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Barry Soper: Jacinda Ardern's charm eases anxiety in China

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 2 April 2019, 6:42a.m.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo / AP
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo / AP

COMMENT

It would have been more credible if during the full, frank (and meaningless) signing ceremony in China's Great Hall of the People, they slipped one in called the memorandum of misunderstanding.

Premier Li and Jacinda Ardern stood applauding in front of the colourful flag masts as New Zealand ambassador Clare Fearnley did the obligatory signing of documents that are always brought out on these occasions to at least make it look as though we're making progress.

In reality the only document that we should have been signing is the long overdue upgrade to our free trade agreement to put us on a par with the Aussies.

If they were serious the MOM that the Chinese would like to have signed following talks with the Prime Minister in Beijing would be how the world's biggest telecommunications Huawei's been put on ice in our country because it's a risk to security. But more confusing for them would have been Ardern's explanation that it had nothing to do with the Government.

To the Communist leaders it's unthinkable that an arm of the government, and not just any arm, its leading spy arm, makes decisions independent of the politicians. And of course the Chinese are right.

A spy agency taking a decision which could have a significant impact on the economy and end up affecting the wellbeing of the very people this government claims it cares more about than anything else, is unthinkable, not just to the Communists but to most people who believe it's a government's job to govern.

It seems the only time it becomes a political problem is if, in this case Spark, appeals a Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) decision to ban Huawei, then the politicians can become involved.

In this, the law's most definitely an ass.

Is there any wonder then why the Chinese leadership on this one will have been left bewildered in Beijing after Ardern explained how our system works?

Even before they had it explained to them, the Chinese President declared "our financial relationship faces new opportunities of development, our two sides must trust each other". And when it all comes down to it, distrust on our side of Huawei is what it's all about and of course the Chinese know it.

Now all of this is not to say that they weren't impressed by the down to earth charm of Ardern and her engaging personality.

It's those qualities that make our youthful Prime Minister a star turn.

Pulling into her ritzy hotel when she arrived late at night, located in the midst of Beijing's most expensive real estate, it was a sight to behold.

The highly polished, black, flag flying limousine, which looked like something out of the 1960s milk bar set, even though in reality it's an armoured plated tank, drew quite a lot of interest, heightened by the crowd who'd gathered to greet it.

The girl with a posy of flowers patiently waited as Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford sat in the back discussing something before the trunk was popped and they alighted and started rummaging through the expansive boot.

So what were they after, what had they forgotten?

Well there was talk of the phones the Prime Minister would have been using in this highly suspicious country. She refused to say whether she'd stuck to her home phone or whether she'd been issued a new one, for security reasons, on arrival.

Perhaps that's what they were ferreting around for. And yes to impress, it surely was a Huawei.

• Barry Soper travelled to Beijing courtesy of Air New Zealand.

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