Surprise. So we have a new round of revelations about the Key government’s handling of the threats to our exports by China – if we should proceed to investigate the reports of them dumping their excess steel in this country. Apparently, we’ve been in formal discussions with the Chinese on this issue since May.
Walking that back, you’ll recall that when the story first broke the response from Todd McClay – the sock puppet otherwise known as the New Zealand Minister of Trade – was to call the media reports ‘extremely hypothetical’. Then McClay suddenly remembered that actually he’d been briefed by MFAT about the Chinese threats the previous week. He’d not only forgotten all about being briefed on these threats – even after he read about them again in the newspaper – but had also (allegedly) neglected to inform Prime Minister John Key, whose façade of plausible deniability (“I know nothing about this”) must of course, be maintained by his Cabinet colleagues at all times.
Now it transpires that MFAT has been in formal talks with the Chinese about this issue since May. And while our government says the Chinese have assured us there will be no trade repercussions if we pursue the dumping issue, hold on… two Zespri shipments are already suddenly being discovered to have a “fungus” and refused entry to China, even though – according to the same RNZ reports – such fungi haven’t been treated by China as problematic in the past. All of which doesn’t inspire much confidence in the likely rigour of MBIE’s proposed investigation into the steel dumping.
It isn’t simply that the Key government has misled the public on this issue. Apparently, it has been willing to act as a public relations firm for the Chinese on matters that affect the New Zealand economy. Deny the story, try to keep it off the front page, minimize the possible downstream consequences, do all you can to avoid embarrassment to the client. All classic P.R. strategies. Only this time, they’re being used against the public whose interests this government is supposed to represent.
Not much joy this week from our other good ’friend’ in the Pacific region, either. Supposedly this year, relations with the US have finally thawed sufficiently to allow a US naval vessel to dock out our ports, after only 30 years of hostility from the Americans, our supposed allies in WWII/the Korean War/the Vietnam War/the Afghanistan deployment and in the Five Eyes security intelligence pact. Not that any of that history has seemed to count in our favour. When it suits them though, the Americans and the US Navy can be far more forthcoming. This week, for instance, the USS Benfold docked in Qingdao, China to hold a signals exercise with the Chinese Navy.
Interesting timing. Now, that would be straight after China rejected international rulings on its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Also straight after it conducted a massive live fire practice military exercise in the East China Sea to prepare for a “ sudden, cruel conflict” there.
China has also just given notice it will jail any foreigner found fishing in the disputed waters, including within China’s claimed contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves.
So much for the international court ruling in favour of the fishing rights of the Philippines. Oh, and Japan has just filed a protest against China’s installation of military radar on its gas exploration platforms in the same disputed waters.
Japan fears that the radar, a type commonly found on patrol ships and not necessary for gas field development, could be a sign that China intends to use gas exploration platforms in the disputed waters as military stations, Japanese media said. Also on Sunday, a record number of Chinese coastguard and other government ships entered areas of waters just outside what Japan considers its territorial waters around a group of contested East China Sea islets, further stoking tensions.
The entry of 13 Chinese government vessels into “contiguous waters”, which countries can police for customs and immigration violations, took place despite Japan’s repeated protests over recent, smaller-scale entries.
So that’s all going really, really well, then. All of this has happened after China’s state-run puppet news media identified Australia as “an ideal target to strike” should Australia dare to continue to ‘meddle’ in the South China Sea dispute. In the face of this concerted aggression, our flustered attempts at appeasing China do look particularly craven. Our overtures will be treated in Beijing with the contempt they deserve. As any school playground survivor knows, you have to stand up to your bully. Significantly though, China’s aggression does not appear to bother the US unduly, and – as mentioned above – it has not disrupted the friendly US ship visits to China’s ports. Quite unlike the US response to ‘good friends” like us, who got frozen out for 30 years over our entirely defensive nuclear stance, a policy that threatened no-one. Given these circumstances, it will be hard to feel particularly grateful when the Americans finally deign to turn up here for our naval celebrations in November.
John Oliver on the plight of journalism
Interesting long form piece this week by John Oliver on the plight of journalism. The takeaway point comes at circa 14:40 minutes in: “The truth is, a big part of this industry’s dire straits is on us, and our unwillingness to pay for what journalists produce. We’ve just grown accustomed to getting our news for free. And the longer we get something for free, the less willing we are to pay for it. Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism, or we are all to pay for it. Because if we don’t, not only will malfeasance run amok but….” Well, the rest of Oliver’s obituary for journalism can be found below. It includes a great line about how “You don’t work for a newspaper anymore. You work for a multi-content platform content distribution company.”