Deferring to Beijing

The Prime Minister is off to Beijing, to spend April Fools’ Day chatting with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, leaders of the brutal Chinese Communist Party regime.

It has seemed as if the carrot and the stick have both been at work in the PRC’s effort to keep the New Zealand government in line.   We had the failure of the Prime Minister to secure a visit Beijing last year.  Perhaps there really were some “scheduling difficulties” but no one really believes that was the whole story.  Only a few weeks ago the impeccably well-connected former New Zealand Ambassador to Beijing, John McKinnon, was telling us that a visit would happen but “not necessarily soon”.   And then suddenly 15 March happened, and suddenly a one day visit is scheduled at short notice.

In the meantime, we’d had the need to cancel the grand opening of the New Zealand-China Year of Tourism, at the PRC’s behest.  No one really supposes it was just “scheduling difficulties” –  even in a modestly sized bureaucracy if the key person does happen to be busy, you find someone else to turn up to significant events that matter to you and your friends.  But the bureaucratic and political “elites” scurried around, made clear their obeisance, and had the PM make coordinated statements with the CCP’s representative in New Zealand, and before long the opening of the year of tourism was back on again.  Lucky us, we were told, we were even getting a PRC government minister.

Who knows quite what really was going on.  Neither government is going to give a straight account.  But no one really doubts that the PRC was more than a little miffed at New Zealand and its government (the National Opposition was meanwhile doing its very best to demonstrate its cowed and subservient approach –  from Simon Bridges and Peter Goodfellow on down through Jian Yang).  Perhaps the New Zealand government hadn’t actually said or done much –  not a word of concern had ever been expressed by the Prime Minister –  but the PRC had previously had New Zealand pretty much where it wanted our government, and it wouldn’t do to let them back away from that silent subservience (on anything that concerns Beijing).   And their approach –  pretty mild in the scheme of things (no apparent deliberate hold-ups of coal deliveries, canola seed orders or whatever) –  seems to have been quite enough to scare the locals and bring the government more or less back into line for now.   The Huawei situation still hasn’t gone Beijing’s way – perhaps it eventually will, perhaps it won’t –  but probably even Beijing recognised that a heavy-handed approach over that specific issue might well enrage the natives and spark a political backlash (against them) at a time when they had other battles to fight (notably Canada).  And they’ve already demonstrated that even the mildest, deniable, expressions of unease can get official Wellington not just jumping, back asking how high.  Of one of the most odious and evil regimes on the planet (which has little substantial clout over New Zealand, except perhaps among a few businesses that have chosen to over-expose themselves to supping with the devil).  Much relief at the New Zealand China Council, in MFAT, among our universities…..and, no doubt, in Beijing.

And so the Prime Minister will head off to Beijing for lunch, tea, or whatever with Xi Jinping.   If anything of substance is on the agenda –  and the main purpose of the visit appears to be being seen in Beijing, so quite possibly nothing will –  we can confident that it won’t be things like:

  • Xinjiang,
  • the South China Sea,
  • the East China Sea,
  • Taiwan (PRC threats to),
  • the abduction, and continued detention, of two Canadians,
  • attempts to use economic coercion on Australia and Canada,
  • state-sponsored thefts of intellectual property,
  • the imprisonment, torture and intimidation of Christians,
  • the organ transplant business (highly dubious acquisition of organs),
  • other domestic repression (such as this, just this week).

And should there be any mention of Xinjiang (which seems unlikely, since she’ll say nothing critical here), it is perhaps more likely to be along the lines of “so tell me about those vocational training camps….”.

Most likely it will be an act of supplication on her part (“please Mr Xi, could we please have some more FTA…….please”), and a beneficient smile from the CCP rulers of Beijing. bestowing some sort of favour on one coming so compliantly.  More of this –  never ever saying anything that might upset Beijing – and perhaps we can be helpful again.

Why would an, apparently decent, person do this?  Does she (and one could ask the same of Simon Bridges) represent no values, no morality?  Is there any sense of national self-respect?

Which brings us nicely to how these parties operate at home.  A few weeks ago there was one day flurry of excitement when Labour MP Raymond Huo got his Labour colleagues on the Justice select committee to agree to block a request from Anne-Marie Brady to appear before the committee as part of its inquiry into possible foreign interference in our election.  This bit of the inquiry had been requested by the government after public submissions on the wider review of the 2017 election had already closed.    National’s Nick Smith, to his credit, took this public.  The Prime Minister’s office initially defended the effort to bar Brady, claiming that government departments could tell the committee all they needed to know (isn’t that a typical minister-captured-by-officials sort of line?).  And then the resistance collapsed and word came that Huo had been told to rethink.

And then the waters closed over the story and no more was heard (even before the 15 March murders).  None of our media seemed remotely interested in pursuing the story –  asking those other Labour MPs on the committee, for example, about what they’d been thinking when they blocked one of New Zealand’s experts on such matters (at least as regards the PRC), or asking the Prime Minister what her office had been doing backing Huo.  Let alone asking pointed questions of Huo, and insisting on answers.  For example, about he can possibly chair the committee, or have even involved himself in the specific decision on Brady, when he himself is the subject of serious concerns identified in Brady’s Magic Weapons paper (reported/excerpted in this post).  They might even have asked the National MPs –  who had done the decent thing in taking the issue public, and who perhaps even warned Huo that his stance would backfire –  why they still seem unbothered about Huo serving as chair on this particular issue.  How come they didn’t insist –  and aren’t now insisting – that he recuse himself?  It would be a quite standard application of any decent conflict of interest policy (even Shane Jones had declared his conflict of interest).

But, as it happens, the Huo-chaired committee has reopened submissions, from anyone. You have until 26 April to make a submission.  This is, quite clearly, what should have happened in the first place, once Andrew Little belatedly asked the committee to focus on foreign interference issues.  They’ve even approached Professor Brady and invited her to submit, and she says she will do so.

