Tuesday, 18 March 2008


"The 2008 Olympics will 'open up' China about as effectively as the 1936 Olympics opened up Germany," said Robert Tracinski in 2001.  Recent events in Burma and Tibet and the ongoing human rights abuses and continuing existence of slave labour gulags show he and other commentators making similar points were right.  With the Olympics just months away, Chinese politics now looks little different to Chinese politics at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The chief question for New Zealanders to consider as we read news of Buddhist monks being shot on the streets of Lhasa is whether free trade will 'open up' China more effectively than the Olympics.

I have my own views on that, but I'd be interested in hearing others.  What do you think?   Given that the chief importance of a NZ-China free trade deal to the Chinese is their hope that our deal will presage others, what do you think the effect of free trade with China will have on China itself?

I'd love to hear your views in the comments.


  1. I am boycotting the Olympics..it is a disgrace it is even being held in a Communist country.

    The sole honourable act in the life of Jimmy Carter was to initiate a boycott of the Moscow Olympics and we should do the same this year.

    With regards the Free Trade Agreement with these criminals..well...equally disgraceful.

  2. I think free trade with any nation is a good thing, as sanctions punish individuals as well as teh corrupt state that controls them.

    This however shouldn't be at the expense of being able to criticise the atrocities fo the state

  3. All the time spent on doing a deal with China would have been better spent on seeking deals with our historical friends & cultural allies, such as the US. The powers that be can't get over nuclear ships, but can rationalise away communist bullies for whom individual life is cheap & disposable.

    Not against free trade with them but such should be way down the priority list, for good reason.

    Another symptom of the NZ hippy establishment trying to show some kind of 'forward' & 'exciting' thinking that is really just silly teenage rebellion at root driven by a pathetic 'anything but the USA.'

    Will end in tears.

    Sam Pierson

  4. The instinct to boycott and marginalise those who do wrong comes from two underlying principles. The first is to not support wrong-doing and the second is to try and stop the wrong-doing.

    It is believed that trade and diplomacy with nations is an implicit support for what they do and that sanctions and removal of diplomatic relations will motivate them to stop doing wrong. Both of these are wrong IMHO.

    Firstly trading with and talking to a fellow man who does wrong is not a support for the wrong unless I am selling him or teaching him the direct means to do it and with the certain knowledge that it will be used as such. Food can feed the hungry or feed armies in aggressive war and guns can defend as well as attack. I am against China shooting Tibetan monks or even assuming control of Tibet but even more am I against depriving China of the ability to defend itself or feed it's people. Trade is rarely (or at least not necessarily) a support for the evil.

    Also trade is a necessary good for the populace who have nothing to do with the evil. Depriving them of this trade will just cause poverty amongst them which means they are more reliant on their oppressive government and have less means to speak out or change anything. Cuba's army is well fed and has plenty of ammunition but it's people are not and do not. Sanctions have not stopped the evil but have made it worse and last longer!

    Diplomacy, which includes international cooperation in peaceful events like the Olympics allows actual influence over a country. Talking and reasoning can soften the hardest hearts and cutting off contact is a sure way to HARDEN them.

    Ron Paul is wise when he said about Vietnam that America has "achieved in peace what we could never achieve in war." At the same time as mikee said, this relationship must always demand that the wrong BE discussed and not ignored. As a nation we have values, two the right to life and freedom, and any relationship with us must always come with the understanding that any disagreement on these values is going to be addressed!

  5. I have boycotted the Olympics games for about 15 years, so ignoring this year's games will be nothing out of the ordinary for me.

    However, I have to admit that I will allow myself a couple of minutes just to take a quick peak at the Chinese basketball team so I can enjoy a good belly laugh at the results of steroid abuse and vent my disgust at the desperation which caused it.

    Any dealing with China absolutely disgusts me. As much as I make an effort to boycott as many Chinese products as I can, I confess that I lost the battle some time ago and it is increasingly difficult to make a stand.

    One thing is for certain, I shall be keeping an eye open for companies that embrace China and for politicians/dignitaries who may flatter and push praise up the bloated red arses of the communist pooh bahs!

  6. Olympics will be used by the Chinese government to show the people that one party control is justified. That the current all knowing one party system is opening doors in the West with countries like NZ.

    NZ entering into a free trade agreement means NZ approval of how the Chinese government operates.

    Historically China has not been an empire builder but generally desires vassal states. The message is clear, shut up NZ is a condition of the FTA contract. Clark calls it not rushing to judgment.

  7. We used to think liberal democracies generated wealth.
    Now we know that wealth generates liberal democracy which then generates more wealth.
    So free trade is at the core of wealth creation so bring it on. The rising middle class in China will soon reign in their geriatric rulers and their delusions of grandeur.
    Also the Chinese people have long memories and will return favours - unlike the EU Europeans who hate their friends more than their enemies.

