No Minister


with 15 comments

I spent a fair portion or my early working life in Singapore and have a passing acquaintance with Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister since 2004. Lee is no slug. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a masters in computer science from Trinity College Cambridge and a second masters in public administration from Harvard. He served 13 years in the Singapore Armed Forces where he rose to the rank of Brigadier-General before he entered politics in 1984. He’s a pragmatic politician who tells it how it is.

I was fascinated on his take on China when he was quizzed at the press conference held following a meeting between him and Scott Morrison who stopped off in Singapore on his way to the G7.

He made the point that China is not going away and cannot be ignored. That its close to being the dominant power in the Asia Pacific region. That China’s foreign policy will always be based on their national interest as opposed to scoring brownie points on the world stage (unlike certain other politicians).

In short China will do what it wants to do. You can push against that but you stand the risk of being walked right over. China today is the Pax Britannica of the 19th Century and the Pax Americana of the 20th. Interesting times ahead and I’m not sure we (the royal we) have quite figured it all out.

Napoleon had it right when he said ‘Let China sleep, when she wakes she will shake the world’. China’s awake and out of bed and striding purposefully towards its future as she sees it.

Written by The Veteran

June 12, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Posted in China

15 Responses

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  1. “……That China’s foreign policy will always be based on their national interest as opposed to scoring brownie points on the world stage…..”

    Init funny how he could have been describing the much maligned President Trump?


    June 12, 2021 at 4:33 pm

  2. Those who criticize Trump (of whom there are many, some of them justifiably) should remember that he’s a symptom, not the disease. There’s a substantial section of the American population who feel left out and see no reason why they should work two jobs to support someone who doesn’t do one. That includes a lot of non Americans, hence the pressure on NATO to pay 2% plus. And remember that the border wall was actually popular. I think Mr Biden might regret some of the things his party is forcing him to do. All will be revealed come the mid-terms.

    Max Ritchie

    June 12, 2021 at 5:45 pm

  3. And back to the subsidiary topic. 2Lt to Brigadier in 13 years. Not bad. I wonder who his father was?

    Max Ritchie

    June 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    • Errrrrrrrr … didn’t ‘our’ Leonard Thornton go from Lieutenant in 1938 to Brigadier in 1945 … 7 years.

      The Veteran

      June 12, 2021 at 9:18 pm

  4. You can push against that but you stand the risk of being walked right over. China today is the Pax Britannica of the 19th Century and the Pax Americana of the 20th.

    China will certainly throw its weight around but it will still get old before it gets rich.

    In any case this sounds like a setup for National to produce “pragmatic” reasons why nothing should be said or done to obstruct whatever China wants to do, up to and including absorbing Taiwan well before 2049. To that end I noted Karl du Fresne’s latest post, Mistress Tova’s latest discipline session.

    Tova could clearly teach the Chinese a lesson or two when it comes to dealing with the National Party.

    Tom Hunter

    June 12, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    • C’mon Tom … cheap shot. Its Labour that sez we need to understand them (read kowtow) to them. Do what Oz does and China retaliates. The reality is that NZL has a huge exposure to China, All I’m saying is that there is a path to be walked but that no-one (ACT/National/Labour/Greens) has quite figured out that pathway yet.

      As for Taiwan … The only way Taiwan will submit to China is by force of arms. They look no further than HongKong to see what ‘peaceful’ reunification means.

      The Veteran

      June 13, 2021 at 10:54 am

    • C’mon Tom … cheap shot.

      Really? If it makes you feel any better I have exactly the same low opinion of Labour on the matter of speaking up against some of the things that China is doing. As this Croaking Cassandra post, The PRC and all that, points out:

      Why will the Prime Minister not explain why her government scrapped the Autonomous Sanctions bill that had sat on Parliament’s order paper for several years, with no replacement? Why does her government continue to claim that she will be guided by the UN on “genocide” declarations re the Uighurs, when she knows that China is a veto-carrying permanent member of the UN Security Council. Why does she never speak openly about the South China Sea (an evolving and worsening situation, currently directly threatening the Philippines)? Why is she never willing to highlight threats to Taiwan? Why will she not front up about the Jian Yang/Raymond Huo deal? Why does her party keep recruiting ethnic Chinese candidates with strong United Front ties? Why will she do nothing serious about reforming electoral donations laws (even as multiple court cases and SFO investigations are underway)? Why was she so loathe to comment at the time of the break-ins to Anne-Marie Brady’s house and office (let alone when other NZ universities sought to have Brady silenced)? Why is she not willing to speak out about the Winter Olympics – does she really think the Olympics should be held in a country responsible for “severe human rights abuses”? Why is she not taking any lead to get PRC/CCP-funded and recruited/screened people out of our schools, instead funding Chinese language learning properly ourselves? And so on.

      But then I recall that your former Cabinet Minister, Wayne Mapp, has explicitly dismissed the Anne-Marie Brady stuff.

      Tom Hunter

      June 13, 2021 at 11:20 am

    • Then there’s this from you:

      The reality is that NZL has a huge exposure to China,

      I already addressed this by contrasting the views of political scientist Paul Buchanan (who agrees with that) and economist Michael RIddell (who does not – his blog is Croaking Cassandra), in my post here at No Minister, The spoon is long enough.