But it has hardly been done with good grace by the government members (all Labour in this case.  Here is Raymond Huo in the Stuff article earlier in the week on the reopening.

Huo said reopening submissions and updating the terms of reference had always been the preferred option of the committee.

“I should emphasise, Labour members of the committee did not ‘block’ Prof Brady or anyone from making a submission as the due process is to reopen the submission session, which would allow and encourage anyone who’s interested to make a submission,” he said.

The perception that Labour members, chaired by a Chinese-born MP, blocked her submission was so entrenched that nobody seemed to care about the due process, he said.

How does he even say this stuff with a straight face?  He was chair of the committee.  He was quite at liberty all along to have moved a motion to reopen submissions.  Instead, not ony did he not do that but he persuaded his Labour colleagues –  who should have known better – to go along with blocking the efforts of National members to allow even Professor Brady to submit. And all the time with a clear conflict of interest which it appears that, even now, he doesn’t acknowledge.  It would have been much better for him, at this late date, if he’d just kept quiet –  if he couldn’t bring himself to apologise –  than to open his mouth and further condemn himself.

Then again, it is not as if National MPs are calling on him out on it.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the reopened inquiry is (presumably deliberately) conveniently narrow in focus.  This is the notice from the Committee.

huo inquiry

I suppose people can submit on anything relevant to that broader question of “how New Zealand can protect its democracy from inappropriate foreign interference” (is there “appropriate” foreign interference –  perhaps the committee could offer its thoughts on that point in their eventual report?), but there is pretty clear steer on what members (chaired by Huo) actually want to hear about.

I’m no more keen than the next person on private emails of candidates or political parties being hacked, but to be honest I don’t see it as more or less of a concern than foreign powers hacking anyone New Zealander’s emails.  Official New Zealand government websites etc (as the PRC hack of the US government personnel database) might be more concerning.

As for the second item, I guess I don’t use Facebook, and we’ve all heard of these Russian bot-farms, but it looks a lot like a second-order issue in a New Zealand context (where Russian interests seem slight).  I’ve not heard any credible suggestion that the 2017 election here was influenced by such activity.

And, as for the third item, at present the law allows foreign entities to make (small) direct donations to political parties, and there are (apparently) few/no restrictions on such donations to local election campaigns.    There probably is a real issue there –  and it is one on which the National Party seems to have had a belated conversion –  but it is almost certainly less of an issue than legal donations made by New Zealand citizens and residents (individuals and companies) where there is reason to be concerned that even the ostensible donor has associations with, and interests to pursue with, a foreign power whose interests are not routinely aligned with those of New Zealanders.  But the committee shows no sign of being interested in pursuing that avenue.

I have had an exchange with someone encouraging me to submit, not as any sort of expert in the specific issues, but as a concerned New Zealander. I probably won’t do so, for two reasons.

The first involves the framing of the inquiry.  It is set up in a way that suggests that if there is an issue, around protecting our democracy (not just specific election results) from foreign interference, then (a) the responsibility rests abroad (bad foreign actors pursuing their interests, and innocent put-upon New Zealanders, and (b) that the answers are likely to lie with new laws or new powers for government agencies etc.

Evil regimes –  notably the CCP-controlled regime in Beijing –  will do what they will do.   But in my reading of the situation, very little about what is problematic in New Zealand is down to Beijing, it is about the choices –  quite explicit, and frequently renewed –  made by New Zealand MPs, ministers, and political parties.  Thus, as I’ve noted here before, I don’t (broadly) disagree with many of the policy recommendations Anne-Marie Brady has put forward.  And I do think the foreign donations law  – and donations law generally –  should be explicitly tightened so that only people enrolled to vote in New Zealand can donate (thus no corporate donations), and all donations above, say, $200 will be disclosed in near real-time.  Perhaps –  but I’m not convinced –  there is a place for some sort of register of people working for foreign interests.

But none of this gets near the real issue.  Things like:

  • party presidents of both main parties tripping off to Beijing to sing the praises of the regime and its leader (in public),
  • both main parties having MPs with strong United Front affiliations and widely seen as close to the PRC Embassy,
  • the way governments of both main parties stay almost totally silent on gross human rights abuses, and external threats, committed or posed by the PRC,
  • a National MP who formerly worked for the PRC military intelligence system, is/was a Communist Party member, and who acknowledges –  openly, to the Herald –  misrepresenting his past on his immigration/citizenship forms (and who is very much in the good graces of the PRC Embassy and its affiliate organisations in New Zealand),
  • the fact that no government agency has done anything about those acknowledged misrepresentations,
  • the fact that all political parties are now totally quiet on Jian Yang (none will call out his position as unacceptable), and that no political party seems bother about Huo (not even about him chairing the committee on foreign interference),
  • the fact that our two main parties got together to bestow a royal honour on someone with very strong PRC/CCP affiliations for what amounts to services to Beijing,
  • and the fact that the main parties (more so National in the past, although that may be changing now that Labour is in government) is totally unbothered about raising large amounts of donations from parts of the ethnic Chinese community that are closely aligned with PRC interests.

Decent parties wouldn’t do any of that.  New Zealand political parties do.  Beijing doesn’t make them make those choices.  None of those actions appears to be against the law (well, misrepresentation on the forms may well have been, but my focus is on the response of government and political parties).   Each of those things could be fixed now.  Today. No law changes needed, no inquiries needed, but the word would go out from party leaders –  who’d suddenly had an outbreak of decency –  that this sort of stuff just isn’t on.    But nothing happens.

Instead, we have a half-hearted inquiry, run by the very people – National and Labour Party MPs – who are the source of the problem. Perhaps individually they are decent people, but they are active participants in a corrupted system.  Probably both sides have an interest in appearing a bit open –  Labour is probably keen on playing the (US Democratic Party) card about social media or email hacking, and National seems willing to promote essentially cosmetic change around foreign donations.  But they show no sign of wanting to confront the real issue: themselves, and their party leaders (Ardern, Bridges, Haworth, Goodfellow).  The problem isn’t primarily Beijing – evil states will pursue their interests in whatever way they can –  but them.

