Interest, values, trade and security.

datePosted on 14:59, February 18th, 2019 by Pablo

The media frenzy about the NZ-PRC relationship got me to thinking, but as I got to thinking I found myself meandering off of my original train of thought. You see, at first I was pondering the one-sided, hectoring nature of the media coverage, where pro-China shills like the business writers at the Herald and assorted corporate types and National Party flunkies like Tod McClay were allowed to run their mouths about how the relationship with China was headed down the tubes. There was the Kiwi coward resident 34 years in China* who implicitly disparaged Anne Marie Brady by saying that “(i)t’s unhelpful for politicians and a few anti-Chinese professors to feed uncorroborated McCarthyite conspiracies about Chinese spy networks in their countries and targeting anyone who doesn’t share their view.” There was Audrey Young’s reference to “ivory tower” eggheads in her regurgitation of business lobby bullet points. All of this was offered without a single rebuttal.

  • *I am not going to mention this useful fool’s name but it would have been nice if a “journalist” has asked him, given his long residency in China and successful business ventures there, whether he was a dual citizen and/or member of or has ever had any formal contact with the Chinese Communist Party, whether he has ever had to “facilitate” transactions or provide pay-offs to party or local officials and whether he is on any Chinese government payroll as a spokesperson, business “ambassador,” representative, go-between or in any other capacity. I say this because it is unusual for Chinese authorities to allow non-diplomat Westerners to comment on official reactions to PRC-related events in foreign countries even if they are citizens of the country in question.

There were even pro-China academics featured in the media and assorted pundits opining that the Labour-led government needed to pull an about-face and correct things ASAP. There were the usual skeptics about the GCSB rational for advising against using Huawei in the 5G roll-out. One of them, a well known rightwing blogger and pollster, used a 2012 junket to Huawei headquarters paid for by the company to proclaim that all the security concerns were a stich up up of an honest company so that Western telecom firms could gain a competitive advantage. There were the usual shouts of racism from the Chinese language media and wanna-be “influencers.” There was even something that looked suspiciously like a planted fake news article in an English language mainland media outlet that was extensively and uncritically quoted in the Herald that said that Chinese tourists in Aoetaroa complained about being “stabbed in the back” by the Kiwis. I shall leave aside the curious fact that the article only appeared in English and used rather odd quotes to describe the reaction of tourists to a minor diplomatic row involving their home and host countries–a row that had zero effect on them.

It was all so sickly obsequious to the Chinese that my initial thought centred on whether most of NZ’s business and political elites (and their lackeys in the media and academia) were so obsessed by self-enrichment, greed and short term opportunism that they completely lost sight of their moral compasses. After all, China is a one-party authoritarian state that uses mass internment camps to control a restive ethno-religious minority, mass surveillance as a form of social control, violates human rights in systematic fashion, transgresses international norms and laws as a matter of course (such as in the island-building projects in the South China Sea) and uses bribery, corruption, fraud and intellectual property theft as an integral part of its business development models. This would seem inimical to the values of the paragons of virtue extolling the “special relationship” between the PRC and NZ but nooooooo. The Chinese are good for the NZ economy and that is all that matters. It would seem that the trade-oriented business elites and their political puppets are China’s Vichy representatives in Aotearoa.

That sent my thoughts in a more academic direction. I recalled that Marx wrote that the combination of private ownership of the means of production and universal suffrage could not hold because if everyone got an equal vote and only a few were property owners (capitalists), then capitalism would be voted out of existence. He was wrong about that due to the reform-mongering function of the capitalist State, but that got me to thinking that he also wrote that capitalists were incapable of being patriots because profits were made globally and hence their interests were not confined to their countries of origin. People may recall that in the Manifesto he wrote “workers of the world unite!” as a response to capitalism as it entered the Gold Age of imperialism, a topic that Lenin subsequently developed a greater length.

It occurred to me that in the arguments about China we see a NZ variant of this. NZ capitalists and their toadies do not give a darn about democratic values, transparency, norms, a rules based order or the security concerns of Western states. They are in it for the buck and if that means kowtowing to a dictatorship then so be it. Given that NZ business and political elites have kowtowed to the likes of the Saudis, this should not be surprising. In their view if there is money to be made then the less impediments to doing so the better.

