Arguing About China


ARGUING ABOUT CHINA is fast becoming a “thing” – especially on the Left. On one side stand the old-timers, derided by some as “tankies”, who grew up during the first Cold War and are deeply troubled by the increasingly reckless, United States-led campaign to create a second. On the other side stand the defenders of human rights and democracy, the people who will not countenance any attempt to intrude economic, diplomatic or military considerations into their quest for liberty. These are the people for whom the ancient cry: “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall!” was invented.

Given the obvious dangers associated with deliberately heightening the tensions between the Peoples Republic of China and the “Five Eyes” anglophone association of the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and (reluctantly) New Zealand, it seems only prudent to test the moral consistency of the Human Rights and Democracy Camp’s position. How much, exactly, are they willing to give up for the liberal-democratic values they are so determined to promote?

Let’s begin with something very close to the average Westerner’s heart – the miraculous technology that connects and transports them to the rest of the world. Since most of the world’s “Rare Earths”, those incredibly scarce and valuable minerals that make our cutting-edge technology function, are sourced from China, are the liberal-democrats willing to stop using their miracle machines until the Chinese Communist Party is dethroned?

Not fair? Okay. Let’s bring it all back home.

New Zealand’s Five Eyes “partners” are currently putting very heavy pressure on Wellington to join them in “decoupling” this country’s 5G network from the Chinese IT flagship Huawei. If the government buckles and Huawei is banned in New Zealand  (as it has just been banned in the UK) and the CCP retaliates by banning New Zealand’s dairying flagship, Fonterra, from operating in China, will the Human Rights and Democracy Camp accept the resulting domestic economic hardship as the price to be paid for standing up to Chinese tyranny?

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And what will the Human Rights and Democracy Camp’s position be if, emboldened by their success over Huawei, our Five Eyes partners insist that New Zealand join with Australia in lifting its defence expenditure to a minimum of 2 percent of GDP? Are these stalwart champions of liberal-democracy willing to see the billions of dollars currently earmarked for schools,  hospitals and fighting climate-change redirected to fighter-jets, frigates and submarines? Will this, too, be accepted as the price of securing regime change in Beijing?

Following the logic of this new Cold War, is the Human Rights and Democracy Camp prepared to accommodate something similar to the sharp shift to the political right that accompanied the onset of the first Cold War in the late-1940s and early-1950s? Will they, as so many “liberal-democrats” did in the face of the “red scare” and the McCarthyite witch-hunts, look the other way as artists, writers, journalists and trade unionists are accused of being communist agents of the People’s Republic and transformed overnight into jobless, friendless political pariahs? Will they, too, embrace the paradox of trashing human rights and democracy in the name of promoting human rights and democracy?

Following this descending geopolitical staircase to its dark terminus, will our by now fully-paid-up New Cold Warriors remain silent as their government ranges itself alongside a United States determined to “face down” the Chinese communist tyrants regardless of the cost? Will they be content to leave the management of this confrontation to a US President who, unlike Jack Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, possesses no personal experience of war and insufficient intellectual resources to test and challenge the advice of his Joint Chiefs of Staff? Will they simply hope that the Chinese – as they did 160 years ago – reluctantly surrender their sovereignty to the West’s superior firepower? And what will they tell their children and grandchildren as intercontinental ballistic missiles and their multi-megaton nuclear payloads start criss-crossing the Pacific? That they made sure that justice was done – even at the cost of setting the heavens on fire, bringing down human civilisation and condemning their families to a lingering death from radiation among the ruins?

But isn’t this an argument in favour of craven appeasement? According to its logic, wouldn’t Britain have been wiser to allow Adolf Hitler free-rein in Europe? Aren’t we “tankies”, like the despised Neville Chamberlain, pursuing peace at any price?