And so anyone who submits to this inquiry, let alone appears, risks giving the inquiry a degree of legitimacy it doesn’t deserve.  It is a bit like the choices parties in troubled semi-democracies have to make about whether to participate or not to participate is the least-worst choice.  I won’t criticise anyone for appearing –  and someone of Professor Brady’s stature will likely attract considerable coverage, at “the hearing the chairman tried to ban” – but it isn’t choice people should make without careful thought.

After all, in addition to the bigger picture issues around the two main parties’ complicity (and it isn’t obvious the others are any better, just less important), the inquiry is still being chaired by Raymond Huo, the man with strong United Front connections, the man who adapted one of Xi Jinping’s quotes as the Labour slogan among the ethnic Chinese community, a man who (in a quote from Brady’s paper) apparently said

In 2009, at a meeting organized by the Peaceful Reunification of China Association of New Zealand to celebrate Tibetan Serf Liberation Day, Huo said that as a “person from China” (中国人) he would promote China’s Tibet policies to the New Zealand Parliament.

You really couldn’t make it up.    But no wonder Xi Jinping is happy to host the Prime Minister.  She is the leader of Huo’s party, she controls select committee apppointments and chairmanships.  She, via Andrew Little, controlled the narrow scope of the inquiry.

And all for what?  Deals and flow of donations.  Most people would thought she was better than that.

For anyone who wants another angle  –  to Brady’s – on Huo, here is an article (scroll down) from 2017 by the commentator who goes by the pseudonym of Jichang Lulu.

It should be sufficiently clear that Huo is another United Frontling. There’s nothing surprising about his incorporation of Xi’s personality cult into electoral politics, or his silence regarding the revelations about Yang Jian’s background. Regardless of his views on non-China related issues (which do indeed differ from the National Party’s), Huo isn’t Yang’s opponent as far as the CCP agenda is concerned. For united-front purposes, Huo is simply an egg in another basket.

By focusing on two key individuals from both sides of New Zealand politics, I have attempted to show how successful united-front tactics have been in ensuring permanent control of the Chinese community politics by hedging against democratic power shifts. This is only one of its successes. I refer you to Brady’s work for an overview of the extent of its penetration in politics beyond the Chinese diaspora, business and media. Its pervasive character helps explain why the reaction to the Yang case has been so muted, suggesting a ‘code of silence’, with the most senior figures in the major parties essentially glossing over the problem.

And, more generally, he ends this way

The Brady report isn’t about finding spies. Reactions seem to be addressing a straw-man. Raymond Huo, the Xi-quoter, denied “insinuations against his character”, but it’s not clear that any have been made. If anything, Huo is consistent in his support for CCP policies and increased PRC influence in New Zealand. This is not a spy thriller, but a story about the institutions of a democratic country being coopted to serve the agenda of a much larger state ruled by an authoritarian regime. Most of the people involved may very well have acted legally at all times, and their support for certain policies isn’t necessarily an issue of moral ‘character’. The issue is whether the actions of many members of the NZ elite are a risk for the country’s security, independence and democratic system. The latter has obviously been damaged. …..

The intersection of each of ‘National’ and ‘Labour’ with ‘Chinese’ is firmly under the aegis of the United Front. Perfunctory reactions from top politicians are a sign that UF successes aren’t limited to that community. Such control over an advanced democracy is something the united-front pioneers in the 1920s and 1930s could hardly have predicted.



49 thoughts on “Deferring to Beijing

  1. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, right?
    While there is a routine inquiry into elections, of which the foreign interference section is a part, is the government the right agent to undertake it? Farm it out to the Electoral Commission, let them set the terms of reference and boost their funding so they can do a decent job.


    • They probably aren’t the right people either, given that much of the routine stuff is about how the EC actually ran the elections, applied laws etc.

      There might be some stuff that a select committee is fine for – preferably one chaired by an Oppn MP – but major issues like this (if taken seriously) probably need an independent commission of inquiry.


  2. So the NZ government is supposedly abasing itself before China because it does not interfere in affairs that are entirely the business of China and not the business of NZ?

    Similarly, based on your logic, China is similarly craven towards NZ because China has not raised with Jacinda:
    *the issue of the theft of the seabed & foreshore
    *The racist incompentence of the NZ authorities in not catching out Tarrant before he committed his atrocity (in China he would have been picked up very early on)
    *Disproportionately high imprisonment rate of Maori
    *Disproportionate number of Maori/Pasifika in poverty
    *public threatened with 14 years imprisonment just for being in possession of censored literature (I agree with the censorship in this case, but not the possible penalty)

    As for the South China Sea, the South East Asian countries are working on a code of conduct with China. In the end the matter will be decided by Asian countries, and not the US, nor Australia, nor New Zealand.

    As for Xinjiang, most Muslims around the world don’t have an issue with what is happening (which is far different from what the Western media is sensationalising it up to be). Indeed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has commended China for its protection of religious freedom, and most of the Muslim world does not give a toss, much to the chagrin of Western troublemakers:

    This is an internal Chinese matter. Nothing to do with NZ, and it causes no harm to NZ one way or the other.


    • Two points briefly in reply:
      1. The issues that are within the control of NZ authorities concern me more, and
      2. A decent leader would not meet with today’s equivalent of the leaders of Nazi Germany. We cannot stop the evil the CCP does to its own subjects, but we can choose not to associate with them. If private individuals wish to do so that is, of course, their choice, but decent people should come to look askance at that, as people gradually came to around ongoing ties with apartheid South Africa (a bad regime, altho materially (several orders of magnitude) less awful than the PRC.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If muslims around the world are not concerned why have Kiwi muslims asked for the Chinese donations to be returned and used in those in the camps. Or do our muslims not count in your mind.

