Wednesday 12 December 2018

Dances With Elephants.

When elephants dance, the wise mice stick to the wall.  - Swahili Proverb.

IT BEGAN so positively: wreathed in smiles and full of promise; a government of kindness and transformation. It hasn’t lasted. In a depressingly short period of time, the poetry of campaigning was replaced by the harsh prose of governing.

It was clear, from the moment David Parker told us that the Labour-NZF-Green Government would be signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, that beneath all the glitter and shine lay the dull gleam of administrative brass. Smiles and Stardust are Jacinda’s brand. Reality is much scarier.

Over the past fortnight New Zealand has played host to gatherings of spies. The first batch arrived from the United Kingdom and the second from the United States. In the midst of these secretive arrivals and departures the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) issued its finding that the Chinese IT giant, Huawei, had failed to pass the “national security” test, and that, as a consequence, its involvement in the roll-out of Spark’s 5G communications network must cease.

Interestingly, the presence of so many foreign spooks was matched by the absence of a select band of journalists. Whisked away to Hawaii by the Orwellian-sounding “Indopacom” (the United States Indo-Pacific Command) they were brought up to speed on what one of the participants described as China’s “expansionist military strategy in the Pacific”.

One of the more accurate and justifiable criticisms of the current Chinese Government is its treatment of its Uighur population. President Xi and his administration have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent the Muslim Uighurs from embracing the radical Islamicist doctrines so familiar to us now in the West. Human rights groups report that as many as a million Uighurs may have passed through the regime’s “re-education camps”. These are not happy places.

It would seem, however, that the Uighurs are not the only population for whom “re-education” has been deemed necessary. New Zealanders, too, have been singled out for ideological rectification. Seemingly, this country has grown too fond of the Chinese regime and is in urgent need of being re-oriented towards a more reliable combination of “friendly” powers. No less a think tank than the “moderately conservative” Hoover Institution has opined that New Zealand is “particularly vulnerable” to Chinese influence.

Served up as a “test case” in a report bearing the interesting title “Chinese Influence & American Interest”, New Zealand is described as “a small state of 4.5 million people with strong trade ties to China.” These have, according to the report, led us to pursue “closer ties with China than many other nations.”

Too close, apparently, for our largest trading partner, Australia, which has, we were informed by an investment specialist interviewed for TVNZ’s “Q+A” programme, come to the view that New Zealand has allowed itself to stray too far from the accepted anti-Chinese/pro-American path laid down by Canberra.

Jacinda Ardern and her Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, have become something of a problem for the Australians. There is a slippery quality to both of them that irritates New Zealand’s oldest friend and ally. Just when they’re convinced that the Kiwis have stepped over the line – by refusing to condemn the Russians fast enough over the Salisbury chemical attack, for example – they somehow manage to skip back over it with dutiful promises of a “Pacific Re-Set”. Time for Wellington to stop playing silly buggers, says Canberra, and not in a nice way.

Hence the influx of hard men from the UK and America. Hence the sudden rise to prominence of Professor Anne-Marie Brady – New Zealand’s very own “international expert” on the diabolical cleverness of Beijing and its “magic weapons”. No coincidence, surely, that the Hoover Institution’s fortuitously timed warning about Chinese influence draws heavily on Professor Brady’s alarming academic research. Her even more alarming personal experiences, involving burglars and deflated car tyres, lends cinematic emphasis to their concern.

Our re-education, from a nation with delusions of independence, to one which knows its place in the geopolitical scheme of things, will proceed apace, although not as rapidly as with our leaders. The Huawei decision signalled to our Five Eyes partners that from now on it is their preferences, not China’s, which will dictate the shape of New Zealand foreign policy.

The Swahili have a proverb: “When elephants dance, the wise mice stick to the wall.” Or, in our case, scamper back onto the American elephant’s back.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 7 December 2018.


John Hurley said...

I can recall when I first read an analysis of Marine le Pen as an issue of globalism versus nationalism.
Such ideas have only recently made it into the popular lexicon. Likewise who thought about the role of the military in a globalised world? We now have a large number of ethnic Chinese.
Herman Daly writes
National disintegration caused by global integration is nowhere more striking than in its effects on that most nationalist of all institutions, the military. Military observers seem not to have paid much attention to how globalization blurs the issue of national defense as it erases the economic importance of national boundaries. As nations cease to be separate, loosely connected units, and become nodes in a tightly integrated global network, as their boundaries lose economic significance, then do we really need to defend those boundaries? We will presumably no longer need customs officials or border guards. But what about the military proper? What precisely are they going to defend in a globalized world? The globe is not under threat of invasion. Do we imagine that national boundaries will long retain any political or cultural significance once their economic significance is gone?

