Thursday, September 26, 2019

On Bridges On Jacinda On Trade Talks With Trump

I gotta say - it's rather odd seeing Simon Bridges attempt to attack Jacinda Ardern for not attempting to press Donald J. Trump on climate change, at their meeting earlier this week.

A few weeks back, New Zealand National Party people were attacking Ardern for allegedly - I stress the *allegedly* - refusing to be open to meeting with Trump. Because, amongst other things, TRADE RELATIONS. So, you know, "she's SELLING OUT our PRIMARY PRODUCERS by refusing to meet - because she wants to politically posture", or something.

Now, this was obviously not factual; and this week's meeting shows that those assertions were basically baseless.

So instead, now that an engagement on trade *has* happened - and one that appears to have been pretty successful [oddly enough, Trump's ... "personal" approach to international relations may actually serve NZ better in this narrow regard than his predecessors' more systemic or otherwise agenda'd facings] - we instead have the leader of the National Party claiming that the Prime Minister should have pushed Trump on climate change.

You know, an issue that Trump is well known to be pretty uninterested and/or actively hostile about.

Rather than making good gains talking trade.

A situation that becomes even more curious when we consider that the National Party here in New Zealand has more usually *itself* been pretty lukewarm on climate change related matters, with a preference for trade and agriculture instead.

So what's going on here?

National, apparently annoyed that something appears to be *working* under the Government, is criticizing the Government for not doing something *badly*; for not doing the STRAWMAN thing that their imaginary rhetorical bete-noir 'might' have done.

If the positions were reversed, and Simon Bridges was somehow Prime Minister ... do we *really* believe that he'd have gone into a meeting with Trump, to push climate change action?

Of course he wouldn't. He'd be gently mentioning trade, and then internally pondering which of the Peoples' Republic of China or the United States he should attempt to sell out the national interest to, first, or endeavour to set up some form of bidding war over between the two.

There are - to my mind at least - legitimate areas to criticize this Government over. Ways to set out a principled and alternative vision, even, that provides voters and the country with a genuine sense of choice going forward. But it often seems that the National Party are less interested in doing that, than they are in simply throwing anything and everything at the proverbial Wall [no, not that one .. not the MP, either] in the vague hopes that *something*, *anything* sticks, no matter if it's *exactly* the sort of stuff they'd vitriolically oppose, were Labour/NZF/(Greens) *actually doing* the thing National now claims it would want done.

The National Party has effectively said to the electorate "These are my principles! If you don't like them ... I've got others"

They have no "vision" - except of themselves in power.

And they shall say and/or do [mostly just "say"] anything and everything under the sun, in order to attempt to get there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

On Winston On Bridges On China On Freedom

I see New Zealand First has put out a press statement which seeks to condemn Simon Bridges for his recent positive interview with Chinese media, doubling down on recent criticism aired in Parliament by Winston. To quote NZF's release:

""I have never heard such obsequious, subservient grovelling, kowtowing, palm-kissing nonsense," said Mr Peters.

Mr Bridges praised the Communist Party of China (CCP) for taking the country from mass poverty to economic prosperity in the state media interview, calling it an "amazing story".

Mr Peters said the interview was "staggering" because he "belongs to a country that for all these decades and down through the years... has been a democracy". "

Now, it's not that I disagree with Winston Peters on this issue. Quite the contrary!

It's just that I kinda feel that Winston might have been better to apply the same sort of sentiment to his own remarks afore making them back in 2017, when he made his first major speech as Foreign Affairs Minister, to the PRC-backed Confucius Institute at Victoria University:

""We should also remember this when we are making judgements about China - about freedom and their laws: that when you have hundreds of millions of people to be re-employed and relocated with the change of your economic structure, you have some massive, huge problems.

"Sometimes the West and commentators in the West should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcome for those people, rather than constantly harping on about the romance of 'freedom', or as famous singer Janis Joplin once sang in her song: 'freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose'.

"In some ways the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everyone's economic futures in their plans.""

Now, to be fair and to be sure, Winston's 2017 speech *did* also include the following - "New Zealand and China do not always see eye-to-eye on every issue ... but where we do have a different perspective we raise this in a way that is cordial, constructive, and hopefully clear." And, again to his credit, he at the very least was speaking about the PRC and"the Chinese" rather than the Chinese Communist Party - which may be something of a fig-leaf when speaking about a one-party state, but it's a fig-leaf that *does* at least somewhat matter.

It's also the case that Bridges was in a foreign country as a guest, and apparently reckons that his interview was edited to remove anything *less* than glowingly positive from the record. Which is not exactly an excuse, but does provide some measure of contextual explanation for how and why he spoke - or seemed to speak - as he did.

