Australia aims to stymie China with $US1.6bn telecoms purchase in the Pacific

Australia is to buy the mobile phone networks of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu from Digicel Group based in Jamaica. Telstra Corp, the country’s biggest telecom operator, will pay $US1.6 billion for the deal backed by $US1.3 billion from the Government’s export finance agency.

Commentators describe this as a significant strategic move to block another potential buyer – China.  Three years ago, Canberra announced it would build an undersea high-speed internet cable to the Solomon Islands, shutting out China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from the project. Australia had earlier banned Huawei from involvement in its own 5G mobile network.

The purchase sits alongside underwater cables Australia has with its Pacific partners.

The Wall Street Journal quotes John Lee, a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, saying,

“It’s ensuring that a potential adversarial power doesn’t own infrastructure which would impact on not just Australia’s communications capabilities, but also its military capabilities. Underwater warfare is increasingly important and these cables are directly relevant to that.” Continue reading “Australia aims to stymie China with $US1.6bn telecoms purchase in the Pacific”

Investors see promising signs of recovery in infant formula sales in China

After  a  rough  ride  since  Covid-19  struck, the New Zealand economy  is  in   better   shape   than might  have been  predicted  at the  onset  of the  pandemic.  Yet labour  shortages,  an energy crisis  in Europe  and  China, and  massive  inflationary  pressures suggest  that  the  passage  ahead   will  be  anything  but  smooth.

With  the  government abandoning  the  elimination  strategy  and  moving  towards  living  with  endemic  Covid, the  country  is adjusting  to  the  prospect  of  a  new  normal.  But  without  any  sign of  the  number of  cases  of the Delta  variant  diminishing, restrictions  may  persist  for  longer  than  might  have been  imagined  just  weeks  ago.

It’s  a  blow  to  industries  looking  to  inflows  of  workers  to ease  labour  shortages, particularly  in the  rural  regions,  which  last  season  sustained  the  economy  with  the  production of  commodities  that  were  in  relatively  tight  supply  in  world markets,  fetching excellent  returns. Continue reading “Investors see promising signs of recovery in infant formula sales in China”

AUKUS – it’s all very well expressing our moral repugnance but that won’t halt China’s bullying

“AUKUS  logic  is  morally  repugnant,  and NZ  must  resist  it”  ran the  headline  over a leader- page  feature  in the  Dominion-Post recently.

In  the article beneath that advice, Thomas  Nash, co-director of the independent  think-tank, New Zealand Alternative,  argued the  AUKUS  alliance  between Australia, the  United Kingdom  and the United  States has  triggered a  dangerous line  in commentary  questioning this country’s nuclear-free  status.

Nash  says  many of the opinion writers appear to prioritise  a  militarist  worldview  but  he  contends if we  are to  enjoy a  peaceful  future, we should  do the  exact  opposite  “and  forge closer  relations  that  share our  anti-nuclear  values”.

NZ should resist  pressure to  fall  into line with  the military  power  of the  US, the  UK and  Australia.

Instead of focusing  our  diplomatic  and  security  efforts on the  Five  Eyes, he argues, we should strengthen our  relationships  in Asean  countries, Latin America,  and in our neighbouring nuclear-free Pacific  Islands. Continue reading “AUKUS – it’s all very well expressing our moral repugnance but that won’t halt China’s bullying”

Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach

Defence strategists have begun considering how AUKUS, the Australia-US-UK nuclear submarine project, will ultimately impact on New Zealand.  In broad terms, it effectively welds Canberra tightly to the US in strategic and political affairs.

But there are  questions whether the deal might run foul of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Wellington and Canberra are linked by closer defence relations. A joint statement issued in 2018 says:

As close neighbours and allies, we have a mutual commitment to support each other’s security, closely coordinate our efforts in the South Pacific, and maintain a shared focus on the security and stability of our broader region. The formal expression of our alliance and security partnership is found in the 1944 Canberra Pact, ANZUS Treaty and through Australia – New Zealand Closer Defence Relations instigated in 1991. Continue reading “Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach”

South American curbs on beef exports bode well for NZ’s prospects

New Zealand’s beef exports may suddenly be  in high demand from  overseas  markets, in   the  wake  of  the world’s largest beef exporter, Brazil, suspending its beef exports to its No. 1 customer, China, after confirming two cases of “atypical” mad cow disease in two separate domestic meat plants.

China and Hong Kong buy more than half of Brazil’s beef exports.   NZ’s  sales are relatively  modest, by comparison, but  reached  36%   of  our total  beef  exports   last  season. 

The  other  big exporter  to  China,  Argentina,  in  June  decided  to   restrict  exports, with the  aim of  boosting domestic  supply.  Argentinian beef exports are to be  limited to 50% of the average monthly volume exported from July to December 2020.

Because  Argentina was the fifth largest beef exporter in 2020 and the second largest supplier to China, its cut in export volumes has the potential to have a significant impact on global beef trade.

NZ   producers  who  were  reported  to be  heading  into spring  with some confidence could  find  prices — which were  already  strong — climbing  even  higher. 

Rabobank,   in  a  recent  report,  says  pricing remained elevated over the past three months. This high pricing comes off the back of strong demand from China and suppressed beef export volumes from Australia,.

The report says Argentina’s restrictions will be reviewed at the end of this month.

