Our good friends from Beijing are at it again. China has done a deal with the state of Victoria under its “Belt and Road” project.
Infrastructure and other projects are under consideration. This has fired up the Australian Federal government — and the United States.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hardly China’s closest friend in the US administration, has promised action against Canberra should telecommunications become involved.
The US and several western countries have blocked the Chinese telco manufacturer Huawei from involvement in 5G developments for government agencies, notably Defence.
NZ has taken the same approach following detailed examination by the GCSB. The problem stems from a Chinese 2017 law which requires companies to liaise with the many Chinese intelligence agencies and share any information gathered.
What concerns the US and Australia – and is being monitored from Wellington – are the Chinese tactics. Beijing went direct, it didn’t work through the Commonwealth Government.
We have been here before.
What tipped the present NZ government in its attitude to China was Beijing’s identical tactics in its approach to the Cook Islands and Niuean governments offering support through Belt and Road without bothering to contact NZ, which administers foreign relations as part of constitutional arrangements for the Cook Islands and Niue.
Beijing is well aware of this relationship, because it has been exercised for decades and is most apparent at the United Nations.
NZ has been ticked-off in Beijing and Wellington over its attempt – with many other states – to have Taiwan attend the recent World Health Assembly as observers because of its record in managing the Coronavirus pandemic.
Beijing has also punished Australia, presumably because of its close connections to the US. A 40% tariff has been applied to barley exports, beef imports have been blocked from four meat processing companies, and there are reports that Chinese power stations have been instructed not to import or burn Australian coal.
With Beijing imposing direct security controls over Hong Kong, earning strong criticism from many governments – including NZ – the international climate is even less hospitable. China watchers were also bemused at how President Xi Jinping was the only one at the Peoples’ National Congress without a coronavirus mask.
Come to think of it, another world leader who shuns masks is President Donald J Trump.