The smarter types will show the structural impact of Chinese trade with NZ by citing the usual $27 billion in 2018 bilateral trade figure and 8,700 jobs connected to it. But this trade is mostly in milk powder, tourism and English language and tertiary education (as NZ exports) and consumer non-durables (electronics, light machinery and plastics, mostly) as imports, so it is not as if NZ is going to turn into a high tech artificial intelligence and robotic hub thanks to the Chinese. The bottom line, then, is the bottom line: NZ capitalists by and large will cling to the window of opportunity presented by the opening of the Chinese market even if it confirms our trade dependency on primary goods and agro-exports and even if it means sacrificing NZ’s commitment to principle when it comes to exercising an independent foreign policy.

That was going to be the end of my thought process on the matter. I was going to balance the criticism of China by noting that the US and traditional Western partners have less than stellar records in their foreign relations and spy histories and that the US under Trump is an insane clown posse when it comes to international affairs even if the intelligence and security professionals who staff the 5 Eyes network would not be swayed by the craziness swirling around them and would make assessments about security matters on objective grounds. But then I got to thinking about something I read repeatedly on right-wing political sites: values.

One of the major objections to the Chinese and NZ’s relationship with the PRC appears to be the issue of values, or the fact that we do not share values. People point out the long cultural ties that bind NZ to the UK and Anglophone Commonwealth as well as the US. They point to joint sacrifices in war and peace, common sports, notions of good and bad, proper behaviour, etc. These folk do not want these shared values to be usurped and replaced by Asian values, or at least the Confucian-derived cultural mores that contact with China brings to NZ. The list of fears and concerns is long but the bottom line is that many on the conservative side of the political ledger have real fears of the Chinese “other” that go beyond the “Yellow Peril” of the Cold War.

That prompted a turn in my thought. You see, although I have a fairly idealistic streak and understand the utility of constructivism in international relations practice, I am a realist at heart. And realists are not sappy snowflakes looking for a global group grope. Instead, they focus on two things as the currency of international relations and foreign policy: power and interest. As the saying goes, in an anarchic world or Hobessian state of nature where values are not universally shared and norms are contingent on voluntary acceptance by independent State actors as forms of self-imposed restraint, then what matters is the exercise of power in pursuit of national interest.

That leads me to the following pseudo-syllogism:

States have interests, not friends.

Foreign partnerships are based on interest, not friendship.

Trade and security relationships are therefore interest-based.

They may overlap, complement but should never countervail.

A State’s degree of interest in any matter is self-defined.

Values help define but do not determine interest.

Interest may be influenced by values and values may involve shared cultural mores, norms and history that make for notions of “friendship,” but interest is not reducible to them.

Interest prevails over values when interest and values are at odds.

It is the relationship between values and interest that concerns me now. If I accept that values are only part of the definition of interest, then I must accept that shared values do not necessarily place some forms of interest above others. Nor does the absence of shared values do likewise in the negative. And if that is the case, then the matter of trade versus security must be weighed based on the degree of value-free interest in each and the impact each has on the ability of NZ to wield what limited power it has on the global stage.

The issue is problematic because NZ has long claimed to have a “principled” foreign policy that is based on the values of independence, multilateralism, transparency, non-proliferation, human rights adherence and assorted other good things. I do not believe that NZ actually adheres to these when push comes to shove or even as a foreign policy bottom line, but if virtue signaling in international relations is characterised as lauding the role of “principle” in foreign policy, then NZ is the semaphore of that movement.

To be sure, NZ is a trading nation and is committed in principle to it. Securing a favourable balance of trade that helps GDP growth and distribution is a matter of economic security and must be included in any national security estimates, to include threat assessments. There are as a result practical and principled reasons why the issue of assessing relative interest is so important and why it may favour the trade whores.

Put another way, what are the interests at stake in NZ’s security relationships and what is their worth to the national well-being when juxtaposed against the country’s trade relationships (since security and trade have been uncoupled in the NZ foreign policy perspective)? If the benefits of trade are real and immediate while the benefits of security partnership are more ethereal or hypothetical than real (especially given the actual and opportunity costs involved), interest would dictate that trade should be favoured over security. But what if the benefits of security relations are more like those of insurance policies, in which you only fully realise them when you need them? How do you calculate the pluses/minuses of the trade-security dichotomy over the medium to long-term?

