No Minister

How New Zealand should deal with China

This post follows on from a comment made by my co-blogger, The Veteran, in his post on China:

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.

Fair enough, although my hands-off approach to commenting on New Zealand is one reason I’ve not done this before, and I doubt that the ACT Party will be much better than National or Labour on the China issues.

Also to be fair, it’s the Green Party that has been more prominent in speaking out on various China issues over the years, but by the same token I don’t expect anything concrete from them when they join Labour in government post 2023, given how they’ve caved to Labour on various matters in recent years.

So, to some ideas for how New Zealand can deal with China.

  1. Focus on slowly reducing our exposure to them in exports and imports. Sure, this is easier said than done but I think the focus must be on increasing our export/import trade with other nations, starting with getting that Free Trade agreement with a Britain newly liberated from the EU. Deliberately trying to shrink our trade with China is not likely to work so the emphasis has to go on building trade with other nations so that our proportion with China shrinks.
  2. Increase the frequency and volume of our diplomatic work with the nations facing China. The diplomatic side is symbolism but that’s damned important: make the Chinese observe that we’re getting on well with nations that they are attacking, like Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, and especially India. By the same token start restricting our meetings with the Chinese and make them as cold and technical as hell. No more warm fuzzies in public. There’s no need for bad-tempered, Trump-style attacks, just a cold shoulder combined with warmth towards nations they’re unhappy with.
  3. Increased defence associations with those same countries. If there’s a military exercise involving them, join it in every possible way: Army, Navy, Air Force. Again, this is not being militaristic (whoever would believe that about NZ nowadays), it’s a matter of making it crystal clear to the CCP that we’re not on their side.
  4. We often boast about our ability to work behind the scenes on big, global issues so let’s do that by trying to persuade the likes of the EU, Britain, the USA and other rich countries to start helping out those nations in Africa and elsewhere that have found themselves getting in coercive hock to the Chinese. We’ve long claimed that we can be seen as an “honest broker” with the smaller, less-developed nations of the world so we work on that side of the same solution to bring them to the table (a quiet backroom table away from the cameras) with the rich folk. It’s not as if those nations are still unaware of the infrastructure stunts China has pulled on them so they should be attentive as we try to build some speed bumps into the Belt and Road initiative.
  5. Criticise those US corporations and entities – especially the likes of Hollywood and the NBA – that are crawling on their bellies to the CCP for access to all those hundreds of millions of potential customers. New Zealanders love America-bashing so there’s little downside and in case you have not noticed, young people are not particularly impressed with Hollywood nowadays anyway.
  6. Put the squeeze on the New Zealand influencing operations of outfits like the Confucius Institutes. They’re nothing more than a CCP propaganda front in the education field.
  7. Clean up our laws on electoral donations to eliminate, or at least reduce, the possibility that CCP money is being laundered into the NZ political scene via Chinese businesses and their connections to NZ businesses. I’m sure this will give China apologist Michael Barnett (Executive Director of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce) a bad dose of the squirts but that’s just a plus in my view.

    The “Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry” may have sounded like a snickering insiders joke at first (wink, wink) but it’s not funny any longer.

Speaking of funny, if we did desire to be slightly more assholish to the CCP we could always trigger them by having this map displayed in a few key spots – Motorway billboards perhaps.

And with a great sense of timing here’s a Substack article that partially covers this, Why Republicans Must Rethink Antitrust:

In the early 1990s, we were reliably informed by neoliberal economists, including the Chicago School, that if China were allowed to engage in free trade and join multilateral organizations that the country would gradually democratize and embrace America as the world’s only superpower.

“We know now that this theory missed the mark by a wide margin. Instead of democratizing, China became a surveillance state (thanks in large part to the U.S. internet). Contrary to the Chicago School theory, China never engaged in free or fair trade. Three million jobs shipped from the U.S. to China over the past twenty years — and our children get defective toys and contaminated baby formula.