The comparison is, of course, entirely spurious. In 1938, neither the UK nor Nazi Germany possessed nuclear weapons. Had they done so, the diplomatic and military calculations of the 1920s and 30s would have been made using the same formulae applied during the first Cold War. Joseph Stalin was, after all, every bit as foul a villain as Hitler, and just as worthy of destruction. But, once his Soviet Union acquired atomic and hydrogen bombs, the costs of making war on it far exceeded any possible benefits – up to and including human rights and democracy! There’s not much call for either in the irradiated wastelands that follow the mutual and assured destruction of a nuclear exchange.

We tankies would like nothing more than to see a China in which human rights and democracy have sunk down deep roots. We are simply doubtful that either goal can be achieved when the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is openly declaring his determination to force regime change in Beijing. The policy we much prefer is the policy that took the heat (so to speak) out of the first Cold War: “Peaceful Co-existence”. Only when the Chinese Communist Party no longer views the US and its allies as an existential threat will it be possible to resume a meaningful dialogue about human rights and democracy in the Peoples Republic of China. While the Five Eyes powers brazenly advance the diplomatic, economic and military containment of China – also known as the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” – such a dialogue is impossible.

New Zealand’s own relationship with China might, however, be salvageable if our own Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was willing to equip its minister, Winston Peters, with a few facts. In relation to Hong Kong, for example, it would have been immensely helpful for the New Zealand Government to have drawn its citizens’ attention to Article 23 of the 1997 treaty by which the UK returned Hong Kong to China as a Special Administrative Region. The article states:

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”

In other words, legislating for the protection of national security – the very action our Foreign Minister is decrying – was specifically provided for in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR more than 20 years ago. (Hat-tip to Mike Smith for drawing Article 23 to my attention.)

All that has changed since the West happily signed-off on Article 23 is that China has grown stronger. That strength has helped to make New Zealand a more prosperous country. In joining the reckless efforts of the United States and the other Five Eyes powers to contain and weaken China we will do nothing to strengthen human rights and democracy in that country and may, by heeding the dangerous counsels of coercion, end up weakening them in our own.

Just months before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy addressed the students of the American University in Washington. What he said then is as relevant to international relations today as it was in 1963:

“So, let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”



  1. Well said, Chris.

    It takes us back to the [sarcastic] aphorism: never allow facts to interfere with a good argument.

    But since when have politicians been interested in the facts? Isn’t politics all about inventing your own facts in order to promote a particular [faux] narrative?

    As for China doing what it wants with its own territory, in view of what is underway -the collapse of the American Empire- no member of Five Eyes will be in position argue a year from now.

  2. No, as a child of the cold war I for one am unwilling to rob Paul to pay for Peter. Under corona conditions no one is really working because the government is giving people money kiwi style with its nzd$150 billion corona recovery package/borrowing so the way the government pays for things has fundamentally changed because is this way the government doesn’t need workers. An economy that is +70% consumption is not a manufacturing country and with out the consumer there is no nation state.

  3. The argument is not between idealists and pragmatists.
    It is between those who want to make a buck from China regardless of the political compromises involved, and those who are desperate to preserve the global power of the Five Eyes nations in which people of British descent remain the dominant ethnic group.
    In short it reflects a conflict between the commercial interests of the colonial regime and its racial biases.
    There is nary a single idealist to be found within the ranks of the regime.
    In essence they are arguing over whether Realm should subordinate itself to the Five Eyes or the Peoples Republic of China.
    That would be an important debate except for the fact that it can have only one certain outcome – the end of colonialism in Aotearoa.
    If the Five Eyes manage to retain control through the agency of the state security and intelligence services, the economy will collapse and New Zealanders will turn against the regime en masse.
    If, on the other hand, the Five Eyes lose their grip on New Zealand, our people will ask “Why replace one foreign overlord with another?” and the answer will be simple. There is no good reason.

  4. 5 Eyes says “jump”, NZ Govt asks “how high?”…that is how it looks to the Chinese and a number of us “tankies”!

    As independent a foreign policy as can be maintained, is the best course for our small nation at any time, and particularly in this tough global scenario we are in.

    US Imperialism was the scourge of the world’s people throughout the 20th century, and the 21st so far. Significant amounts of American industrial production headed off to China during globalisation with impunity. Why should such credence be given to a failing Nation which the US clearly is these days? Or their bullying deputy dog–Australia, in these parts–which country gives the NZ people a raw deal indeed these days, ANZAC spirit seems for ceremonies only in 2020.

