John Bolton’s White House memoir requires conservatives to do some thinking

John Bolton’s book on his time as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser – The Room Where it Happened –  is worth reading.  His forensic training means he sets out clearly his own actions and their motivations.  His recording of the responses of others appears scrupulous, albeit disputed. Failings of omission or judgement in the record seem more probable than failings of accuracy. Continue reading “John Bolton’s White House memoir requires conservatives to do some thinking”

Chris Liddell or an Aussie? Nominations for OECD chief could present Peters with a dilemma

Here’s another multi-passport challenge for Foreign Minister Winston Peters. The US is proposing former NZ businessman Chris Liddell as the next director-general of the Paris-based OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The current DG, Angela Guria, has been in the job since 2006. There’s word he wants yet another term. He is a Mexican diplomat and former politician and his term ends this year.

Liddell is head of policy coordination at the White House. He has held high rank in Microsoft and General Motors and joined President Donald Trump at the beginning of his presidency.

What worries Wellington is that he retains joint US and NZ citizenship. Continue reading “Chris Liddell or an Aussie? Nominations for OECD chief could present Peters with a dilemma”

NZ’s David Walker is in the thick of it (but not as a candidate) as the WTO selects a new director-general

A New Zealander is in the thick of the campaign to select a new director-general of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva – but not as a candidate.   NZ’s WTO ambassador, David Walker, chairs the general council, the WTO’s highest-level decision-making body in Geneva, which will select the candidate.

The present director-general, Brazilian diplomat Ricardo Azevedo, leaves the WTO on August 31, a year before his mandate was due to expire. He cites personal reasons for leaving but also said it would be good for the organisation to have a different leader to face “the new post-Covid realities.”

Timing is critical as many question the future of the WTO as an advocate for international trade.  The WTO has been scarred by the United States’ decision in December to block the appointment of two new members to the appellate body. Continue reading “NZ’s David Walker is in the thick of it (but not as a candidate) as the WTO selects a new director-general”

Jian Yang is mentioned in despatches to the WSJ as policies on China are re-calibrated in the West

Around the world, western governments are re-calibrating their foreign policy, strategic and economic settings to China.  Tomorrow the British Cabinet will review and probably revoke an earlier decision to allow Huawei Technologies Co into the next 5G network over security concerns. NZ and Australia have already taken this step.

Over the weekend President Donald Trump says he doesn’t even think about a phase two of China-US trade policy.  Washington has been angered by the new China-Iran trade and economic agreement, although critics say US embargoes are strangling much of Iran’s economic life and this has driven Tehran into Beijing’s embrace.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has said  the government is reviewing relationships over a wide range with Hong Kong in response to Beijing’s latest restrictions. Canberra is almost apoplectic, according to our correspondent, and its new defence strategic study paints a challenging picture of rising tensions requiring massive spending on new weapons,  but doesn’t say from whom. No prizes for guessing. Continue reading “Jian Yang is mentioned in despatches to the WSJ as policies on China are re-calibrated in the West”

The WHO review – it’s a task that will put Helen Clark between an American rock and a Chinese hard place

You can’t keep a good woman down and Helen Clark is no exception. Her new appointment, as co-chair of a review of how the World Health Organisation handled the coronavirus pandemic, will test her formidable political skills.

Sitting with her is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president, who handled the Ebola outbreak in her country six years ago. She is even more formidable than Clark, given her success in Africa.

The appointment is not without risks and challenges. Clark will have to manage both China and the US.

President Donald Trump served notice this week of the US withdrawal from WHO. He brands coronavirus “China virus”.  President Xi Jianping has been fierce  in defending Beijing’s response.

In effect, Clark will end up being ground between two massive stones, one from Washington DC and the other from Beijing.   Will this produce risks for NZ?.

In the US, Clark is well-known as an old leftie, given her links to the various anti-US movements that sprang from the Vietnam war. She was a member of the Labour government which effectively took NZ out of the ANZUS Alliance.

