Monday 7 August 2023

Opting Out Of The Coalition Of Containment.

The dove is never free - Leonard Cohen

That there has been no outcry against the decision of the Australian government to purchase eight nuclear-powered submarines from the United States is astonishing. These formidable weapons of war are intended to patrol the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans – and their strategic choke-points – and should have occasioned loud protests from “nuclear-free” New Zealand.

RIGHT NOW, New Zealand is in a very awkward geopolitical position. Heedless of its vital economic relationship with China, the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region are pushing New Zealand into a growing coalition of containment aimed at weakening the Chinese state and economy.

The most obvious outcome of this diplomatic pressure (and in all likelihood its purpose) will be a sharp deterioration in the Chinese-New Zealand relationship. Most probably, Chinese displeasure will be expressed through restrictions on New Zealand exports. Not that the United States and its allies will make good any consequential losses to New Zealand’s economy. The Coalition of Containment’s sole purpose in precipitating such a break is to erase the irritating question-mark beside New Zealand’s name on its list of “trustworthy” allies.

New Zealand’s national security apparatus, whose loyalty to the people of New Zealand, as opposed to the decision-makers in Washington, London and Canberra, has always been open to doubt, has been pushing the Labour Government hard in the direction of Uncle Sam’s Coalition of Containment. Its efforts have, as usual, been seconded by all the usual suspects in the mainstream news media. (As well as some interesting recruits from the blogosphere!) The resulting upsurge in Sinophobia must be a source of considerable satisfaction to China’s enemies in New Zealand. It is unusual, these days, to hear a kind word spoken publicly about China – without the guilty party being subjected to the most vehement reproof.

That the Left has allowed itself to be drawn into this anti-Chinese discourse is especially disappointing. There was a time when the machinations of US imperialism were subjected to consistent and sophisticated critique by New Zealand communists and socialists, and even one or two intelligent members of the Labour Party. So effective were these critiques that the left-wing arguments advanced against such imperialistic interventions as the Vietnam War were able to win massive public support. The political upshot of such campaigns was a weakening of New Zealand’s relationship with the United States and its allies. The high-point of the Left’s influence on New Zealand foreign and defence policies came in 1986, when New Zealand withdrew/was excluded from the ANZUS Pact.

What passes for the Left in 2023, however, is, for the most part, content to echo the principal talking-points of US imperialism and its Nato accomplices. The obvious fiction that China is an aggressive power seeking global domination is repeated ad nauseum, along with the absurd charge that the Chinese government is overseeing a genocidal campaign against the Uighur population of Xinjiang. (It is a curious exercise in genocide that leaves twice as many Uighurs in Xinjiang today as there were 50 years ago!) It is no accident, however, that this “softening-up” of an historically ignorant Left, addicted to emotionally-charged international campaigns, preceded the creation of the Australian, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) military relationship in 2021.

That there has been no outcry against the decision of the Australian government to purchase eight nuclear-powered submarines from the United States is astonishing. These formidable weapons of war are intended to patrol the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans – and their strategic choke-points – and should have occasioned loud protests from “nuclear-free” New Zealand. At the very least, this present Labour Government might have been expected to gather the small nations of the South Pacific behind it in a concerted diplomatic effort to uphold – and enforce – the 1986 anti-nuclear Treaty of Rarotonga.

If New Zealand continues upon its current diplomatic trajectory its economically vital relationship with China cannot help being put at risk. Certainly, the pressure, both from Canberra and Washington, shows no sign of decreasing. Statement-by-statement, in language that demands much but offers little, Wellington is putting more-and-more distance between itself and Beijing. China is hoping that the hard, cold realities of making its living as a very small nation-state in a very large world will continue to keep New Zealand out of the flash new military leg-irons being fastened around the Indo-Pacific region by the United States.

But, hope is unlikely to be enough. Beijing needs to make New Zealand an offer it can’t refuse if it is to prevent the pinkie-finger of the Anglo-Saxon fist from clenching-up tight alongside its bigger brothers. A change of government in October could be just the opportunity Beijing is looking for.

Faced with mounting infrastructural and climate-related problems, and committed to reducing state spending, what might a National-Act coalition not agree to if presented with Chinese promises of massive investment in transport, housing, and climate adaptation/mitigation projects? Roads of national significance, electrification of the railways, extensive and intensive housing developments, taming rivers and hillsides: China’s done it all before, all over the world. Why not here?