  8. We used to think liberal democracies generated wealth.
    Now we know that wealth generates liberal democracy which then generates more wealth.
    So free trade is at the core of wealth creation so bring it on. The rising middle class in China will soon reign in their geriatric rulers and their delusions of grandeur.
    Also the Chinese people have long memories and will return favours - unlike the EU Europeans who hate their friends more than their enemies.

  9. No, not really. That's somewhat misguided.

    Freedom generates wealth; the freedom to think for oneself and act on ones conclusions, the freedom to keep the fruits of one's labours, the freedom to determine how one will dispose of one's own property, the freedom to set one's own values and pursue them. that is what generates wealth.

    Democracy is not a generator of wealth. How could mob rule generate much of value? Counting heads regardless of what is in them is the very height of stupidity. Screw that!


  10. The Olympics will do nothing, unless they are a debacle due to protests and subsequent boycotts. The Moscow Olympics did nothing to free up the USSR.

    A free trade deal with China would be positive, as long as it was genuinely open on the likes of agriculture, which our "friends and allies" (from the EU to the USA to Australia) screw NZ on.

    The question is whether it can explicitly exclude goods produced in gulags, or whether NZ has simperingly avoided the issue.

    Of course then there should be a similar deal with Taiwan - the real free China.

  11. I have much sympathy with Owen McShane's post - agreeing entirely with the classical liberal part, less enthusiastic for the tyranny of the majority democracy hope, though. China as a Libertarian state: that's what I'd like to see :) Which is all another way of saying, I have a great and enduring belief in the power of capitalism to free individuals, it can just take a long time.

    (With my only hesitation here being that I might have thought Hong Kong would already have been having a much greater influence in China, toward freedom, than the last few days actions would seem to indicate.)

    Perhaps the first items traded should be guns to the individuals in Tibet.

    Mark Hubbard

  12. I used the term "liberal democracy" deliberately and most seem to have understood why.
    There is a tendency to confuse the term democracy with the plebiscite whereas democracy simply means that the power to govern is derived from the demos (the people) not from God (theocracy) or a King (Monarchy) or a ruling elite (autocracy) etc.

    Focus on the liberal and the demos.

  13. It is tempting to think that the beneficial attractions of commerce can bring down the Chinese ruling elite. The more we depend on China the more we depend on those that rule China. The USA is in the tank, Europe slated to follow the slide. Where are the alternative markets; Plan B?
    The problem is, as Robert MacNamarra observed, you can't depend on the rationality of despotic regimes [like the Chinese] They will bring the temple down on their own head rather than relinquish power. Their options are limited.

    The more we trade, the more this group of desperados controls our economy by proxy.

    Commerce is not prepared to use guns, but the [communists] have proved [they] are.

    As for the Olympics, bah, humbug!


  14. Oh stop playing with yourself Owen! You got caught out attempting this sort of wordsmithing before, when you wouldn't come right out and oppose the RMA on principle, right at its inception. Now everyone is stuck with the expensive monster you promoted and now you're stuck with trying to deny your support for it.

    Wordsmithing is not a substitute for principle. Surely you must have realised that by now.

    Returning to your comments regarding liberal democracy. Words have specific meaning. If you do not know them, then you should not be using them.

    A liberal democracy is what it is. Not only is it not the source of wealth or the producer of wealth, it is not a product of wealth either. What it is, is a product of certain philosophic ideas put into practice; a practical application of political ideas. That those ideas have currecy or popularity is not due to some alleged relationship with wealth or the generation thereof.

    Note how you discuss a "power to govern." This assumption lies right at the heart of your error. Why do you always uncritically accept the notion that one person should govern the next person? Why should one group of persons govern another? "In the name of the people" is not a valid justification. Nor is such puffery as, "power derived from the people." All bullshit and mumbo jumbo stuff. Think on it.

    Wealth is generated as the direct result of individual freedom. Individuals who are free to act can and do generate ALL the wealth. The "governors" or weilders of "the power to govern" consume and dissipate. Look around you! The attainment of freedom certainly and consequent creation of wealth does not require government of any by any others.


  15. To change China you need to change the people's views to such an extent as to create pressure on their govt to reform. This will take many one on one exchanges between Westerners and Chinese - something that trade can do but the Olympics will not. NZ should endorse real free trade with the PRC but not on military technology (and if we're to protect "strategic assets" from foreign ownership we should at least protect them from foreign governments and their SWFs, particularly dictatorships like the PRC). I talk politics with Chinese whenever I get the chance - both when I was at Uni with them and when I was in Shenzhen, Gangzhou (you have to be careful).

    It is to the IOC's unending disgrace that they allowed Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and now Communist China to host the Olympics.

    Now, let's consider what you'd do as an athlete who may get his last/only chance to win on a global scale at this meet. It's one thing for Haile Gebrselassie to avoid the Olympics on the feeble grounds of the air hurting his lungs, but how many of us would turn down this chance to be one's peak because of the human rights situation there? I think it would be bloody hard.

  16. Owen

    Thanks for the distinction.

    Cheers Mark Hubbard


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