    If “we” somehow get through Covid and Climate disaster, the Chinese working class will eventually rise and sort out their country. The US/5 Eyes war mongering should be seen for what it is, not some defence of “democracy”, which barely exists in United States itself at the moment.

    • “Democracy”, that ill defined much abused word for voting ever few years. In between times the politicians do as they like and the wealthy control what is happening as the get richer and the masses get poorer.
      Well China votes too.
      They have a raft of levels to their “democracy” and the poorer masses are getting richer.
      So forget the buzzword “democracy” as a measure and look at what is happening if you can find that information amid the heavy censorship of our MSM and online news and history.

  5. The thaw in relations with China bought about by Nixon’s visit in the 70’s has since been used as a blueprint for the ‘normalisation’ of other relationships. The notable thing about this is that as soon as business relationships are established any talk about human rights or democracy in that country goes straight out the window. As soon as businesses (mainly US ones) can set up shop, any pressure for greater political freedom stops. The ideas was that where capitalism goes, democracy follows. Capitalism is impossible without it. Except it isnt. History tells us that the industrial revolution occured at a time when the majority of people did not have a democratic franchise. Up until the fall of the Soviet Union, the conflict was always viewed as a fight for political freedom, democratic reform. It was only conflated with free market capitalisim after the fall. Had Glasnost worked, Russia would have followed a path, possibly a more democratic one to where China is today. Instead they got oligarchs and massive population decrease bought about by the idea that a sudden shock was needed to put them on the ‘right path’. Since the fall of the communist threat, conditions in the west have been steadily clawed back as more and more production and jobs were moved to China. Ironically the free market capitalists in the west have drunk their own coolade and in the process given China the economic power it needed to avoid the political transition and cement in a hybrid command/free market based economy. By ignoring human rights when it suited us and by assuming economic and political are one and the same, it is now impossible to force a democratic transition on China without a massive disruption to our own economies. The increasing democratic deficits in our own nations bought about by the same forces, also needs to be addressed.

  6. Great article Chris. We don’t need to be bullied. Lining up with the likes of Pompeo does no one any favours. Maximum pressure is a sure route to disaster which the Pompeos of this world view as a necessary condition to bring on the rapture.Article 23 is a very important point and the US patriot act is a similar piece of legislation for the same purpose. We accept their right to make this legislation but get all hot and bothered when China does the same

  7. The very large hole missing in the above analysis is that waiting for diplomacy and democracy to succeed is exactly what the west did, allowing all sorts of leeway (currency manipulation etc) which China used to greatly better their lot, then utilizing artificially low currency, essentially slave Labour and “free” trade to cripple the west’s manufacturing capacity.
    “Free” trade was also used to steal technology.
    And of course debt slavery of poor nations and an illegal grab and militarization of other nations exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea.
    And during a rather conveniently timed Chinese originated virus outbreak, more damage to the west, more land grabbing on the border of India.

    So we are supposed to allow more of same?
    Craven sinophiles like Mike Smith are a big part of the reason we are economically entwined to China (not to mention water bottling selling crucial assets like dairy factories) which most kiwis do not think is a good thing, even the farmers you hate and don’t understand.

    The only reason factions of the left argue for more appeasement of China is because they are ideologically blinkered.
    Without wanting to be too unkind , China will take and use all the useful idiots the left will give it.

    • China, The US. UK , Australia or anyone else will take what we allow them to take..
      At the moment the US and five eyes dictates what we do. not China.
      NZ has a special place with China in as much as our FTA with China was the first in Oceania and the Western world. That was hard one and now 5 eyes angle to alienate us from that. Since when has the USA or UK cared about us or anyone including their own people.

      Don’t blindly swallow western propaganda and become a fool. Wake up Kiwis

  8. Chris …you have written some pretty good stuff recently. But then this crops up:

    “Joseph Stalin was, after all, every bit as foul a villain as Hitler, and just as worthy of destruction.”

