US trade moves

It’s hard to know what Trump is trying to do with trade.

This week he threatened Mexico with tariffs, and he is now ending trade privileges with India.

This probably won’t strengthen his hand with China.

China also talking tougher.

US-China trade war escalates

President Donald trump has escalated the US-China trade war in while negotiations continue. Playing hardball may be necessary to make decent progress, but it’s risky, not just for the US and Chinese economies, but for all those who trade with them as well, which is most of the world.

.Washington Times: No cheating on friends

A president who talks and acts tough on trade has been a long time coming. Donald Trump made getting fair dealing on trade a major plank in his campaign platform and has followed through. China can’t say it wasn’t warned about the imposition this week of additional tariffs on selected goods coming into the United States.

Bad trade deals have cost the United States billions of dollars and cost millions of American workers their jobs over the last several decades. Supporters of free trade find tariffs against China, Europe, Mexico and Canada hard to take. Tariffs are taxes hiding under another name and lead to higher prices for U.S. consumers. The stock market dropped 500 points after the new China tariffs were announced. Tariffs provide a safe harbor for inefficiencies, and protect markets and manufacturers from the need to innovate and increase productivity.

But as a short-term strategy to get the Chinese to the table to make agreements to protect American intellectual property, for example, it might be that rare occasion on which to do something bad so that good may come.

If it works.

RealClear Politics:  A Don Corleone Offer to China on Trade

You don’t have to like tariffs to like President Trump’s strategy of imposing harsh ones on China. Those he imposed overnight are punishing, not only to China but to American consumers. The longer they last, the more they will cost. Yet serious trade sanctions are the only hope of getting Beijing to roll back its abusive economic practices and open its markets to U.S. exporters and investors.

Half measures and paper promises won’t do. The U.S. wants a big deal, and it wants teeth in it to prevent cheating. To get it, Trump is willing to threaten a trade war. We don’t know if it will work.

We do know that Trump’s threats are credible. He began saying how much he loved tariffs long before he ran for office. The irony is that his protectionist stance could pave the way for freer trade, first with China and then with the European Union.

The problems may be clear, but the solutions are not. No previous administration has figured out how to move China away from its discriminatory policies. Sweet talk and generous gestures don’t work. If they did, President Obama would have succeeded, not only with China but with Iran, Russia, and other hostile powers. Empty threats don’t work either. If they did, several administrations would have gotten China to change its trade and investment practices long ago.

These failed policies don’t leave Washington with many options. The U.S. can either accept Chinese protectionism, as Europeans and previous U.S. administrations have, or it can make them an offer they can’t refuse. The terms are obvious:

  • Threaten China’s export-driven economy
  • Make that threat believable and sustainable
  • Offer China a reasonable deal
  • Make it costly for China to delay, and
  • Buttress the deal with tough enforcement mechanisms

Trump is taking the Don Corleone option. He acted swiftly and ruthlessly when Chinese trade negotiators withdrew concessions they had already made in writing. On Friday, he more than doubled tariffs to 25% on some $200 billion worth of Chinese exports, with promises of more to come.

Trump’s decisive move is directed at China’s economy, but it also sends a sobering message to North Korea’s nuclear negotiators. They are bound to see how costly it is to make empty promises to the Trump administration, as Kim Jong Un has done on denuclearization.

President Trump is forcing Xi to choose between two unhappy alternatives. That’s why he has thrown a severed horse head into the bed. Trump wants to force the issue and make it hard to resist the American offer. If he succeeds, he will present the deal as a huge win for both sides.

But dealing like this can have it’s risks, and it’s down sides.

Washington Post – Another View: Multi-front trade wars hurting U.S

News reports identify the Trump administration’s specific complaint as China’s alleged going back on its promises to put U.S.-requested policy changes into law. For their part, Chinese sources have told Western media that Beijing interpreted Trump’s complaints about purportedly tight Federal Reserve monetary policy as a sign of economic weakness that China could exploit.

It’s anyone guess what will come of the current meetings in Washington between China’s trade delegation and Trump’s team. What should not be in doubt, however, is that throughout the entire bargaining process with Beijing, the administration has undercut its position by attempting to wage simultaneous tariff battles with other countries.

As Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics has shown, Trump’s tariffs now cover 50.5% of Chinese imports — but also 7.3% of imports from Canada, 2.5% of imports from the European Union, 9.6% of imports from South Korea and 3.8% of imports from Japan.

