a couple more thots

February 4th, 2012

The saga around foreign investment and Chinese investment and Pengxin doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to die down. A quick glance at the front page of today’s NZ Herald brought up 3 articles of interest.

First was Fran O’Sullivan weighing in again, in an odd piece that starts off well in a confirming my fears kind of way:

So far, I’ve found Shearer underwhelming. Too ready to scratch every political itch, including (although I am sure this did not start out deliberately) ramping up anti-Chinese sentiment as a result of his campaign against the Crafar dairy farms sales to Shanghai Pengxin.

This has deeply worried the New Zealand Chinese community as they gather round the country this weekend to celebrate their own Lantern Festival.

And after some comments on the apparently quite rude way Jiang Zhaobai, majority owner of Pengxin, has been treated:

At various functions I have been to in Auckland this week to celebrate Chinese New Year, there has been much talk of reactionary feelings towards Chinese.

Some told me they were frightened by the vehemence and the violent language used on websites and talkback radio shows as commentators damned the Crafar sale. Some Chinese said they felt this palpable racism is also aimed at them.

There is talk about this within their own Chinese language media.

Now this is worrying. Trouble is, where I thought we were going to get some analysis and an impassioned plea for cooler heads and ditching the racism, O’Sullivan suddenly takes a swing at the Maori and Mana parties for, of all things, standing up for the interests of their constituencies. I just can’t see the connection, nor can I follow the logic. It’s as if O’Sullivan had two columns planned and somehow they wound up mashed together.

So let me do it for her: Ethnic or national origin is not a valid reason to oppose foreign investment, and this told old Yellow Peril nonsense should’ve been dumped a long, long time ago. Also, considering New Zealanders are allowed to invest in other countries, subject, of course, to those other countries laws and regulations, then we must allow foreigners to invest in New Zealand subject to New Zealand laws and regulations. Chinese are allowed to buy land in New Zealand, and New Zealanders are allowed to buy property in China. The legal systems surrounding land and property ownership are different, but this is fair.

And y’know, perhaps I should go poking around some of that Chinese media she mentions and see what is being said. Although there has been some mention of the Crafar farms saga on Weibo over the last few months, I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything since the decision came through. Still, I mostly just scan quickly through Weibo. A quick flick through the Sky Kiwi Weibo group shows nothing, nor has anything showed up in my Baidu news alert for 新西兰.

*Update: No sooner do I click publish than this pops up in my Weibo feed. I note, in a very quick summary (so if I miss or misinterpret any details, please, leave a comment):

…周五还上演了戏剧性的一幕。        本周五,鹏欣集团的竞争对手、前商业银行家Michael Fay牵头的新西兰财团上诉高等法院…

…also on Friday a piece of theatre was performed. This Friday, Pengxin Group’s competitor, the consortium led by former merchant banker Michael Fay, appealed to the high court…

I initially misread 戏剧 (xìjù, theatre, drama) as 喜剧 (xǐjù, comedy). Certainly it doesn’t seem particularly appreciative of Fay’s efforts. But it does go on to report more positive commentary from John Key and the National government’s new Opening Our Doors to China policy in this, the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the PRC and New Zealand. It also mentions Fran O’Sullivan’s rather more favourable commentary, and argues that given previous food safety scandals in the Chinese dairy industry, the sheer number of babies born in China every year and the desire of middle class Chinese for safe, quality infant formula, this deal, if successful, will represent real employment opportunities for Kiwis and real economic benefits for both China and New Zealand. I’m inclined to agree.

Next I came across is this, Kiwis taking the right approach of building deeper and stronger relationships with China. This is what needs to happen, and not just with China, but with the rest of the developing world. Highlights:

Despite the controversy over Shanghai Pengxin’s $210 million investment in the Crafar dairy farms, Key did not shy away from welcoming more Chinese investment.

But he was less fulsome than Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins who this week told an ANZ lunch to celebrate Chinese New Year that “having discussed this with the Prime Minister yesterday, we will not be stopping people from being able to buy lands just because they are Chinese”.

and:

ANZ NZ Institutional managing director David Green praised the strategy as a good centralised plan to strengthen the relationship.

But he said a “major mindset change” among many Kiwis towards China was needed if New Zealand was to genuinely take advantage of the great political relationship the two countries have.

Absolutely.

Next came this article, which stood out for two perhaps rather minor details. I guess the headline is fair warning of what was to come. But check this out:

He said he was concerned at Chinese investors buying into the New Zealand dairy industry, and pleased that 18,000ha of land and 43,400 milking cows would now be under local control.

“Of course it’s important that this stays in New Zealanders’ hands – 24.9 per cent of this was owned by Americans and it’s come back to New Zealand,” he said.

“We’ve done the opposite to what they’re doing at the Crafar farms.”