I do not have the answer to this. I have written plenty about the NZ-PRC-US strategic triangle and the unfortunate balancing act NZ has to engage in because of the misguided attempt to trade preferentially with China, on the one hand, and seek security guarantees through partnership with the US, on the other. Either could have worked in isolation or when the two great powers were not in competition, as it seemed when the two-track foreign policy approach was developed and refined in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But those days are long gone. There are ascendent and descendent great powers contesting for dominance in the Western Pacific, and we are just another pawn in their increasingly acerbic game.

So the question now is how do we measure “interest” in our trade and security relationships and which, on balance, should we favour given the centrifugal pull of each on our policy-makers? Do we give up our Western-centric security ties to fully embrace a China-led Asian/non-Western foreign policy orientation? Or do we give up the material benefits of our Asian-focused trade, learn to live within our means and reaffirm our security ties to our “traditional” partners? Is there a middle road or happy medium that can be pursued without suffering the consequences of alienating our partners on either side?

That seems to be the preferred option for the moment. But that assumes that NZ has a choice in the matter and that its behaviour will influence the corresponding behaviours of its larger, contending interlocutors because their respective interests are maintained by our dichotomous foreign policy approach. That is a very tenuous assumption to make because it is also quite possible that in the end it will be a larger partner who, exercising its power over us in its own national interest within a strategic context dominated by great power rivalries, that makes the choice for us.

24 Responses to “Interest, values, trade and security.”

  1. Exkiwiforces on February 18th, 2019 at 15:34

    Another outstanding post again Pablo and I’m wondering if Mr Farrar has the morals or the balls to reply..? As the righties/ capitalist are really now showing their true colours now and it’s all about short term greed over morals and ethics.

    It makes you wonder would’ve happened if the “No Mates Party” did win the last election and Huawei did get the nod for NZ’s 5G network. Would’ve NZ got the boot from 5Eyes or reduce Intell from as a result of Huawei getting the nod?

    As I remember prior to medical discharge last year, seeing or reading a report from Janes or Defence News.com or whoever wrote it “saying the other four members of 5Eyes, that NZ’s current Government was seen as a “Security Risk” prior to the last election”.

  2. Sanctuary on February 18th, 2019 at 16:31

    I guess we could become neutral and arm ourselves to the teeth with every weapon imaginable.

  3. Pablo on February 18th, 2019 at 17:50

    Sanctuary:

    I guess after all my meandering around my basic point is “how do we define interest and what priority do we assign to different interests given finite but more than immediate time horizons?”

  4. Redbaiter on February 18th, 2019 at 21:14

    “how do we define interest and what priority do we assign to different interests given finite but more than immediate time horizons?”

    Glad you summarised it. (Did read the whole post, but man, those long sentences.)

    To me its not a hard choice. Trade with the Chicoms allows them to build more nuclear submarines, air craft carriers and other war machinery. See Nazi Germany for a previous example.

    What does China want? It wants to be more powerful militarily than the US. Why? So it can do what it wants to do without fear of US intervention.

    It wants Taiwan, and it wants Australia. (Not much NZ, its really just a strategic point for the Australian attack)

    Interested some years ago to read forums where Chinese defence force types conversed. I was struck by their belligerence, and their hatred and contempt for the West.The contempt was because they regarded us as weak, lazy, corrupt, and undeserving of the land masses we occupy.

    As far as the long term time horizons are concerned, one day their submarines and aircraft carriers will come. Every dollar we trade with them brings that day closer.

    Unless they throw off the chains of communism that is, but unlikely when their tyranny, murder, espionage, etc doesn’t cost them anything economically. For a minor example, they can break into Anne Marie’s house and get completely away with it.

    At least one world leader is doing something in this regard. Donald Trump. Its not enough though. All democratic countries should refuse to trade with China until it is a democracy itself. Or at least apply some kind of economic sanctions.

  5. Barbara Matthews on February 18th, 2019 at 22:23

    Listening to Corin Dann ranting at the Prime Minister on Q&A tonight re China reflected many of the points you have made in this very thoughtful posting.