I once believed those things too. I no longer do. If the National Party wishes to continue living in 1980-2000 period then they face a Mitt Romney future.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 14, 2021 at 10:04 am

4 Responses

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  1. Focus on slowly reducing our exposure to them in exports and imports. Sure, this is easier said than done but I think the focus must be on increasing our export/import trade with other nations, starting with getting that Free Trade agreement with a Britain newly liberated from the EU.

    What sort of fantasy land do you inhabit?

    Where to start

    Let’s begin with distance

    The busiest container port in the world is Shanghai, that is a little over 9000 km from Auckland

    To ship to Folkestone in the UK you need to cross the Pacific to Panama roughly 11,000 km , a transit of the canal then it is another 9000 km to Folkestone…

    And now consider market size

    Population size China: 1.4 billion

    Population UK: 66.7 million

    So there are about 20 times the number of potential customers for our products in China than there are in the UK

    And lastly consider what products we wish to obtain and what we have to trade for them

    As we know our biggest export earner is Dairy products but the UK already has its own fairly substantial dairy industry as do surrounding nations such as the Netherlands – ever hear the expression “sending coals to Newcastle”?

    One of the iconic New Zealand brands in the UK was/is Anchor butter. Anchor butter is now produced in Wiltshire which makes 100% economic sense of course.

    And then what do we want to get in return for our produce? Does the UK manufacture cell phones? TVs? Motor Vehicles worth buying? Clothing at a competitive price?

    Direct trade with the UK at this point in history will only involve niche and boutique items in relatively small volumes and that is just a reality


    June 14, 2021 at 6:51 am

    • In a senior moment in the above comment I wrote Folkestone when I actually meant Felixstowe, not that that matters in terms of the distance argument Felixstowe being an hour north of Folkestone.

      The Port itself, which is the UKs largest container terminal, is owned by a Hong Kong based multi-National that has controlling interests in many large port facilities worldwide and that indeed is worthy of note on this post

      The same conglomerate through a different subsidiary also controls Australia’s gas pipelines and distribution systems.

      You are worried about the rise of China, railing against its rising influence but Felixstowe passed into Hong Kong Chinese ownership on John Major’s watch, 5 years before Hong Kong was transferred back to China .during the mania for predatory free market capitalism

      This is a classic example of the West selling its strategic assets (family silver) to the Far East for short term financial gain by “the wide boys” of “the city”.

      In 1900 the UK had the largest merchant fleet in the world, the best shipyards working flat out to build them. , the best internal transportation networks seen anywhere at the time, to carry the raw materials bought in by those vessels from the docks to the factories where they were turned into finished goods, that were transported back to the ports and exported world wide.

      The English worker was the highest paid in the world back in the day

      But they threw it all away…

      … And now Europe and the West are in terminal decline as the East picks up what we have abandoned


      June 14, 2021 at 12:06 pm

  2. No, no, no!

    Somehow Tom missed the Memo about New Zealand having an independent foreign policy. The Memo was issued around 1985, and has been reissued many times since.

    While I accept that New Zealand has to do enough to maintain credible relations with its security partners, New Zealand should not simply going to ape what our partners do, which seems to be Tom’s position.

    New Zealand will take a more nuanced approach. Basically New Zealand seeks to maintain good relations across the board. And this should remain our policy.

    China is not going anywhere. It is a huge economic power with deep links right across the world. It is not Nazi Germany.

    There won’t be World War 3, though obviously many in the US do want a new Cold War (including key policy makers in the current Administration – think Kurt Campbell). As apparently does Tom.

    Fortunately Tom’s advice will be ignored, not just by the key New Zealand policy makers, but by the wider public. As on most things, Tom is with the 5%, not the 95%.


    June 14, 2021 at 7:47 am

  3. Tom … I would not put great store on any FTA with the UK. At best it will be round the edges stuff … forget beef, lamb and dairy. Nice to have but the reality is that protectionism is alive and well in the UK.

    But thank you for responding to my challenge … appreciated.

    The Veteran

    June 14, 2021 at 2:34 pm

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