By bracketing old friends with Beijing, even justifying some levies against them (on steel and aluminum) on “national security” grounds, Trump has made it politically difficult for them to rally to the U.S. side in the dispute with China. They were, in fact, obliged to retaliate.

This unforced error is doubly regrettable because Trump arguably had the upper hand going into his talks with China.

In a world where Trump is deeply unpopular, his complaints — shared by previous U.S. presidents — against China represented a rare case in which other nations conceded him the moral high ground. A savvier president would take advantage of that.

The negotiations with China might yet reach a mutually beneficial conclusion, or they might collapse. Either way, Trump will have defied a lesson of history: Multiple-front wars are the hardest to win, whether they are of the military kind or trade wars.

Fighting without allies is harder still.

But for now the big battle is with China, and much will depend on how they react.

Reuters: Trump says no hurry to reach deal with China as trade war escalates

In a series of morning tweets, Trump defended the tariff hike and said he was in “absolutely no rush” to finalize a deal, adding that the U.S. economy would gain more from the levies than any agreement.

“Tariffs will bring in FAR MORE wealth to our country than even a phenomenal deal of the traditional kind,” Trump said in one of the tweets.

Despite Trump’s insistence that China will absorb the cost of the tariffs, U.S. businesses will pay them and likely pass them on to consumers. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Global stocks, which have fallen this week on the increased U.S.-China tensions, came under renewed pressure on Friday.

Following the U.S. tariff hike, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would take countermeasures but did not elaborate.

China’s central bank said it was fully able to cope with any external uncertainty.

China responded to Trump’s tariffs last year with levies on a range of U.S. goods including soybeans and pork, which has hurt U.S. farmers at a time when their debt has spiked to the highest level in decades.

Trump escalated the one way war of words. Much now depends on whether China responds by escalating the war of tariffs.

And how markets deal with the war. CNN: Dow Tanks After Trump’s Ballistic Twitter Rant Shellshocks Wall Street

The Dow’s weeklong catastrophe shows no signs of letting up, as the US stock market endured another shellacking at the hands of Donald Trump and his tariff regime on Friday.

The immediate trigger for Friday’s sell-off was the never-ending trade war teeter-totter, which continues to viciously seesaw between dizzying optimism and utter despair.

Less than a day after hinting that Thursday would be a “very strong day” for US-China trade negotiations, President Trump unleashed a ballistic Twitter rant in which he downplayed the need to “rush” into a trade deal.

Time will tell. Trump has a reputation for overstating his abilities and his tactics. Tweeting may be a useful tool for Trump, but like imposing tariffs it has risks.

What is not well known is how China will be approaching the current situation, as they operate far less publicly.

And a number of US businesses will be nervous about how all this will affect them.

US military deployments aimed at Iran, China, and more tariffs threaten trade talks

The US navy is deploying ships in the South China Sea ‘freedom of navigation’ and the Middle East (to deter Iran).

Stuff:  US sends strike group to Middle East in rebuke to Iran

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters believes the United States and Iran need to “engage in constructive dialogue” before tensions rise.

Peters’ remarks come following news the US is sending an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East in a show of force aimed at Iran.

“In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force,” national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement.

“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” the statement said.

The statement did not identify what actions Iran may have taken that would prompt the United States to increase its military presence in the region.

“I also note Bolton stated the US is not seeking armed conflict with Iran,” Peters said in response to the White House’s release.

Also yesterday:

JUST IN: Two U.S. Navy destroyers carried out ‘freedom of navigation’ operation in South China Sea on Monday: U.S. military spokesman tells

And more US pressure on China over trade:

Reuters:  Trump tariff threat leaves U.S.-China talks in limbo as markets fall

U.S. President Donald Trump’s escalation of a trade war with China left plans in limbo on Monday for high-level negotiations later this week to end the dispute.

Stocks around the world tumbled and oil prices hit a one-month low after Trump tweeted on Sunday that he would raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent by the end of the week, and would “soon” target the remaining Chinese imports with tariffs.

The announcement ended a four-month truce in a trade war that has cost the world’s two largest economies billions of dollars, slowed global growth and disrupted manufacturing and farming.

NY Times: Trump’s Trade War Threat Poses Problems for China and Investors

President Trump upended what appeared to be steady progress toward reaching a trade pact after he threatened on Sunday to impose still more tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless Beijing moved closer to a deal. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier overseeing economic policy and Beijing’s lead trade negotiator, had been set to travel to Washington for talks scheduled for Wednesday that were widely seen as the potential last round before reaching a trade deal.