The US declined to support her campaign to become Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Around New York, it was said this was largely because in her job running the UN Development Programme she paid little heed to the US ambassador to the UN. She dealt with presidents and prime ministers only.

The present US administration rates PM Jacinda Ardern. She got on well with President Trump when they met at the UN General Assembly.   And Washington knows Clark no longer represents a NZ government. But if  the  report  is  anodyne,  the  reaction  may  be  chill.

On the  other  side, should the  conclusion  contain  any element of condemnation  of China,   the  mood in Beijing   could be sour.

The NZ Government is dancing cautiously around its relations with China, driven largely because of the vast economic importance of the trade relationship. Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been the only minister to question the role of the Chinese government in foreign policy.

If Clark  and her co-chair land heavily on China and the US in her findings,  probably it would matter more to the former than the latter. Then NZ will discover – as has Australia recently – what happens when you twist the dragon’s tail.

 

 

Malaysia has missed out on hosting APEC next year – and a virtual conference means we miss out on bringing world leaders to NZ

An interesting tale of international diplomacy has emerged over NZ’s decision to turn next year’s round of APEC meetings – including the leaders’ summit – into a virtual event.

NZ had to fight off a determined bid by the 2020 host, Malaysia, which hoped it could have its hosting rights carried over to next year because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.  That would have meant NZ lost out because South Vietnam will host APEC in 2022.

Hanoi reportedly insisted on the previously agreed rotation and finding a solution involved lobbying in APEC’s 20 other capitals. Had Malaysia been successful, NZ would have had to wait another decade.

Wellington might have scored an own goal, however, by converting the November 2021 leaders’ meeting into a virtual event. Some observers felt this decision could have been delayed till early next year, possibly around February. Continue reading “Malaysia has missed out on hosting APEC next year – and a virtual conference means we miss out on bringing world leaders to NZ”

Britain’s dash for good government (or the difficulty of reversing bad government)

When three former prime ministers condemn a policy, you suspect it might be worth a closer look.

So it is with the announcement by Boris Johnson of a seemingly-innocuous machinery of government tweak – the merging of Britain’s Department for International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Continue reading “Britain’s dash for good government (or the difficulty of reversing bad government)”

China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria

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. Continue reading “China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria”

Why you shouldn’t put money on Peters being unhorsed over his bluntness on China

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has offended many of New Zealand’s China cognoscenti in trade and politics and raised fears that his bluntness will   provoke  the kind of  reaction  from China similar to that which it has applied  in its trade with  Australia .

Some reckon he is out of step with the PM. Others  have called for  him  to be sacked.

Those in the latter group may have other motives for their advice.   Point of Order’s inquiries, however, suggest that he and PM Jacinda Ardern are playing the old “good cop-bad cop” routine straight out of old Hollywood crime thrillers.

Peters beats up on Beijing and its ambassador here, Madame Wu Xi.  Ardern offers emollient expressions of everlasting sisterhood.

The message is clear, though,   both on Lambton Quay and the Chaoyang District, Beijing, home of China’s  foreign ministry. Continue reading “Why you shouldn’t put money on Peters being unhorsed over his bluntness on China”

Peters goes hard on China – now let’s see if NZ falls prey to Beijing’s intimidating pack of “wolf warriors”

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been challenged over his robust approach to China.

First, he disclosed this week that Beijing’s foreign minister had tried to talk him out of NZ’s coronavirus lockdown.

Second, China’s diplomats in Wellington have become much more active.  The ambassador has already been called into MFAT over some of her remarks.

Now the NZ ambassador in Beijing has been called into the foreign ministry to “explain” why NZ supports admission of Taiwan as an observer to the World Health Assembly, run by the World Health Organisation.

NZ joins other countries in making its case for Taiwan to join the World Health Assembly, because of Taiwan’s record of handling the Covid-19 pandemic.  Neither Wellington nor other capitals challenge China’s “one China” policy.

Continue reading “Peters goes hard on China – now let’s see if NZ falls prey to Beijing’s intimidating pack of “wolf warriors””