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Upsetting New Zealand’s most significant trading partner seems like a very silly thing to do. So, why, Chris Trotter asks, did Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta do it?

Upsetting New Zealand’s most significant trading partner seems like a very silly thing to do. So, why, Chris Trotter asks, did Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta do it?
Nanaia Mahuta.

By Chris Trotter*

It is no bad thing for a country to have a good foreign minister, but not one that’s too good.

Sir Edward Grey was Great Britain’s longest-serving foreign secretary (1905-1916). Indisputably brilliant, but also secretive and devious, Grey was notorious for keeping his diplomatic and political cards extremely close to his chest.

He is best remembered for the words he spoke on the evening Europe fell into the abyss of the First World War. Looking out across London from a window in the Foreign and Colonial Office, he said: “The lights are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Grey was well-placed to make this observation, since he, among others, was responsible for extinguishing them.

Very few Cabinet Ministers in the Liberal Government of Sir Herbert Asquith grasped just how closely Great Britain had aligned itself with the military plans of the French. Nor did they understand how closely France had bound her fortunes to those of the Russian Empire. Only Grey knew that a Russian mobilisation meant a French mobilisation, and that a French mobilisation would commit Great Britain to a general European war.

A general European war was, however, exactly what he wanted. Which is why he refused to stop it. By inflicting a shattering defeat on Germany, he hoped to preserve Great Britain’s global hegemony. What he actually did was hasten its decline.

Grey also did something else. He caused upwards of 18,000 young New Zealand men to lose their lives. As a Dominion of the British Empire, this country, in 1914, had no real say over its own foreign policy. That we were at war with Germany was proclaimed by the Governor, Lord Liverpool, from the steps of Parliament – not by Parliament itself. Which is not to suggest that New Zealand’s Parliament would have for one moment considered refusing to support the “Mother Country”. The New Zealanders of 1914 may have thought of themselves as “Better Britons”, but that just meant they would fight for the Empire more fiercely than any other subjects of the King-Emperor. And they did. The British casualty rate was 1 soldier in 8: New Zealand’s was 1 in 6.

The risks of having a Foreign Minister who is too good at their job: too prone to running their own agenda without reference to the opinions of their Cabinet colleagues; too certain that only they fully comprehend their country’s interests and how best to advance them; are, therefore, considerable – even fatal. This is not, however, an argument for having a Foreign Minister who is bad at their job. Not when you inhabit a tiny state located in a part of the world where great power rivalries are growing sharper – practically by the day. In these circumstances your country needs a Foreign Minister of extraordinary perspicacity, imagination and courage.

Have we got one?

The short answer, sadly, is “No.” Nanaia Mahuta’s first major diplomatic decision, appending New Zealand’s signature to a statement released by the so-called “Five Eyes Partners” condemning Chinese policy in Hong Kong, was, from just about every perspective, ill-judged. It drained a significant amount of goodwill from the reservoir of mutual understanding and respect between this country and the People’s Republic of China which successive governments have been at pains to keep full. What’s more, the timing of this gesture could hardly have been worse. New Zealanders are bracing themselves for the onset of the Great Covid Recession. In such circumstances, upsetting the nation’s most significant trading partner seems like a very silly thing to do. So, why did Mahuta do it?

Since most observers have so far failed to observe any Grey-like characteristics in Mahuta, it is fairly safe to assume that her first big decision was made in full consultation with the Prime Minister. The advice tendered by her officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was, almost certainly, also placed before Jacinda Ardern. That Ardern declined to contradict the Ministry’s advice will not have escaped the notice of the Chinese Government. Their own foreign ministry will likely mark the new Labour Government’s decision to align itself directly with the Five Eyes Powers (rather than follow the precedent of releasing a separate and more nuanced statement) as a significant departure.

There will undoubtedly be speculation in Beijing that New Zealand’s decision to fall back into line with the United States vis-à-vis China is a gesture of support for the incoming administration of President-Elect Joe Biden. Since any Biden Administration is likely to pursue an anti-China policy of considerably greater coherence than Trump’s inconstant posturing, Wellington’s new-found hawkishness will be counted as a serious diplomatic setback.

The sharpness of Beijing’s response to the Five Eyes’ statement indicates its dismay: “[I]t doesn’t matter whether they have five eyes or 10; if they dare to damage China’s sovereignty, security and development, they should be careful or their eyes will be plucked out.” Mahuta’s response: that the Chinese statement was “strongly worded” has, at the very least, confirmed that our new foreign minister has a gift for understatement!

