Opinion

China’s red-faced diplomacy meets with Kiwi gritted teeth

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

China’s red-faced diplomacy meets with Kiwi gritted teeth

Related tags New zealand

New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, must be laughing on the inside following the friendly advice given to him earlier this week by the Chinese premier and broadcast by state media.

According to a diplomatic release from the Xinhua news agency: “Xi [Jinping] stressed that food safety concerns people's health and urged New Zealand to take tough measures to ensure food quality and thus maintain the sound momentum of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries​.”

In return, Key “pledged to take strict measures to ensure the quality of dairy products​.” No doubt through gritted teeth.

You couldn’t make it up.

No doubt, Xi made the comments on the back of the recent Fonterra travails over concerns over a bacterial contamination that proved to be a false positive.

But given China’s continuing limited record in ensuring food safety - an issue that is seen by many areas of the country as a national scandal - Xi might have considered that people in glass houses really shouldn’t be throwing milk bottles.

The Xinhua release, reporting events a meeting between the two leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Bali, was widely coated in platitudes that claimed that China and New Zealand’s ties were “fuelled by twin engines of high-level political mutual trust and win-win economic trade co-operation​.”

Tipping a nod to the fact that earlier this year China became New Zealand’s biggest export powder, and that the country more of less relies on its southern neighbour for its quality milk products, the story added that “China cherishes its friendly co-operative relations with New Zealand​” as the two “join hands​” to deepen future trade ties.

There’s no doubt that Xi’s comments will jeopardise these ties in any way, given their importance to the New Zealand economy, but they have gone down badly in terms of his reputation on the home front.

In a rare case of the people laughing at their premier - and getting away with it - many Chinese have taken to the most popular social media site in the country, Sina Weibo, to voice their opinions.

The entire country is laughing​,” said one on the Twitter-like service.

He should be saying this to himself​,” wrote another. “How does he have the gall to say this to the New Zealand prime minister​?”

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1 comment

Obvious response

Posted by Lilian Kranenburg,

What do you expect. For China this was a way of saying that food safety concerns do not only exist in China. Surely we haven't forgotten mad cow disease or say, the billions of contaminated chickens slaughtered in 1999?
By the way: Xi Jinping is the President not the Premier of China. This is Li Keqiang.

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