Changing notions of Big Man in PNG society

Cables expose Chinese criminality in PNG


CABLES FROM diplomats in New Zealand released by Wikileaks have exposed US anxieties about rising Chinese influence in the Pacific, and some major concerns about PNG.

A February 2006 cable quote then PM Helen Clark (the cables do not paint a flattering picture of her) as telling US Admiral William Fallon she was increasingly concerned about "unofficial" Chinese activity in the region, such as rising Chinese criminal activity in PNG.

The cable said Ms Clark worried that the perpetrators might have links with people in the Chinese Government.

Another cable says: "Christensen confirmed that the US Government views with seriousness China's military build-up. China is developing forces that could pose challenges to other forward deployed forces, he said. We would like to know much more than we do about these deployments."

The cables appear to express US concern that China is using aid and development funding to foster close relationships with various Pacific countries and trying to use this as a foothold to extend both economic and military influence in the region.

The People's Liberation Army was providing aid defence forces in the region, especially Tonga and Fiji. The PLA was also outspending New Zealand by “wide margins”' in PNG, the cables say.

There were also reports that PNG may transfer its Wellington defence attaché position to Beijing.

In another cable, PNG is described as “deeply dysfunctional” and the belief was expressed that Australia's institution building through AUSAid was “failing”' and that AIDS was reaching crisis proportions.

In other comments, it is stated that the Chinese government had ''real potential to exacerbate poverty'' in the Pacific Island countries.

In a chilling comment, at a meeting in Wellington, the New Zealand Foreign Affiars Ministry was told that it was not ethnic Fijians who introduced methamphetamine to Fiji, but organised crime based in mainland China.

You can read further reports on the cables here and here


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Barbara Short

I agree, the PNG government must watch that the Chinese people who come to live in PNG, know and obey the laws of PNG.

The Chinese people who run the local restaurants of Epping know that they must obey our health laws, so we buy their food. If we suspect that their food is not good we stop buying it and report them to the health inspectors.

The PNG people must be willing to stand up to these new Chinese immigrants and tell them how to behave in PNG.

I believe that many of the old Chinese families, who have been in PNG for a long time, know the PNG ways. They respect PNG people and are very keen to help the progress of PNG in any way possible.

These old-time Chinese residents of PNG may need to be called upon to help deal with the problems that seem to be arising from these newly arrived Chinese.

Many Chinese people are very clever and a great asset to Australia. My Chinese dentist did a wonderful job the other day!

I hope the PNG people will find that the Chinese people, who they are allowing to live in their country, will also be a great asset to PNG!

Andy McNabb

Thanks Barbara. While people in PNG are nervous about the Chinese "invasion", we have to put it in broad perspective.

That is, just like other nations (such as Australia), China is deperately trying to feed its enormous population and secure its place in the world (the "why" part of the question).

My concern for the Chinese invasion in PNG is how they are doing it. They have no regard for statute law, and as for the PNG people, it's a "who are they?" approach.

Luckily in Australia, we are less tolerant of such attitudes and we have a government which is more protective of its people.

Barbara Short

Thank you, Andy, for the thoughts of Paul Monk on the Chinese. As he says, we have to "understand what they are doing, thinking and imagining."

We have friends who have been working in China, who have recently returned home. They can tell us a lot. Other friends have their children working in China and they can also help us to understand the Chinese.

But living in "Ep Ping", surrounded by Chinese people, we are well informed. As we accept them as our friends we start to "think as they do" and see things from their perspective. They are humans just like us!

I'm so glad the tensions on the border between North and South Korea died down quickly. My South Korean friend, who used to live in Ep Ping rang me the other day from South Korea and said that nobody there was worried!

The world is growing smaller!

Andy McNabb

This is an interesting extract on the rising China question. The author Paul Monk is acknowledged.

The theoretician of geopolitics, Halford Mackinder, in 1904, identified China, not Russia or Germany, as the pivotal power in Eurasia and therefore in global geopolitics.

In Democratic Ideals and Reality (1919), Mackinder forecast that the English-speaking powers and China would end up guiding the world to a new civilisation, neither quite Eastern nor quite Western.

There are quite a few voices now prophesying such a development, among them Zachary Karabell in his recent book Superfusion.

But Robert Kaplan does not for the present see China contributing to any such laudable goal.

He declares that: "China’s foreign policy ambitions are as aggressive as those of the United States a century ago, but for completely different reasons.

"Moral progress in international affairs is an American goal, not a Chinese one; China’s actions abroad are propelled by its need to secure energy, metals and strategic minerals, in order to support the rising living standards of its immense population".

The Chinese state was ruled by a maniac of ferocious genius in Mao Zedong until 1976. He was succeeded by a remarkable and tough-minded statesman in Deng Xiaoping, who might reasonably be compared to Bismarck in nineteenth-century Germany.

Like Bismarck, he sought to make his country economically strong, in the belief that from such strength would come the wherewithal for an increase in military power.

Like Bismarck, he also sought to suppress effective political opposition to the established order. Indeed, he did so more relentlessly and thoroughly than Bismarck did.

In Bismarck’s case, these policies led to a rapid increase in Germany’s power, but under a leadership that was monarchical and militaristic, and this may reasonably be described as the single most important cause of the catastrophe of August 1914.

In China’s case, in place of a monarchy and a militaristic order, there is the Communist Party and its dependence for legitimacy on both rapid economic growth and increasingly assertive nationalism.

But the economic model on which it depends for continuing rapid economic growth has almost certainly run its course and the development of an alternative model would appear to require the opening up of domestic capital markets and private consumption on a scale which is highly likely to lead to sustained and serious challenges to its monopoly of political power.