While there is truth in the contention that a country’s prime minister is also, in many respects, its foreign minister; it is equally true that any responsible prime minister will be at pains to fill what most nations still regard as one of the great offices of state with an individual whose insight and intelligence is sufficient to ward off serious diplomatic errors.

Herein lies the problem with Mahuta. She appears to be singularly lacking in both diplomatic insight and diplomatic intelligence. Rather than simply passing on MFAT’s advice to the Prime Minister, she should have critiqued it.

Over the past two years it has become increasingly obvious to Beijing that the longstanding intelligence-sharing pact comprising the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is in the process of morphing into what Washington clearly envisages becoming a fully-fledged anti-Chinese alliance. (With Japan and India joining the party as honorary Anglo-Saxons.) It is being forged in the same spirit as Great Britain brought together the Entente Cordiale: as a means of arresting the rapid rise of an economic and military rival. Unlike Sir Edward Grey, however, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is only too willing to lay his cards on the table.

Mahuta should have stressed, in the strongest possible terms, that any determination on the part of the NZ Government to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its “Five Eyes Partners” would be interpreted in Beijing as evidence of hostile intent. A separate statement from Wellington, reaffirming this country’s long-standing commitment to democracy, and calling upon all other nations to similarly uphold democratic norms and abide by their international undertakings, would not have been interpreted in this way. It would have signalled to both Washington and Beijing that Wellington intends to go on marching to the beat of its own drum.

How tragic it would be if, once again, a waning imperial power was permitted to drag New Zealand into the abyss of a winner-less global conflict. In Sir Edward Grey’s era, nuclear weapons were just a gleam in Sir Ernest Rutherford’s scientific eye. But, times have changed. If the lights go out in 2021, they will not be re-lit in anybody’s lifetime.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. He writes a weekly column for interest.co.nz. His work may also be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com.

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124 Comments

“[I]t doesn’t matter whether they have five eyes or 10; if they dare to damage China’s sovereignty, security and development, they should be careful or their eyes will be plucked out.”

What a brilliant response!

Any country with guts, moral ground and responsible for its people will stand high and fight hard against any foreign forces who intend to damage her sovereignty, security and development opportunities.

The US is now damaging China's sovereignty, security and development opportunities. Both Canada and the AUS are joining the US's force. The UK is like a slimy fish swimming between both sides. What would NZ do? Best to just sit on the fence.

Not sure if satire. https://imgflip.com/i/4ng6uh

Not sure if one should take this seriously, your argument has more holes that Swiss cheese.

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“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

No appeasement. Freedom over finance.

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And what of when China's actions and arguments impose on the security and sovereignty of other countries?

Well, its never stop America.

Says the guy whose country’s most advanced form of government in 3000 years is a despotism and whose last major invention was gunpowder. The rest has been gained by theft, intimidation and weight of numbers. What a tiresome country China has already become in the 21st century. Give my regards to Pooh - teddy bear leader for life.

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So, Chris, we should only support things like democracy, freedom and adherence to treaties when it won't potentially cost us financially? We should let tyrants trample over the core values of our society simply because they pay us a lot of money? What a joke.

Well, if you know a bit about your history and the world history, you would probably let yourself down from your seemingly high moral pedestal.

How can you interfere with others internal issues especially those to do with one's sovereignty, and not expect to be poked blind into the eyes?

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I know enough about history to understand that Chamberlain's appeasement policy was an embarrassing failure. When NZ starts putting Cantabrians in concentration camps or sending our military to beat and kill Cook Island students, then we can talk about relative moral high grounds.

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China is not even on that list, I guess Unicef don't want to get their eyes poked out :)

pretty childish retort imv

Great analogy - Cantabrians, the Uighurs of NZ :-).

Actually, I think they would take that as a compliment.

I thunk wee shuld invade the South Island, from the North Island and take over what our hearth dezires, wee out number them four to one and then we can build giant cities and app artments and invaid thum with our breverine two House our 5 childrun and there off spring as we do nut haff enuf houses and growth for our litle onesies to haf a manshun off hour owed. N we will be mighty again.....Goe four it. NZ.

Such a deep and informative diatribe. You must have spent a significant amount of your day to come with that. Maybe stick with
Gloria Vale and their twelve fingered offspring.

Chamberlain's appeasement gave Britain time to re-arm and gain Americas support. If they went to war earlier, they would have lost.

When Chamberlain effectively handed Czechoslovakia to Hitler it had more arms production than Britain. The british and french should have stood up to Hitler far earlier - however given the fairly recent slaughter of a young generation in WW1 it is easy to see why they didn't.