  6. Sanctuary on February 19th, 2019 at 06:21

    Pablo:

    The 19th century and early 20th century definition of success was to come out here, chop down all the trees or mine all the gold or steal enough land to speculate on property or for a giant sheep station, get rich, and retire to an estate in Kent. Nowadays the people who see China as their get rich quick gravy train will (as the Maori found out 150 years ago) crush anyone who stands between them and their $$$, I am guessing using foreign troops from whatever imperial power is on the make if necessary.

    The fact is any small country – be it Chile, Venezuela or New Zealand – will always have an elite that will identify primarily with class rather than country and who see their homeland primarily as a vehicle for income rather than the place they live. A spineless defense of their own countries interests combined with a craven and hysterical policing of anything that threatens their greed marks them out.

    All this obscures what is to me a central reality. It may be we are living in the Autumn age of the Anglo-Saxon empire born in the Seven Years War. But culturally we are tied to that empire. Politically and militarily we are a vassal of Australia – where Canberra goes, we go. Where Canberra stands, we stand. It is inconceivable that when push comes to shove either ANZAC partner would abandon the other to face an existential threat alone.

    A wise and realistic NZ governing elite would take this recent ham-fisted attempt at mild bullying by China over Huawei as an enormous hint that we need to use government money to help our exporters to rapidly seek other markets, since the two decade era of being able to keep a low profile while speaking out of both sides of our mouth are coming to an end and the quid pro quo of being economically beholden to China is becoming brutally clear.

    Unfortunately, NZ’s governing class seems infected with a terminal case of neoliberal short termism, wishful thinking, political cowardice, and rapacity so they’ll truck along in complete denial whilst frantically seeking to line their own pockets before the inevitable denouement.

  7. Görkem on February 19th, 2019 at 09:46

    The problem with trying to get out from under the economic thumb of one dominant foreign economy is that it leads to the thumb of another foreign economy.

    In the 90s politicians, opinion leaders and intelligentsia said we needed to diversify our export base away from dependence on the USA as the major overseas trading partner so we would be able to strike a more independent line in foreign policy. We were successful – but ties to the USA were replaced with ties to China. And if trade was to be directed away from China, to where would it go instead? The EU? Back to the USA? India? Brazil? Which one of these trade blocs would we be comfortable tying ourselves to as closely as we’re tied to China right now (or were to the USA in the 70s-90s, or to the UK in the 60s and earlier?)

    Is there a foreign trade partner, now or even in the hypothetical future, that is economically powerful enough to be able to absorb a major share of NZ’s exports, but either isolationist enough or principled enough that it will not use the economic leverage that comes with trade dominance to attempt to shape NZ policy to its own interests? I can’t think of one.

  8. Pablo on February 19th, 2019 at 10:15

    Gorkem:

    When I was an academic a co-author and I wrote a paper that included research on asymmetric trade deals, i.e., those involving appreciably larger and smaller partners. In all cases the larger partner basically set the terms and benefited more even if the overall thrust was of the “rising tide raises all boats” variety. But there is a difference between trading with large dictatorships versus large democracies. The latter allow more open and transparent lobbying and are amenable to re-negotiation (especially after government changes). They also do not engage in the type of punitive measures associated with the PRC (say, hostage diplomacy or declaring bogus travel advisories as a form of pressure), especially over unrelated matters such as cyber security concerns, whereas authoritarians tend to adopt a more bullying approach to smaller external partners whether or not the difference of opinion is related to trade. So for me a diversification of the trade portfolio away from the likes of the PRC, UAE, and Saudi Arabia and towards India, Brazil, even Indonesia (with whom NZ has a 2009 regional trade pact but not a bilateral one) can be beneficial not only in terms of the increasingly diversified substitute trade generated but also because of the lower risk of punitive retaliatory measures taken in the event of disputes, especially those unrelated to the trade relationship itself.

  9. Exkiwiforces on February 19th, 2019 at 16:07

    Sorry but I had to post this link from The Spin-off on Keith Locke supporting Huawei. Now we Farrar, the “No Mates Party” and Locke now in the same boat backing Huawei….! WFT is going in NZ atm, is the water that bad back home or is this a case of a Tui Ad gone?

