Mike's Minute: We have to tread carefully with China rhetoric

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 May 2021, 10:22AM

Mike's Minute: We have to tread carefully with China rhetoric

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Tue, 4 May 2021, 10:22AM

The old favourite line about China got rolled out at the big trade summit yesterday.

"There will be things that we disagree on."

That's the line you use when you're a tiny country of 5 million and you have 10s of billions worth of business flowing both ways, they're you're biggest trading partner, they're growing, you need them, and you'd be sunk without them.

And let's be honest, if we didn’t set trade aside as an individual part of a relationship, we wouldn’t do business with anyone. Even Australia has issues around race with its indigenous people, it's not exactly all over climate change, and that's the sort of thing we like to get a bit exercised about.

Individual counties have a legitimate right to do their own thing their way, I would have thought our biggest beef with China was that no one gets a vote.

So probably too much is being made of China's current bullish expansionist view of the world. But that doesn't mean aren't meat in the sandwich, because we are.

The reason Joe Biden said what he said last week to Congress, the reason he wants all that money, is to show China that America isn't finished as a superpower. He's trying to say that whatever China can do, they can do better, and they can do it through democracy not autocracy.

It would be nice to think we could get along well with both of them, but as tensions ratchet up, we have trouble. That's why Nanaia Mahuta's speech got a shed load of attention. That's why the Brits, the Tories in particular, didn’t like it.

They see sides and you can't be on both sides. Well, you can, and most countries are. And we do at times, do weird things we don’t want to, because of alliances.

Do you really think we wanted to be in Afghanistan for 20 years to achieve basically nothing? Or Iraq? Of course not. But America called and we jumped, that’s how this stuff works.

There is a good piece on CNBC at the moment about how China is stepping up its diplomatic bravado, testing how hard Biden will push back.

But when it all gets laid on the table, in all its complexity, here's the simple truth, China basically owns us, we can't afford not to have them, and that predicament is only going to get worse.

The bottom line, especially a $20 to $30 billion bottom line, wins every time.