Factually wrong. If Britain had backed France (a woefully under resourced force) at its borders properly things may have been different. Having said that Germany was so far ahead technologically both probably would have succumbed

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Hong Kong is not an internal affair. I don't think even the CCP thinks that. They are violating an international treaty. This is an international affair.

Do rules only apply to smaller nations? Are large military powers able to adhere to treaties when they want and ignore them when they don't? That world is one which quite quickly descends into inter-state warfare and chaos. I don't want to live in that world.

Have you not been watching the US treatment of said Treaties or indeed National sovereignty in the Middle East? I think Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Palestinians might have a view on that.

This is true. I still prefer a democratically elected rulebreaker than an unaccountable one.

Luckily, on the grand scheme of things, neither of those options actually pertain to us. What the population of a pipsqueak little country at the bottom of the world, totally dependant on external trade for its standard of living actually thinks is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is the actions of its elected representatives and their perceived positions - especially concerning our largest single trade destination

Iran and Syria, Hook? Your ignorance knows no bounds.... but your arrogance in your self belief certainly makes up for it, though... lol

I thought the Hong Kong treaty was a document that China would uphold the terms of that treaty both sides agreed too. Given the clear evidence of China's theft of IP and its action in the S China sea atoll building into military bases and all that follows from that as being clear evidence of China's regard for treaties. What China should beware of is the Global public's perception of China as an untrustworthy trader whose products are to be avoided as this requires no tariff or Govt action that China could consider hostile or interference in internal affairs. As for Mahuta I was stunned that ardern would appoint her to such a critical position and shows arderns lack of judgement and Mahuta's naivety to put if politely, I hope that Mahuta is constrained to dealing with Pacifica and ardern deal with the rest of the world.

Agreed. Let Nanaia Mahuta do her job.

Wrong! They are most definitely not two different countries. Hong Kong was annexed by Britain by force and handed back with conditions attached - rather arrogant really.

Wow, you were quick this morning.. I put that and then realized, I was thinking of a different country, one of those other ones that is being infiltrated by China. ;o)

Haha.. nice switch of comments.

Yes, keeping faithful to the subject.

With that being said, I wouldn't trust anybody who threatens to pluck eyes out. It's sadistic. Extremely cruel. They enjoy watching the pain in others.

All Nanaia is good for is cleaning the Wharepaku. She's useless as the Local Government Minister, Maori Development Minister and when she was a simple MP.

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out of her depth I'm afraid. Many predicted it, that outside the top 5-6 in labour the experience gets thin very very fast.

Heard her comments on RNZ, very obviously sticking to a prepared script of having a 'mature, respectful' relationship but unwilling or unable to divert from that when asked to explain what it actually meant.

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Well we have spoken. Meritocracy is raciss. We are perfectly happy awarding people purely by their race/religion/gender.

but but but....we have the most diverse parliament in the world! Yey.

Outside the top two ability is practically non existent but the sheeple voted for them so don't whinge when the stench of incompetence is undeniable.

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Dangerous, deluded naivety of the highest level.
NZ has, at some stage (and they took their sweet time about it) to nail its colours to a mast.
That mast cannot be that of an authoritarian dictatorship which butchers its own people and those of other independent nations (which it has annexed or is ethnically cleansing.)
China has to have a united front against its continuing drift into full scale authoritarianism, which it shares regrettably, with large number of countries now, as democratic support is dropping away. NZ has a dependency on trade with China which John Key and others and also Labour up to this point, has swallowed and encouraged due to "need" for cheap imports and market for exports. But as China eyes Taiwan as its inevitable target, NZ is going to face same challenge that countries faced in the 1930s, "whose side are you on?" Sorry folks ,but China is the new Germany, except this time they are attempting a 30 year plan to dominate economically and only way to stop this, and stop sucking up to them, is to oppose. No one except Churchill wanted a war with Germany. Here we go again with back-sliding pusillanimous articles avoiding facing the truth.

Can’t have it both ways NZ. If you take the yuan then you need to shut up. As for Mahuta, article stinks a bit. Clearly this decision lies with Ardern.

Mahuta's elevation to FM was a surprise to many observers. She is well out of her depth on the international front. Chris's suggestion that the signing of the FE statement was vetted by the PM if true is concerning. Previous FMs have known how to disagree with China but this lot seem to be feeling their way, too much at stake to get wrong. Was the "finding of C19 material on NZ meat packaging" a veiled warning? - undoubtedly. Will NZ take heed - hopefully.

