well over the last seven years as Xi Jinping has taken the PRC ever further back to heavy-handed repression at home, and into an era of new aggression abroad.  Cosying up to such evil should be something to be ashamed of, not trying to fool yourself and others that somehow the regime will be deterred from its aggressive defence of Meng Wanzhou by sweet nothings murmured quietly (if at all) by our Prime Minister or her officials.

Finally, on things PRC, there was a strange column on Newsroom the other day by Robert Ayson, professor of strategic studies at Victoria University.   His lament is that New Zealand/PRC relations are not what they were, while his vision appears to be one of “untrammelled mutual respect and win-win cooperation”, as if he cares not a jot about the character of the regime.  Perhaps he’d have been one of those urging “untrammelled mutual respect” with Adolf Hitler in the late 1930s?

Ayson seems bothered about several things:

  • the proposed ban on Huawei around the new 5G network (where he seems to treat Hauwei as some sort of normal company, even though Chinese law requires Hauwei to comply with government edicts, whether at home or abroad),
  • the recent GCSB statement –  in tandem with a number of other countries –  about the official PRC involvement in commercial cyber-theft,
  • the rather mild comments in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement last year, and
  • the speech in Washington in December by Winston Peters.

All this is the context of a flawed sense of how much China matters to New Zealand’s prosperity (“crucial” in his view).

Professor Ayson is not happy at all.

This shift may please friends in Canberra, Washington and Tokyo, who view China as an unrelenting full-spectrum menace. But New Zealand’s growing alignment with a faux Cold War posture runs against the tradition of foreign policy autonomy Labour-led governments have cherished in recent decades. 

(The same Labour-led governments that have had troops in Afghanistan and Iraq?)

Having an independent foreign policy means making your own choices about the medium-term interests of your own country.  It doesn’t mean never doing things, or sharing common views/interests, with friends and allies.  I’m not sure when Professor Ayson thinks any New Zealand governments ever acted otherwise (whether or not he –  or I – agreed with any or all of those stances –  be it involvement in the first Gulf War, providing a frigate at the time of the Falklands, Vietnam, Suez, or even our current deployment in Iraq).  But in the Ayson view of the world –  seemingly similar in practice to the Prime Minister’s –  an independent foreign policy seems to imply acting entirely on your own, never in concert with anyone, never acting for common interests and values, never acting with a quiet expectation of possible future reciprocal support.

Personally, I don’t think we should be taking a stronger stand against the PRC because, say, the United States is, but because it is in our own longer-term interests to do so –  both about the integrity of our own political system (recall, for example, the former PRC intelligence officer sitting in our Parliament, nominating other Beijing-associated people for honours), and about pushing back against international expansionism (particularly  by a state/regime with values inimical to our own).

But for Professor Ayson, somehow Trump and Brexit are reasons to stay cowering in the corner, deferring to the PRC.

There is one final, very small, fly in the ointment. It would be one thing to add New Zealand’s principled voice to an ensemble of China concern if the choir was unified and led by an internationally respected conductor. But has anyone seen how today’s conductor is behaving? In Donald Trump’s universe, traditional allies and close partners are at best expendable and at worst counter-productive. To the 45th president of the US, the rules-based order is barely relevant, including as it applies to trade. Things would be even worse if any of New Zealand’s remaining five eyes partners weren’t outward-looking models of political reasonableness. 

That’s called playing distraction (perhaps especially in the UK case where, whatever one makes of Brexit, the UK remains fully engaged in both NATO and Five Eyes, and has upped its commitment to this region, including naval patrols in the South China Sea).   You might not like everything about your friends and allies –  some might even be inconstant –  but you actually share values and interests with them.  Few New Zealanders share the values of the Chinese Communist Party or the state it tightly controls.