    This is getting crazy with Neo Libs/ Con’s and the hard left now in same boat and I thought the Australian DVA was a mind ****, but this really takes the cake now…. and I’m off to find a good single malt whiskey in my War stocks/ war reserve.

    https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/19-02-2019/nz-cannot-afford-to-be-a-us-lapdog-in-its-new-cold-war-against-china/

  10. Pablo on February 19th, 2019 at 16:25

    Exkiwiforces:

    To be expected but disappointing from Keith, who I have respect for in spite of our differences. His repeating of the canard about this being part of the Trump trade war on Huawei and other Chinese firms like ZTE is given the lie by one simple fact: concerns about Huawei were raised in 2012 during the 4G period when Obama was POTUS and US-PRC trade was at its peak. Also, although the UK allowed Huawei to be part of its 4G roll out at that time, GCHQ and Scotland Yard subsequently spent millions of pounds plugging potential back doors embedded in its systems. In spite of the recent announcement by the GCHQ’s NCSC (dedicated cyber unit) that it could “manage” the risk of Huawei being involved in the 5G roll-out (and note that it states that it can manage, not eliminate the risk posed by Huawei, something it does not say of other telcos), British Telecommunications is not only refusing to use Huawei for 5G upgrades but is pulling all 4G equipment out of its networks. When you consider that countries as different as the Czech Republic and Japan are refusing to use Huawei in their 5G roll-outs and are not part of the US-led 5 Eyes imperialist cabal, it seems that Keith is allowing his hatred of the US to get the better of him.

    That is all the more disappointing because he was one of those original Greens who used to denounce Chinese violations of human rights, bullying of its neighbors, intimidation of local expats etc. But at least there is one thing that he probably does not share with the likes of Farrar and other toadies: it is unlikely that he has ever received payment or favor for running his pro-Huawei lines.

  11. Görkem on February 19th, 2019 at 18:36

    I think it’s safe to say that this is not Keith’s finest hour. His argument is a picture postcard example of the left’s supposed willingness to give the benefit of doubt to countries like Russia, China etc but not to the USA. Usually this accusation is unfair, but in this case, sadly, it’s spot on.

    It’s grimly amusing that Keith says that Huawei would never spy for the Chinese government because that would be bad for business, but apparently US corporations are happy to spy for the US government despite it being equally bad for their business to do so.

    Getting back to the trade imbalance issue, Pablo, I would respectfully disagree with your stance. The USA is a democracy (jokes about Trump aside) and, more importantly, it was a democracy during the period when it was NZ’s second trading partner (after Australia). But the USA didn’t behave in an admirable way – NZ’s involvement in Vietnam was to a large degree dictated by the need to keep the USA as a trade partner (check the Holyoake cabinet papers for some pretty explicit acknowledgement of this fact by government ministers of the time). Similarly, the UK was also a democracy, during the 20th century anyway, but it also leveraged its trade dominance with NZ.

    So, I agree that India and Brazil and Indonesia are democracies, but I do not think they would behave better in a dominant trade relationship with NZ than China or the USA would/have. Conversely if China were to become a democracy (or, perhaps more likely, to become a less authoritarian non-democracy), I don’t think it would stop the kind of behaviour we’re seeing. Everything China is being accused of is the kind of behaviour democracies (the USA, France, the UK, even India) have done in the past 50 years.

    It’s not mega-relevant but it is worth noting that the worst act of aggression against NZ sovereignty in the post WW2 era – the Rainbow Warrior bombing – was committed by a democracy. And yet that situation, although unrelated to trade, had all the hallmarks of the kind of pseudo-espionage jiggery-pokery that China is being accused of now. Military and intelligence operatives on NZ soil, influence operations, even attempts to leverage trade – all committed by a state whose democratic credentials are and were absolutely unimpeachable.

    So both in general, and in the NZ example specifically, I am not sure we can really say that democracies behave better in the international sphere than authoritarian states do.

  12. Pablo on February 19th, 2019 at 19:24

    Gorkem:

    Interesting reply but let’s start with the last paragraph. Are you seriously saying that democracies behave no better than authoritarians when it comes to foreign policy/international relations? I am no fan of the democratic peace thesis but I think that, when it comes to efforts to construct a multilateral order, a rules-and norms-based international system, establish international courts etc., democracies are a wee bit better than their dictatorial counterparts. Perhaps it is trade that brings out the worst in them, which is ironic, to say the least.