The incompetency of the new labour government and its foreign minister are factored in when China makes any decisions regarding any possible retaliations.

So far, no need for any retaliations.

If the relationship is as mature as Ardern maintains (and there's no reason to believe it isn't) she should realise there is a way to engage with Chinese issues. Calling them out publicly isn't it. The trouble with many people is they are viewing China through a "Western" response lens - this is a mistake imv. Even a cursory glance of Chinese history shows they have a different world view and an extremely long time horizon, interestingly a similar mistake being made in the Middle East by some Western countries as we speak.

There is a enormous mismatch between the level of the economic dependence of NZ on China, and the level of lack of understanding of China by NZ.

Yes, I'd call it inversely related actually

lol - have you never seen when the bullied turn on the bully - china would do well to pull it's head in and look after it's own eye's

hook.. true. Never call out, criticize or publicly blame someone from a country where face is a pillar of society unless you want an enemy for life.

karl, good to see someone gets it.

The difficulty however, as China well knows, is that change comes slowly for the most part, and then lightning fast when it finally arrives.

The west is largely self sufficient in food, China imports 30% of its requirement, the US/Canada are the worlds largest countries and growers that freely trade food, Argentina & Brazil are similar but have huge economic/covid & social problems that reduced their output and Russia with a good harvest but an increasingly tense relationship with China over IP theft of Military stuff and Xi Jipings threat/request for the return of Vladivostok and half of Kyrgyzstan is not going down with Putin who has already voiced his displeasure in an uncharacteristic way. China is making far too many enemies and has few friends outside N Korea & Iran and fewer of real help when needed should a disaster occur (Check out Gorges Dam - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glJwBqCN-Hg) There are varying opinions of the dams vulnerability concerning cracks in the wall and more worryingly the undermining of the base creating vortex's on the down flow side and the accumulation of a vast amount of rubbish that accelerates abrasion if it passes through cracks. Flooding downstream on a large scale has already occurred.

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Have you been in contact with your masters to let them know? Good boy +20 social credit points, you can now use the bus.

X when are you packing your bags - or are simply here as a sleeper agent? What some are forgetting - if the world stopped exporting food to China they would last a few months before rioting starts.

Rubbish! Besides the article of CT's is talking about the effects on NZ specifically.

what makes you think this person resides in NZ?

How tragic it would be if, once again, a waning imperial power was permitted to drag New Zealand into the abyss of a winner-less global conflict.
Indeed.
How long before NZ claims?
Beijing Must Explain Why China 'Singled Out' Australia For Economic Restrictions - Trade Minister

Cripes - it might be time to sell the farm - Aussie owned banks cannot be comfortable further enabling unproductive agricultural land banking on both sides of the Tasman Sea, at this juncture.

If Australia plays US proxy at a time when the US has weakened, then China can see opportunity to make moves in the waiting game of the South China sea. Investment in African mining concerns by China offsets some of the trade reliance on Australia, which only destabilises the situation. But to what extent will upsetting the current détente benefit China? Face is one thing, but over extension is another?

She is a know nothing!

- Giving Face
- "Cabbage Tactic” in South China Seas
- Dragon Vein Issues/Traditions
- Historical Fast Rise of China
- Chinese Yuan meets Digital meets World Reserve Currency Views
- Three Gorges Dam
- Mass Flooding
- US Shipping Manufacturing to China [in light of intellectual property dividends/industry players]
- Belt and Road
- The Challengers of Governing 1.39 Billion People
- History of the CCP, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping
- Conflict on Disputed Indian Boarders/Mountains
- China's Relations with Russia, Iran, etc
- etc
- etc

I mean Hong Kong, Uyghurs, etc .. what lens are you viewing that through ?

I think Nanaia has a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. She's had this affliction for some time.
She has a preference for her captures, the Colonists, the Leper Country's. The UK & the US. She prefers serfdom.

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First they came for Hong Kong, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Hong Konger.

Then they came for the Australia, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an Australian.

Then they came for the Taiwan, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Taiwanese.

Then they came for New Zealand—and there was no one left to speak for me.

No appeasement. Freedom over finance.

Hong Kong is been returned to China because the British Colonialists stole it after years of drug smuggling and their import/export business in the drug trade 'flourished'.....#History matters.
Taiwan, pretty similar situation but a coward fled after an attempted 'Coup et tat'. Again, #HistoryMatters!
Who cares about Australia??
NZ, we're due to become a Republic and all will be forgiven when that happens. #HistoryToBeWritten!