      As for the amazing PRC catching this man before he carried out his attack history would indicate your ignorance. China has had a number of ‘terrorist’ attacks by both Urghers and Tibetan people. If the government you seem to support so much was so good these would never have occurred.

      They did and the answer is for the PRC is a violent crack down and subjugation.


      • China has had a number of ‘terrorist’ attacks by both Urghers and Tibetan people.

        Very few, if any, have publicly advertised their intentions on social media, openly purchased arms and got away with it.

        Face it – it if had been a non-white group, or Muslims doing the same, or Maori, doing same the SIS would have come down on them like a ton of bricks.

        The fact that Tarrant flew under the radar is a glaring example of white privilge.


      • why have Kiwi muslims asked for the Chinese donations

        Not sure what you mean here…most muslims around the world, Not all.

        The fact is muslims have an issue first and foremost with Zionism and American imperialism.

        Yes, some don’t like the Chinese, but their hatred of Israel and the US is of many orders of magnitude higher than any issues they have with the Chinese.

        By and large Islamic states have excellent relations with China, and almost never call them out for ‘human rights’ issues. That is what is frustrating to the West ,which seeks to undermine the rise of China


      • Several Muslim-majority state rival the PRC in their appalling human rights and political freedom records. Oppressors govts find company reassuring.

        Even Muslim countries that have in your words ‘appalling human rights blah blah blah…’ hate those who attack their fellow Muslims. Why are Israelies so hated? Why is the US hated? And hated far more than the Chinese?
        Obviously because by and large, Muslims don’t have much of an issue with how China treats Muslims.


      • Mark – you can make an argument based on Matthew 7:5. But you really cannot assert SIS would have stopped the recent massacre if the suspect had been non-white. If SIS could do that so would the better resourced European security services. Here is a reminder of some of the terror attacks in Europe that security missed – I have not managed to copy them all from Wikipedia and neither have I read them (too sad) but among them is proof that non-whites can evade security.

        Madrid train bombings
        Murder of Theo van Gogh
        7 July 2005 London bombings
        Glasgow Airport attack
        2010 Stockholm bombings
        2011 Frankfurt Airport shooting
        Toulouse and Montauban shootings
        Cannes-Torcy cell
        Murder of Lee Rigby
        2013 La Défense attack
        Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting
        2014 Tours police station stabbing
        2014 Dijon attack
        January 2015 Île-de-France attacks
        2015 Nice stabbing
        2015 Copenhagen shootings
        Saint-Quentin-Fallavier attack
        2015 Thalys train attack
        Rafik Yousef
        November 2015 Paris attacks
        January 2016 Paris police station attack
        January 2016 Istanbul bombing
        Hanover stabbing
        March 2016 Istanbul bombing
        2016 Brussels bombings
        2016 Magnanville stabbing
        2016 Atatürk Airport attack
        2016 Nice attack
        Würzburg train attack
        2016 Ansbach bombing
        2016 Normandy church attack
        2016 stabbing of Charleroi police officers
        2016 Shchelkovo Highway police station attack
        2016 stabbing of Brussels police officers
        2016 Berlin attack
        2017 Istanbul nightclub shooting
        2017 Orly Airport attack
        2017 Westminster attack
        2017 Saint Petersburg Metro bombing
        2017 Stockholm attack
        April 2017 Champs-Élysées attack
        Manchester Arena bombing
        2017 London Bridge attack
        2017 Notre Dame attack
        June 2017 Champs-Élysées car ramming attack
        June 2017 Brussels attack
        2017 Hamburg attack
        2017 Barcelona attacks
        Levallois-Perret attack
        2017 Turku stabbing
        August 2017 Brussels attack
        Parsons Green bombing
        Marseille stabbing
        2018 Paris knife attack
        2018 Liège attack
        2018 Amsterdam stabbing attack

        Do you blame security services for missing Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik? I lived in London during the IRA bombings; it is not easy to stop someone determined to commit terrorist acts except by asking why they are so determined.

        Liked by 3 people

    • So your argument seems to be what goes on in China is only China’s business. Well that doesn’t fit well with numerous international conventions that routinely criticize one country or another based on that countries policy. There are many UN Committees that do this, International Labour Organization and many others.

      New Zealand has a proud history of poking it’s nose into the business of tyrants, despotic and racist regimes from Nazi Germany to South Africa and routinely has opposed activities like nuclear testing by both France in the US in the Pacific.

      As a small independent nation we resent being bullied by big countries, be it the US or China. And China will find the NZ public opinion is less able to be controlled and manipulated, than it is in China.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A decent leader would not meet with today’s equivalent of the leaders of Nazi Germany.

    You are out on a limb here. But pointless to argue with you, and also because your understanding of China, is the equivalent of some Chinese teacher sitting in Inner Mongolia’s understanding of New Zealand.

    The reason why Ardern is meeting with the Chinese leaders is because it is in New Zealand’s interests to at least retain a semblance of good relations to enable trade.

    China is New Zealand’s top trading partner (25% of our trade)
    New Zealand is China’s 43rd top trading partner (accounting for 0.3% or something minute of China’s exports)

    If New Zealand thinks it can survive fine without the China trade, they should carry on p…ing [edited MHR] off the Chinese. If they think that the China trade is important, then maintaining a good relationship is paramount.


    • “New Zealand” does not need the PRC, although some firms have made themselves over-exposed to the country. We would probably do better by being able to trade with a free China, but as it is the gains from trade with the PRC are outweighed by the resulting moral stain that has corrupted our politics. We didn’t have that extent of compromise when the (less evil) USSR was involved.

