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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Political swing in the Pacific

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and PM Bill English in Wellington
How a few headlines illustrate how the world can change ....

FAMINE HITS AS US LOOKS TO SLASH AID, runs one heading in today's Wellington Dominion Post newspaper.

NZ DONATES $3 MILLION TO SUPPORT FAMINE RELIEF, runs another.  Yes, we are a small country down here in the bottom of the Pacific, but we do our bit, it seems.  That three million is for emergency famine relief in Africa and Yemen.  It is intended to assist the more than 20 million people facing starvation across the Greater Horn of Africa, Nigeria and Yemen, so how far it will go is an uncomfortable imponderable.  Nonetheless, it is a contrast to the other item, which reports that Donald Trump is cutting foreign aid just in time to dodge the "world's largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years."

So, in view of the isolationist stance of the latest administration in Washington, it is probably no wonder that the world is turning in other directions.  Or that the Chinese Premier is shaking the hands of politicians and business leaders downunder.   As commentator Vernon Small remarks in the same paper, the timing of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's three-day visit couldn't be nicer. "With the United States President Donald Trump taking the protectionist route, and China claiming the free trade high ground, he and [New Zealand Prime Minister] Bill English had much to agree on."

And, what's more, Mr. English has received an official invitation to a visit to China.  As Small goes on to muse, "you would have to think he will find that a much more welcome prospect than the normally sought-after gold-standard invitation, the one to the White House."

It is obvious to all that there is not going to be the comradely relationship between Trump and English that was the case with President Obama and our ex-PM, John Key.

There's more than handshakes and barbeque dinners at stake.  As the editorial -- under the headline BALANCING ACT WITH CHINA -- commences, "The visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiant puts a spotlight on New Zealand's need for the superpower."

And, despite all kinds of difficulties, with the abdication of the United States the alternative in the Pacific is China.  The tricky bit is coming to a mutually comfortable agreement.

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