Takere, those rather important facts are conveniently forgotten by western commentators. In China it's like it happened yesterday. Now that China has the economic muscle it will serve a dish of revenge well chilled.

It wasn't the British selling drugs, major banks were the problem namely Jardine Matheson

https://www.scotsman.com/arts-and-culture/scots-who-hooked-china-opium-1...

The UKs problem was a trade imbalance caused by China selling them lots of tea but only wanting silver in exchange, an unsustainable position for the UK.

China leased Hong kong to the British and it suited Chinese interests for along time, Hong kong didn't have the long walk the Chinese in Hong kong were substantially better off and alive too.

Taiwan is totally different it's where Nationalists escaped after the war, running from Mao. Ignorance is not bliss.

https://www.thoughtco.com/china-lease-hong-kong-to-britain-195153

Andrew, Chinese claim to both Taiwan and Hong Kong are historical and deep seated.The western idea of democracy and fairness is a moot point to them. Remember also that in the minds of most Chinese, westerners are a pack of barbarians (arguably correct), they actually have a word specifically to describe us( Gaijao). They won't admit it publicly, but the impression and belief is there and is indelibly imprinted

Hong kong was returned and Taiwan is full of Chinese people, just really wealthy, well educated ones. Whatever way you slice it if I was Chinese i would have rather been born in Hong Kong than mainland China, also Japan ran big chunks of China for a long time.

My Chinese friends have a very different attitude and culture when it comes to race, not something acceptable in the West but it exists so why ignore it and pretend?

what's Gaijao?

i never heard of it.

Old chinese slang for "dirty barbarians" perhaps I misspelt it

Neither has Google but this word is substituted and means - Your name of Gaija creates a friendly, sociable, charming nature, but causes you to be too easily influenced by others. While you find it easy to meet and mix, ...

Probably better to ask Hong Kongers which regime they preferred, before you start ranting?

Excellent
Original was a German cleric in 1930s I think

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Predictable given she got her job based on the fact she has a facial tattoo rather than any sort of merit relevant to the job.

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Stick to farming, mate.

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That comment has no place here and is patently wrong - she got the job because there was no one else to choose from.

I was trying to think how I would view her if I was a Chinese intellectual sitting across the table from her negotiating trade deals etc. I have no problem with her moko, but I can see how it could cause problems in China.

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Oh dear oh dear. Chris.... I thought you were better than this.

The heart of the matter is that it is unrealistic for the US to launch an economic war on China or to start any comprehensive military confrontation against China, considering that the power gap between the US and China is rapidly narrowing.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has dealt heavy economic losses in the US. A new round of large-scale suppressive policies against China in the short term is simply inconceivable. Biden is coming under compulsion to seek a structural adjustment of his China policy in order to concentrate on the post-pandemic recovery first. Link

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Disappointing how quickly the readers here (and Chris) are shouting 'Incompetence'! when there's really not evidence of that here.
Chris' argument seems to be that Mahuta didn't do what he, Chris Trotter, would have done, namely deflect unwanted attention with snivelling obfuscations -- and that is what constitutes incompetence. I often agree with Chris, but this is 'weak sauce', as the Americans say.

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Agree - in fact I think Mahuta's suggestion that the CCP "reflect" was brilliant;

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/300164170/foreign-affairs-mini...

And then the PM this morning, was brilliant as well;

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/123474822/not-language-we-woul...

The 'poke your eyes out' statement by the CCP official is the most disgusting diplomatic threat I've ever heard. It's an awful reflection on Chinese culture - an insult to the many lovely mainland Chinese people that live here.

Something that has never been adequately probed Audaxes. The US went rogue and got away scot free on that. Destroyed a country and walked away with a shrug of the shoulders

I think Bush II and Tony Blair should both be in prison for war crimes.
But that's irrelevant to my comment.

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Yes exactly.
It's disingenuous to say we can't criticize China because of The USA'S track record. Some of us (myself included) have been very critical of the USA's actions in the past.
If I recall correctly the NZ government of the time criticized the last gulf war.
Nz also stood up to France and USA in the mid 80s on the nuclear issue. And Japan on whaling.
So NZ has a strong track record of standing up to powerful western democratic nations as well as Asian dictatorships.
Have you forgotten those things Hook and X???