Its nationalism, at the same time, runs the risk of leading it into confrontations with its neighbours or the United States from which it may find it very difficult to back down.

In all these circumstances, there is no coherent rational, utility-maximising actor who can calculate the odds and guide China wisely. Deng Xiaoping came close, but he is long dead and no one in the Party or the PLA now has his stature or authority.

So it was in Germany after the young Kaiser dismissed the ageing Bismarck. There are many ways in which the Communist Party could falter in the years ahead, and even a transition to multi-party democracy, should it occur, would not of necessity provide stability.

Moreover, the difficulties faced by the United States, which will not quickly be resolved and may not be resolved well at all, add greatly to the uncertainties in the geopolitical equation.

There is a growing appearance of gridlock and rancour in the American political system which bodes ill for the American role in world affairs in the near future.

The problem we face, in short, is not one of a clear and present danger, but of a gathering uncertainty and the potential for the comparative stability we have enjoyed for many years coming unglued in unpredictable and cascading ways.

Those who believe they can safely predict how the future will play out are sadly ignorant alike of serious history and of cognitive science.

We cannot predict the future with any certainty and we would be unwise to blithely venture into it merely hoping for the best.

Rather, we need to take what measures we can to better equip ourselves to be able to deal flexibly, intelligently and resourcefully with a highly uncertain future and to appreciate that our great and energetic neighbours in China are, in their own way, endeavouring to do the same.

How they do so is rapidly becoming acutely important to us and we must, therefore, galvanise our own efforts to understand what they are doing, thinking and imagining.

This is an edited version of Paul Monk’s contribution to the Conversazione on the Rise of China which was held at the Melbourne Club in September.

David Kitchnoge

Bernard - I think neither China nor the West is the issue for us. Our issue is how PNG can gain from their power struggle.

We are at the crossroads and it is up to us to find a way to play them both in such a way that enables us to gain something out of it. But we must play our game intelligently and with tact and respect.

Everyone does things to further their own interests. And so must we.

Bernard Yegiora

Like David said, China is like a colleague who just got a promotion. We must now choose whether or not to work with China. If we decide otherwise then PNG will end up on the losing end.

Just like someone who has worked hard for a promotion, we know that there is no doubt he will get that promotion, unless he is fired or killed.

The growth of China's power is similar, and it will not stop until China has reached its goal of being a great power by creating a harmonious society.

Machiavelli's "the end justifies the means" sounds right when looking at the changes happening in regard to China.

Isn't that the same approach the West used when it got slaves from Africa and extracted important resources from their colonies for the growth of their own society?

Mari Ellingson

How about being a bread basket for China?

I have one word to offer: Scary!

David Kitchnoge

Exactly George! We are not making them play our game when we allow them to take control of our key strategic infrastructure.

We are in a very unique position and we must wake up and act intelligently to further our own interests. Dumb deals like allowing Chinese to take control of our telecommunications infrastructure must stop.

David Kitchnoge

Do not despair Gina. Flip the coin over and you'll realise how much power has swung PNG’s way with the rise of China.

We are increasingly becoming a very important strategic conduit in the Pacific that the great powers to the North, South, East and West can not do without. All it takes now is for Papua New Guineans to realise how much power we have at our disposal and to use it properly and responsibly for real tangible gains. Current geo-politics at the global stage has resulted in the powers that be playing themselves right into our hands.

The question for us now is really on how to intelligently use that new found power to our advantage. There is nothing to fear about the Chinese. Sure they are a threat, but flip the coin over and their activities open up new opportunities for us.

Chinese don’t own PNG. We do. And it is up to us to make them and other powers play our game. Not vice versa.

Gina Samar

Our children and grandchildren will pay the price (of the look north policy) they will live in deserts (surrounded by polluted waters and seas) and work as gardeners and cleaners for expatriates (Chinese???) i.e. if they are not in jail for some sort of substance abuse (drugs from China???)etc.

Since me and my peers will have died from TB etc. (due to AIDS) and nutritional diseases from the poor standard of food (buying yesterday's rice and stew for lunch today at the Saina Stoa down the road) and building materials etc. (from China???) that we are consuming/using our children and grandchildren (who are poorly educated labourers) will only have expatriate (Chinese???) candidates to vote into Parliament...

Bernard Sinai

The Papua New Guinean authorities should seriously investigate the contents of these cables. I truly believe we are being slowly and subtly invaded.

Peter Kranz

An update from this mornings papers. While this is in South America, it does give more insight into China's economic expansion and international strategy which applies equally to the Pacific.

China's State Grid has bought seven Brazilian power distributors for $US1 billion ($A1.01 billion), the latest in a string of Chinese takeovers of South American energy assets betting on the region's fast growth.

One of these is State Grid which has also won a 30-year licence to operate power lines and other infrastructure in Brazil's heavily populated southeast, the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission said in a statement.

The State Grid takeover is expected to open up access for Chinese companies to more Brazilian power projects and expand exports to the booming South American market, it said.

Chinese firms have ramped up investment in South America in an effort to tap the region's rapid economic growth and increasing demand for energy.

Sinopec, Asia's top refiner, said earlier this month that it would buy the Argentine arm of US Occidental Petroleum Corporation for $US2.45 billion ($A2.47 billion).

The announcement came less than two weeks after China National Offshore Oil Company and Bridas Energy Holdings agreed to buy a 60-per cent stake in Argentina-based Pan American Energy from BP for $US7.06 billion ($A7.12 billion).

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