    FFS! You are joking aren’t you – surely you of all people would not be susceptible to extremist cold war imperialist rhetoric.

    This is the sort of lies peddled by Eastern european populist/fascist groups – equating the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany. The former was the liberator of mankind. The latter the foulest and most dangerous challenger to all enlightenment values ever to have walked the earth.

  9. Since most of the world’s “Rare Earths”, those incredibly scarce and valuable minerals

    Rare earth elements aren’t rare:

    The “rare” in the name of this group of elements is actually somewhat misleading; the U.S. Geological Survey describes them as “relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.”

    There are many countries that produce them and even New Zealand could become a viable producer.

    and the CCP retaliates by banning New Zealand’s dairying flagship, Fonterra

    We have too much farming in NZ anyway as proven by the deteriorating condition of our waterways. Much better to develop our economy and our society in other ways such as using our intelligence to develop other businesses.

    our Five Eyes partners insist that New Zealand join with Australia in lifting its defence expenditure to a minimum of 2 percent of GDP?

    Fully in support. It could give a huge boost to developing those other businesses that we need.

    Will they, too, embrace the paradox of trashing human rights and democracy in the name of promoting human rights and democracy?

    Of course not. That’s why we’re against continued trading with China who actually is trampling all over those rights.

    The policy we much prefer is the policy that took the heat (so to speak) out of the first Cold War: “Peaceful Co-existence”.

    But we don’t have peaceful co-existence do we? Not when China is out grabbing all the territory that it can that it has no right to.

    That strength has helped to make New Zealand a more prosperous country.

    No, it really, actually, hasn’t. The only way to make NZ a more prosperous country is to develop our economy such that we don’t have to import anything – and we haven’t done that. In fact, free-trade has actually prevented us from doing that becoming reliant upon dirty farming instead.

    So, if anything, a strong China has made us worse off.

    • Draco.
      Rare earths are seldom found in concentration that are mine-able in quantity.
      “when China is out grabbing all the territory that it can that it has no right to.”
      Perhaps you can outline what that territory actually is.

      Expenditure on war is counter to real preparation for the future most likely ahead.
      An independent and neutral foreign policy seems to be NZ’s best shot at this stage.

      Did you vote for NZ to be in five eyes because I didn’t nor did anyone I know. It was a back door US corruption.

      • Rare earths are seldom found in concentration that are mine-able in quantity.

        Yeah, did you bother reading the sources that I provided?

        Perhaps you can outline what that territory actually is.

        South China Sea, Tibet, Taiwan and probably a few others. Then, of course, there’s the fact that they’re grabbing all the major ports in the world and will, shortly, control all shipping.

        Expenditure on war is counter to real preparation for the future most likely ahead.

        No, its a necessary part of it.

        An independent and neutral foreign policy seems to be NZ’s best shot at this stage.


        Did you vote for NZ to be in five eyes because I didn’t nor did anyone I know.

        We’re in a Representative Democracy thus everyone voted for it whether they wanted to or not because, as we’ve seen, our representatives have kept us in it. That’s Representative Democracy works.

        I’m not all that supportive of Representative Democracy because it has a distinct similarity to dictatorship.

        • From memory the five eyes membership was never an election policy and there was deep concern when it became publicly known what was happening as we were becoming enmeshed in the spy network.

          I agree we should cut our dairy farming in half than halve it again after we have reorganised after the first cut.
          But we have to implement something in its pace and a part of the should be grains and plant based foods.

          The rare Earth link I did read and it is US based chatting around a political position

          “Chinese mines and processing facilities provide most of the world’s supply”
          There is a reason for that and it is partly covered in the article
          The processing of Earth baring ore is highly complex and only China has this developed to a level of high purification of any and all of the rare earths in demand.
          Lockhead Martin relies on China as do thousands of high tech manufacturers.

          The ores vary in content and speculation is not good enough when putting up a case for doing without supply from China.
          NZ would have to export RE ore if it is found. We could not process it beyond a rudimentary separation of a small number of elements which would then need purification.

