Tuesday 5 May 2020

Are We In A “New Security Environment”, Or Just The Same Old Anti-Chinese One?

Dragon Replaces Bear: If New Zealand’s economic survival wasn’t at stake, the current spate of anti-Chinese propaganda, so reminiscent of the paranoid Cold War rhetoric of the 1950s, would be laughable.

HOW SHOULD NEW ZEALAND make its way out of the Covid-19 crisis? More and more powerful and influential players are lining-up to answer that question. At stake is considerably more than the nation’s physical and economic health. Domestic policy choices cannot avoid having foreign policy consequences. Covid-19 has further deranged what little remained of the US-led post-Soviet world order. Faith in the American hegemon is faltering and the OECD Club’s fear of China is increasing by the day. Aware of the pivotal role the Chinese play in maintaining the global economy – not to mention their own – America’s European and Australasian allies find themselves torn between the equally urgent demands of their US patron and their own populations.

The situation in Australasia is particularly fraught. A major regional player, Australia stands resolutely alongside its American “mate”, dutifully repeating all of the United States’ foreign policy and defence lines. That China absorbs at least a third of all Australian exports is known by Canberra’s elites, but somehow this central economic fact of the country’s economic life is simply excluded from its diplomatic and military calculations. At some point – and perhaps quite soon – this central contradiction at the heart of Australian foreign policy will become critical. If Canberra chooses Washington over Beijing, then the Australian economy will tank. If it chooses Beijing over Washington, then Australia will be plunged into a profound identity crisis.

New Zealand’s economic wellbeing, like Australia’s, is dependent upon its exporters’ access to the Chinese market. Unlike Australia, however, New Zealand’s foreign policy establishment has so far managed to avoid taking a side in the growing stand-off between Washington and Beijing. Wellington is neither as diplomatically nor militarily committed to the United States as Canberra. As a consequence, it has substantially more room for diplomatic manoeuvre between the two great powers. In the present, highly volatile strategic environment, that confers a considerable advantage.

In Washington and Canberra, however, Wellington’s diplomatic manoeuvrability has become a source of considerable aggravation. It would suit the Americans and the Australians much better to have New Zealand safely and securely in the “ANZUS” tent. In geostrategic terms, a US-aligned Australasia is crucial to Washington’s new “Indo-Pacific” plan for containing China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” project. It has become a matter of some urgency, therefore, to facilitate a decisive shift in New Zealand foreign policy towards Washington and away from Beijing.

In conformity with the maxim that it is shameful to let a good crisis go to waste, the pro-Washington faction within New Zealand’s foreign policy establishment has persuaded the University of Canterbury to oversee a “pop-up” think tank dedicated to assisting the New Zealand Government “devise a resilience strategy that will ensure New Zealand’s independence and sovereignty are protected during the Covid-19 pandemic and after.”

The think tank has been “popped-up” by SSANSE (presumably pronounced “sanes”) an international research institute dedicated to exploring the challenges facing “Small States and the New Security Environment” (i.e. the world since Russia and China stopped playing nice). Based in Iceland, with funding from NATO, the institute would likely have passed without notice in this part of the world had it not been for the prominent role played in SSANSE’s activities by our very own Professor Anne-Marie Brady.

Professor Brady is, of course, the academic face of the campaign to reorient (if you’ll pardon the pun) New Zealand foreign policy away from Beijing and towards Washington. Alongside her fellow SSANSE directors and co-directors, Professor Margarete Šešelgytė, Professor Baldur Thorhallsson and Professor Alan Tidwell, Brady composes the “Editorial Board” of the new think tank. Its pitch is nothing if not portentous:

“The global environment has not been so challenging for New Zealand since 1942 when British forces in Singapore, who were New Zealand’s shield, fell to the advance of the Japanese. New Zealand must now face up to the national security risk of the Covid-19 outbreak. The current situation poses a risk not only to New Zealand, but collectively, for our Pacific, Five Eyes and NATO partners, as well as like-minded states who uphold the international rules-based order.”

With the Chinese clearly taking the place of the Japanese in this grim geostrategic scenario, and the “One Belt, One Road” project standing in for Imperial Japan’s “Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”? If New Zealand’s economic survival wasn’t at stake, this sort of re-heated Cold War rhetoric would be laughable.

