Monday, April 19, 2021

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Foreign Minister's speech suggests a move away from China


If you are a business exporting to China, you’ve just been given a warning: You need to start diversifying away from China. 

That’s the message came through loud and clear from foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta in her speech to the New Zealand China Council today.

She said: “In thinking about long-term economic resilience, we also understand that there is value in diversity.

"It is prudent not to put all eggs into a single basket". 

Now as far as I can see she wasn’t explicit about what her concerns are, but I think we can hazard a guess.

The most obvious one is the one she hinted at, which is that we cop it if we have to criticise them.

She’s signalled we might have to publicly admonish china over human rights abuses saying “We will not ignore the severity and impact of any particular country’s actions”.

And we know that can end up: Australia is copping it in a big way with tariffs.

There is a feeling that we are going to have to join in the condemnation of our traditional allies because we are more and more obviously out of step with them.

The second concern is further down the track but could be what happens if China makes a move on Taiwan or looks like it’s preparing to make a move on Taiwan.

There is a real and growing fear that China is eyeing up invasion of the island that it believes is its territory.

A top US admiral has warned China might invade Taiwan in the next year. Others predict china will invade by 2049, which is the 100 year anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

If that happens, we are in a right pickle: we can’t possibly stay neutral.

The fact is we have for a long time managed to quite successfully sit on the fence, carve out a middle path. By the looks of things, the foreign minister is preparing us for the possibility that we can’t hold that line forever.

So as I say, if you are in a business dependent on export to China, you need to start thinking about Plan B.

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.

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