President Trump upended what appeared to be steady progress toward reaching a trade pact after he threatened on Sunday to impose still more tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless Beijing moved closer to a deal. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier overseeing economic policy and Beijing’s lead trade negotiator, had been set to travel to Washington for talks scheduled for Wednesday that were widely seen as the potential last round before reaching a trade deal.

President Trump upended what appeared to be steady progress toward reaching a trade pact after he threatened on Sunday to impose still more tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless Beijing moved closer to a deal. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier overseeing economic policy and Beijing’s lead trade negotiator, had been set to travel to Washington for talks scheduled for Wednesday that were widely seen as the potential last round before reaching a trade deal.

This also poses potential problems for New Zealand, and the world economy.

Newsroom journalists detained by police in Fiji

Newsroom journalists detained in Fiji

Three Newsroom journalists were detained by police in Suva, Fiji, last night after trying to interview a controversial Chinese resort developer accused of environmental desecration of an island in the tourist jewel of the Mamanucas.

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, investigations editor Melanie Reid and cameraman Hayden Aull were held overnight at the main Suva police station after developer Freesoul Real Estate accused them of criminal trespass.

The journalists had visited Freesoul’s Suva offices seeking an interview but been told to leave. Hours later, while they interviewed a lawyer acting for villagers of the damaged Malolo Island, Fijian police located their rental car and arrived and escorted them to the police station for questioning.

Reid said: “We walked into the Freesoul office in Suva with a camera and asked why they had been operating at Malolo with no permits. We asked to talk to Freesoul director Dickson Peng. We were told to leave and we did.”

Later, after Freesoul staff had been interviewed at the police station, officers told Reid, Jennings and Aull they would be held overnight.

“This is trumped up and ridiculous,” said Reid, a veteran current affairs journalist named reporter of the year at the national media awards last year.

“I’ve worked all over the world and never been taken into custody for asking questions in a public office – questions, I might add, that desperately needed to be asked.”

Without being sure of knowing the full story it’s difficult to judge the actions of the journalists, but taking them into custody for two days with charges pending does seem quite unusual, and potentially chilling.

The lawyer for the villagers, Ken Chambers, who was talking to the Newsroomteam when police located them, said last night the journalists could be held for up to 48 hours before being charged.

“They walked into a public office and could be charged with criminal trespass. It is sort of like a sledgehammer to crack a nut to put them through a 48-hour holding pattern and use the letter of the law to give the Chinese some payback.”

Chambers said the Malolo Island issue “has been really a focus on how the Chinese are interfacing in Fiji”.

There has been more focus on Chinese are interfacing in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern’s trip to China.

Reuters: Don’t discriminate against our firms, China’s Xi tells New Zealand

President Xi Jinping called upon New Zealand on Monday not to discriminate against Chinese companies during a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country has rejected a bid by Chinese telecom giant Huawei to build a 5G mobile network.

Ties with China have been tense under Ardern’s government which has openly raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence in the South Pacific.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Ardern that China has always regarded New Zealand as “a sincere friend and partner”.

Both countries must deepen mutual trust and understanding, seek common ground while putting aside differences, and respect each other’s major concerns, Xi said, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to continue to support strong companies to invest in New Zealand, and New Zealand should provide a fair, just, non-discriminatory operating environment for Chinese companies,” it paraphrased Xi as saying.

The detaining of New Zealand journalists in Fiji over the actions of a Chinese company investing in a Fijian resort may add to the tensions.

Ardern in China today

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making a quick visit to China today.

It’s been a long time coming but the prime minister has arrived in Beijing for whirlwind meetings with the most senior figures in the Chinese administration.

And there’s a lot to talk about.

Huawei, trade, cyber security and regional defence and security are just some of the delicate issues Jacinda Ardern is likely to broach with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.

The stakes are high as New Zealand looks to put to rest any speculation about the state of its relationship with a key trading partner and a global power player.

The timing of the visit is not ideal, coming just weeks after the horrific shootings in Christchurch, but the importance of the relationship is underscored by the fact Ms Ardern has chosen to go ahead, albeit with a lot shorter trip than originally planned.

“China is a friend”, said Ms Ardern – speaking before she left New Zealand. “And despite our different perspectives, on some issues, our relationship, I believe, it is a mature and resilient one.”