      I do notice an increasing number of people drawing the PRC/Nazi Germany comparisons. And many people were slow to appreciate the nature and implications of the Nazi regime itself. If the PRC can’t cope with honest criticism – which it clearly can’t, esp from its own citizens – so much the worse for it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • “We didn’t have that extent of compromise when the (less evil) USSR was involved”

        The USSR economy was not exploding for NZ to take advantage of at the time

        “the gains from trade with the PRC are outweighed by the resulting moral stain that has corrupted our politics”

        The gains means many many jobs, as Shane Jones of NZ First no less, understands full well.
        Your job may not rely on the China trade, but that of many New Zealanders do. It is for them to make that moral judgement, not for you to make it on their behalf, as an ivory tower pseudo-academic.

        “I do notice an increasing number of people drawing the PRC/Nazi Germany comparisons”
        Yes…Anne Appelbaum and you…hahahahah


      • Much to my surprise I had to look up the word ‘evil’ and the dictionary says “profoundly immoral and wicked” which is little help.
        Christianity and probably other religions brought in the concept of intent for moral activity. On that basis I suspect many supporters of the Chinese leadership who actually know their leaders genuinely believe they are doing the right thing but I suspect the equivalent Russian know they are propping up a corrupt regime and certainly the North Koreans near the leader are fighting to stay alive and not just themselves but all their family.
        On that basis the evil ranking would be China -> Russia -> North Korea. However the pre-Christian concept of evil is to judge by result [this is fascinating in the Highlands of PNG so long as you are not personally involved – for example sorcery is still rife with witches being killed]. This concept is alive even in New Zealand where murder is judged more harshly than attempted murder. All three of those countries could trigger a nuclear war but I would judge China the greatest threat to NZ, to other countries and to the people of China. Even that statement would need a long explanation – is doing harm to your own people less evil than doing it to others? – is putting one person in a thousand in reducation punishment camps when it means a million people worse than say North Korea putting fewer in camps but higher per capita? Does China just seem more evil because it is involving itself in New Zealand with immigrants, businesses, land purchases, trade, employment of retired politicians, NZ political donations?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Authoritarian regimes like we see in PRC will eventually fall. It nearly happened in 1989, they nipped it in the bud and now hope the opium of consumer products will placate the lack of personal freedoms. I suspect you cannot maintain a prosperous but compliant and obedient population forever. Sooner or later, two cars and the latest smart phone won’t be adequate compensation for living in a regimented, controlled society with only one ruling political party, and draconian laws against those that think differently. That’s a pressure cooker society that will eventually explode.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barry: I thought like you until the over the top repression of Muslims, the president for life and especially reading about the social credit system they are evolving. Only today I read that in China they are collecting internet browsing data similar to the way YouTube and FaceBook do to predict what you may be interested in but in China it will alter your social credit rating.
        I wonder if Mark will lose credits for viewing this website – he might lose his chance to study, travel, join dating agencies, get work, etc. He might even be sent to a re-education camp. The problem with social credit system is will eventually be controlled by AI software not people so there will be nobody to hear justifications.

        China has had an authoritarian govt for most of 2,000 years; it doesn’t seem to be changing.


  4. Thanks Michael for another valuable column. I do hope Ardern’s new found sainthood inspires her to raise the plight of the Uighurs and the Canadians held hostage by Beijing. But somehow I doubt it. No photo opportunities there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Markup really should apply for a position of list MP for either Labour or National. I am sure they would welcome your name to China views with open arms, as long as you have an open check book.


  6. Markup really should apply for a position of list MP for either Labour or National. I am sure they would welcome your name to China views with open arms, as long as you have an open check book.


  7. Very narrow focus for the inquiry into foreign interference in the 2017 elections, I would add this one as well,

    * The risk that embassies of foreign nations may lobby or direct their countries nationals living as residents or naturalized citizens in New Zealand, to vote for a particular political party or support a particular candidate.

    Lobbying by any embassy staff with regards New Zealand elections is unacceptable and should be investigated, by someone. There are allegations the Chinese Embassy does direct NZ Chinese to vote for candidates that support Beijing. That needs to be probed, because if it has occurred, it’s an outrageous interference in NZ internal political system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Doesn’t sound ‘outrageous’ – just pragmatic. All we have to do is publically report it. As a Kiwi born in Britain with potentially two passports I can potentially vote in either country.

      I think only citizens with should be allowed to vote not residents. Citizenship implies you have either deliberately decided to belong to New Zealand or the decision was made by your ancestors.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. As someone has suggested earlier, your China related posts will be more appropriate for your religious blog. They are total nonsense from an economic point of view.


    • You may, of course, take that view. Actually, I think they are entirely orthodox from an economic perspective: countries make their own prosperity, and when you mostly sell commodities priced in a global market it is changes in global demand (and supply) that matter even for terms of trade and related short-term prosperity issues, And, as I’ve noted repeatedly, some companies/universities (and political parties) have made themselves v dependent (financially) on the PRC. Incentives matter, and help explain the stance of those entities.

      More generally, while I like to think that my stance on NZ and the PRC is consistent with my faith, so (I hope) is most else of what I write, it is primarily a policy issue not theological or ecclesiological ones.


      • I agree with Michael that China’s contribution to NZ trade is rather balanced with NZ importing as much as it exports to China. Even Chinas top banks,although present in name, behave like scared little mice dominated by our giant Australian banks.

        Maori Iwi assets totalling around $60 billion is certainly highly exposed to agriculture primary industries which saliva at the thought of China’s 1.5 billion market and our government does have a racist Treaty of Waitangi Maori bias. But this is more a greed dependency rather than a need dependency.


    • Steve: did some ancestor of yours use the same argument about the abolition of slavery being nonsense from an economic point of view? Or changing the law that sent children under the age of 10 down the mines to haul wagons of coal when the seam was too small for ponies? Morality, what is right and wrong, interacts with all aspects of life; economics, science, sport as well as religion.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Read the header. This blog is not, nor ever has been, restricted to economics. You can’t pretend that economics can be entirely separately from a moral dimension in any case. Is that what you’re suggesting Steve?