    Or, it could just be a matter of size. The big shall bully the weak regardless of their domestic politics. That is what various trade regimes are supposed to curb, but maybe we have a ways to go on that front. Especially now, when the liberal world order is in disarray and a more feral, or shall we say Hobbesian view of foreign relations seems to be growing in popularity, at least among nations that can throw their weight around.

  13. Görkem on February 19th, 2019 at 21:02

    I’m not quite prepared to say there is zero difference between the behaviour of democracies in the international arena and authoritarians, but if the relationship exists, it’s a weak one. This may seem like a weird tangent, but you may recall in my comment about Israeli democracy, I mentioned that Israel’s military interventions in Syria (and less recently, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq), while reprehensible, don’t actually make Israel less democratic, because leaving one’s neighbours alone isn’t a principle of democracy. They just make Israel a very, very badly behaved democracy.

    Not only are there democracies that behave badly, there are authoritarians that behave well (Vietnam is probably the best example of a definitively non-democratic government that is, as much as anybody, a “good citizen” of the international system, moreso than China or the USA, moreso even than Thailand).

    I think you’re right that size is more likely to be an issue. Certainly the poorly behaving democracies are all either superpowers (the USA, the UK pre-WW2) or large powers (France, India, the UK post-WW2). So perhaps the solution is to establish trade relations where no country occupies a particularly large share of one’s trade.

    Unfortunately, for a large variety of reasons (none of which I am an expert in), this seems to be supremely difficult. The problem of disproportionate-trade-going-to-a-large-partner is one that almost every country struggles with (even the large countries themselves!).

    I guess that’s where this debate really goes for me. The details of the dodgy stuff China is/may be/is seen to be doing are sort of secondary. This kind of stuff is basically the default, and while the particular details may change, the overall dynamic doesn’t. The bigger question is – what kind of trade relations does NZ want to have with the rest of the world, given that the existence of large, poorly-behaving countries in the international arena is unlikely to change? (Given that it’s been a constant basically as long as there has been an international arena worth speaking of?

    As much as I dislike Locke’s analysis of the specific Huawei issue, I think big picture, his analysis is the only epistemologically complete one – Locke and the intellectual tradition he belongs to want New Zealand to have an economy that’s as self-contained as possible, where relationships with the international economy are limited. If this happened it would cause a lot of problems, probably more problems than it solved, but it is an actual answer that doesn’t leave anything unsaid or unstated, so on that level, I respect it.

    Is there a similarly complete answer that explains how New Zealand (or other small democratic countries) can remain economically engaged with the international trade arena while escaping economic entanglement with large states and the cost that comes from their (inevitably) predatory behaviour? If there is, I’ve never heard it. Perhaps someone here can elaborate it?

  14. Görkem on February 20th, 2019 at 00:49

    “the biggest the most morally repugnant, deliberate massacre of women and children in the 20th century (Hiroshima and Nagasaki)”

    ???????

    I mean, even in Japan during WW2, more people died in the non-nuclear bombing of Tokyo in March 1945 than did in Hiroshima (let alone Nagasaki)

    Hiroshima is not even the biggest massacre of non-combatants in Japan in 1945, let alone in the whole 20th century.

  15. Pablo on February 20th, 2019 at 07:14

    Oh look, Mark the troll is back. Again repeating his “whataboutist” broken record of past Western sins, ascribing racism to views that are critical of the PRC and the launching into some xenophobic weirdness with odd comparisons to Mao and Stalin about the reasons the US used nukes to end WW2 (which has nothing do with the post and which is a clear proof of his trolling intentions). He barely addresses the substance of the post, which as more intelligent readers will have noted is about the definition and role of interest in NZ foreign policy. His biggest sin is a lack of elementary reading comprehension or perhaps worse yet, an unwillingness to engage with what is written in an honest fashion, instead resorting to mischaracterisations of what was written.

    In a sense, Mark is exactly like his favourite country–thin skinned and blustering.

    I shall leave his remarks up for a while just so people get a taste of his mendacity. And then he will be gone.