          The US driven scrap with China will rebound back in the US’s face. They cannot win. We should not back them as we are but remain as neutral as possible.

          Representative “democracy” is usually controlled by wealthy players and in NZ they are off shore.

          • Did you know that before China started mining REEs the US was the biggest producer of them?

            Did you know that China got its research for refining REEs from the US?

            Did you know that research that the US federal government pays for is publicly available to everyone in the world?

            Did you know that China is less efficient in everything it does compared to the rest of the world?


            If we were talking about economics here China wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
            But we’re not talking about economics – we’re talking about finances and finances can easily be doctored.

            And, yes, Representative Democracy is owned by the wealthy and has been designed to prevent democracy.

            • Draco your last comment about so called representative democracy applies in most Western cultures but doesn’t seem to be universal

              The rare Earths as a group describes many elements which are not necessarily present in most RE mining sites. So “rare earths” are not all the same stuff. That makes quite a difference to the discussion.

    • It has made Chinese better off.

      Obviously to racist cocksuckers like you who want to see coloured people perpetually in the shit, or as liberal props and pets, that doesn’t suit you.

  10. I suggest you read Khrushchev’s memoirs and discover for yourself what a homicidal villain Stalin was.

    The USSR would have faired far better in its Great Patriotic War with Germany if Stalin had not had 80% of its best officers shot during the leap-up to the war, and if he had not issued “No retreat” orders to armies that were poorly led, undersupplied and in danger of being surrounded. As it was, Stalin was directly responsible for the deaths of around 6 million servicemen and women.

    It was, of course, the superb generals and logistics people who did their jobs so well in spite of Stalin ( and the ordinary men and women , boys and girls as young as 10, who dug anti-tank defences by hand and starved in order that the men on the front line had food) who won the war and ‘liberated mankind’. Not forgetting the designers and manufacturers of some of the finest military equipment of the time.

    • The intellectual power within Russia is not really rivaled. The west has largely ignored Russian thinkers over the last century or two but the depth of inspiration is evident in academic and technological prowess today. A relativity small nation now compared with the USSR, but at least equal in capability in these fields to any western competitor.
      Stalin was a dark personality but so were the American which dropped atom bombs on innocent civilian in two Japanese cities. The pretext was to end the war but Japan had already agreed to conditions of surrender. The US blocked that by not agreeing to let the Japanese Emperor to carry on as Japans god like spiritual leader. They dropped the bombs the agreed to let the Emperor continue.
      A blatantly evil deed that helps to define who the USA is. The USA has not apologised.

      • Well said John W!

        An analogy is thus:
        You go head to head to in a fight, man to man in a fist fight.

        Because your opponent fears losing in a fair match, he instead goes and threatens and even kills your womenfolk and children in order to get you to stop fighting.

        That is the despicable, cowardly, and murderous nature of US imperialism.

      • The varying criticism of Stalin and others on both sides can be tied to how the histories of wars have been rewritten and who is involved in the rewriting. Surveys long after events are influence heavily by what information is selectively exposed to the public.
        Stalin, Churchill & Roosevelt all had darker sides to them. The public perception of them was often very different to what people close to them knew. Churchill the great hero was an alcoholic and compulsive gambler who accepted large sums of money for political favours. He also colluded with the theft of Turkish battleships so the ally Turkey would swing to the Nazis and so leave the Ottoman Empire and its oil plus the fruits of the Balfour agreement all on the table as spoils of the war taken up mainly be private companies. The Middle East today continues to be in turmoil because of Churchill’s actions and 100s of thousands of allied lived lost perusing the agenda laid out by Churchill.

  11. NZ Incorporated and its population would be best placed to lead the independent, or wannabe independent nations on earth, who dislike both super powers, yes all superpowers. Stand up and lead, Jacinda, not with the masters who want to tie us in, but with the people and nations who want true independence and progress without spending billions on destructive weaponry and so forth.

    It will cost us, and people need to be confronted with this.