Professor Brady is not, however, without powerful friends in high places. Not the least of whom is New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Winston Peters. Since his in/famous “Georgetown Speech” of 15 December 2018, Peters has made it clear that he, too, favours redirecting New Zealand’s diplomatic effort away from the nation that takes the lion’s share of this country’s exports and back towards its traditional friends and allies – who don’t. The Foreign Minister referred to this reorientation as “The Pacific Reset”:

“The Pacific Reset […] reflects New Zealand’s response to the increasingly contested strategic environment in the Pacific in which more external actors are competing for influence. This calls for close cooperation with Pacific Island countries, Australia, the United States, and other partners with historic links in the region–countries such as Japan, the EU, UK and France–to uphold values that we share and want to promote in the region; values like democracy, good governance, greater women’s participation, and above all the rules based systems on which the region relies.”

There they are again, those “rules”. The same ones, no doubt, that sanctioned the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003!

Was it just one of those incredible coincidences that the man who heads up the Center for Australian, New Zealand & Pacific Studies at Georgetown University (which hosted Peters’ visit) is none other than Professor Alan Tidwell, SSANSE Co-director and Professor Brady’s associate on the editorial board of the University of Canterbury’s pop-up think tank? No greater coincidence, I’m sure, than Professor Brady following Foreign Minister Peters on “Newshub Nation” last Saturday morning. If you missed it, Peters used the occasion to voice his support for Australia’s call for an inquiry into China’s mishandling of the Wuhan outbreak of the novel coronavirus we now know as Covid-19.

Australia is about to pay a high price for once again shouldering the burdens of America’s “Deputy-Sheriff”; and unless the growing influence of the pro-Washington faction of our foreign policy establishment is stopped in its tracks – so will we.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 5 May 2020.


Unknown said...

It's a valid political view - it comes down to See No evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil. I guess the other argument is whether China's approaches have been evil - and where that places New Zealand in. the future.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" redirecting New Zealand’s diplomatic effort away from the nation that takes the lion’s share of this country’s exports and back towards its traditional friends and allies – who don’t. "

Not just don't, but who actively work against us being able to export to them by imposing duties and other restrictions on our exports, and by subsidising their own industries – agriculture in particular. And let's not forget the EU does much the same.

petes new write said...

We live in interesting times, in more ways than one.

Nick J said...

I'm in a hotel in quarantine which has reaffirmed some insights into how people given authority operate. Give a person some power and they will at minimum advertise it. They don't question the validity of their instructions, they merely operate. Thus were the trains to the camps manned.

Our diplomats and spooks are these people. Their assumptions about the world are static. They are not thought leaders, merely status quo managers. If you wonder how one day the court at Versailles was in full swing, the next the ladies of Paris sacked the Palace, think no further. The court didn't even see it coming and because they didn't think outside of the square, could only obey and command they could not respond to change. Cognitive dissonance at its worst.

The world has changed far beyond the view of our leaders, diplomats and spooks. Because they do as they are told they too don't think. Washington says so we do....

So where does that leave us the day Washington goes quiet? Empires fail very rapidly. Think Ottoman supremacy for half a millennium, gone in a day to a minor nation state. Think Britain, world superpower 1939, by 1945 bit part vassal of USA.

The answer for a country like NZ is to liberate its institutions. To free our Parliament from being a rubber stamp for a moribund economic philosophy to a debater of ideas. To not be the blockworts and vassals of failing powers, nor the acolytes of new Empires. To navigate we need to think. That is currently not on offer from our institutions. They resemble Versailles, it's wake up and smell the coffee time.

sumsuch said...

China doesn't have our values, so we need to keep our interactions minimal as poss. I see America does have our values officially but not so much really but I'm a simple man. You saw China threaten Oz economically because of their call for an inquiry about Covid 19. Despite our wretched record the West puts truth first officially. And I, like everyone, need a straightforward tale above all. Or the tale we told ourselves in the 50 years after WW 2, full of ideals.

And everyone in our region is geared to fight our local power. And even China is geared against expansion. Democracy comes first for me as a NZer who remembers.

Odysseus said...