I'm not saying we can't criticize, it's how we do it that matters. As for the rest of your comments - NZs Gulf war position I agree with, France was already pulling out of nuclear testing and the US ignored us, and Japan gave us the middle finger on whaling. When viewed from NZs point of view - we have made strong and strident protests. When viewed internationally NZ is a yappy little poodle that needs to be careful it doesn't get a good swift kick in the nuts - imv

Principles matter. Taking a stand doesn't of course equal success. But I would suggest that humans might as well pack it in if we can't aspire to principled positions on human rights, environment etc.
Also pipsqueak nation is irrelevant if we are part of a unified voice of right-thinking democratic nations. It's just like climate change. One nation and one set of actions- meaningless. Many nations and many sets of actions- potentially meaningful.

Also pipsqueak nation is irrelevant if we are part of a unified voice of right-thinking democratic nations.

Which nations might be acceptable candidates?

I present for your consideration the counterfactual:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/08/04/saddam-huss...

Around 250,000 are estimated to have died of torture and murder under Saddam's regime.Source: Human Rights Watch
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Saddam_Hussein%27s_Iraq

Note the authors, both Western or US based. The fact remains the US destroyed a country based on disproven rumours and did it unilaterally. The US has visited a lot of misery and destruction on multiple countries, never has it been questioned on its motives or evidence. The world would be an overall happier and safer place if they stayed within their borders and focussed on their own problems

Don't get me wrong - I was spitting tacks when the US invaded Iraq, even if Saddam was a ruthless, murderous dictator they had no right to do that, just as the British had no right to bombard Beijing to secure opium supplies in the 1800s, and China has no right to dictate our foreign policy.

The source for the 500k was either Saddam or an anti-US Malaysian paper, depending on the decade you look for information. Saddam was a liar who would think nothing of deceiving UNICEF for his own ends ,while Malaysia was always opposed to the invasion, preferring instead that the US abandon Israel to secure peace in the Middle East
https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/569-malaysias-opposition-t...
Note Human Rights Watch is an activist group and no friend of US militarism, and the Washington Post is a liberal newspaper with decidedly dovish tendencies. Just because they aren't Al Jazeera they cannot be discounted out of hand.

We need to go back in history a bit. Hussain was put in power by British and US interests. He managed a country that had severe sectarian conflict relatively successfully and didn't really lend itself to democracy. There can be no doubt that the US invasion destroyed a functioning country over a proven lie - WMDs that didn't exist. Even the first squabble (Kuwait) was caused by the US. Kuwait had a deal with Iraq swapping access for an oil pipeline for fresh water supply, something the US blocked at the last minute hence the war. It didn't want Iraqi oil to reach the Med ports. The US has a lot to answer for but will never be held accountable. If you are querying the veracity of my comments - I worked in Kuwait as it unfolded in a place called Das Island and watched/worked/sheltered as Iraq pounded it to bits in a fit pique -justifiably imv

you need to go even further back pre WW1 Sykes Picot agreement 1916. Then French Maronite community in Syria etc.

Sure. And how did that illegal War turn out? 1 million+ deaths?

Not good for sure but I understand the internally caused deaths of Millions of Chinese pales Iraqi situation.

Self inflicted? Or helped by the West? Mao made numerous attempts at extending the olive branch to the US but it was rejected. He too wasnt that keen on the Russians, but I suppose xenophobic fears played out within the Anglo/American psyche?

Agree Audaxes. The war in Iraq was not only unconscionable on multiple levels, but the media was either complicit or cowed into submission.

How many were killed in the Iraq vs Iran war? (Btw lived in Iran they used child soldiers) How many Kurds died in Sadams rule? How many did Tailban, ISIS tourture and kill. Not just anglo lies huh? Western forces took down a tyrant that created a vacum with more tyrants.

Interesting perspective CT. To Xing's first comment; and what of when China's actions and argument impose on the security and sovereignty of other countries?

This has been discussed in the past, we are ever being squeezed to decide whose side we are on. I doubt that absolute neutrality would be respected unless we had a very strong military that would make invasion prohibitively expensive. Besides if this keeps building we are effectively guarding Australia's east coast. I cannot see neutrality being an effective position, so cultural background is the most likely direction of choice.

"Besides if this keeps building we are effectively guarding Australia's east coast." - Lmao.. really? With a couple of clapped out frigates?? China doesn't need to engage in armed conflict with Aus, it'll crush them economically if it wanted to. Australia knows that - why do you think they're asking China "why us?"

Tactically, we're a solid forward operating base with plentiful resource for China to stage an attack on Aussie. The Communists will have thought very thoroughly through a war game scenario where they take the South Pacific. This is the sole purpose of their belt and road project in southern waters.