While short at least this visit breaks to ice with China. Time will tell how New Zealand-China relations go as a result of this – on it’s own it’s unlikely to make much difference, but given Ardern’s international prominence over the last few weeks she may be taken more notice of than she would have been earlier.

Labour MPs change minds about Chinese expert submissions

A quick change of stance after Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee.

RNZ: Labour MPs backtrack on Anne-Marie Brady committee decision

Labour MPs have backtracked on their decision to block China expert Anne-Marie Brady from speaking at Parliament after push-back from the Opposition.

Professor Brady had asked to address MPs about foreign interference in elections as part of a justice committee inquiry, but the request was turned down yesterday when the four Labour MPs voted against it.

A government spokesperson said the committee chair, Labour MP Raymond Huo, had a rethink overnight and the committee would briefly reopen submissions to the public later this year.

Mr Huo declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but in a written statement he said he “welcomed” new submissions.

He said yesterday’s decision to block Prof Brady was “purely procedural” and denied he had shifted stance under pressure.

“That’s my own initiative,” Mr Huo said.

However, just hours earlier Mr Huo made no mention of that position in a separate statement sent to RNZ.

“As Committee Chair, I am satisfied that the correct procedure has been followed and that the [intelligence] agencies will keep the committee well informed about any issues of foreign interference that may arise,” he said.

Public attention seems to have had an effect.

Committee member and National MP Nick Smith yesterday called for the committee to reconsider, saying Parliament should hear from New Zealand’s most published academic around the risks of overseas interference in elections.

Dr Smith this afternoon told RNZ he was pleased Mr Huo had had a “change of heart”, but said it was only because he had spoken out.

“It’s blatantly obvious that the Beehive has recognised that silencing an academic on as issue as sensitive as protecting New Zealand from foreign interference was a really bad look and they’ve had to reconsider.”

Newsroom: Govt set to U-turn on Brady block

Committee chairman and Labour MP Raymond Huo, who has featured in Brady’s work for his supposed ties to Chinese government representatives, defended the decision on Thursday, saying it was “purely procedural” given the close of public submissions.

However, a spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Newsroom that Huo had reconsidered the Labour MPs’ original decision upon reflection.

He would discuss the inquiry at the committee next week, with a view to reopening it to public submissions from Brady and others.

While the decision to prevent Brady from speaking had been procedurally correct, the spokesman said there was merit in hearing from her and any others who wished to submit on the issue of foreign interference.

Neither Ardern nor anyone in her office had spoken to Huo about the committee’s initial decision, the spokesman said.

Jacinda Ardern said on 1 News tonight that the Labour MPs had had a change of mind and she thought that was a wise change of position, but kept a distance from that change of stance.

Labour MPs block China expert from speaking at select committee

An odd vote by Labour MPs in the Justice select committee (NZH): Labour MPs vote against allowing China expert Anne-Marie Brady to speak at justice select committee

Labour MPs on the justice select committee have voted against allowing China politics expert Anne-Marie Brady to make a submission on foreign interference in elections.

National MPs supported Brady, a professor at Canterbury University, giving her view on the issue which is a focus of the committee’s inquiry into the 2017 general election and 2016 local elections.

The eight-strong committee is evenly split between National and Labour MPs and today’s vote against means Brady cannot appear.

That’s a strange and concerning exclusion of an expert opinion by the Labour MPs.

National MP Nick Smith, who is a member of the committee, said it was concerning that Labour blocked Brady from making a submission on the critical issue of protecting New Zealand from foreign interference in its democracy.

“This has become a huge issue in other liberal democracies, whether it’s the United States, Australia, UK, Canada or Western Europe.

“If the committee is going to do its job for Parliament, we need access to both government officials but also New Zealand’s most published author on the subject,” Smith told the Herald.

He said the Labour MPs’ reasons for blocking Brady’s appearance were “disingenuous”.

“They said ‘we should only hear from government officials’ when Parliament needs to be able to hear from a wide range of expert views to be able to complete its inquiry successfully”.

They only want to hear what they want to hear?

Justice committee chairman Labour MP Raymond Huo said the decision to decline Brady’s late request was purely procedural.

Exluding an expert opinion seems hardly ‘purely procedural’.

Brady said in a statement that the coalition Government had made it clear in two public strategy documents, as well as classified briefing papers made public, that it was very concerned about foreign interference activities in New Zealand and wanted address them.

“New Zealand needs to pull together as a country to face this problem, and we need a bipartisan approach to solving it.

