There is understandable concern that the recent food contamination scandals in China, starting with the Fonterra melamine dairy product crisis in 2008 and book-ended by the fresh concerns over botulism this August, could have a corrosive effect on the trading relationship between China and New Zealand.
The relationship matters a great deal to New Zealand. China is now by some margin the country’s second largest trading partner, having rapidly overtaken the United States and long outdistanced Europe. And we are only at the beginning of what will in time become New Zealand’s most important economic relationship.
New Zealand is right to be concerned. China has for long taken a tough line with countries deemed to have offended it.
A classic example is Norway. Norway and China were on the verge of signing a bilateral trade agreement in 2010 when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the imprisoned dissident writer Liu Xiabo. In response, China broke off trade negotiations and they have been in cold storage ever since, with signs of a thaw becoming evident only this year.
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The following essay appeared in an edited, cut-down form on the China Daily website.
The challenges that China faces over the next decade are a product of changes in the country’s external environment together with the consequences of China’s home-grown transformation.
The external context has shifted in two profound respects. A decade ago, the Western economies still seemed in relatively robust health and were growing at a reasonable rate. Since 2008, that picture has changed dramatically. The Western economies are mired in a deep structural crisis which shows no sign of being resolved. This is the worst crisis of Western capitalism since the 1930s and it seems likely that the crisis has not yet even reached its halfway point. In other words, the Great Recession will last at least until the 19th Communist Party Congress, and perhaps even, in the case of Europe in particular, the 20th Congress in 2022.
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This is the script of the Point of View talk first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on October 26th, 2012, also available on the BBC News Magazine. Missed the programme? Download it as a podcast or listen again on BBC iPlayer.
I was on a taxi journey in Shanghai with a very intelligent young Chinese student, who was helping me with interviews and interpreting. She was shortly to study for her doctorate at a top American university. She casually mentioned that some Chinese students who went to the US ended up marrying Americans.
I told her that I had recently seen such a mixed couple in Hong Kong, a Chinese woman with a black American. This was clearly not what she had in mind. Her reaction was a look of revulsion. I was shocked. Why did she react that way to someone black, but not someone white? This was over a decade ago, but I doubt much has changed. What does her response tell us – if anything – about Chinese attitudes towards ethnicity?
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There has been virtually no discussion or coverage of China’s intellectual debates in this country. Perhaps the assumption is that there isn’t one; or if there is, then it is of little consequence. This is wrong on both counts. There is an extremely vibrant intellectual debate in China on many questions. This belies the widely-held view in the west that because China is not a western-style democracy, serious argument and debate must be largely absent. In fact, the contrary is true. The arguments among Chinese intellectuals are, I would suggest, more interesting and more novel than is the case in Britain, or even the United States.
The reason for this is twofold. First, China is changing so quickly that it constantly throws up new challenges and problems that require response and solution. In contrast, an economy growing at 2 percent – or these days, of course, barely at all – poses new kinds of problems only occasionally. Second, not only is China changing with extraordinary rapidity, but since the turn of the century it has also been transforming the world with great speed (even if this remains barely recognised in Britain’s insular and blinkered public discourse). Chinese intellectuals are no longer confronted simply with how to handle the country’s domestic development but also with what kind of global power China should become. Far from China’s foreign policy debate being of interest only or mainly to the Chinese, it has enormous import for the rest of the world. If we want to understand what the world will be like as China steadily usurps the US as the dominant global power, then the starting place must be the debate within China about the country’s future foreign policy.
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A CONTEST FOR SUPREMACY – China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia
By Aaron L. Friedberg
360 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $27.95.
Published: September 23, 2011
It seems inevitable that Chinese-American relations will increasingly come to preoccupy the world. The United States continues to be the only global superpower, but in the not-too-distant future China promises to acquire the status of an equal or near equal. How this relationship evolves during a period when the balance of power between them is shifting so rapidly is inevitably a cause for concern.
To be sure, there is at least one important source of encouragement. Ever since the Nixon-Mao rapprochement in the 1970s, the relationship between the two countries has been remarkably stable, notwithstanding the many changes of leadership and the numerous twists and turns of history. The future, though, promises to be different.
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China confronts Europe with an enormous problem: we do not understand it
China confronts Europe with an enormous problem: we do not understand it. Worse, we are not even conscious of the fact. We insist on seeing the world through our Western prism. No other tradition or history or culture can compare. Ours is superior to all and others, in deviating from ours, are diminished as a consequence. This speaks not of our wisdom but our ignorance, an expression not of our cosmopolitanism but our insularity and provincialism. It is a consequence of being in the ascendant for at least two centuries, if not rather longer. Eurocentrism – or perhaps we should say western-centrism – has become our universal yardstick against which, in varying degrees, all others fail.
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The president’s visit to China was seen as failure, but what if that was just the new standard? Martin Jacques on why the U.S. must get used to decline—and learn humility
Obama’s visit to China last week was starkly different from previous such occasions. The United States has stumbled into a new era. Just a decade ago it all looked so different. President Bush—in one of history’s great miscalculations—believed that the world stood on the verge of a new American century. In fact, the opposite was the case. The defeat of the Soviet Union flattered only to deceive and mislead. In a world increasingly defined by the rise of the developing countries, most notably China, the United States was, in fact, in relative decline. It took the global financial crisis to begin to convince the U.S. that it could no longer take its global supremacy for granted. This dawning realisation has come desperately late in the day. Even now most of the country remains in denial. Never has a great power been less prepared or equipped to face its own decline.
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Although a historic victory for Japan’s Democratic party, Sunday’s election result will mean little in practice
Measured by the yardstick of Japanese politics since 1955, the result of Sunday’s general election is extraordinary. Only once since 1955 have the ruling Liberal Democrats been ousted from office and that was in 1993, when an eight-party coalition took office for a brief and highly unstable period of rule; and even then the Liberal Democrats remained the largest single party. This is quite different. The Democratic party now enjoys a big majority and the Liberal Democrats have suffered a huge electoral defeat.
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A repeat legal assault on the opposition leader highlights the current volatility. The old order is desperate to hold power
A feverish atmosphere now grips Malaysia. The country is awash with rumours. Until the resignation in 2003 of the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad – after 22 years in office – its politics was entirely predictable. Now it is becoming highly unpredictable.
Malaysia is one of the great Asian success stories. It has enjoyed a growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 20 years, and the fruits of prosperity are everywhere to be seen, from the magnificent twin towers in Kuala Lumpur to the expressways and traffic congestion. Without doubt Malaysia is the great economic star of the Muslim world. The architect of this economic transformation was Dr Mahathir, but since he stepped down the country has been engulfed by growing doubts about his legacy and the emergence of a new set of priorities.
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