Ayson’s article ends weirdly.  He wants relations with Beijing strengthened, he wants “balance” back in our foreign and defence policy –  does he mean indifference to China’s consolidation of its hold on the South China Sea, indifference to its plays for influence in PNG, Vanuatu, Tonga, and (perhaps newly-independent) Bougainville), indifference to the growing threat to free and democratic Taiwan?  If so, perhaps he could say so directly.    But the weird bit isn’t that sort of alleged “realpolitik” but the final sentence

But especially in light of Beijing’s reprehensible conduct in Xinjiang, in which case, to borrow the prime minister’s own words, New Zealand needs to begin “Speaking up for what we believe in, standing up when our values are challenged,” this necessary readjustment will not get any easier.

After all it appears that he recognises something of the character of the regime.  But if –  as he says –  he wants the Prime Minister to start speaking up about that evil, it is unlikely to be a path that works towards sweeter and more harmonious relations with the PRC.  Decent people wouldn’t want it to.

 

 

46 thoughts on “Cowering and contemptible

  1. Anyone looking at China needs to understand the change in view of the senior leadership in Beijing under President Xi. He is quite clearly a Marxist who views himself as the heir of Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

    Here is a very good speech by an Australian China watcher who was formerly Malcolm Turnbull’s China advisor. It makes sobering reading but it accords with my view of Xi Jinping Thought.

    We are in a twilight world today and our leadership needs to understand just the philosophy of these people. To them, liberals and socialists are even more their “class enemy” than conservatives

    https://nb.sinocism.com/p/engineers-of-the-soul-ideology-in

    Liked by 3 people

    • Actually all Chinese leaders have been Marxist, at least since 1949. Why the surprise?
      The so called elements of capitalism you see in China fool a lot of people. Communists see capitalism as a stage, and even Marx acknowledged the enormous productive capacity of capitalism, and its progressive role at a particular point in time. So in a sense China has experienced a very drawn out NEP, that sooner or later will be socialised in a sense when the industrial capacity of the nation has been built up.

      Of course there will always be debate about the post Mao policies of China. What is beyond dispute is the Maoist period was largely a successful period which provided the foundations for China’s later economic take-off.

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  2. As for our hopeless foreign minister, this man is always full of fire and brimstone when in opposition but as meek and mild as a newborn lamb once he is safely inside the 7-Series Ministerial BMW.

    Spineless coward

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  3. Thank you for another thought provoking post Michael.

    I for one am getting quite tired of the commentators that opine on New Zealand / China relations either mischievously or erroneously talking up the importance of China to New Zealand as a source of trade and foreign investment.

    New Zealand’s five eye partners represent approximately 31.5% of exports versus 23% for China, our traditional like-minded friends represent over 40%.

    I don’t have the time to dig through the data but my hypothesis would also be that exports to China are likely mostly unsophisticated commodities that would clear at the world price (I.e could go pretty much anywhere).

    China is 10th for stock of foreign investment and doesn’t even feature in the top 10 for flows (although some from the mainland may be channeled through Hong Kong).

    The question is why the myopic over-emphasis on the importance of trade and investment funds from China when the statistics don’t bear this out? Surely from a purely economic standpoint (as these opinion pieces labour over moral or ethical considerations) it’s better to come down on the side of our traditional allies and partners?

    New Zealanders ‘elite’ China sycophants are truly pathetic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Unfortunately Maori Iwi has $60 billion and pretty much all of it invested in Primary Industries and Tourism. Maori controls both the government and Opposition through it’s 7 guaranteed electorate seats. When the difference between being in government or in opposition is decided by 1 or 2 seats, 7 Seats gives a minority group immense power to influence outcomes.

      Unfortunately Primary Industry is wholly dependent on people. Access to 1.5 billion population market is far too salivating for Maori to turn down.

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  4. This is an extract from president Xi’s recent speech about Taiwan. “”‘The fact that Taiwan is a part of China, that both sides of the strait belong to one China, is something that nobody, with any amount of power, can change. The compatriots on both sides of the strait are all Chinese, blood is thicker than water, their natural desire to cooperate and common ethnic identity is something that nobody, with any amount of power, can change.’””