Whereas Winston was speaking in his own country (which, to be sure, while it may give one additional license, does not mean one suddenly chooses to insult guests) and chose to add the overtly pro-PRC (and anti- too-much concern about human rights or freedom) segment I've quoted above to the officially prepared text of his speech for additional emphasis.

But having looked at the remarks Winston is - again, quite rightly - castigating from Bridges, and comparing these against his own speech (plus the off-the-cuff additions such as the longer section of excerpt I've quoted above, which wasn't in the original text he was to deliver) ... I would perhaps suggest that it is somewhat "Orwellian" for Winston to get *too* enthusiastic in his condemnation of Brides - at least without *first* issuing some form of clarification about how his, and therefore New Zealand's position on the PRC has presumably now changed, evolved, and grown since that time. Assuming that it has.

And by "Orwellian", I do not mean in the more usual sense nor literary associations of the term - to 1984 and the forcible historical amnesia of rewriting the past for political purposes.

I instead mean the rather memorable line from Animal Farm:
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why Simon Bridges' Enthusiasm For The Chinese Communist Party Is Utterly Unsurprising

So in the wake of a recent Newshub piece that quotes National's Simon Bridges enthusiastically talking up the Chinese Communist Party - not, you know, the People's Republic of China, but the Communist Party *itself*, various portions of my newsfeed have understandably been understandably just a little surprised and more than a little bemused that Blue is apparently The New Red. Not the right-wing, National-voting sorts, obviously - the perplexity and somewhat faux-bewilderment has basically been exclusive to those to the proverbial left of Genghis Khan

Yet to be honest, I'm entirely unsurprised that Simon Bridges would speak positively about the Chinese Communist Party, even at a time like this with regard to Hong Kong. The fact is, that regardless of however many National supporters might have earnestly believed in that sign at the last election, that Jacinda Ardern is somehow a "PRETTY COMMUNIST", and then kept up much the same red-baiting rhetoric in letters to the editor and upon talkback radio for much of the just under two years since ...

... the National Party has long had a much more complex relationship with "Communist" China. Even at the height of the Cold War,in 1976 - while Chairman Mao was still alive and still nominally in control, some years before the 'transition' to a 'market economy' had begun - the Nats were quite happy to have their then-leader pay an official visit to Beijing.

The PRC  then arguably returned the favour, by sending an apparent envoy in the form of Dr Jian Yang to meet with the last *several* National leaders, over a period of the last eight years, through the highly transparent forum of the National Party's Parliamentary Caucus, of which he is an elected (list) member.

Something which the Nats were evidently quite keen to keep going, as it appeared that while in government they'd placed pressure on our security intelligence services *not* to unduly scrutinize Dr Yang, and particularly not over his hushed-up background with the PRC's military intelligence apparatus.

This ongoing bilateral politician exchange programme appears to have taken on elements of shuttlecock diplomacy - with former National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley amidst a lengthening list of luminaries who've since re-emerged into public life tethered to the local arms of PRC economic organs.

As applies Shipley in particular, there is a perhaps interesting comparison with what has happened with Simon. Bridges, at the very least, whomever may have written the words for him, *did* utter them himself. Unlike Shipley's surprise at finding she'd somehow written an OpEd for the CCP's People's Daily without actually realizing it nor intending to do so.

More recently, at seemingly every step, the National Party have been like a small yappy thing with a bone in criticizing the Labour/NZF/Greens government for apparently undermining/imperiling/vandalizing New Zealand's relationship with the PRC.

I suppose, in particular, that it is understandable that the Nats are now basically unconcerned about the signposted risks to national security of letting Huawei handle our 5G network upgrade. After all, with the PRC already having been in possession of a "man on the inside" [and not just of National - of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Parliamentary Select Committee, inter alia] for some years now, the National Party just wants the rest of the country to be subject to the same privilege.

I would have said that was "generous" and "egalitarian" of them - but as we all know, National under Simon Bridges considers "two Chinese" to be "better than two Indians", per their own words on the subject. No word on what the rough conversion rate is for other ethnicities, but I hear that when National's loyalty to this country was up for grabs, it fetched only a mere thirty pieces of silver.

In any case, even leaving aside all of teh above, it is absolutely unsurprising that Simon Bridges would speak positively of the modern-day Chinese Communist Party.

And for one simple reason.

Once you strip away all the mid-20th century political rhetoric and symbolism (including, oddly enough, a lot of banging on about representing farmers .. by which I mean peasants, once upon a time), the CCP are basically more-market repressive authoritarians, who never lose an election, never have to apologize, build roads everywhere, and whose leader is mandatorily popular with the people.

You know - *exactly* what National and Simon Bridges *wish* they could be.