Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Newly elected Māori Pati president and columnist John Tamihere has launched a blistering criticism of New Zealand’s negative media attitude to Chinese trade and security overtures to the South Pacific, saying “it’s none of our business”.
Writing in The New Zealand Herald today, former Labour cabinet minister Tamihere argued that China had every right to “korero with our Pacific brothers and sisters” without being sneered at.
He said China had handed out a “master class in diplomacy” to Australia, NZ and the US.
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An Asia Pacific Report last week noted China had no “colonial baggage in the Pacific” and was a developing country itself, having “made impressive leaps in development and poverty reduction”.
Tamihere, also chief executive of Whānau Ora and West Auckland Urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira, said: “I just don’t like the stilted narrative that China is always the bad guy and I don’t buy it because I don’t see the evidence in it.”
He said he would “lower myself for a moment to acknowledge the media reports that China is allegedly buying voting support from the Pacific with military and security intentions in their backyard”.
However, “none of that matters because any sovereign nation has a right to determine its own foreign policy and its own destiny.
‘Pacific taken for granted’
“Meanwhile, [Pacific nations] have been taken for granted and mistreated by the rest of us.
“When was the last time the Americans, Australians and Kiwis entered into trade agreements with our Pacific neighbours?” he asked.
“When you treat people as second-class citizens in your so-called area of interest, why is it so bizarre that they enter into their own trade relationships like we did [with China] in 2008?
In a world first for any developed country, New Zealand entered into a free trade agreement with China that year and opened a competitive advantage.
“Why is it that those eight Pacific nations are currently being ‘manipulated’ [by China] yet we weren’t?
“So it’s okay for the US, Australian and Aotearoa to engage in free trade agreements with China but it’s not okay for the Pacific and Melanesian nations?”
Tamihere said “Aotearoa cannot be drafted without our sovereign consent into any play by Australia or the US”.
He added: “The Australians buying nuclear-powered American submarines demonstrates that they may as well be the 51st state of the USA. Gone is the Anzac brotherhood, it is a myth.
“It is about time we shaped our own foreign policy rather than being dragged along by others.”