    It certainly is based on a different set of values than any found in New Zealand’s political parties with his emphasis on ‘blood’ and ‘common ethnic identity’. It is quite clear that president Xi puts these values well ahead of friendship. Similarly his attitude to multiculturalism can be found in Xinjiang province.

    My knowledge of Taiwan is light and lifted from wikipedia. It appears to have been colonised by Han Chinese roughly when Scottish Protestants moved to Ulster. The difference is now Taiwanese indigenous peoples are 2.3% of the population and the rest are Han Chinese.

    It is obvious that NZ govt should have protested when other countries did. China would hardly have noticed us. When our government failed to act then the opposition parties should have grabbed the opportunity.

    Well chosen title for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do note that Taiwan has been ruled by the same govt as the mainland for only 4 years of the last 124. In some ways (the parallel isn’t exact) China’s claim to Taiwan is akin to the UK claiming sovereignty over NZ and wanting to incorporate us into Britain.

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      • This shows the sort of ignorance that abounds among Western commentators, such as yourself.

        Do some homework. Both China AND Taiwan (the so called Republic of China), see themselves as Chinese.

        The analogous case, politically speaking, is East and West Germany, both of which saw themselves as part of the German ‘nation’

        The Taiwanese claim all of China as part of the ROC (Republic of China). And their claims are even more ambitious than those of the PRC (mainland China). Taiwan (ROC) and mainland China (PRC) agree on at least one thing: the South China Sea belongs to the Chinese nation. See below:

        http://www.atimes.com/article/why-china-and-taiwan-agree-on-the-south-china-sea/

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      • In case you don’t believe me, here is a link to the Auckland based Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. See the top left of the web-page. It says what? It says Taiwan, Republic of China. The Republic of China is the official name of Taiwan.

        Now if both the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese agree that Taiwan is part of China, and even the US has agreed to the one China principle, then it is likely that Taiwan is a part of China, in spite of what uninformed commentators such as yourself may think.

        The Taiwanese anthem is called what? You guessed it! – its called the National Anthem of the Republic of China!

        Also guess what. A big deal is made of Mainland China (PRC) claiming sovereignty over Taiwan. But what about the fact that Taiwan (ROC) claims sovereignty over all of China.Here are Taiwan’s claims:

        https://tinyurl.com/y7mtccfx

        Michael. I don’t want to be rude. But you are completely ignorant and uninformed about China. Best you zip it up.

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      • “i don’t want to be rude” you say, but oh well never mind you will be anyway.

        I’m well aware of all the material you refer to. Were it the 1950s and Chiang Kai Shek was plotting to recover the mainland (while suppressing Taiwan itself) I might even have some sympathy. Instead it is 2019 and there is no sign at all that (a) Taiwanese wish to be ruled from Beijing or (b) that Taiwan is doing/contemplating anything to take over the mainland. And as I’m sure you know, the PRC breathes fire at any suggestion that Taiwan should rename itself, assert its full independence etc.

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      • I was rude. Apologies for that.

        My point was not that Taiwan has any hope of taking over the mainland, or who is the bigger threat. My point was simply to point out the concept of Taiwan as part of the Chinese nation, and that there is currently a consensus about that.

        What Xi is worried about is not the status quo, which is for all intents and purposes ‘independence’ in the way the separate respective governments operate (as in the East / West Germany analogy, and also of course the North / South Korea analogy). He is concerned that movements within Taiwan encouraged by foreign bad actors will one day decide that Taiwan is not part of the Chinese nation – that is what he means by ‘independence’, and that Taiwanese are not Chinese. Again its like saying West Germans of the time saying they were not Germans, or South Koreans saying they are not Koreans. If that happened, Germany would never have been reunited, and in the case of South Korea, they would drop the ‘Korea’ part of their name, and all hope of reunification would vanish forever.

        So Beijing does not want, at this stage at least, to rule over Beijing. They simply want a continuation of the 1992 consensus, which is more or less what I said above, and that appears to be the view of many if not most Taiwanese

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      • China did not enter Taiwan when Mao took over China from the KMT because the US did not allow it. The US drew the line in the sand. Today is no different. China will not cross into Taiwan as long as they believe that the US remains a staunch ally of Taiwan. Anyway the KMT today is a pale shadow of its past and clearly more biased towards China as it loses its power base. Anyway China clearly does not want a expensive war on its border encouraging the US to station troops and missiles too close for comfort.

