Open Letter to Rt Hon John Key,
15th April, 2012
Dear John Key
I am writing this open letter in response to your recent visit to China.
You are understandably pleased with the results of your visit to China for New Zealand trade. Many new trade deals were made, and you have brought already-burgeoning trade links with China to a new level. I can understand why you said you feel you can “tick all of the boxes” that you wanted to tick off and give yourself “10 out of 10”.
I would like to draw your attention, however, to two other boxes that I think could be very usefully ticked off, one diplomatic and the other intercultural. They refer to initiatives and structures that would enable much to be done for both New Zealand and the wider region, and could add, to your reputation as an economic deal-maker, another one as an international statesman.
While you and your counterparts were signing trade deals, a potentially catastrophic nuclear crisis was raging to the East of China, as it still is. This crisis reportedly figured prominently in your talks with the Chinese leaders.
I have just written a blog about this crisis in relation to your talks: How New Zealand can help prevent Korean War
The blog makes 3 practical suggestions that I offer for consideration:
1. Register New Zealand’s on-going interest in being briefed by China and the United States about the diplomatic efforts they are engaged in with each other, and with North Korea, over the issues.
2. Make known New Zealand’s availability to assist diplomatically if there’s any way it can do this. That is what the previous New Zealand government did, which resulted in the then Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ visits to North Korea and Washington that provided the needed communication breakthrough.
3. Invite North Korea to establish a permanent ambassadorial presence in Wellington (the North Korean embassy in Jakarta being currently responsible for diplomatic relations with New Zealand). Make a point of seeking the official North Korean perspective on the Korean Peninsula crisis, along with South Korean, United States and Chinese perspectives from their embassies. Seek then to build up on-going, back-channel dialogue exploring the issues of difference, and how these might be addressed effectively. Wellington as the capital of nuclear-free New Zealand could be a particularly suitable venue for discussion also of the denuclearization of North Korea now sought by both the United States and China, along perhaps with way in which the denuclearization of these nuclear powers themselves might be progressed.
When it comes to the implementation of trade deals, how well is New Zealand equipped with the tools needed to trade well with China?
Unlike trading with the English cultures we have been historically accustomed to dealing with, Chinese culture is very different, making two-way, win-win deals much more difficult. As well as having huge financial resources, the Chinese have the advantages of knowing their networks and how to work these, something New Zealanders have not learned to date.
So, I would like to put forward two proposals for consideration:
1. As Professor James Liu, a co-director of the Center for Applied Cross-Cultural Research at Victoria University has pointed out, many Chinese people with networks in China already live in New Zealand. By connecting well with these local Chinese in our local communities, much more effective connection-building can be developed with people and organizations in China. Some of the practicalities of this point are discussed in the blog, Local-global connection-building to get through a global economic crisis.
2. Internationally the most direct, if also very underutilised infrastructures available for connecting with people and organizations in China are sister cities. To become fully effective, sister city relationships need to fully exploit the potential of information and communications technologies. As can be seen in the Gillard governments white paper Australia in the Asian Century the Australians are getting on to this point. The white paper wants every Australian school to have an online relationship with an Asian school, and points to use of the internet made by Australian business organizations with others in Asia/China. There are several village-connections blogs on these themes, but I refer to one short blog as a way into this area: Sister Cities as Asian Century Brokers.
New Zealand-China trade has been brought to a new level. By also giving priority to intercultural connection-building at both international and local levels as proposed in this and other Village-Connections blogs, New Zealand can help lead the world in creating a new, participatory model of international diplomacy and trade, one in which all can contribute and benefit.
I would be especially interested in whether your government will make any moves to assist with the resolution of the Korean crisis while it is raging (beyond simply supporting what United Nations might do, or sending in our military forces), and in how you see the proposals for diplomacy and intercultural connection building outlined in this letter.
I very much look forward to your reply, and to being able to share it with Village-Connections readers.