How curious. Of course, we must remember that journalists can be quite good at creatively editing conversations to emphasise some things and conceal others, but even so, it’s interesting how concern over specifically Chinese investment in NZ dairy was mentioned first, with Americans coming in later. Are people learning from Peters’ and Shearer’s “Oh know, we’re not racist, see, we’re objecting to James Cameron too!” And then, of course, straight back to the Crafar farms, bought by a Chinese company. I dunno, something just doesn’t feel right. And I know I’m not the only one who detects an ugly odour emanating from supposedly left wing opposition to the sale to Pengxin.

And then:

“Between my sons and I, we’re Australasia’s biggest in carrots, potatoes and onions. My son Mark is growing 100,000 tonnes of vegetables a year in South Australia and Victoria,” he said, referring to Parilla Premium Potatoes where Mark Pye is the managing director.

Umm… so it’s perfectly acceptable for Kiwis to invest in overseas agriculture, but we don’t want foreigners investing in Kiwi agriculture? Something doesn’t quite add up here.

And while I’m nitpicking, a post appeared on another blogtown blog recently which stated:

It is disgusting to me that people would read these results in a racial context.  The land being sold to China is backed by the Chinese government which indicates that China wishes to pursue and purchase land and business here for specific business purposes and taking care of THEIR people in THEIR economy.

I’m equally disgusted at all the racism this Crafar farms/Shanghai Pengxin saga has inspired, but I can’t understand the sudden attack on the Chinese. And considering the Liberation Daily article I mentioned and partially (and badly) translated at the end of this post is headlined:

上海私企收购新西兰16座牧场 总投资超过2亿美元

Shanghai private company buys 16 New Zealand farms. Total investment over 200 million USD.

[emphasis mine]

And states clearly:

新西兰政府批准了向中国民营企业上海鹏欣集团出售16座牧场

The New Zealand government approved the sale to Chinese private enterprise Shanghai Pengxin Group of 16 farms.

[emphasis mine]

At no point in that article do I see any mention of Chinese government – whether Shanghai Municipality or central government – involvement in or backing of the deal. Nor have I seen any such suggestion in the NZ Herald’s coverage of the saga, including in the NZ Herald article Myra links to to back up her claims. So where does this idea that the Chinese government is involved come from? And considering it has been clearly reported that among other conditions imposed on this sale, Pengxin will have to set up a dairy farming school and provide a certain number of scholarships for young Kiwis looking to get into dairy, restrictions have been imposed on Pengxin’s buying of shares in milk processing company which will prevent it taking control of any such company, and Pengxin must do a deal with Landcorp for Landcorp to manage the farms, where does the idea that this sale is purely for the benefit of China and the Chinese people come from?

Although I must say Myra makes a very good point a bit further down in her post:

When you consider all the land that was stolen and confiscated from Māori, it would have shown great integrity and do much towards repatriation of past wrongs to be righted if our selfish government were to let Māori  (and other local business entities) purchase at least some of the Crafar farms to help develop their own prosperity and contribution to local society.  Lord knows government and the general public are always busting a gut over the “unemployment” problem.  Selling major opportunities such is this offshore indicate clearly that this government does not want to support local prosperity much less reducing the unemployment lists.

I’m not convinced that this particular sale will be quite so disadvantageous to New Zealand, but that’s a very fair call. I do believe Rawiri Taonui made a similar argument in yesterday’s Herald, backed up with reference to the relevant regulations in the Overseas Investment Act.

So, I dunno, I do suspect the sale of the Crafar farms could’ve been done better, but I’m really not happy with the tone of so much of the opposition to Pengxin. Kiwis would do much better to drop those ugly old attitudes played to so well by the likes of Winston Peters and other odious blights on the New Zealand political landscape and start engaging with the reality of China.

2 Responses to “a couple more thots”

  1. kaituhi Says:

    Just for you.
    PLEASE take note of the opening sentence
    “The Chinese Government-backed Shanghai Pengxin bid for the 16 Crafar farms has been approved ”
    It is common knowledge that this purchase is backed by the Chinese Government.

    http://www.northernadvocate.co.nz/news/eds-adding-winston-peters-reaction/1252101/

  2. wangbo Says:

    There is a difference between common knowledge and truth. Where does this “Chinese government-backed” allegation come from? The Chinese media is not in the habit of hiding state involvement in enterprises, and yet describes Pengxin as a private enterprise. Your Northern Advocate article is the only one I’ve come across that says Pengxin is backed by the Chinese government. No other article in the NZ media I’ve seen makes a similar claim.

    Your Northern Advocate article also includes the delightful phrase:

    “which called the decision that made New Zealanders tenants in their own country “wrong in law”.”

    Now that’s just factually wrong. This decision did not make New Zealanders tenants anywhere. This decision approved the sale of 16 farms. It is still entirely within the realms of possibility for New Zealanders to own land in New Zealand.

    So we have an article which demonstrably plays fast and loose with the facts and includes two sentences, one attributed to David Shearer, claiming Pengxin’s bid was backed by the Chinese government but provides no proof to back such claims. Consider me unconvinced.