        As we have seen with Macau and Hong Kong, this is the preferred slow and patient subjugation of the local police, the local government and the army approach that China will take with Taiwan. They are in no hurry to fight a direct costly war with no winners.

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  5. Thanks Michael. New Zealand’s failure to offer support to Canada over China’s hostage-taking is despicable. Ardern is foolish if she believes she is somehow defending New Zealand’s interests by looking away. An independent foreign policy does not mean abandoning your friends. But in New Zealand’s case our foreign policy increasingly serves the objective of pleasing the thugs in the Chinese Communist Party. I do believe there is increasing awareness among New Zealanders of how their reputation is being compromised by this cowardice; it is apparent in comments in the media and on well read blogs. As others point out our exports to China are essentially low value commodities: milk powder and unprocessed logs. Our trade with our friends and the investment we receive from them far outstrip our economic relationship with China. Our markets in Australia, the US and the EU and in South East Asia take a far wider and more sophisticated range of goods and services and offer the opportunity for increasing our per capita productivity; China does not. We also share similar values around the rule of law and personal freedoms with them; China is an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship. If we were prudent we should be reducing our exposure to China. There are within government however a number of senior officials with a vested interest in promoting the China fixation. They have invested virtually their entire careers in the China relationship and they believe a “good” relationship reflects well on their own abilities and provides them with opportunities for further advancement. And so the lie has been promoted that China is “indispensable”. It’s time to call these people out.

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  6. New Zealand is right to stay out of this. Its a matter between Canada and China (and the US).

    Canada is the wrong party. Firstly when asked by a third party to arrest a foreign national, it is more complicated than simply hands off – let the legal process do its job in some automated manner –as it would be if a crime was committed on native soil itself. This, even in Western countries requires a decision by some government authority, that could go one way or the other – this type of thing nearly always involves some sort of political consideration. Its similar to when David Lange came to a deal over the French spies who bombed the Rainbow Warrior.

    The point here is that Canada acceded to US demands to arrest someone, who is accused of a crime that is not really a crime, and to endorse the application of what are in essence extraterritorial laws written by the US that are morally corrupt (the fact that rogue states like the US can have nuclear weapons, yet demand that others deny the same to other parties is hypocrisy of the highest order).

    The Chinese have long historical memories when it comes to extraterritoriality. Up until the 1940s, Westerners, under this legal ‘principle’ could murder Chinese on the streets of China with complete and utter legal impunity. One manifestation of China’s ‘Century of Humiliation’ You would do well to read some history,

    Westerners in China, have traditionally been dealt with very leniently by the Chinese legal system. This is wrong. What is not wrong, is China has decided simply to remove those privileges, at least in the case of Canadians. So in a sense, the Chinese government is now allowing the legal system to run its course, as it would in the case of a chinese citizen, and not interfering and applying privilege (which is in essence white privilege). Afterall ‘westerners’ of Chinese and Indian origin have been executed in China without much fanfare, and so have many other Asians, and Africans.

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    • I’m not defending extraterritoriality (which incidentally covered Japan not just the West). I’m surprised to see you defending the abduction of Kovrig and Spavor for explicitly political ends.

      Re executions, you’ll note that I’ve not mentioned that Canadian citizen.

      And if you read my earlier post you’ll see that I explicitly noted that extradition – in Canada and in NZ – explicitly involves a minister, at the end of the process.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, yes of course, mentioning Japan would almost be redundant —we are all aware of their rampage through Asia and of course China. Fewer are aware of Western imperialism in China, which only really ended with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, led by Mao Zedong.

