Jekyll on trade, Hyde on de­fence


Of late, New Zealand has been en­gaged in a vir­tual love fest with China. Early last week, Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang was in Welling­ton with a busi­ness del­e­ga­tion in tow.

While Li was here, our gov­ern­ment sought to up­date our free trade agree­ment with China – which is al­ready our main trad­ing part­ner and sec­ond largest source of in­bound tourists.

More­over, Fon­terra sees the emerg­ing mid­dle class in China as its big­gest fu­ture mar­ket, and lo­cal firms have be­gun an­gling for the busi­ness as­so­ci­ated with China’s mas­sive $US1 tril­lion One Belt. One Road land and mar­itime project.

To cap off this hot and heavy ro­mance, China is now an in­vest­ment part­ner, too. In 2015, we joined the China-led Asia In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank (AIIIB) and in­vested $125 mil­lion in it. All the more rea­son then, to be sur­prised we’re also co­op­er­at­ing in war games along­side Wash­ing­ton and Can­berra that re­hearse ways to in­vade China and sub­ju­gate it.

On trade and in­vest­ment is­sues, we blow air kisses to China at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity - while busily spying on it through the Five Eyes in­tel­li­gence net­work, and prac­tis­ing with our for­mer ANZUS al­lies on how to in­tim­i­date it at best, and in­vade it at worst.

In July for in­stance, the New Zealand De­fence Force will be join­ing the lat­est round of Tal­is­man Sabre, a huge train­ing ex­er­cise Aus­tralia car­ries out bi­en­ni­ally in uni­son with all four arms of the US mil­i­tary.

Last time around in 2015, New Zealand con­trib­uted 650 per­son­nel, 45 ve­hi­cles and two of our $771 mil­lion dol­lar fleet of NH90 heli­copters to this war game.

What’s strange about this is Tal­is­man Sabre is es­sen­tially a re­hearsal for an as­sault on China and on its abil­ity to de­fend it­self. As the Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist John Pil­ger said last week : ‘‘A prin­ci­pal pur­pose of Tal­is­man Sabre is to re­hearse a block­ade of the Malacca Straits and the Lom­bok Straits - ef­fec­tively cut­ting China’s life­lines through the South China Sea and be­yond.

Tal­is­man Sabre de­rives from the US Air/Sea Bat­tle Plan for a war with China. It is wholly provoca­tive. Why is ‘‘in­de­pen­dent’’ New Zealand tak­ing part?’’

This split iden­tity – nice Dr Jekyll on trade, nasty Mr Hyde on de­fence – must look very pe­cu­liar in­deed from Bei­jing’s per­spec­tive. Yet for now, New Zealand ap­pears con­tent with the con­tra­dic­tion.

In North­land, lo­cal

‘‘We blow air kisses to China at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity’’

gov­ern­ment is re­port­edly about to clinch a memo of un­der­stand­ing with Chi­nese state-owned firms to de­liver a $400 mil­lion re­vamp of the state high­way south of Whangarei, plus a rail link to Mars­den Point.

Cur­rently, the chief ob­sta­cle would ap­pear to be Win­ston Peters. ’’If we think we’re get­ting a soft job from the Chi­nese to build a port and rail link, which they want, us­ing cheap Chi­nese and steel, built by thou­sands of Chi­nese work­ers liv­ing in ships parked off­shore, while New Zealan­ders and es­pe­cially North­land peo­ple are cry­ing out for jobs . . . Well, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen,’’ Peters has said.

Clearly, China cope with our con­tra­dic­tory trade and de­fence poli­cies.

Find­ing com­mon ground with Peters how­ever, may prove a far more dif­fi­cult task for Bei­jing.

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