And why stop there. Large-scale investment in renewable energy projects would set New Zealand up for a green re-industrialisation of the economy. Chinese companies will not be the only ones seeking-out nation-states with plentiful, cheap and reliable “clean” energy to offer investors in a post-carbon world.

Too much? Not when one considers that New Zealand 1.0 was built, almost entirely, out of British capital. Why shouldn’t New Zealand 2.0 be the creation of massive Chinese investment? Across the broad sweep of human history, imperialism has always been colour-blind.

Such a shift would, of course, entail a diplomatic revolution greater even that New Zealand declaring itself nuclear-free. Canberra, Washington, London and Ottawa would be livid. Accusations of treachery would be hurled at New Zealand by its former allies and, doubtless, all kinds of clandestine efforts would be set in motion to destabilise – even topple – its wayward government. Outright intervention would, however, be unlikely. It is difficult to persuade the world that China is the greatest threat to peace in the Indo-Pacific, when US Marines are splashing ashore on New Zealand beaches.

In the face of New Zealand’s diplomatic realignment, its South Pacific neighbours might also find it expedient to adopt a new stance vis-a-vis the neo-colonial objectives of the USA and its English-speaking allies. Pacific leaders might feel moved to inquire exactly what the United Kingdom thinks it is doing – again – in this part of the world. Were New Zealand to propose the creation of a South Pacific navy, dedicated to protecting and defending the resources within each member-state’s Exclusive Economic Zone, it might be surprised at the level of interest.

Especially if China offered to supply the patrol vessels.

Such a nightmare scenario could, of course, be easily avoided if the United States was willing to offer what China was ready to negotiate with New Zealand 15 years ago – a Free Trade Agreement. It has always been the easiest and, ultimately, the least costly option for the Americans: agree to take whatever New Zealand can send them – just as Great Britain did for the best part of a century. Just as China is doing right now.

But that would require US Imperialism to do what it has never done before: put the word “give” ahead of the word “take”.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 4 August 2023.


Glenn Webster said...

"Sinophobia" like "Choleraphobia" is common sense.
It is time to stop pretending that New Zealand can avoid a future conflict by hiding in a corner and wetting its pants.
How many people remember that Nuclear-Free New Zealand was not originally intended to be?
The intent was nuclear-weapon-free but the process was hijacked and perverted.
Source:- personal conversation with David Longey.
I suggest we stand up and apply to buy two or more of those subs and much other hardware to support the Australasian defence.
And while we're at it junk the nuclear-free nonsense and build some power stations.

Anonymous said...

Chris, sorry, but this column is delusional. China is an aggressive ( ask the Tibetans, Indians and Vietnamese), totalitarian state. The evidence is overwhelming. New Zealand is exposed and vulnerable, thanks to the Left.

Anonymous said...

The Private Enterprise (read corporate welfare) lobby in electorally key US states are unlikely to play ball in Free Trade, as they can ramp up voter opposition that appeals to both MAGA and Dem sensibilities.

ZTS said...

I dont know how we can do it but I feel we need to sit on the fence on this one if at all possible. Much is at stake and whatever we do we need to pump money into our military so we are not staring down the barrel of anybody's gun.

Ideally no to AUKUS Light and No to Full Neutrality. Patrolling the Pacific with the Island Nations sounds good but not likely to be affordable. Of course we could do it if AUKUS light put their money where their mouth is but absolutely no to money from the Chinese which comes with so many strings. How many countries in Belt and Road are not regretting it right about now.?

Whilst I agree China is not particularly predatory they are sagacious.
China is worried about their food supply and hence why they are likely to move on Taiwan. Taiwan is an exporter of food. China is a significant importer. See 2022 CCPs New Policy on Food Security.

And why will this happen and what does it mean for security within the Pacific? China looks about 5 decades ahead and does its homework. The weather patterns that they are experiencing now have been experienced before as the magnetic ring around the earth decreases its field strength (down 15% so far and dropping by about 5% a decade at least and speeding up even more year on year) and they know that they will be one of the countries who will fare worst in the coming climate change (via historic records). They also know that they will have a declining population so will not find it so easy to make the amounts of money that they have in the past.