I think reducing our dependence on the Chinese market and supply chains is our most important foreign policy and trade objective. Yes, 20 years ago we all hoped China would become some kind of social democracy as its middle classes grew and that it would take its place in upholding the international rules-based order. But under Dictator for Life Xi Xinping everything has changed. The coronavirus cover-up which directly caused the global pandemic and the coming Depression is the last straw. A plausible argument can be made that China deliberately allowed the disease to spread beyond its borders so that it would not be left at a strategic disadvantage from suffering its ravages alone. China has been likened to an autistic child, which expects another nations to bow to its will and pay it tribute. Its inroads into our own political system have been well documented by Professor Brady and others and are a serious threat to our democracy and sovereignty. Yes, China takes about 28% of our exports at present, mainly commodities. But the rest of the world takes 72% with Australia and the United States prominent. Those markets offer far greater scope for the more sophisticated products and services that are so important to our future. And they don't steal our Intellectual Property. We must bring back our manufacturing, if necessary by offering tax credits and other assistance to manufacturers. We must no longer allow New Zealand entities to exploit China's virtual slave labour and its absence of health and safety and environmental regulations. We must provide good jobs for New Zealanders. If the overblown FTA gets in the way, we must tear it up. It was always an unequal treaty and Winston Peters was right to oppose its ratification. This is a nationalist agenda, not one beholden to any other power.

Anonymous said...

In the immediate post WW2 era, New Zealand made the mistake of putting its export eggs in one basket. That was, of course, Great Britain. When they divorced us by joining the EU, we said we would diversify. We did for a while and struggled along selling our stuff to whoever we could find to be new clients in Asia and the Middle East. Then came the panacea of that 2008 FTA with China. It's taken a little more than a decade but far too many of eggs have quickly been placed back in another basket. Yes, it has made us rich. But aren't we really the losers here? New Zealand companies and land being bought by Chinese interests, major political parties accepting big donations from interests associated with the CCP, the Confuscious Institutes propagating young minds at our universities about the joys and glories of a totalitarian regime and ex politicians being sucked into the vortex to sell the idea of a nice and friendly China. Meanwhile (the oppressed) life continues for the Uighars and the Tibetans. We can do better than dealing with the CCP can't we? There's a big wide world out there looking for food.

David George said...

We may well pay a high price for supporting our allies, China has been firing off warnings to anyone that so much as questions their practices or agenda. Sweden just got a bollocking.
But what price will we pay if we become even more compliant with and reliant on China?

The Chinese call it Barbarian management and it's fully underway in these fair isles:

Scouser said...

Not that I'm any great fan of the US. For instance, their purported support for free trade is normally camouflage for a polemic approach to getting as one sided and protection oriented deal for their own goods and services as possible. The US is also surprisingly ineffective diplomatically as it lurches from supporting one 'dastardly' regime to another as they somehow transform the previously supported regime in to the new enemy number one. The US's constant spying on the world via their influence of the internet. For a so-called ally it often behaves like the playground bully. There's lots to criticise.

There is however, a significant difference between the US and what is definitely an authoritarian oligarchy in the CCP heavy handed and tightly controlled rule over their people and their plans to grow their influence and power (parallels with the US to be fair in terms of looking for influence). There is the constant disappearance of those who talk against the authorities, the 'cultural re-engineering' of a huge number of Muslims, building of artificial islands to bully influence in the China Sea and their initial inept attempt to hide the Covid infection that allowed it to spread faster outside China and we're all living the consequences of that. The last may or may not have made a significant difference but it's the fact they tried to hide it. The US and a number of European countries rightly complain of what looks like government support of constant theft of IP. I could go on.

As I said there's a lot to criticise about the US but an awful lot more to criticise about the CCP's rule in China and concerns about their aspirations as they are the 2nd largest economy in the world. Their technical sophistication continues to grow. It’s not that there aren’t other ‘bad’ countries out there but it’s the size of this one that matters.

The received wisdom was that as China became wealthier it would encourage an affluent middle class's increasing influence to push towards a more liberal (in the real sense of the word) and enlightened China. There is little sign of that happening. We should be very concerned. It looks like China has increased its wealth and power whilst increasing its control with widespread deployment of technology. China is on target to be another US but with much less of a national conscience.

I'm with you in not blindly following the US line and that NZ shouldn't be another cheerleader for the US in the Pacific but it seems time for China to learn to be a better international member of the developed world and I don't see a way for that to happen unless they realise others will band together against them if they don't learn to play nicer. It should not be business as usual with China.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that long before covid-19 there were sound reasons for NZ to revise its conduct re China. E.g. Chinese action in the South China Sea - conduct inconsistent with UNCLOS. (And China has ratified UNCLOS,unlike the US!). (And remember our being a member of the Five Power Defence Agreement - UK, Australia, NZ, Singapore and Malaysia). Chinese treatment of the Uighurs and of Hong Kong etc. And raising a red flag here in NZ - Chinese influence in our political processes - Chinese influence which was the subject of Financial Times- Newsroom investigations. (e.g. https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/10/16/280568/follow-the-money-and-the-influence)

It appears the FT-Newsroom investigations were more in-depth than our own government and authorities analysis into Chinese influence and related screening. E.g. How can it be that our security screening processes missed that an MP of Chinese birth was a lecturer at a Chinese military intelligence training establishment - which he failed to declare? Why has no action been taken against him? And he was on the Foreign Affairs and Defence select committee!!