“The Government must pass new legislation which will address foreign interference in our political system, and it needs to talk directly about the problem to the public, so they can make informed choices and understand what the concerns are”.

Labour’s openness and transparency and fairness seem to have been forgotten here.

Misunderstanding a Memorandum of Understanding

Donald Trump answering questions on the negotiations for a trade agreement between the US and China:

I think the MOU is going to be very short term.

I don’t like MOU’s because they don’t mean anything. To me they don’t mean anything. I think you’re better off just going into a document. I was never a fan of an MOU.

He was then contradicted by his top trade representative Robert Lighthizer:

A memorandum of understanding is a binding agreement between two people.

This was in front of  a Chinese delegation.

They obviously have different ideas about how to negotiate trade deals. They may both be wrong.

Investipedia: Memorandum of Understanding:

“A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is a nonbinding agreement between two or more parties outlining the terms and details of an understanding, including each parties’ requirements and responsibilities. An MOU is often the first stage in the formation of a formal contract.”

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is not legally binding but is viewed as a serious document by the law. In the United States, an MOU is the same as a letter of intent, which is a nonbinding agreement stating a binding agreement will soon follow. MOUs are most often used as part of multinational international relations because, unlike treaties, they are quick and can be kept secret.

An MOU signals a legal contract is imminent. However, an MOU itself is not legally defensible but should still clearly outline specific points of an understanding. An MOU should describe the parties are, the project on which they are agreeing, the scope of the document, each parties’ roles and responsibilities, and more. An MOU can help two parties move in the right direction toward an agreement.

An MOU, while not an enforceable document, still holds a lot of power because of the time, energy and resources needed to draft an effective and fair document. An MOU forces the participating parties to reach a semblance of a mutual understanding, and, in the process, the two sides naturally mediate and figure out what is most important in moving toward an eventual future agreement that benefits both sides.

The misunderstanding about an MOU:

There were mixed responses, from:

Much as I hate to say this, but Trump is right. Any MoU I have negotiated included clauses that made it clear it was non-binding. It’s not a contract. Poor choice of a Trade Rep who doesn’t understand this though. The below is the official UK government definition.

To:

Jesus Christ Dom…. this is Government not commercial law…. MOUs are how trade deals are made functional. They bind countries.

It doesn’t surprise me that Trump gives no weight to an MOU – he dumps full trade agreements he doesn’t like, and starts trade wars as a way of forcing changes to trade practices and regulations.

The understanding from this is that anything goes with Trump, regardless of normal practice on negotiating trade agreements.

I don’t think that Trump’s rubbishing of the value of an MOU will give the Chinese any confidence about trade negotiations, and will negate the value of any Memorandums of Understanding.

UK – “Huawei risk can be managed”

Last November the New Zealand GCSB turned down Spark’s proposal to use Huawei equipment in it’s new 5G network. UK security chiefs say thaat the Huawei risk can be managed.

RNZ (30 November 2018) – Huawei 5G decision: Everything you need to know

The GCSB blocked Spark’s bid to use its equipment in the new 5G network and now the Chinese tech company is seeking an urgent meeting with the government.

GCSB Minister Andrew Little said the decision to turn down the overseas network provider was because the technology was too risky – not because the company is Chinese.

Mr Little won’t reveal what significant national security risks Huawei poses saying the information was classified.

But he said the decision had nothing to do with Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government.

Paul Buchanan (RNZ 29 November) – Huawei vs Five Eyes: NZ diplomatic ties at centre of dilemma

The Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) decision to recommend against using Huawei equipment for the 5G rollout because of national security concerns underscores the strategic role commercial telecommunications plays in modern society.

It also exposes the disconnect between local telecommunications providers and the Five Eyes signals intelligence network, as well as that between career intelligence professionals and the politicians who oversee them.

Now (BBC): Huawei risk can be managed, say UK cyber-security chiefs

Any risk posed by involving the Chinese technology giant Huawei in UK telecoms projects can be managed, cyber-security chiefs have determined.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre’s decision undermines US efforts to persuade its allies to ban the firm from 5G communications networks.

Australia, New Zealand, and the US have already banned Huawei from supplying equipment for their future fifth generation mobile broadband networks, while Canada is reviewing whether the company’s products present a serious security threat.

Most of the UK’s mobile companies – Vodafone, EE and Three – have been working with Huawei on developing their 5G networks.

They are awaiting on a government review, due in March or April, that will decide whether they can use Huawei technology.