  9. Morality, what is right and wrong, interacts with all aspects of life; economics, science, sport as well as religion.

    100% correct. That is why we should support any force in the world that is a natural competitor or adversary or opponent of US imperialism.


    • The US is not a empire; certainly not like UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland had empires. OK it had a very small empire in the Phillipines and Puerto Rico and a few Pacific Island but compare the size of the land and the population negligible. The US did take over land to its west displacing the original people. As has China.

      In many ways the US has been a force for good as well as bad. Certainly defeating Japan and Germany was good and it was US money that enabled the Russians and the British Empire to do most of the fighting. The US produced the green revolution with new species of rice – didn’t this save more lives than any other activity? Maybe you are too young to remember the many famines throughtout the world with their tragic photos of swollen bellied little matchstick children; skulls with skin on.

      US for and against is a line of reasoning that would take forever to discuss unlike say Hitler or Pol Pot or Ceaușescu. Where you are right we need some natural competitors for whoever is No1 and that has been USA for the last century. So I welcomed Japan economic success 40 years ago and then the EU and hope India will join them as able to take on the economic might of the USA. China when it was opening itself up to the world did look promising; it looked like a natural competitor; now it looks more like an adversary – for empire building it is China moving its population into other countries – for example there are 2 million Chinese in Africa and I doubt there are a similar number of Americans. We do have American born MPs but they don’t seem to spend their time taking instruction from the US embassey and they appear to be able to criticize the USA. It makes a difference to me.


      The “Clean Camp”: 1933-1943 (back to top)
      The story should begin, however, at the beginning. Long before Dachau became a site memorializing Nazi atrocities, it was a showcase for the implementation of Nazi ideology. It was the first concentration camp to be set up in 1933, and it was the first to be under the direct supervision of Heinrich Himmler, who soon controlled the entire concentration camp network in the German Reich. One of Dachau’s first commandants, Theodor Eicke, developed a penal code there that Himmler extended to the entire Nazi concentration camp system when he named Eicke “Inspector of Concentration Camps” for all of Nazi Germany in December 1934. Already by early 1934 Dachau had become a model for all other Nazi concentration camps. As the paradigm concentration camp it also served as a “school of violence” where many leading concentration camp officials received their training. Eighteen of the top concentration camp commandants and officials started out in Dachau, among them Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat who masterminded the industrially organized extermination of the Jews, and Rudolf Höss, the infamous commandant of Auschwitz (Distel & Jakusch, 1978, 78; Richardi, 1983, 125).
      Additionally, Dachau was the camp where the best-known prisoners, including heads of state and leading officials from occupied countries, as well as high-ranking religious leaders, were incarcerated. In keeping with the Dachau camp’s importance and prominence, from the start Himmler’s SS frequently took German and foreign officials on tours of the concentration camp. SS General von Eberstein accompanied numerous high-ranking delegations, including a delegation of “high American police officials.” Von Eberstein described his impression, and presumably that of his guests, in testimony before the Nuremberg court in 1946 (International Military Tribunal, 1946, vol. 20, pp. 342ff):
      I can only repeat that everything was scrupulously clean, the sanitary installations that I saw were in excellent order, that in peacetime the prisoners were well nourished and, as I saw during the war, on the average their food was like the food of every German outside. I can only say here on oath what I myself saw with my own eyes.
      Such testimony points to an often forgotten fact about the Nazi concentration camps: In the Nazi mindset they were perceived as correctional, even educational institutions. The definition of “concentration camp” in a 1939 German encyclopedia began as follows (Berning, 1964, 112, after Meyers Lexikon, 1939):
      Better [called] containment and correctional camps. Since 1933 they have the purpose a) to hold … hardened criminals, b) to temporarily neutralize Communists and other enemies of the state … and educate them to be useful national comrades.
      This idealized conception explains the inscription “Work makes free,” wrought into many concentration camp gates, as well as another inscription painted in broad white letters in prominent places in many camps (ill. *): “There is only one path to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, Diligence, Honesty, Orderliness, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Self-Sacrifice, and Love of the Fatherland.”
      In light of the actual conditions in the camps, however, these trappings of what I call the “clean camp” were a pinnacle of cynicism. The “clean” impression was created by elaborate preparations prior to such visits. They were described at the Nuremberg trials by the Dachau camp’s former head prisoner doctor (Blaha, 1946). When a delegation was expected, the prisoners had to make sure that their barracks and other showcase buildings such as the kitchens and infirmary were spotless. Prisoners considered “dangerous” were kept out of sight. A typical visit began at the service building with the admitting rooms, kitchen and laundry, then went to the prisoner infirmary, then to a dormitory barrack, usually that of the German inmates, who received the best treatment in the camp. Sometimes the priests’ barrack chapel, which included an altar and liturgical furnishings, was part of the tour. Visitors met only with carefully selected inmates.
      These manipulations were apparently quite successful. In spite of evidence to the contrary, not only the visitors themselves, but also the broader populace professed to accept the “clean camp” image. Whether or not they accepted it with inner conviction is not important, for it offered a convenient, exoneratory excuse after the war, embodied in the evasive exculpation “We didn’t know!” As I will argue, West German officials, when successfully pressured by concentration camp survivors to convert the former camps into memorial sites, attempted to realize, retroactively and perhaps unconsciously, the “clean camp” image. In some cases, such as Dachau, the officials could not avoid incorporating some coincidentally preserved elements of the murder machinery, but the overall impression conveyed by (West) German memorial sites is scrupulously “clean.”


      • What’s this got to do with anything?

        Genocide was a inevitable consequence of Nazi ideology, and of Anglo Saxon race science and imperialism.
        There is nothing in the ideology of the Chinese communists that supports or approves of genocide or mass murder.

