|Running The Wrong Way: Brave though she undoubtedly is: and tough as an old Rugby boot; on the crucial issue of China, Louisa Wall is just plain wrong.|
I WISH I could like Louisa Wall. I really do. Labour has so few mavericks in its ranks these days. Following the historical contribution of the late, great Jim Anderton, they’ve rather gone out of fashion. And, no, I’m not forgetting the exploits of the hapless David Cunliffe. He did, indeed, show every sign of being a gutsy maverick – right up until he won the Labour leadership and self-destructed. (Albeit more slowly that Todd Muller!) Certainly, Labour’s due a rebel or two. Someone to recall the party to its core principles. Which it needs. Unfortunately, Wall is not that person.
Which is not to suggest for a moment that Wall hasn’t made an important contribution to New Zealand political history. Her Marriage Equality legislation fulfilled a long-standing goal of the LBGTQI community – on whose behalf she has been a tireless fighter.
Wall’s staunch advocacy on these issues has not been without cost. In the South Auckland Pasifika communities she represented there were many who harboured deeply-held religious objections to the causes she espoused. Wall’s outspokenness saw her fall prey to the internal machinations of Labour’s factions. That she faced them down, and forced them to back-off, bears testimony to her courage and resilience. As Jacinda Ardern discovered, Louisa Wall is one tough cookie.
Tough to the point of pig-headedness. It’s the greatest weakness, as well as the greatest strength, of the maverick. Once they get hold of an idea, or attach themselves to a cause, they will not let it go. Neither, sadly, will they suffer anyone to interrogate their adherence. Mavericks are not very good at seeing both sides of the story. They are even worse at admitting that their version of the story might not be the right one.
Hence my unwillingness to join Wall’s fan-club. Brave though she undoubtedly is: and tough as an old Rugby boot; on the crucial issue of China, Louisa Wall is just plain wrong.
If you intend to make your next big stand on the field of foreign affairs, then the very first thing you have master is the art of due diligence. In the fraught field of geopolitics, claims and counter-claims fly back and forth like artillery shells – with almost as much destructive effect. Before committing yourself to one side or the other, it is absolutely imperative to discover who is making those claims – and why.
Nowhere is this more important than on issues relating to China. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China is asserting its interests in ways that make the rest of the world – especially the United States – uneasy. For more than a century, China was on the receiving end of Western and Japanese imperialism. Weak, and prey to foreign exploitation and conquest, it had not been in a position to assert very much of anything. The rest of the world is neither accustomed to, nor comfortable with, a powerful China. Predictably, it is resisting its resurgence.
China’s treatment of political dissidents and ethnic minorities has provided her enemies with extremely useful propaganda targets. Rather than examine the reasons for the Chinese Government’s behaviour, which, in its essence, is indistinguishable from that of all other great powers when confronted with internal challenges to their imperium (think of England’s treatment of the Irish, or the United States’ treatment of Native Americans) China’s enemies accuse her of committing the most appalling atrocities – up to and including genocide.
Wall has proved herself to be an eager consumer of these horror stories. She has been convinced that the Chinese authorities are “farming” political prisoners for their organs. Rather than believe that the Chinese state is willing to use the organs of executed criminals to either save or improve the lives of desperately ill citizens, she has accepted at face value the claim that officials are murderously “harvesting” the organs of innocent civilians for profit. Rather than accept the Chinese authorities’ explanation that it is incarcerating Uighur nationalists and Islamists in re-education-through-labour camps in preference to going after them militarily, Louisa has bought into the USA-driven accusation that the Chinese are engaged in “genocide”. Given that the Uighur population of Xinjiang province is roughly twice as large as it was 50 years ago, one could be forgiven for observing that the Chinese definition of genocide is somewhat different to our own!
At the heart of just about all of these accusations against the Chinese Government one finds the virulently anti-communist cult known as Falun Gong. It is from Falun Gong that supposedly independent groups like End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) and The China Tribunal are fed the outrageous and unproven charges of organ farming, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
It is highly instructive that prior to the election of Xi Jinping as China’s head-of-state, Falun Gong’s horror stories were largely received with the international disdain they deserved. It is only since China’s new assertiveness began manifesting itself around the world, that the cult’s claims have been accepted as admissible evidence. The United States has ceased to treat China as a friendly off-shore manufacturing platform, and begun portraying it as a disruptive and increasingly aggressive force in world affairs. In this new endeavour, set in motion by President Barack Obama, the gruesome propaganda of Falun Gong has proved invaluable. So much so, in fact, that one could be forgiven for thinking that it was created for just such a purpose!
Given Louisa Wall’s political achievements, her descent into the murky waters of anti-Chinese propaganda is deeply regrettable. (Especially so, given the Falun Gong cult’s vicious homophobia.) There are already more than enough New Zealanders busying themselves in fomenting the next Cold War, without this hitherto formidable Labour MP joining their ranks.
The well-being of hundreds-of-thousands of New Zealanders depends upon this country’s diplomatic and economic relationship with China remaining strong. China’s enemies will not reward New Zealand for engineering a break with Beijing. Their local helpers will be cast aside with as much dispatch as they were recruited.
It is a great pity that Louisa Wall appears to have forgotten that mavericks are called mavericks precisely because they refuse to be driven in the same direction as the rest of the herd.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 13 July 2021.