        Kovrig and Spavor were likely guilty of something – but the Chinese may have not been overly concerned, and then pulled their stunt as an obvious response to what happened to Meng. Obviously I know little about the detail, but did it have political motivations. I’d guess yes. But then the Meng arrest also, and the Meng arrest is akin to China arresting Bill Gates or Tim Cook in China, although I’m not saying Meng was quite at that level. My point is there was politics in involved in these arrests, both the Chinese of the Canadians, and the Canadians of the Chinese. I did not note your earlier post in which you said arrests of Meng’s nature involved a minister directly in the process —thanks for mentioning this, I was not 100% aware, but guessed it would be the case.

        Yes, I now note hat you did not mention the Canadian sentenced to death, but unconsciously thought it would all be part of the mix. Apologies for jumping to that assumption.

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      • I would put that Canadian on death row in the same political category. I still count 3 Canadians for 1 Chinese. What we need to understand is that the Communist regime has many power centres at the local government level with law making powers independent of the Federal Communist government. I suspect Canadians throughout China would be subject to far harsher sentences at the local government level for any alleged wrong doing.

        Meng is the public poster face of Huawei and arresting that popular public face of Huawei is like poking every Mainland Chinese in the eye.

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    • The US does have an Extradition Treaty with the Canada. So it is legal for the US to request that Canada hold any person that they believe have committed an act that is illegal in both countries.

      Recently, most countries strengthened their Anti Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist legislations to track illegal activities around the world in a world wide concerted effort making it difficult for the Canadian Courts to deny the US request.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “Most of the digital infrastructure projects in Zambia, like the more visible airport terminals and highways, are being built and financed by China, putting the country at what the International Monetary Fund calls a high risk of debt distress. It’s also given rise to fears that what has long been a thriving and stable multiparty democracy is veering toward a Chinese model of repression.

    “We have sold ourselves to the Chinese,” says Gregory Chifire, the director of an anticorruption organization who fled the country after being sentenced in November to six years in prison on what Amnesty International calls trumped-up charges. “People’s freedom to express themselves—their freedom of thought, their freedom of speech—is shrinking by the day.”

    Sixth article on this page:
    https://mailchi.mp/jordanbpeterson/not-obvious-jocko-tackles-toxic-masculinity?e=0f34069a13

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    • There will be Africans who don’t like China’s engagement with their continent, and there will be Africans who do like it. Posting a link to one particular person who does not like it does not prove much.
      What’s more useful is to look at actual surveys of African public opinion. And time and time again, it is clearly demonstrated that, “nowhere is public opinion more positive about China than in Africa.”

      https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/05/27/other-perceptions-of-china-views-from-africa-latin-america-and-europe/

      And the 2018 results show that “positive views of China are most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.” The results of the Pew research poll I linked to below show that Russians, Tunisians, Kenyans and Nigerians have the most positive views of China.

      http://www.pewglobal.org/2018/10/01/international-publics-divided-on-china/

      Since the Chinese arrived, Africa as a whole has enjoyed cracking good economic growth – google around and start from the facts.

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    • Chinese Interests already own a private airstrip in Auckland’s Ardmore Airport. I wonder when that will be developed as an alternative airport in competition with Auckland International Airport? Perhaps in time to welcome China’s newest military jets as its first customers?

      I wonder how the Chinese missed out on the only privately owned Space Rocket Launching pad in the world in Gisborne that was bought by US interests?

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  8. The biggest threat China poses economically to NZ is the official and unofficial boycotts. China has exposed its ugly bullying side in recent years. Most egregiously, in the case of THAAD and South Korea. To voice its displease there has been an unofficial boycott of South Korean goods and services from that moment.

    NZ should be trying to wean itself from Chinese Government economic dependence. NZ government is very aware of this and through its actions made it clear that economic considerations trump any so-called values. Any virtue signalling is limited to statements against countries where there are little economic costs, like Fiji.

    I have decided to limit purchasing Chinese goods. I will possibly travel to Taiwan for future holidays but not to the Chinese Mainland.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I did holiday recently in Shanghai and 5 other provincial cities. I must say it was cheap and an amazing adventure of an old culture. Spent less than $5k for 2 weeks of incredible food, sight seeing and fun and in 5 star accomodation comfort. Well worth a visit.