I think they import 1/3rd of their food, with increased desertification and flooding, that third will continue to rise and at the same time economically they wont have as much buying power in a world that will be increasingly vying for food.

I know it reads like conspiracy theory? but read up on the cyclicity of the magnetic field and the impact of field changes on climate, then also factor in the fact that China just launched 2? satellites to monitor Magnetic Field strength and conduct tests. China will have advanced research on how they will be affected and will plan accordingly. Thus NZ should be worried about China over the coming decades.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'm pretty sure that Xi's China is not the China of his predecessors. It has become a lot more – let's charitably say – assertive. I don't think those countries with legitimate territorial claims in the South China Sea would agree with the idea that China is not a danger somehow. I'm of the opinion that we let the US and China duke it out and hope it doesn't go nuclear. We wouldn't get any kudos from either side if we supported one or the other.

ChrisH said...

I wonder if we could join the EU? That might be a third option.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous @ 21:23

Bare-faced nonsense, Anon.

Tibet was a tributary state under Chinese suzerainty for centuries - with only the brief protectorate established by the British breaking the historical continuity. The collapse of British power as a result of two disastrous (from Britain's point-of-view) world wars soon saw the restoration of Chinese control.

As for India and Vietnam, these were mere border skirmishes - not full-scale wars.

Now, compare China's record with that of the USA and the UK in the post-war period. Only the most one-eyed American cheerleader would contend that American aggression across the entire planet has not been the driving force behind international diplomacy since Harry Truman promulgated his in/famous "doctrine" in 1947.

Ah, but I was forgetting. You are a one-eyed American cheerleader.

My apologies.

Anonymous said...

I blame AUKUS and ANZUS for the deteriorating crimewave precipitated by the deportation of hardened crime from Australia namely the 501s.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979 was a bit more than a border skirmish. It was revenge for Viet Nam toppling China's client state

Anonymous said...

The Chinese invasion of Vietnam was not a border skirmish. It involved 32,000 casualties suffered by the People's Liberation Army of China (which had committed one-quarter of its manpower) inflicted by battle-hardened PAVN forces. The Chinese seized provincial capitals.The invasion followed hundreds of border clashes over many years, and was followed by more. The combined decade of military actions has been described as Deng Xioping's "Long War". Issues around the Chinese Hoa class who lived in Vietnamese border territories was a major factor in the conflict. Ironically, Deng hoped to gain a massive PR victory with the US by invading Viet Nam, but the response was that he should pull out of Viet Nam, and Viet Nam should pull out of Cambodia, where they were busy toppling Pol Pot's genocidal Khymer Rouge regime.

sumsuch said...

I was astounded by the sale. And by a Labour govt.

But if you bring into it the chaos produced by climate change, rational. The hot people will want to come down to the cooler places.

Everything now must be about climate change.

sumsuch said...

Britain's empire was the main foulness that inspired Nazi-ism, and America did the same in the last century.

China alienates all the neighbours it doesn't support in horrendous tyrannies.

Anonymous said...

Different anon here. I find Chris’ defence of China’s conduct in Tibet curious. Whether Tibet was a client state or not, that’s just a form of colonialism, which is generally frowned upon by the left. The test that has been applied elsewhere is to ask the residents what / who they want to be governed by.

Anonymous said...

Bare faced nonsense. One only needs to look at North Korea for the type of regime it supports.

RedLogix said...

Sad to see older left wing warriors from still rusted on to their reflexive 80's anti-US bigotry. The obvious counter-factual question to ask is this - if in the aftermath of WW2 the US had returned to it's pre-war isolationist stance and retreated from engagement with the wider world, does anyone imagine the world would have been a peaceful, benign and prosperous place?

That Stalin might not have rolled over Europe, the Maoists might not have done the same to Asia Pacific? Do they still imagine this might have ushered in a utopian age of the worker's paradise?

sumsuch said...

Tibet was ruled by its own people, then the Chinese came in. They haven't been happy since. Like all conquered people with their conquerors still on site -- like NZ. No defence to be made for China despite your effort.

sumsuch said...

Maiz ben zur, Tibet and eastern Turkestan should decide their own destinies. Chris, when you're hard to follow, you're no longer a Left talker.

Corbyn, Reich, Sanders are straight down the barrel.