      Buchanan talks of exports to China being “30 percent of NZ’s trade”, but Riddell points out that:

      And, yes the PRC recently moved a bit ahead of Australia as the country where the most two-way trade is done with, but – as people have noted for decades – one notable thing about New Zealand is that our trade isn’t very concentrated with any single other country/region (much less so than is the case for Australia). Total New Zealand exports to China, pre-Covid, were about 5 per cent of GDP.

      As a result the impact of China getting nasty to us will be a hit on specific firms but that it won’t even amount to the hits we take during something like the GFC in 2008 or the Covid lockdowns last year. Riddell pointed out that even with Chinese retaliation occurring:

      What we don’t see is any sign of severe economywide consequences: there is no mention of the issue (or risks) in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s latest (lengthy) minutes (by contrast, changes in New Zealand population growth actually get a mention). It seems to a third-order issue at a macroeconomic level – and the overall economy is what governments should be thinking about when they consider economic risks and consequences.

      As I said in my post:

      By the same token, China is not actually in a position to “punish” us if we speak out against some of the things they’re doing.

      Tom Hunter

      June 13, 2021 at 11:25 am

  5. “……That China’s foreign policy will always be based on their national interest as opposed to scoring brownie points on the world stage…..”

    Isn’t that what any responsible Government is supposed to do – develop and enact policies that enhance the welfare of its citizens?

    In 1900 Great Britain where the industrial revolution was born was the leading world power with her citizens enjoying the highest standard of living on the planet. the USA was adapting the technologies of the industrial revolution to suit their geography and catching up as was Germany, while China remained a fragmented Nation with an agrarian peasant economy

    In the 20th century GB allowed itself to be drawn into 2 disastrous wars, from which it never recovered, the USA virtually unscathed from these wars took the best of the technologies from Europe, primarily GB and Germany and became a dominant world power

    But they shifted much of their industrial production to the far East and in 2021 the skills to build useful things is concentrated in the Far East where about 25% of the world’s population live.

    I was talking to a student last night, a single “young” man of 32 who was doing a masters in political science, to what end I don’t know. This is not atypical of the “educated” Western middle class.

    I was talking with a young Chinese student a while back – this guy was a decade younger than his Western counterpart doing a masters in Engineering – his interest is in process engineering, that is setting up factories to manufacture reliable products cheaply. His father is a factory manager in china where the make small coreless electric motors by the millions and cost only a few cents each to make and these have thousands of applications from toys to medical equipment

    We can’t do this anymore but we do like to be able to go down to Jaycar and buy a drone that uses four of these motors for not very much money to amuse ourselves while being essentially clueless as to how it was made or how it works

    And in the time our best and brightest have been chattering about building a light rail link between Auckland central and the airport without one sod of dirt actually being turned China has built a high speed rail network of thousands of kilometers that run the fastest trains s in the world carrying millions of people from place to place – quickly and reliably

    That says it all


    June 13, 2021 at 8:23 am

    • if your point is that the Chinese leadership doesn’t need to factor in any sort of homegrown political opposition to their decision nor does it need to engage in virtue signalling then I guess I agree with you.

      I don’t know if you have noticed it yet but thus far in human history no society has achieved perfection where everybody is happy and there is no opposition to the status quo.

      Probably the most repressive society on the planet is the Absolute Monarchy is Saudi Arabia and most nations including our own are happy to trade with them.

      The USA has the highest percentage of incarcerated individuals of anywhere and their prisons are pretty grim places but we close our eyes to that

      Another sorry statistic from the USA is that the murder rates in some democratic shithole cities are the highest in all of the Americas. Chicago or Baltimore are far more dangerous for their residents who are more likely to die a violent death than the residents of Bogota or San Salvador for example. – sad but true

      It is easy to find reasons to criticize China and given it is culturally very different from the West natural xenophobia serves to amplify the feeling of wrongness – its the biblical “mote in the eye” thing

      But New Zealand’s standard of living is almost entirely dependant on the export of primary produce and China is by far the biggest consumer of these exports – Tourism was a biggie but St Jacinda has all but ruined that. And a substantial portion of Tourist FX was Chinese in any case.

      China is New Zealand’s largest trade partner like it or not, and furthermore we sell more to China than we import from them

      Looking at it dispassionately with an unjaundiced eye its hard not to conclude the West in general and the USA in particular are on a downward trajectory with falling living standards for many and failing infrastructure while the East and China in particular are on an upward path with rising living standards and awesome new infrastructure like the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge

      And your railing against China comes across as sour grapes to me


      June 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm

  6. Andrei … if your point is that the Chinese leadership doesn’t need to factor in any sort of homegrown political opposition to their decision nor does it need to engage in virtue signalling then I guess I agree with you.

    The Veteran

    June 13, 2021 at 11:01 am

    • What is “virtue signalling”? Is it using a poppy as an avatar? 🙂

      Little Dorrit

      June 13, 2021 at 12:41 pm

  7. Tom … cheap shot in the context of ACT’s penchant for unloading cheap shots on National. Guess that’s part of your strategy for growing the vote … might just backfire one day. But there’s nothing but nothing in all your writings to suggest a pathway forward in our dealings with China …waiting.

    The Veteran

    June 13, 2021 at 11:35 am

    • I doubt if ACT is much better on this issue.

      Your suggestion merits a post rather than a comment

      Tom Hunter

      June 13, 2021 at 12:00 pm

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