PM counts the blessings of being on good terms with China while her Finance Minister counts billions of Covid Fund handouts

Latest from the Beehive

China’s relations with the United States and Australia (as Point of Order readers know) are seriously strained and now we can add Britain to the list of countries that are turning up the heat on the authoritarian government in Beijing.   Britain will suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in an escalation of a dispute with China over its introduction of a national security law for the former British colony.

But our PM – in a speech to the China Business Summit – emphasised three points:

  • Our important relationship with China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, is in good shape.
  • While we have different perspectives on some issues, we continue to manage these well.
  • And there continue to be many opportunities for New Zealand to develop with China.

But perhaps a more  significant announcement from the Beehive yesterday came from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who said the remainder of the COVID Response and Recovery Fund “is being set aside to make sure New Zealand is in a strong position to fight whatever COVID-19 throws at the economy”.

It was comforting to hear it hasn’t all been spent yet, contrary to the impression created by the daily flow of spending announcements recorded here.  Continue reading “PM counts the blessings of being on good terms with China while her Finance Minister counts billions of Covid Fund handouts”

Trump takes another tack in East Asia and threatens to pull American troops out of South Korea

Battered by the latest polls which show presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden pulling ahead by double digits, President Donald Trump has turned to attacking Biden’s competence and age as the economy shows little sign of revival ahead of the November elections. Biden is 77, Trump 74.

This weekend Twitter pulled another of Trump’s campaign messages. Also, the New York Times reported in great detail how White House aides, unskilled in public health, took control of Covid-19 data from the Centre for Disease Control and Management as the pandemic rages unchecked across much of the US.

Deaths are expected to reach 140,000 this week and the aim has been to shift the responsibility – and blame – from the White House to state governors.

Now Trump has taken another tack and is threatening to withdraw troops from South Korea unless Seoul stumps up with a bigger share of the costs. At present the South pays $30,000 towards maintaining each US soldier. Trump wants this doubled. Continue reading “Trump takes another tack in East Asia and threatens to pull American troops out of South Korea”

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.

 

 

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”

If you don’t benefit from DIY without having to jump consent hurdles, you might be in line for repurposed PGF slops

The way is being opened for householders to avoid council poohbahs and revenue grabbers. when they want to do a bit of do-it-yourself building work on their properties.  It is being opened, too, for the promoters of projects promising to quickly employ plenty of people to get their snouts into the Provincial Growth Fund.

Both announcements from the Beehive professed to be designed to keep the dole queues as short as possible and help the country’s recovery from Covid-19.

They vied for public attention alongside statements which –

  • Expressed New Zealand’s concerns with legislation in China relating to national security in Hong Kong;
  • Announced the theme for the 2020 Samoa Language Week; and
  • Declared that a programme to protect one of New Zealand’s most critically endangered birds is paying off after almost 40 years, with a record number of adult kakī/black stilt recently recorded living in the wild.

Continue reading “If you don’t benefit from DIY without having to jump consent hurdles, you might be in line for repurposed PGF slops”

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””

NZ economy – sapped by Covid-19 – gets a lift from exports helped by kiwifruit

The Covid-19 pandemic has savaged   several   of  New Zealand’s major  foreign exchange  earners,  particularly  tourism.  Even those still  trading  into  markets  that have   held up  well   face  an uncertain  outlook.

Yet the red  meat industry, whose exports earned NZ $9bn last year, and  the  $3bn  kiwifruit   industry  look as if they will be up there with the dairy  industry  as vital  props  underpinning  the  NZ  economy over coming years.

For  meat  producers, after the significant drop at the beginning of the year from the combined effect of Chinese New Year and Covid-19,  the return of China to the market, has been a positive factor compensating for the pandemic-led disruption to traditional European and North American markets. Continue reading “NZ economy – sapped by Covid-19 – gets a lift from exports helped by kiwifruit”

Sorry, but we can’t find a financial whiz to assure us the short-term economic outlook is bright

It’s been a grim week for investors.  RNZ reported the local sharemarket continued to slide yesterday, because of anxiety about the coronavirus and the prospect of it sparking a global recession,  and the NZ dollar tumbled after the first case in this country was confirmed.

The market mayhem was induced by the global panic as news of more coronavirus cases, notably in Italy, raised concerns of the virus’s economic impact being much greater than previously expected.

The market started the week at a record high but fell every day and had lost almost 7 per cent by the end of trading on Friday.

The three main US indexes ended the week down 10% or more.

“A known unknown” is how one major company boss described the economic fallout of coronavirus to the BBC, which reported the markets have woken up to the disruption to the economic activity from coronavirus being wider, deeper and perhaps longer lasting than previously assumed. Continue reading “Sorry, but we can’t find a financial whiz to assure us the short-term economic outlook is bright”