Russel Norman was interviewed on Q & A yesterday.
What is your problem in general with Chinese trade?
Norman: Well I mean we basically you know New Zealand alonmg with you know Australia, Japan and a number of other countries through South East Asia, we’re trying to manage this relationship between these two superpowers, the United States and China.
Um and essentially the New Zealand Government strategy is to in a way head towards being a client state of the United States militarily so we align ourselves with the US militarily, and then being a client state of China economically, um so milk powder into China, and raw logs.
The problem is that’s quite a precarious situation to be in because of the tension between those superpowers, so our approach is we should have a much more independent foreign policy, and also that we need to diversify the New Zealand economy and invest far more in research and development and value add away from a simple commodity, milk powder into one market China which is a real danger to New Zealand.
Dumping China and the US and becoming major trading partners with the Dalai Lama may be a bit more precarious.
It would be ludicrous to not trade with a country because at some time in the future that market may diminish, that’s always a risk – and a far greater risk with vague “green economy” trade as proposed by the Greens.
We sell milk powder (and cheese and other milk products) all over the world. China is a major market but is far from the only market.
We are trying to improve diversification through trade agreements like the proposed TPPA but Greens strongly oppose that.
If you had the ability to change our relationship with China in any way how would you change it?
Norman: Well I think we need to change it in the sense I’ve just described which is investing in a much more diversified and resilient and broad based New Zealand economy, um so that we’re not just dependent on a single commodity into a single market.
We are not “just dependent on a single commodity into a single market”.
Is Norman suggesting we deliberately reduce our milk powder trade with China? He is vague.
I think it’s also important too that we speak out clearly on human rights and democracy issues.
I mean I’m sure President Xi is a nice guy but let’s remember he, you know there’s a seventy year old journalist called Gau Yu, um who’s locked up in China. She’s ah, for spreading state secrets which was that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t like free speech. She was tortured in jail.
They took her son, and President Xi’s Government took her son, locked him up as well and said if you don’t give a false confession we’ll keep him in jail.
Um Liu Zaobo is a is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, he, President Xi has locked him up.
Should we halt all trade with any country who’s human, civil and human rights don’t meet the Green standard? That would have a massive impact on New Zealand trade and our economy.
Ah so I think you know there is a contest between democratic capitalism and authoritarian capitalism if you like, you know I think it’s very important that we speak out in favour of democracy because China is only going to become more influential.
Speaking out in favour of democracy is finer, but what would Norman change in our relationship with China other than protesting with words?
What struck me as very interesting in this visit by the Chinese delegation was that Andrew Little as leader of the Labour Party was meeting with the Chinese president, but you were meeting with the Tibetans. Is there a problem with your priorities here? Should you not be doing the same thing as Labour and saying that you’re on the same page?
Norman: Ah, well we’re obviously an independent political party so what Labour does is Labour’s business and what the Greens do is their business.
Does it not illustrate how difficult it’s going to be for you guys to work together?
Norman: No, so um in terms I would have been obviously perfectly happy to meet President Xi but President Xi did not wish to meet us, ah because he doesn’t like hearing dissident voices.
I mean in China he literally censors the Internet. I mean you know you’re not allowed to publish things on the Internet that are critical or President Xi, um you will be arrested if you do that.
And meeting Tibetans in an obvious demonstration would not help Greens get an audience with Xi in the future.
Parties that are in Government have to balance politics with diplomacy.
Norman wants to be seen as the Leader of the Opposition but if he effectively insults visiting presidents It’s difficult to see how he can be anything more than Leader of Dissidents.
So you know it’s the nature of their authoritarian regime that they don’t want to hear dissident voices and clearly the Greens who speak out in favour of human rights, democracy, Tibet, the Falon Gong, um all those basic democratic issues, he’s not interested in hearing our voice.
Being a proud and loud dissident is a choice the Greens can make for themselves, but it doesn’t seem very compatible with being in Government, nor as leading the Opposition.
I don’t agree with some of the ways the Chinese Government does things. I don’t agree with things that many Governments do.
But it the real world (as opposed to the Green world) you have to associate with and trade with countries that don’t fit your ideals.
This doesn’t just make it difficult to see how the Greens could operate in as a part of a Government.
It makes it very difficult for Labour to present themselves as a credible alternative lead party in a coalition when they would have to rely on the Greens to form a Government in the foreseeable future.