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  9. “Most egregiously, in the case of THAAD and South Korea. To voice its displease there has been an unofficial boycott of South Korean goods and services from that moment.”

    For heavens sake, so if China set up some missile (or anti-missile) system or whatever on the Cook Islands, or Mexico, or across from Europe in Morocco, that would be all good? And any legal boycott by say New Zealanders, Americans, or Europeans would be ‘exposing their ugly side’

    Are Chinese people simply supposed to put up with the sort of bullying Westerners would never accept?

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    • Your analogies are ridiculous, overlooking some critical facts. The THAAD system as I understand it is defensive. It was installed in South Korea for protection from a rogue North Korea that had been firing off missiles in abandon and its leader threatening to nuke the South “reduce to ashes”.

      “For heaven’s sake” is the South not allowed to defend itself? The one country that could have reigned in North Korea’s behaviour at the time – China – elected to do nothing. If my neighbour is threatening my destruction and some third country is not happy about me defending myself, tough. South Korea had every right to defend its own territory.

      Interesting that China has no qualms about installing its own missile defense system in Pakistan (LOMADS) and I’m sure India is not happy about that. Hypocrites. The only bully I see here is China.

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  10. Its absolutely staggering the sort of hypocrisy evinced on this thread.

    We have people advocating an economic boycott of China or likewise because they don’t like the actions of the Chinese government. This is actually fair enough if that is the way one is so inclined. An individual, or country for that matter, has the right to choose who it does business with, for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reasons at all.

    Yet when the Chinese carry out a boycott or apply economic pressure (completely legal that is) because the West or its allies do something the Chinese do not like, that is completely unacceptable and is an example of the Chinese exposing its ‘ugly bullying side’.

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      • The reality is New Zealand subsidises China’s food imports from NZ. Therefore NZ is actually not very vulnerable to China. We can lose the entire food export market to China and be much better off financially. 95% of NZ Primary Industry production is exported. All of which is subsidised by the NZ taxpayer. roading, irrigation, dirty waterways, green algae rivers and coastal oceans, border control, disease prevention, research into new plant crops, disease prevention and compensation to farmers.

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      • Also, NZ taxpayers will need to bail out Paris Agreement emmission reduction targets and methane gas pollution.

        Farmers only contribute less than 5% of the tax collection but expect a massive taxpayer subsidy for services and disease control.

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  11. Hi,

    I am from Taiwan. I am definitely not a supporter of the CCP, but in general I find the anti-China tirade by Michael to be quite overblown, and at times very much extremist. I wouldn’t, for example, compare the current PRC to Nazi Germany, like what he has done. I also would not underplay (or simple ignore) the significant degree of sinophobia in New Zealand and elsewhere, directed both at the Chinese state and ethnic Chinese, like what he has done in many of his previous posts.

    I want to jump in on the Taiwan issue, specifically the claim (again from Michael) that Taiwan is as independent from China as NZ is independent from the UK, which is in my view wrong.

    To start with, Taiwan is called the Republic of China, because our government claims to rule over China (including all of the modern day PRC,Taiwan, and all of PRC’s claims in the South China Sea). All legal scholars in Taiwan interpreted our Constitution as endorsing:

    1. There is only a single China
    2. Taiwan and all other territories I listed before are a part of China

    The major disagreement with China is over the preferred form of government for all Chinese people, whether it is liberal democracy or socialism with Chinese characteristics. In another words, this is an internal issue for China to solve.

    Culturally, there is no question that the population is overwhelmingly Chinese. In some way, we are more traditionally Chinese than mainland China, where the CCP in the Cultural Revolution of 1960s has destroyed a lot of cultural heritage, although I am glad to see they are rebuilding cultural roots over recent years. We both speak the same language, has similar religious tendencies, and celebrate the same cultural holidays including the Chinese New Years. This is not to give an idea of complete homogeneity, but to show that we share age-old traditions in common.

