Interesting Times: Henry Kissinger warned that the United States had no friends – only interests. Attempting to curry America’s friendship at the expense of New Zealand’s vital interest in preserving productive diplomatic and economic relationships with China is exceptionally poor foreign policy.
WHAT HAS CHINA DONE to warrant such a public and insulting shift in the tone of New Zealand diplomacy? Well, according to our foreign and defence ministries, she has outstripped New Zealand and Australia in the delivery of aid and investment to the nations of the South Pacific. A heinous crime, obviously. But that is not all China has done. In the South China Sea she has reclaimed land, constructed an airfield and built other facilities on islands she has long claimed as her own. Outrageous!
It is on account of these “crimes” that New Zealand’s hitherto excellent diplomatic relationship with the Peoples Republic of China has been put at risk. Diplomacy is not, however, the only relationship facing disruption. The Labour-NZF coalition government is also testing the tolerance of New Zealand’s largest trading partner. (That’s China by the way.)
Putting at risk their country’s diplomatic and economic relationship with the rising global power. What (or who) could have persuaded our Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, to behave in so reckless a fashion? Were Federated Farmers, whose members’ primary products are exported mostly to China, consulted prior to the release of New Zealand’s new defence strategy? Were the importers of the goods that make it possible for New Zealand’s notoriously low-paid workers to make ends meet? Were the unions who represent those workers? Doubtful.
What may be speculated upon with considerably more confidence is that the dramatic disruption of New Zealand-Chinese relations has be executed at the behest of the Australians. And, since Canberra does nothing without first seeking the approval of its masters in Washington, this disruption is American-inspired.
Ah, yes, the Americans. The people who have, in the 73 years since the end of World War II, twice dispatched combat troops to the mainland of East Asia (Korea and Vietnam). The people whose military bases extend in a great arc from the Bering Sea to the tiny Pacific island of Guam. Inherited from the Empire of Japan, these bases are situated not hundreds, but thousands, of miles from the continental United States.
Are these island bases stacked high with the most deadly military hardware available to humankind? Of course they are! Much higher than China’s. That being the case, does the Government’s defence white paper raise objections to the USA’s imperialistic power-projection into New Zealand’s Pacific backyard? Does it complain that the East and South China Seas are provocatively patrolled by American aircraft carriers and their accompanying support vessels? No, of course it doesn’t!
And we all know the reason why – don’t we? Because, between 1945 and 1985, New Zealand had been perfectly content to attach itself to the meanest sonofabitch in the imperial valley – the United States. Unsurprising, really, since before World War II we had been the willing colonial accomplices of that other mean imperial sonofabitch, Great Britain. In both instances, our entire defence force was configured to fit seamlessly into our imperial masters’ war machines. New Zealand diplomacy, throughout the period of the Cold War, amounted essentially to asking the Americans exactly how high they would like us to jump.
Then along came David Lange, who took issue with the uranium on America’s breath; and Helen Clark, who looked at China’s expanding middle class and persuaded its government to open China’s borders to the finest agricultural produce on the planet.
And it’s just as well she did. Otherwise, when the global financial crisis struck in 2008, New Zealand’s economy would have suffered much more acutely than it did. Indeed, had the Chinese government not embarked on the most colossal stimulatory spending programme in human history, the entire global economy would probably have collapsed.
That China is being repaid by being vilified and attacked by a faltering American empire and its risible “deputy-sheriff”, Australia, is bad enough. That the New Zealand government is lending its support to this dangerous reassertion of old and bad ideas is unforgiveable. How many tons of milk powder are the Americans offering to take off our hands? How many affordable products can we expect from Uncle Sam’s American-based factories?
Henry Kissinger warned that the United States had no friends – only interests. Attempting to curry America’s friendship at the expense of New Zealand’s vital interest in preserving productive diplomatic and economic relationships with China is exceptionally poor foreign policy.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 20 July 2018.