        Whereas in China, ethnic minorities were never restricted by the one child policy (their numbers have increased under communist rule), have extensive affirmative action benefits, and retain their languages and culture to a far greater degree than indigenous people colonized by Anglo Saxons. That is a fact that is apparent to anyone who has visited Tibet or Kashgar. Even this otherwise hostile report on Xinjiang acknowledges this population increase of the Uighurs.

        The Chinese government had pro-natalist policies when it came to ethnic minorities – not something Hitler had in mind for Jews and slavs eh?

        The first 30 years of the PRC was according to the narrative of people like Michael, run by the worst mass murderer in history, Mao Zedong, and the country was shut off almost entirely from the whole world.
        If the CCP were really genocidally minded don’t you think they would have easily rid themselves of tiny minorities like the Tibetans and Uighurs who live in vast territories that are of enormous strategic importance to China? Surely the CCP could have easily carried out a genocide if they had wanted to and no one would have hardly known about it? After all the white Argentines made short work of the pampas Indians in a few years, enormous numbers of native americans were massacred and moved aside for white settlement, similarly Australia and New Zealand (the Maori population plunged 1940 to 1900). And of course the Nazis murdered 11 or so million racial ‘undesirables’ in a mere 6 years.

        But the opposite actually occurred. The number of ethnic minorities shot up, life expectancy and literacy improved, and policies of bilingulism introduced well before a phone operator in New Zealand even dared to say ‘kia ora’ over the phone.


    • Heard while driving this week on RadioNZ this week one of the panel said he had visited Xinjiang several times and his impression was the Han hate the Uyghurs and the cities were split into Han and Uyghur areas. I’m not sure who he was or how authorative his opinion is but checking the NZ National website it may have been Joe Bennett.


      • Bob, I wonder if this rumour comment constitutes a Hate Crime under Andrew Littles new legislation for Hate Crimes. Afterall it is from an unsubstantiated source and is intent to incite hate between Han and Uygurs.


    • If you read the article recommended by Mark you find:
      “” These reports badly fail to produce clear evidence and substantial proof of human rights violations in these rehabilitation facilities. What they illustrate and portray are based on the verbal statements of self-exiled Uyghur people or those who spent some time in these centres.””
      “”The US-led UAA is funding anti-China groups by providing good space to their engineered stories in print and electronic media around the world. Human rights watch, Amnesty International and the UN share the same sources.
      It appears highly illogical and quite funny that none of these organisations have gone to see VETCs themselves to get to the bottom of the matter.””

      I prefer to believe the statements of people who have spent time in the centres over the word of guided diplomats. Do Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and the UN realise they are all puppets of the USA? It seems to me more probable that Mark is a puppet of the Communist Party of China. However his contributions are often quite stimulating.


      • I have not read major newspapers reporting too much of actual atrocities in Xinjiang other than 2nd hand accounts. I have read more of the Isreali soldiers turkey shoot in May last year with the death of 59 Palestinians which includes the death of a child in peaceful protest over the new US embassy in Jerusalem.


  10. Hi Michael

    I’m generally with you on your analysis of NZ-China relations issues, but I’m not sure this analysis is all right on. It’s on with the diagnosis of the actual problems in NZ political culture, and noting that these don’t match the terms of reference to the Select Committee.

    I think you’re also on with not criticising folks for submitting to that hearing. Though I wonder, as concerns your position, if you had thought of submitting, even if formally out of scope, and more or less just saying what you said above? It would at least get in the media. And bring folks to you. Maybe.

    But anyway, I’m not sure there was really new occasion to dunk on the PM, just because Xi decided to ask her over. One thing she can’t do is control Xi’s proximate actions in exploiting political situations.

    To explain, even if the PM is partly responsible for the situation we find our polity in, she has been dealt a good hand domestically by the atrocities here in Chch – a situation tailor-made for her key strength of displaying empathy – but a very bad hand in relation to China relations (and can I just clarify that in my view the PM’s empathy in the past week is genuine, non-political, to be celebrated, and something we should look to add to the pantheon of “New Zealand values” – just not as a primary axiom in all situations).

    Then taking your points that “no one knows quite what is going on”, and the fact that the visit hasn’t happened yet in turn, let’s analyse what is going on.

    We had no visit, and a host leader doing something like a precursor to genocide against a minority. He denies it. Even though everyone else knows it. And we say nothing. Then we had a despicable event in the visitor leader’s country, one somewhere in the ballpark of a precursor to genocide, at least if the guy had his way. Then we have a visitor leader embrace that community. Then we have a nation, by and large, follow her. And then, as if out of magic, we have a visit.

    Xi has taken this opportunity because he knows that the PM can’t refuse to come, and he knows he is unlikely to lose whatever she says about Xinjiang. It would be difficult to argue that the PM could credibly refuse. So let’s leave that alone.

    But the unfortunate thing is that in going, the PM is likely to find it very hard to be anything other than hopelessly instrumentalised, to be used as other than a prop.

    Because as to being unlikely to lose either way, Xi gets photos all around the world with the woman recently photographed in hijab, projected on the Burj Khalifa, etc. The woman showing normal humanity to Muslims. This can easily be used to run the line that “if she is my friend, then look, you can’t be serious that Xinjiang is about anything other than terrorism”. Everyone knows that friends of one’s friends are kind of like one’s own friends, or at least not enemies, if you wanna keep your (first order) friends. Who knows, maybe Xi will even raise the evils of terrorism himself, and have the PM squirm.

    But even if she does make mention of Xinjiang, and all the above falls away, then Xi will get a pretext to turn the screws on NZ, if only in the form of hold ups on wharves. In doing so he will weaken the position of the likes of yourself, ie those who would (rightly, in my view) put the values at stake over trade.

    And whichever way the PM goes, Xi will know that there is almost inevitably going to be the lift of some political forment in the US if ‘some gun-controlling/freedom-hating lady from NZ’ turns up and makes more waves than that nation’s head of state.