With free trade in weapons and militarily relevant technology, and with easy migration of key military and scientific personnel, could the military defend anything -- even if it knew what it was defending?

Labour seemed to think it represented an evolutionary step into a new enlightenment when all they have done is redistribute power around vested interests (Shipley, Harcourts, Baileys etc and their Chinese partners.)

Geoff Fischer said...

We have known from the first days of the Ardern government that the "Security Chiefs" were determined to shape its foreign policy, just as the Treasury chiefs had dictated the economic policy of the fourth Labour government, and very early on it was evident that they would succeed.
The ban imposed on trading with Chinese telecommunications firms by Andrew Hampton at the GCSB confirms that, and the New Zealand government makes no bones about acknowledging that "these decisions have been devolved to officials", specifically the heads of the state security services.
So the government of the Realm of New Zealand is now out of the hands of elected representatives. It is no longer anything resembling a true democracy. There has been a soft coup. The likes of Hampton, Kitteridge and the heads of the NZDF are now effectively in charge of the state.
The appropriate response for democratically inclined New Zealanders is disavow the monarchist state, set up their own democratic institutions and prepare to meet the "blood and fire" which the security services have promised is coming to what they call the "enemies of the state".
War is coming. The only thing we must do is be ready for it.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"New Zealand’s oldest friend"
Not the way kiwis are treated in Australia at the moment. And in fact not for some time. I suspect not since the atomic weapons controversy and the downgrading of Anzus. I think that awful sycophantic TV program about Australian/US "mateship" tied it into that anyway. Doesn't matter – not worth looking up.

peteswriteplace said...

I agree with Guerilla Surgeon. The Wombats haven't been that over-friendly this century, earlier claiming Pasifika people used NZ as a backdoor to Aussie, and Tongans certainly have. Their 2001 legislation really put the boot into Kiwis. Who cares what the yanks and Aussies have to say about relations with the Chinese. Tur policies won't be changing for a few years yet, considering the State of the Tories.

greywarbler said...

Geoff Fischer
Haha. Get rid of the monarchist state and get Trump's one instead. You bang on with this old shibboleth of a republic that seemed doable around the mid-20th century. It's yesterday's cold porridge, with mould on it now. There are so many changes, often for the sake of change, that we can hardly find our way home at the end of the day. We want to hold onto a few things that we know and understand. The Queen, we want to stay, admirable even precious, when compared to the tatty plastic replica from the USA.

We want Santa to stay, not be abandoned by some creative protean-minded twerp, with a feeling that ethnic matters are the new black. We do want to develop ethnically and particularly with our bi-cultural Maori partners, but we don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can have both Santas, bi-culturally.

The Queen and the monarchy doesn't stop us having a working democracy; we have both. It is the forces that are for a republic now who will be the death knell of a working democracy and are putting us through a punishing fight so it can be taken over by their oligarchy. So leave us Royalty, and a Prime Minister, all in capital letters as important designations. It is noticeable that the forces that want to rule have decided that our important institutions don't deserve a capital letter any more, referring in the news to the prime minister. I am sure they will continue to downgrade and change everything we hold dear as and when it suit themselves. And that is what you seem to be determined on, Geoff Fischer.

Geoff Fischer said...

Kia ora greywarbler

I assume that you are when you write of "The Queen..admirable even precious..." " our bi-cultural Maori partners" and your regard for "everything we hold dear" you are speaking for all those on the royalist side. Yet you omit to say exactly what it is that you admire in the monarchy.

What does the monarchy symbolizes for you?
The British cultural heritage?
The Anglican church which the monarch heads?
The social stability that comes from having a long established and entrenched aristocratic leadership?
The idea of a civil service and head of state which neither challenges nor leads the political class?
The New Zealand state's commitment to the Five Eyes alliance?

We need to deliberate upon such matters carefully.

I also admire aspects of British culture, even if it sometimes seems irrelevant to our own geographic position and social situation.
I have a deep respect and love for the Anglican church, even if I sometimes find myself at odds with it.
I am less enamored with the secular aristocracy, which I believe has become moribund and irrelevant.
I believe that the concept of a neutral civil service (and particularly a neutral judiciary) is good up to a point, but a neutral Head of State is problematic, even if strictly adhered to, which it is not. The Queen indiscriminately endorses all the acts of Government. She gave tacit support to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has remained silent on the war crimes committed by British and colonial forces. That I believe is morally reprehensible in a head of state.
And the Five Eyes alliance is in my view the epitome of evil. No more needs to be said on that one.

So we will have to agree to differ on the monarchy. While I live, no one will stop me "banging on" in support of a genuinely democratic, independent and neutral republic of Aotearoa.

Except that this particular wharenui belongs to Chris Trotter. If he wishes me to leave my political pepeha at the door, I will do so and stand my ground on the marae atea.