As first reported by the Financial Times, the conclusion by the National Cyber Security Centre – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – will feed into the review.

The decision has not yet been made public, but the security agency said in a statement it had “a unique oversight and understanding of Huawei engineering and cyber security”.

This has been portrayed as a split amongst Five Eyes partners.

Jacinda Ardern says that what the Uk is doing aligns with what NZ is doing –UK finds it can mitigate Huawei risks, NZ follows same processes: PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand was going through the same process as the UK in considering a bid by Huawei to be involved in the rollout of 5G.

New Zealand’s spy agency recommended rejecting a similar bid here unless Spark proved it could mitigate similar risks.

Ms Ardern said the two countries’ processes were similar in this regard.

“We have a process where an assessment is made by the GCSB, independent of ministers. Any vendor who has made an application is then told of the outcome of that assessment and is given a chance, if there are security concerns to mitigate those concerns,” she said.

“Spark has been given options to around mitigation of potential security concerns and now the ball is in their court.”

An issue lurking in the background of this is the alternative to Huawei equipment – US equipment. There have long been claims that that allows US security back doors access to communications equipment.

 

National’s relationship with China also under fire

A lot has been said over the last week about apparent difficulties the Government is having in it’s relationship with China, in part because of the relationship between Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. Ardern is the first Prime Minister for decades who hasn’t been on a visit to China in her first year, and that trip seems to be on indefinite hold.

But National’s relationship with China is also being criticised.

Michael Reddell (Newsroom): National’s craven deference to China?

But over the past couple of decades, New Zealand political figures, and the National Party ones in particular, seem to have binned any sense of decency, integrity, or values when it comes to Chinese Communist Party-ruled China. I don’t suppose individually most of them have much sympathy for PRC policies and practices, but they just show no sign of caring any longer. Deals, donations, and indifference seem to be the order of the day.

Over the past couple of years the depths the party, its leaders and MPs, have been plumbing have become more visible. In 2017, in government, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRC on the Belt and Road Initiative. In that document they – Simon Bridges as signatory – committed to “promote” the “fusion of civilisations”.

Plenty of people will probably dismiss such statements as “meaningless”, the stuff of official communiques. But decent people – under no duress whatever – don’t sign up to things suggesting that today’s equivalent of Nazi-ruled Germany is a normal and decent regime. Of course, they would probably dispute the parallel, but that’s just willed deliberate blindness.

Later that same year we learned the National Party had had a former PLA intelligence officer, Communist Party member, sitting in its parliamentary caucus. It seems to be generally accepted that Jian Yang, of such a questionable background, is one of the party’s largest fundraisers. Presumably the leaders (John Key and Peter Goodfellow) were aware of his past, but let’s be generous and assume that most of the caucus was as unaware as the public. But for the past 18 months, everyone has known.

But what the National Party – leader, president, MPs, and all those holding office in the party – is responsible for is the fact that Jian Yang still sits in Parliament, still sits in the National caucus, is still National’s spokesman (on a couple of minor portfolios), with the express support of successive leaders, and (apparently) in ongoing business relationships with the party president (he who trots of to Beijing to praise the regime and its leader).

A few months ago we had the egregious former Minister of Trade, and foreign affairs spokesperson, Todd McClay plumbing new depths. In an interview with Stuff, he championed the PRC regime interpretation of the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, noting that “the existence and purpose of vocational training centres is a domestic matter for the Chinese government.”

He was spinning for the CCP regime in Beijing.

No sense at all in anything Bridges – or any other National Party figure – says that the PRC itself has changed: bad as the regime always was, it has now become worse.

In his Beijing-deferential interview on the Herald website the other day, David Mahon tried to frame the current PRC upset with New Zealand as “the Chinese see it as akin to infidelity”.

New Zealand “leaders ” have been the most sycophantic and compliant, perhaps there is a sense that China can’t afford to let us get away with some renewed self-respect. That, after all, might encourage others to think and act for themselves, for the values of their peoples. Better to foster the illusion – assisted by local politicians and academics – that the PRC hold our prosperity in its hand.

It simply doesn’t. It never did.

But that’s New Zealand politics, that seems to be today’s National Party. It is sickening.

Strong words – and I have effectively toned it down with editing.

It is difficult when a major trading partner is a dictatorship with a poor human rights record.

It could be alarming if Reddell is anywhere near right about the degree of financial subservience of National to China.

And of course article this won’t help with the New Zealand-China relationship.