    Michael’s statement that China has only ruled Taiwan for only 4 out of 124 years is very misleading. Historically, Taiwan has been first settled by the kingdom of Wu (a mainland Chinese state) in the age of the Three Kingdoms, which is more than 1700 years ago. The ruling dynasty in the Celestial Empire has ruled Taiwan since, with small periods of intermission. The Dutch took over Taiwan in the 1600s, for example, but a Chinese general took it back after 30 or so years.

    Politically, there is a small amount of support for Taiwanese independence, but there is also equal support for unification, believe it or not. The average polling over recent years is about 20 percent for independence and for unification, respectively. There has been very low tension with mainland China when a pro-Beijing government was in power from 2008 to 2016, but relations deteriorated with the insertion of the more pro-Independence DPP into power. The DPP suffered a major midterm election defeat in November 2018, which was seen by many pundits that there is no underlying mass enthusiasm for independence. In any case, if Taiwan’s government claims to represent all Chinese people, then any referendum on Taiwanese independence should in theory be presented to both the mainlanders and Taiwanese to be voted on, otherwise it would be an unconstitutional method of partitioning the country.

    Internationally, almost every country recognizes the PRC as the legitimate government of China, including the USA. If the government in Taiwan admits that Taiwan is a part of China, then I don’t know what arguments there are to support the idea that China has no sovereign rights in Taiwan.

    I myself am pro-status quo in terms of the cross-strait relationship, but to gradually move towards unification in the next twenty years. China is a civilisational state that has always stayed together through political turmoil. In a way, what the USA is doing is self-serving and irresponsible – they are trying to use Taiwan to contain China and divide the Chinese people, for their own national interests. I resent being a pawn of Uncle Sam. The sooner Taiwan can work out a roadmap to integrate in the mainland, the better will be its security and economic prospects, and the better the terms it can get from negotiations with Beijing.

    Before you comment on Taiwan’s status, it is only respectful to both sides of the Taiwan Strait to educate yourself with proper knowledge on this complicated issue. Please come up with robust historical, cultural and political arguments instead of uninformed opinions based on the British idea of the nation state, because it is ridiculous to compare the situation with the UK’s colonial empire. I also encourage you, Michael, to make an effort at objectivity – geopolitics are never about simply good and evil, but about different perspectives and interests interacting with soft and hard power. It pays to understand issues from the Chinese perspective.

    I agree to a much greater extent with Bob Atkinson’s comments. China is not a nation state, but a civilizational state, where membership (voluntary or forced) is defined by culture rather than adherence to a set of institutional rules. I disagree with the comment that race is a part of it, but understand where you got that idea from Xi’s speech (in Chinese, blood is interpreted as culture rather than biological race). In a sense, it is correct to say that this idea of a nation is different from the Westphalian idea of popular sovereignty.

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    • Interesting comments. I’m not going to attempt any sort of full response (my main focus is on the New Zealand’s government’s supine attitude to the CCP-ruled PRC, including the activities of the regime in and around New Zealand). But I will defend comparisons with the PRC and pre-World War II Nazi-ruled Germany (or with the Soviet Union for that matter). On almost any conceivable metric today’s PRC is at least as bad a regime – on some measures (including economic underperformance) worse. The CCP/PRC, for a start, already has tens of millions of deaths to its “credit”.

      I can’t imagine that anyone in the West would have any particular objection if, in a truly free referendum, the people of Taiwan chose to unite with China. Any more than, say, if NZers voted to combine with Australia, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted to unite with the UK, those of Austria with Germany (now as opposed to 1938) and so on.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I did think that Michael was on the extreme end of the scale tying up the President Xi regime with the Nazi regime. But when President Xi was appointed as the President for Life in a communist regime that have over the years, matured with checks and balances and elected candidates, then the similarities with the rise of the Nazi regime begin to form. Hitler was never initially seen by the German people as a nutcase dictator. He was seen as a good man doing the right thing for the German people. It is that popularism that got Hitler appointed as the German Chancellor and eventually President for life. The various checks and balances was set aside due to Hitlers popularity with the German people. Power corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely.