Utter claptrap. China doesn't need a forward operating base here - it owns a 100yr lease on Darwin Harbour. The Aussie military wouldn't stand a chance if China sailed in there, they are well behind China's military strength both in numbers and technology. You may (or may not) remember when a Chinese military vessel unexpectedly turned up in Australian waters? So much for a ready reaction force!! Australian reaction..where the f@#k did you come from??

The loss of its trade with China would certainly hurt Aussies but China relies to a varying extent on Iron/Coal/Food from Australia and those commodities may not be that easy to replace as the world sees how China treats those who criticize it, however Aussies are fairly self sufficient and will manage if things do turn sour. India may be more of a match for China than generally understood, especially as CCPs policies and threats have created enemies on every side some like Japan with real muscle as the US found when it en counted their Navy in WWII, their experience and that of the US & UK operating a blue water Navy is not something that can be acquired quickly even if you do have a large number of ships.

I think a few years ago many informed people would have been torn on the question of whether NZ is best aligned to the USA or China. Both have obvious flaws.
But what we've seen in the last two years is increasing paranoia, bellicosity and insularity from the Chinese government. They have cracked down on internal dissent and provoked other nations at their borders, valuing 'strength' over reputation. That has consequences. It also betrays a fearful leadership, desperate to focus the attention of their public on external enemies to distract from internal problems. It's a symptom of decline, not the kind of state we want to hitch our wagon to.
And none of this is a defense of the USA, or even our membership of Five Eyes.

I'm not defending China's policies, but they are on the rise, and the us is the declining power. There's no question about it. It's going to be tricky tiptoeing around what China does as everyone gets used to them being the biggest bear in the room, but that's the situation. Trump has just hastened the us decline and there's no fixing it now.

I do agree with what you said. But keep in mind that the change in Chinese government's actions are at least partially caused by western hostility, namely Trump and others.

It may be a symptom of decline in leadership but that is also something we're seeing on a global scale in many western countries also. Does not change the fact that China have a large role to play in the future of global economy for a long time to come. Hence we don't want to completely detach our wagon either.

Good on her for making a stand on the CCPs actions and stance.
Perhaps due to the publicity more NZers will become aware of the threat and demand that joint ownership deals and partnerships, Chinese investment etc poses to NZ sovereignty.

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China is shaping up to be the big global bully. We have to dtaw the line because they are only going to get worse otherwise.

When you are small. You are going to get bullied from time to time. Would you rather it was by a country that sacrificed tens of thousands of its young men to protect us from the last Asian colonisation attempt. Or China.

I'd rather it didn't happen at all, by either. The US has an historical habit of using "democracy" and it's protection as a front for furthering its own commercial interests, this shouldn't be ignored.

You mean the "other" global bully. Can you imagine what US reaction would have been if we'd banned one of their large companies? I doubt it would be as measured as China's

If there is to be global conflict, we will not have the option of standing by on the sidelines with a bucket of popcorn.

If the USA, UK and Canada see our support of the five eyes position as important and expect us to stand with them to oppose Chinese overreach. Then they need to grant us increased access to their markets for our products. 21 billion litres of milk need to go somewhere.

Its good this is only an opinion piece.

Its good this is only an opinion piece.

I was unsure about Nanaia Mahuta. as foreign Minister.
Now I think she is an inspired choice by Jacida.
Honest and straight forward. I would have signed the ,socalled, 5 eyes statement...

I think Chris Trotter is confused by what he thinks Makes a good foreign Minister...
He is also confused about China.... and diplomacy... in my view.

I pray that Mahuta never gets the "diplomatic insight and diplomatic intelligence" that Trotter says she lacks..
Sounds like Trotters version of diplomacy requires secrecy, duplicity and a certain kida back stabbing ability...

Mahuta has my vote of confidence !!

So you think her first international attempt at communication via the FE statement was inspired?.. God help us if you're in the majority. Mahuta is inexperienced, out of her depth and ill equipped to be a Foreign Minister. If Ardern had a clue she would have made Robertson FM. That she didn't shows how shallow the skill list is with Labour.

If she can be transparent and open, straightforward and honest , then she will be the best foreign minister we've had in along time...
In the current world of political bullshit .... she might be a breath of fresh air.
Good on her for getting the job..... I'll be watching her closely..

I suppose u think Robertson is making a fist of the finance portfolio..??
How do u find Chinas' .." poke the eyes out" response..?? Immature, puerile, inexperienced, out of their depth ?...... or maybe the words of a bully?
What would u have said to China about Hong Kong.? Nothing..?

