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Report on Michael Powles, China Friendship‏


The New  Zealand China Friendship Society and The United Nations Association  joint meeting for the visit to Tauranga  of Michael  Powles

speaking  on

Tuesday   28June11    7pm

Tauranga  Intermediate School 

Attended  by 30 people.


Challenges  in constructive engagement with China


China  is a perplexing country huge country. Why has a free trade agreement

been  negotiated with NZ the first developed economy to do so ? Referred to by the  Hong Kong Press as the odd couple.

Michael  recounted a story told by the US Ambassador about how a mouse rode on the head  of an elephant crossing a bridge  the mouse exclaimed” how the bridge trembles when us great creatures  cross”.

Australia has tried to negotiate a free  trade deal for many years without success.


Explainations  for the Trade deal ;

1  Conspiracy theorists argue to shake up the world

2  More likely to encourage other countries to negotiate, NZ is a small country if  the agreement fails there will be little publicity and little harm to  China.


Reasons  for a good relationship between NZ and China, in the 1970s NZ government didn’t  preach to China took a softly softly approach on human rights. NZ took China  seriously an example was the high number of Mandarin speaking diplomats at the  NZ embassy in Beijing compared with other embassies.


NZ  government has asked hard questions about human rights following the Tiananmen  square massacre when questioned the Chinese  Ambassador defended the massacre “because we were losing Beijing”


On  the 1992 visit to NZ the Chinese Premier said when visiting the Dairy Board  that “it was interesting but to  socialist to be of use to China”.

A  joke that world cup cricket could instil Confucian values of discipline fell  flat. The Premier said NZ was a very lucky country. it shared with China a  location in the Asia Pacific and ancient civilisation. (Meaning our  Judaic/Christian  values)

Shared  values make relationships easier between countries.

Tension  is growing between China and USA  due to frequent American naval patrols along the Chinese coast and visits  to Taiwan. US reaction to Chinas economic rise is more problematical than Chinas  rise. NZ has incentive to to preserve peace in the  Pacific Ocean.


China  role in Global organisations

Many  of the Global organisations, Breton Woods the United Nations the IMF were the  construct of victorious World War2 powers including the Chinese Nationalist  Party. China will want to have more influence e.g. double the IMF voting rights  it presently has. China will want more say in how International systems  operate.


NZ  does not have a formal military alliance with any country.

UN  does not  have  an army.

European  Union should have a seat on the UN security council and replace France and U.K  .

Australia  is committed to military alliance with USA a recent poll showed 88% of  Australians in favour of the alliance. USA and Australia have a containment  policy toward China.


Vice  Premier Wen Shi bao has met with many of the Pacific Island leaders and  reassured them that China recognises their sovereign rights over the mineral  wealth in their borders.



Chinas  human rights,

China  has ignored human rights in the past but the trend is in the right direction.  Imprisonment of Hu the UN Association leader is very distasteful. In general  freedom of choice is increasing.

Regional  development of human rights. Michael spoke at Pudong University law faculty in  the 1990s ten years later a law student challenged Michael  and demanded freeing up of  human rights. The Student was not  rebuked by the Dean of Law present at the meeting. A much freer atmosphere for  debate.

The  Communist Party is still above the judiciary, NZ is helping with judicial  training. Some Chinese Judges are going to Hong Kong for Judicial  training.


Recently  there were demonstrations in Shanghai against a proposed railway line-the  Shanghai Mayor met the demonstrators affirmed their rights and freedom of  expression and allowed the  demonstration to appear on TV.


There  is still long term detention of people without trial this is not acceptable to  our sense of justice.


Rising  Nationalism.

Chinese  outrage when Japanese President celebrated the shrine of Japanese war criminals.  However there have been Japanese naval  visits to China;, Japan helped with the Sichuan earthquake and China  helped with the recent Tsunami.



China  is sending more students overseas, half of the Politbureau  members children attend USA  universities.

The  NZ/China Free Trade agreement is useful to both sides. But the NZ government was  very quiet when it negotiated the agreement, maybe afraid it would be unpopular  with the public. Both countries need to maintain political contact. NZ needs a  successful foreign service but budget cuts are undermining it’s  efficiency.


Questions  from the floor

China’s  behaviour at APEC demonstrations was very hard line, is China’s Tibet policy  acceptable ?

Answer NZ must pursue its economic  interests . Quote from Willie Brandt “idealism is directly proportional to how  far away you are from the problem”


Question  two How can we manage the problem of NZs high exchange rate with China, NZ s  industry is under threat. Do we want China buying up our  land?

Answer  Should NZ go back to a protected economy, liberalisation has enabled us to buy  cheap electrical appliances that have increased our standard of  living.

Low  end manufacturing is moving from Guangdong to NE China, Laos, Cambodia and  Vietnam.

Foreigners  can’t buy land in China but they can buy long term leases.


Question  three explain the complicated economic relationship between China and  USA.

Answer.  In the cold war days we had Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D) this is an apt  acronym for Chinas large holdings of USA bonds. USA needs Chinese money and  China needs USA trade.

Australia  in trade terms is totally beholden to China.


The Bookings institute did a survey on how to make the Government more responsive to the people and found the people were happy with government policy that advocates making them wealthier. There is no democracy at central government level but rural people can vote for village councils and there is voting for candidates within the communist  party.

China  needs a new value system, Maoism replaced Confucianism now the communists are  advocating a watered down Confucianism. (with the negative attitudes to women  and servants removed)


The  talk was followed by a Chinese buffet meal, supplied by the Fraser Cove  Chinatown Restaurant.


Meeting closed  9.30pm