        We can see the signs of President Trump trying to control the narrative. Fortunately the USA has enough checks and balances to stop his desire to become President for Life in the USA. The next USA election would either see the rise of a future dictator or the fizzling of an attempt at a power grab in the USA.

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      • Come on Michael. You are obviously a numerate guy who likes to base his conclusions on the facts?

        Mao’s era was wildly successful by the standards of its time and compared to all other developing countries. The ‘tens of millions of deaths’ are an absolute crock of ****, and it should be obvious to anyone who has a quantitative bone in their body. The Chinese revolution, by the standards of its time, and the social change that occurred was relatively bloodless, compared to the French Revolutions, and the Chinese communist leaders are like choirboys compared to the way the Western imperialists ran their colonies.

        The fact is Mao achieved the most rapid growth in life expectancy in history, and a spectacularly low mortality rate compared to the standard of comparable countries of the time.The evidence for this is overwhelming and indisputable. Do some research before running off with what are in fact bald-face lies.

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      • “I can’t imagine that anyone in the West would have any particular objection if, in a truly free referendum, the people of Taiwan chose to unite with China.”

        Sorry Michael. It’s simply none of the West’s business – its not for the West to object or not to object. In my parents lifetime, Westerners could, and did murder Chinese in China with complete and utter legal impunity. Those days are long gone.

        What happens to Taiwan, as Anon has implied, is the business of not just the Taiwanese (most of whom see themselves as Chinese in any case), but all Chinese.

        Now consider what happened to Tame Iti and the Tuhoe, when they played around with a few popguns in 2007, and under a labour government? What’s your view on Tuhoe independence?

        What about this:
        …, in line with the Tribunal’s report last year that found Ngāpuhi hapū had not ceded their sovereignty when they signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

        But the Prime Minister said, “While the Waitangi Tribunal is entitled to its view, in the end the Crown is sovereign.”

        https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/te-manu-korihi/284841/northland-group-sacks-regional-council

        Similarly if some aborigines simply wanted separate the Northern Territories from Australia, I’m sure the Australian government would not countenance that.

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      • The USA is the largest arms manufacturer in the world. To rake in the profits the US arms industry does require a War from time to time preferably in someone else’s backyard.

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  12. “But when President Xi was appointed as the President for Life”

    Get your facts right. He was not appointed ‘president for life’, by any stretch of the imagination. What happened is the term limit was removed. Many many countries, Western countries included do not have term limits. China requires some stability at this critical juncture of its development, and keeping him on is in the interests of stability, at least as the Chinese see it.

    https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/president-xi-cant-become-leader-for-life-just-like-that-china-daily-asia

    Xi himself has said he is opposed to life long rule:
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/china-s-president-says-he-is-opposed-to-life-long-rule-1.3463797

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    • China has approved the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power for life.

      The constitutional changes were passed by the annual sitting of parliament, the National People’s Congress.

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-43361276

      Mark, I did get my facts right according to the BBC, CNBC, theVox and a string of other commentary. It is strange how your facts are heavily distorted based on the straitstimes? Was that not the mouthpiece of Najib Razak, the deposed Malaysian Prime Minister of 1MDB billion dollar fraud?

      Western democracies have more than a One party system subject to a regular public vote to remain in government. China has only a 1 party system therefore the removal of a 2 term limit equates to a dictatorship which aligns with how Hitler was similarly appointed President for Life. Stability was the same argument Hitler came up with when he was appointed Chancellor and President for Life. Limits are created for a reason, it is called checks and balances in a long lasting political system.

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  13. Next door, “Australia, the home of the black swan, the impossible bird, has been the canary in the coal mine for the big shift on China”.
    This from the Lowy Institute’s Kelsey Munro who has just published this excellent article,pertinent to many of the comments above. Presumably this has been written and motivated by the latest kidnapping by the PRC of a foreign citizen, Australian Yang Hengjun.
    https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-cabinet-black-swans-grey-rhinos-elephant-room

    There are Canaries here, but just hard to find.

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