  16. Pablo on February 20th, 2019 at 09:09

    Tell me how you really feel, my little incel troll.

  17. Görkem on February 20th, 2019 at 09:11

    ” But certainly it was worse than anything that stalin or Mao could ever be accused of. It was the planned deliberate slaughter of women and children”

    So you don’t think Stalin’s government ever deliberately slaughtered women and children?

  18. Görkem on February 20th, 2019 at 11:20

    Never mind the Gulag, or the Holodomor, or the civilian casualties during the battles of Berlin or Warsaw or Budapest. But the Soviets deliberately withheld food and medical supplies from occupied Germany, and, indeed, actively removed them, leading to the preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands, including multiple women and children.

    Killing people by depriving them of food and medicine during the European winter is just as much an act of direct elimination as dropping a nuclear bomb on them.

    Of course the Allies did this too, but we’re not having a discussion about relative actions, but absolute ones. Your assertion was that Stalin would never have taken deliberate action to kill women and children, which is IMO provably false in this one particular case, even if we assume all the other times women or children were killed were accidents.

    Of course I am no expert in the history of the Soviet Union – perhaps Pablo can provide more detail on this point?

  19. Pablo on February 20th, 2019 at 13:46

    Sorry Gorkem, but the troll is no more.

  20. Edward Main on February 20th, 2019 at 17:12

    Hi Pablo

    Below quote from an RT article, Russian reply to USA @ UN, Apr 2018 reiterates your opinion ” Foreign partnerships are based on interest, not friendship ”

    We’re not particularly keen to be friends with you,”the Russian envoy replied. “We’re not begging you for friendship. We want normal, civilized relations – which you arrogantly refuse, disregarding basic courtesy. “You are misguided to think you have friends,”Nebenzia cautioned. “Your so-called friends are just those who can’t say no to you. This is your only criteria for friendship.”

  21. peterlepaysan on February 21st, 2019 at 19:27

    Thank you Pablo.

    This is one of the few sites that sanity reigns. I have almost given up on NZ media for sanity.

    I have trialled some overseas press sources. Not good.

    Keep up the good work.

  22. Pablo on February 22nd, 2019 at 08:42

    Cheers Peter. Dealing with trolls is a pain but it comes with the territory, and the bulk of commentary more than makes up for it.

  23. peterlepaysan on February 22nd, 2019 at 21:58

    Apropos of recent media (and national party) hysteria about china.

    Away back in the 1970’s for a while I worked fo a USA based international publishing company.

    I recall the president of the company visiting NZ and telling me that the company was trying to (and had been for some time) develop a business for the Chinese market.

    Problem was the chinese simply reproduced their product and on sold it. Copyright was not a word the chinese recognised.

    Sigh.

    China is not above dirty tricks any more than any other geo-political player.

    Trump has a point (very small) in china “stealing” technology. We are in a “global economy (apparently)in that china steals resources.

    That is exactly what capitalism is about

    The nz media and their favourie “go to” columnists really need to grow up

  24. Phil Sage on February 27th, 2019 at 00:27

    Pablo, Gorkem , Red et al.
    I am enjoying your interchange of views on this post and others. Red no longer seems like an angry young man and makes some very good points.
    This article summarises my views of where China is going. In essence China intends to dominate as it views the West as weak, it has started to throw its weight around.
    https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/02/establishment-adopts-trump-views-china-military-threat-trade/
    Pablo question summarised as “how do we define interest and what priority do we assign to different interests given finite but more than immediate time horizons?”
    The answer in light of the above and the reality example of a small nation being blackmailed by France over the Rainbow warrior is that we continue to tread that fine line between standing up for our values and not destroying our economy. NZ was a strong supporter of China joining WTO and has long been a strategic friend. It will only lose itself if it tries appeasement. Speaking out calmly and assertively and continuing to do things like keeping Huawei out of our 5G network and standing against Human rights and environmental abuses will continue to earn respect.
    The China brand is suffering heavily now. They have bullied too much and used too many corrupt practices in the Silk Rd Belt and braces to place other countries into subservient positions. If they choose to continue that path they will eventually learn that modern capitalism places a very high value on brand. Maintaining a brand means behaving responsibly and fairly.

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