    These are the kinds of reasons not to deal with the CCP regime. But I’m not sure the invite was really a new occasion to slam the PM. Because if you don’t buy the above, it hasn’t happened yet. And who knows, she might yet navigate Sycilla and Charybdis. Let’s wait and see.

    Interested in any thoughts obviously.

    Thanks and regards


    • I agree President Xi dies recognise that Jacinda Arderns dramatics has put herself and NZ at the very top of the most influential and country to be associated with rather suddenly. That is the reason for the sudden reversal of the President Xi meet which was initially not happening.

      But perhaps also that China suddenly realise NZ really does not need China and therefore their money politics has been rather limited. The $30 billion 2 way trade is only slightly in favour of NZ. I suspect their foreign affairs and intelligence agencies have read the tea leaves and have made some serious mistakes. President Xi sent condolences messages directly to our governor general rather than Jacinda Ardern relegating our NZ government as 2nd fiddle to be ignored.

      I think the whole Treaty of Waitangi is rather confused which has recently come to the fore. It is confusing because it identifies Maori and the British Crown as the lead players. Every NZ government department for Treaty purposes acts as representatives of the British Crown. For every other purpose relating to every other citizen it is the NZ government and not the British Crown. Try interpreting that in a foreign affairs and intelligence brief?


    • Thanks for those interesting and thoughtprovoking comments. To be clear, I rate the current PM no better or worse on CCP issues than her Nat predecessors (perhaps marginally less bad than Bridges), with the possible exception of the incongruity between her public rhetoric about kindness, wellbeing etc and the chosen blindspot around the CCP.

      Re Monday’s visit, yes I agree she prob was caught re the timing, and will prob be subtly used by the CCP. But in an important sense it is a problem of her own making (as it would have been of any other PM). She really wanted a visit, and had allowed a sense to grow in NZ that such a visit mattered. That gave the CCP/PRC leverage, which they’ve now used.

      To be honest, I don’t really expect her (ie think she should) to be openly critical of the regime when she visits Beijing. Frankly that would simply be rather rude. One doesn’t accept an invitation to someone’s place for dinner and take to social media to berate your hosts for their believes, practices etc. The bigger issue is whether she should be dealing with these people – not really much different from say a 1938 Hitler/Goering – at all, disregarding all their domestic abuses and external threats to try to curry favour for trade (and to keep the domestic donations going). My view is that she shouldn’t be, and that in many ways she is doing exactly what the appeasers were doing in 1938/39 (which also had an econ dimension), but with less excuse – there wasn’t the horrific memory of a totally destructive war only 20 years previously and the risk of another such war looming.

      Our govts could, and should, in my view choose to have little or nothing to do with PRC leaders. If NZ firms choose to operate there, they should be legally free to do so, but should risk the sort of moral pressure and shunning that developed over time around those who continued to provide aid and comfort to South Africa in the later apartheid years. Take that stance, and our leaders would be free to stand for human rights in China, for the interests of people in a fellow democracy like Taiwan and so on. Would it make any difference? Probably not really – and I’m not even suggesting it should dominate our foreign policy interests/agenda – but it would be closer to the right thing to do, and the decent thing to do.

      As for a submission. I haven’t decided yet, but will reflect on your point.

      (As for the PM’s “empathy” etc, everyone who knows her says it is genuine, so I have no reason to doubt it. I think she would be ideal as Gov Gen (as I’ve said before).)


      • Well expressed; I like your comparison to a dinner party. NZ trades with other countries without having to kowtow to them – several non-democratic Islamic states spring to mind. We do have more trade with China but that should make no difference.


      • It is said NZ is ‘kowtowing’ to China.

        How exactly? By not interfering in the internal affairs of China?

        So I am ‘kowtowing’ to my neighbour if I have no concern over the way he speaks to his wife?


    • “Xi gets photos all around the world with the woman recently photographed in hijab, projected on the Burj Khalifa, etc. The woman showing normal humanity to Muslims.”

      Oh for heavens sake, you are a mind reader aren’t you Michael. Like many of our countrymen you have an enormously inflated idea of the importance of New Zealand round the world. What colour paper President Xi will use next week is more important to him than the opinion of a naive school girl like Ardern.

      Most Muslims around the world don’t give a hoot about Xinjiang, including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation representing 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

      Saudi Crown Prince Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself has said during a meeting with Xi Jinping “China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de-extremization work for its national security.”

      Now of course Michael would say the Saudi Crown Prince himself is a brutal dictator, but even accepting the fact that he is, the Prince would dare not say anything that would cause offence and outrage to the billions of Muslims in the world. That he can openly support China in the way he has means there is scant concern in the Muslim world for the situation in Xinjiang, and indeed many Muslim countries will see China’s measures as ones they themselves have and would adopt in combating extremism. Obviously the Prince would never ever risk saying something similar in support of Israel.

      China had 100 years of wars, famines, disunity, and strife caused by Western and Japanese imperialism. The Chinese have learned their lesson and their measures are intended to avoid the sort of human rights catastrophe we have seen in Syria where Western countries have tried to bring down a strong secular state through the support of Islamic extremists.

      It is by and large only Western countries which feign concern over the situation in XInjiang. And that is not over a genuine concern for human rights – its simply a way to undermine the rise of a non-white power, the first major one in 200 years


      • Sorry, I meant to say:

        What colour<i<toilet paper President Xi will use next week is more important to him than the opinion of a naive school girl like Ardern.


      • I think President Xi sees her in quite a different light now. Clearly her dramatics after the Christchurch massacre have put her at the top of the list of the most influential people in the world you need to be photographed with and to get onside. She certainly has a alot more leverage than she did have previously.

        The meeting was rushed which means he cleared his calender of less important people to meet with her as soon as last Sunday.


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