Agreed, we should avoid loud statements like Australia, but I suggest NZ needs to face up to some hard truths about China and its attempts to influence our democratic processes to its own ends and take action to 1) Stop this influence including through a general overhaul of our electoral funding rules; 2) Diversify our exports by e.g. post covid working out arrangements with Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore (and other countries) to see what we can buy from them and what they can buy from us to reduce our dependence on China; 3)Quietly stand up to Chinese pressure directly and in the international diplomatic arena, particularly in defense of democratic norms and multi-lateral agreements; 4) Continuing to quietly oppose US criticism and rejection of multi-lateral processes and agreements, which illustrates our commitment to principles rather than being a lapdog of the US.

John Hurley said...

There you go. The great achievement of the Labour Party has been to decree that identity no longer matters.

Down at the bottom on the tour drivers site. Someone posts a link which pictures MrsJones Orchard at Cromwell, Copthorne Central in Queenstown. It notes that we may open a bubble with Australia, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan. Google translate tells us it is a "line of light". What everyone thinks is "white buses". You can't say that however because the left will jump down your throat. The left completely dominate culture. Watching 9th Floor (RNZ) I see that Jim Bolger is as much of the left as Helen Clark. John Key is another leftist.


Think of trumps Warsaw speech

Tom Hunter said...

I had hoped that the lack of commentary on this thread was a sign of readers total disgust with it, especially the way in which you there Professor Brady under the wheels of the CCP.

However, I'm pleased to see that even your most left-wing supporters are feeling very uneasy about such an approach to China. That's good because there are any number of Left-wingers who have long expressed concerns about our linkages with them. There are elements of both Left and Right in NZ that overlap on this question in terms of both support and opposition.

Commentary sections are limited in their structure so I will simply leave you with a link to the article I wrote about this on No Minister. That article also included a link back to this article of yours.

Patricia said...

Why, in gods name, do we always have to have an enemy. There are millions of ways to run a country and a democratic way is just one of them. Just because we like our democratic form of Government doesn’t mean everybody has to. The are many many democratic forms of government I would not want us to have. Think US, UK even Australia. Now I believe that the argument shouldn’t be based on the form of government but the need to be relatively self sufficient. There are many reasons for that but emphasising the bogeyman is counterproductive Think of all the natural disasters, including disease, that could happen that could put a nation in a difficult situation. They are much more likely. What concerns me is the industry that can be formed to raise hysteria about the bogeyman. Think this SNNS group. Who is financing that group of idiots.

sumsuch said...

We've been slow-boiled through these relatively good times but we're all back in the 1930s now. 'Relatively' means the poor and the brown didn't get a sliver of the good ham for decades but it was good for us.

sumsuch said...

We've been slow-boiled through these relatively good times but we're all back in the 1930s now. 'Relatively' means the poor and the brown didn't get a sliver of the good ham for decades but it was good for us. And now is appropriate fury from our delightfully cushioned complacence. Can't see it. I hope Jacinda Ardern can make the leap for H.s.s. She just seems so Woman's Weekly.

Anonymous said...

Sadly to say Chris, we having sleep walking towards a new “New Security Environment” weather we like or not. We are no longer or some would say we were never in a “Bengin Security Environment” as once a NZ PM once quoted when her Government ran the RNZAF & RNZN in ground in light of ET 99.

We either throw our weight with US which kind of has our set of values or,

We support China which doesn’t have any of our values, which even worst than the US, or

We go for Total Neutrality, which means both left and right would have to swallow a number of dead rats among other things including IRT to boosting the NZDF mainly the RNZAF & RNZN. IRT to re-establish the disbanded Strike Wing, bring the RNZN back up to 6 GP Frigates, 6-9 light corvettes/ sloops amd support vessels. or

Try and reform the Commonwealth of Nations in a collective Trade, Defence, Aid Development, Good governance/ public services. If or when the UN goes tits up when the next major interstate war erupts and, or

Adopt the RWJ’s approach to CC, by sticking our head in the sand and thereby avoid problem or solve the problem