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Monday, January 9, 2012

Pacific Princess: Captain Stubbing or the New Hong Kong

  Tim Watkin over at Pundit does an excellent job of laying out the events that are unfolding in the Pacific at the moment. It can certainly be said that its "all on for young and old" in our parts.

" Accordingly, while the US military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security."

 However, when asking us to consider the implications for New Zealand of the growing geopolitical significance of the Pacific, he comes out with:

"We should be the voice for democracy, the rule of law, mediation and human rights in this region that encourages the rise of new powers, but respects the role of the old actors as well."

He then goes on to end with:

"Our top priority must be helping to manage relationships from a position of independent friendship so that the Pacific remains an ocean of peace."

  Heady stuff indeed and I commend Tim to Barrack Obama to produce the next version of his "Yes, We Can" speech for the forthcoming election (I think it'll need to be a pearler, Tim).  But really, do we need to be the South Seas Switzerland? Or more like Hong Kong in it's heyday - a confluence of cultures and ideas that melded to become the jewel of the Orient. An enclave where enemies and friends could meet to thrash out solutions and agreements under the thrum of the commercialism and trading that came to define Hong Kong in history. Or perhaps we should be like good old, dependable Captain Stubing who was always the voice of reason on the good ship, Pacific Princess? Solid, unassuming and modest, we could the the uncle that nations always trust and go to for advice. Then we could wait for the benefits to roll to us. Like a snazzy white cap with accompanying cool uniform.

Howdy folks! Justa come on down here an have y'selves a ball!

  We have endured our irrelevance in the world for years. You remember what it was like when you did you O.E., Tim. How many times did you hear "Everybody likes New Zealand and her people"? And it is true. You could, and still can, go places in the world that Americans, British or French can't and not be waylaid or molested in any way by virtue of our irrelevance. Sure, we've muscled onto the world stage a few times at the UN and punched above our weight in area of diplomacy and policy (i.e. human rights and anti-nuclear disarmament and proliferation) but have we tangibly profited by that . The Tyranny of Distance has under-mined our advancement as a nation so much that it has had more of an effect on our national psyche - our number eight wire mentality - than any other factor. A good example is the amount that we owe to refrigeration and the effect this has meant to us - both historically and today. It literally changed the face of New Zealand and, once our markets were defined, changed our prosperity in quick time.

Well I say "Bollocks", Tim. We should use and parlay every bit of advantage, political and geographical, into good hard solid coin. Sure we should disguise it as an earnest and reasonable representation for "peace in our time" however why should we be the nice guys? Or gals (perhaps I should have said "nice peeps" just to avoid the handwringing)?

  Now the world is coming to us. Sure we are on the outer reaches of the Pacific geographically wise however our strategic and tactical influence within the region is huge (N.B Directly after finishing this article, I'm going to apply for a job in the army, preferably the position of "General" after whipping that last sentence out). One only needs to look up our Wikipedia entry to see how much we have affected history throughout our region. Or if you are really serious redo 5th Form History (sorry guys, dunno what "Year" that is). 

  So this is not the time to become the "Brussels Downunder". No, this is the time to become the Hong Kong of the South. Lets use everything, every opportunity and chance that presents itself to increase ourselves. Both China and the US are great examples of empires and the way they ebb and flow in the river of history (See what I did there Tim? Lyrical like you, eh). Britain and France 200 years ago were the major forces down here but they've gone by the wayside.

  And check out Switzerland. They've been neutral for years however you don't see them buckling under the strain of the European Financial Crisis (yet). They've been quietly working away, letting others beaver along within their theatre of operations (Perhaps a generalship is aiming too low?) getting into mucky conflict after conflict, all the while keeping their wicks dry and building their nation in to the shining light of Europe. They don't particularly care if people make assertions about their nature, demographical make-up or past actions such as some questionable moral conflicts with Nazi's during WW2. They just do it. They are the Hong Kong of Europe.

  So we can be nice and pleasant and fluffy like Tim  suggests - full of great intentions and even greater models of hope and diplomacy. Or we can look at this as the opportunity that it is. Finally the Tyranny of Distance can be overcome as the big boys come to play in our back yard. And they can pay for the privilege, thanks.

 Decision time New Zealand: is it to be Captain Stubing or Hong Kong?

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