Meanwhile   China  is   facing  its  own  problems  through its  poor  job  of  curbing  swine  fever. With  one  of the  world’s   highest rates  of  pork  consumption,  China’s  failure has   wrought  havoc in  its  domestic  supplies,  costing  between $50bn  and $120bn, according  to the Asian  Development  Bank.

If  China   faces  years-long  disruption in  pork  supplies, as  some reports  suggest,  ,  the  outlook for    beef producers, here   and  with other  exporters,   should  shine  even  more  brightly.  

Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies

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This article has been contributed by CHRISTIAN NOVAK, who has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in history from the University of Sydney.  He is working for a private company in Wellington in a government relations role.  

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While attention has been focused largely on the US and its allies as they abandoned Afghanistan, China and Russia have been waiting in the wings to fill the void.  From energy and construction projects to military and diplomatic initiatives, both countries will be an integral part of any international effort to influence and/or reign in Taliban behaviour.

Although Beijing senses an opportunity to press its belt and road interests, it worries that the disorder created by the Taliban could spill over the narrow border it shares with Afghanistan into Xinjiang province.  Indeed, the Taliban has long acquiesced to the presence of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which contains Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – where more than 1 million are being held in “re-education” programmes.

When Taliban representatives travelled to Tianjin for a two-day visit in July, the delegation assured China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that it would “not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China”. Beijing, in turn, reiterated its commitment to not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

But such goodwill doesn’t immediately translate to trust. Over the past two decades, Uighurs have launched several terror attacks in China in pursuit of their own independent state.  As a result, Beijing will be watching on closely to see if Taliban leaders can bring some sort of control to the beleaguered country.

But Beijing remains pragmatic and is prepared to exercise patience in pursuit of potential returns, such as its Mes Aynak concession.

Back in 2007, the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit in Afghanistan, which is said to be the second largest in the world. Continue reading “Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies”

Will China’s communist party complete a second century?

The Economist has marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with one of its context-rich historical essays.  It puts its money on the side of the party’s continuing adaptability and resilience.  This is probably the orthodox position.  But, as the Economist’s editorial staff themselves say when hedging their bets, only time will tell.

The more optimistic among us might look beyond the party’s seemingly-monolithic strength and see it – in pleasingly Marxist terms – as a prisoner of its own fundamental contradictions.

Continue reading “Will China’s communist party complete a second century?”

While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)

The government was battling on several fronts yesterday, just a few weeks after Defence Minister Peeni Henare acknowledged a $20 billion spend-up on defence had become a casualty of budgetary measures to deal with Covid-19 and its consequences.

The Defence budget was now much tighter, and defence would look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with New Zealand First, he said.

No matter.  A well-armed defence force is not all we require to keep us safe, keep our enemies at bay, or fight the wars the government wants to wage.

The Department of Conservation’s war is against predators and Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says the government is throwing $4 million into a project aimed at eradicating predators from the three main peninsulas in the Bay of Islands.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, in the vanguard of the war against the pandemic, has been freshly supplied to fortify our defences against Covid-19.  The largest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to date has arrived in New Zealand two days ahead of schedule.

Doses are being delivered to vaccination centres around the country.

On the diplomatic front, Phil Twyford, our Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, addressed a bunch of diplomats to spell out the government’s position on disarmament and weapons control.

Success with this policy – the disarming of all foes and potential foes and a global declaration of a commitment to eternal world peace- obviously would enable the government to cut its Defence budget back to zero.

But as we learned from Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, we have more to worry about than the firepower other countries might bring to bear against us. Continue reading “While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)”

Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending

Labour  Defence  Minister  Peeni Henare  has  signalled the  government  is  planning  to  trim   the defence  budget.  He says Covid-19 means the Budget is now much tighter and defence will look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with NZ First.   

This  comes as  Australia, New Zealand’s primary ally,  is pursuing a defence strategy aimed at countering the rise of China, while warning that Australia faces regional challenges on a scale not seen since World War II.  

Australia is  re-equipping  its  armed  forces  with a  10-year  budget  of  $A270m. But  for NZ, the  planned $20bn outlay on  new defence equipment  is the latest Covid-19 casualty, with a range of options to scale it down now before the finance minister.

The major investment in a range of new military hardware and upgrade was announced by former Defence Minister and NZ First MP Ron Mark in 2019 .

Henare says that when he got the job last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “was quite clear that she wanted Labour, us, to put our fingerprint on defence”, but what that looks like would be influenced by Covid-19. Continue reading “Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending”

Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear

Ministers in the Ardern  government  are getting to grips  with  the  Climate Change  Commission report  which,  if  adopted  in  full, will  reshape the  NZ way of life. Some say if all the  recommendations  the  commission  has  framed  are  applied, it will put NZ in the  vanguard  of the  battle  against global warming.

Just  why this country should want to be  among  the  front-runners,  and  possibly  the first,  to  meet  its  commitment  under  the  Paris  agreement to reach zero carbon emissions   by 2050  is  not  exactly  clear.

Nor may  there  be any  deep  conviction  that  the  Ardern government has  the  capacity to deliver  the   most  appropriate  measures  to  meet  its  climate  targets, given  its  long  list  of  policy  failures  including  Kiwi  Build, wiping out homelessness, eliminating child  poverty, and improving mental health, not to  mention the  Covid  vaccination  rollout.

NZ’s CO2 emissions are considerably less than those in the US and Australia (which is among the highest in the world). Transport makes up 33% of NZ’s “long lived” gases. Continue reading “Yes, we could try to be world-beaters in tackling climate change, but the reason for wanting to set the pace is unclear”