    Sadly it seems, people prefer cheap and nice Huawei phones, and/or US consumer goods and jobs funded by exports to China and the US over human rights, principles and true independence.

    We have morally sold out long ago, so what about telling the people the truth, and going into rehab to stop our dependence?

  12. You make a leap, a logical leap, but Hitler making the obvious leap about power coming first missed something. Our ‘illusions’ matter. I’ll stick by’m til forced off by facts.

    But I haven’t digested your point, or the primacy of power for that matter, which any Marxist/ laissez-fairest knows. I do see power is everything and this is just a blip of wide plenty. Means and ends mixed up so much. We’re individuals to forward us H.s.s.

    What did you make of China’s utmost uncredible tosh about the diabolity of the Dalai Lama prior to their Olympic Games?

  13. POWER.

    The disgusting, cowardly murder of the Romanovs and their children.

    Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996) – Legendado [PT/BR]

    I would favour a completely independent foreign policy, a withdrawal from the 5 eyes agreement, and a triangulated approach to geo political engagement.

    That is, trade deals with Russia first and foremost, with China and the USA left to battle it out for our goodwill. I would play one off against the other and remain militarily neutral. Instead of having the major powers bullying us, I would have them courting us. On OUR terms. And that includes non military alliances and limited to strictly trade.

    And that would include beefing up our military and its hardware for strictly defensive, aid, and policing purposes in our sphere of influence in the South Pacific ONLY.

    If its good enough for Switzerland, its good enough for us.

  14. Indeed war is shite.

    To be avoided at all costs, because we are all the same Homo Sapiens no matter what country we were born in. Another interesting doco showing a time before WW2, – in fact the lead up to and end of the duration of the Romanov’s dynasty during WW1.

    I wonder if people hadn’t been so hell bent on beating their chests and clamoring for war , – and more importantly, – if the homely and family orientated Czar had just listened to the ‘Mad Monk’ despite his debauchery’s,… if the Romanov’s could have averted disaster.

    Make trade, not war.

    Last of the Czars – 02 – The Shadow of Rasputin (1996)

    • Harking back to talk I heard as a kid mid WWII, family friends used to speak of Russia as a stalwart race who rose up to over throw the Czar and the church both living in relative luxury..
      The poor peasant were taxed by the Czar and fleeced by the church then left with neither helping them through the winter cold with little food.
      If the Ukraine wheat crop failed then widespread starvation would be reported in the NZ papers. But elderly family friends who lived in Russia at the time, spoke of starving families who were punished for not paying taxes.
      The revolution changed all that for them.
      Its a class phenomena and the Czar did nothing for the Russian people.

  15. Oh , and regards the housing crisis? – I live in a crummy, mouldy , two bedroomed sleep out where literally half the wiring and plumbing is f@cked.

    Have a look at the birthplace of Rasputin in the middle of Siberia.

    I’d consider that a palace compared to what I live in. Double story, tons of big glass windows which tells me they could heat the place,… and we cant even pay our power bills without having to starve for a week to catch up.

    • It’s no sweat off our bachelor brows living in those conditions. So I assume you have family.

      Quintessential choices and lack of them.

  16. This debate is bizarre. Do we want to be punched by the right hand (the US) or the left hand (China)? When given two options, I take the third.

    Challenging the US empire doesn’t require believing and spreading CCP lies about its human rights abuses. It’s ridiculous to criticize the US for military-economic expansionism, interference in the internal politics of other countries, and human rights abuses, while making excuses for China doing the same things. Just as ridiculous as doing the same thing in reverse, as uncritical US worshippers do. A plague on both their houses.

    I support pro-democracy uprisings in the territories claimed by both the CCP and the USA.

    • Hmmm.
      In Hong Kong which had no democracy at all under British rule, and now has voting for for local representatives in governance, how do you see the US/UK instigated NED/ CIA/US congress funded and resourced so called “Pro democracy” riots.
      I think the words “Pro Democracy” can be very misleading as to what is happening.
      In Venezuela for example. Occupy Wall Street was so described also. Different as chalk and cheese.

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