If ur open minded euf to give her a chance , u might change ur view.

Mahuta needs to realise that what is spoken publicly has significant weight and effects. If you had actually allowed my comments re: Robertson to permeate, you would have seen I thought he'd make a good FM. Foreign Minister and Finance Minister would be a natural fit imv.
As for HK, I would have spoken with China out of the Public eye. Quietly and discreetly. Once the media get hold of things all is lost - context and intention

The joint statement was not exactly aggressive or provocative . https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-hong-kong-2/
(After all...China did commit, in an international sense, to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy. )

At what point would u have informed the public on NZs' position , in regards to Hongkong/China ?

Wouldn't u want to encourage rational reflection and debate with the NZ public.? .Information that give individuals the freedom and responsibility to think for themselves ? Open society is based above all on individualism, democracy, equality, and faith in reason.
(I like going thru the comments of interest.co , because some of the comments engage my own thinking... ie.. I learn from them.)
China seems to be the antithesis to this.
Its sad that most of the media seems to prefer click bait kinda news, rather than rational , thoughtful and informative news...

I'm sure China would embrace your approach...behind closed doors ... I dont think China would really care what our view is.. behind closed doors.
How can secret meetings, in the name of "diplomacy" , lead us to people being engaged, informed and thinking. ?

In regards to Robertson.... I disagree with u... I don't think he has the knowledge or wisdom to be a great Finance Minister. eg.. his employment addition to the policy targets agreement with the RBNZ has been one of the reasons the RBNZ has been so aggressive , resulting in this wild asset boom.. ( I dont think he is any better or worse than any other finance minister weve had)

With a political studies degree and working for Ministry of foreign affairs, I suppose he would make a harmless foreign affairs minister...
I prefer Mahuta.....

Pffft what would you have said behind closed doors? Made some veiled threats? How much clout do you think nz has? There are hundreds of towns in china bigger than nz. The only good thing about being this small is that when you talk and have to go along with big partners, no one really pays attention because they know you have no choice. This whole issue is a nothing.

China won't listen to anything we say in private. A new tack has been tried. The response has been vigorous, but the public approach may actually eventually lead to change.

What on earth. What a massive stretch, bring in ww1 and 18000 kiwi dead. What's that got to do with anything? Well done, you made a lot of paragraphs.

Nz has been struck to the 5 eyes for a long time and can't do anything but sign things like this.... Every nation is torn between the us and China having their spat. It's life. Pointless whining about it. We aren't seen as going out own way by anyone... We're too small, we have to pick a side. Right now, you pick China's side economically, and say all the pc things relating to geo political stuff, like every other common Wealth country. How hard is it. Not very.

Sorry to disagree with you, Chris but irrespective of the competence of our new Minister of Foreign Affairs, I agree with NZ being part of this joint statement. I think a firmer joint approach against CCP treatment of Uighurs, the hardline crack-down in Hong Kong, their action in the South China Sea in clear breach of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS - which China ratified) is appropriate. Yes, the US even before Trump has done very bad things to other countries - e.g. the invasion of Iraq - but ultimately, the American people can hold their leaders to account, the Chinese cannot do that - as referred to by another commentator. And I do think your description of the causes of WWI over-simplifies things and a sweeping statement like Lord Grey wanted war is unjustified. I refer you to The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark and The War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan.

It's not what we said but how we say it. We should be voicing our own concerns and statements rather than being part of a joint statement headed by another country with their own interests where NZ's interests are secondary to them. We have tread the line very carefully up to now by standing our moral grounds but maintaining good relations, and that's the way we should keep it.

Why would the West want China to have democracy? A true capitalist market economy there would totally dominate the world. With 1.3 billion people working like crazy to get ahead, the US and the West would be left miles behind. I would have thought the inefficiencies of their centrally planned economy is an absolute blessing.

Seems like she has more balls than the foreign ministers before her!

CT says we need China to dig our way out of this covid situation. But it was China who created the covid situation in the first place!

They stuffed the world economy! And we're supposed to be nice and kind to them and not offend them? Well sorry, we should bloody well stand up and say what needs to be said.

Under Winston Peters we made our stances very clear on the various China issues, Peters made many strong statements based on values that we consider important in NZ. But even he didn't take part in such an unprovoked joint statement such as the recent one.

It's one thing to stand our ground based on our own beliefs while maintaining good relations. But taking sides in an alliance is just hostile especially considering the side we're taking is far from perfect.