Posts tagged ‘foreign ownership’


Conservatives: ‘The Chinese’ are coming! It’s the yellow peril!

30.08.2014

We hear from certain parties that proclaim that they want one law for all New Zealanders, yet they’ll resort to targeting ethnic minorities anyway. A few weeks ago, Winston Peters had his ‘two Wongs’ joke, easily dismissed as being as passĂ© as a Rolf Harris act. I see the Conservatives are now doing the same with their latest publicity, spotted by Robyn Gallagher, who Tweeted the following images.

   Let’s put the core claim into context, leaving aside for now how ‘The Chinese’ smacks of yellow peril when writ in such large letters, as well as hypocrisy.
   The Fairfax Press noted in a 2012 article that Overseas Investment Office says, ‘of the 872,313 hectares of gross land sold to foreign interests over the past five years, only 223ha were sold to Chinese.
   â€˜People from the landlocked principality of Liechtenstein had purchased 10 times more land than the Chinese—2,144ha in the same period.
   â€˜The top buyers were the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. The United States had 194 purchases for a total of 193,208ha.’
   For some reason, Johnny Foreigner seems a lot less threatening to mainstream New Zealand if they look like James Cameron (the proud owner of 1,000 ha) or Shania Twain (leases for 25,000 ha along with her husband).
   The Pengxin deal that the Conservatives are using for fear-mongering, 13,800 ha, is a lot—but they are getting more flak than the 176,902 ha sold by Carter Holt Harvey to US interests some years ago.
   I don’t have the latest figures but I’m betting China isn’t at the top of the list.
   Tina Ng notes, ‘another funny thing is that Mr Craig has actually sold a lot of property to Chinese,’ adding that this was mentioned on The Nation on TV3.
   Robyn Tweets that there is ‘A strange lack of white foreign landowners 
’ in the Conservative materials.
   I’m not saying that this isn’t an important issue, but if we’re going to talk about overseas land ownership—where the figure is in the 10 per cent mark (the Prime Minister says 1 per cent)—the use of yellow peril should be beneath any political party.
   The red with yellow stars in the Conservative materials intentionally conveys Cold War fears and the spectre of Maoism. It’s as dated as ‘two Wongs’.
   New Zealanders of Chinese descent are no different to other Kiwis when it comes to what’s important, and the first fliers I saw from the Conservatives could have appealed to many with their talk of tougher penalties for criminals and binding referenda.
   But the claim of ‘One law to rule us all’, on which a quarter of its publicity rested, no longer has validity. Given the larger share of New Zealand land in non-Chinese hands, the Conservatives’ latest comes across as ignorant, missing the point of who actually controls this country’s land and commerce. And they’ll lose votes from Chinese New Zealanders who may have been sympathetic to their cause.
   If they want to beat this drum, there are real issues such as foreigners controlling 33 per cent of our stock market, or the fact that the biggest owners of our companies are based in Australia, the US, the UK, Singapore, Netherlands, Japan, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, Canada, Switzerland, China and France.
   These surely impact on many issues, including our tax revenues and our overall competitiveness, more greatly.
   Essentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesn’t matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Let’s ignore the real culprits, because: ‘The Chinese’.
   It’s a shame given that Conservative leader Colin Craig has had his share of stereotyping because of his religious beliefs. Conservative supporters point to the hard time the media have given him.
   I’m reminded of Matthew 7:12 from the Sermon on the Mount.
   Divisive techniques trouble me, and they should trouble the parties, because they make me wonder if these politicians have a clue about unity, nationhood, and the reality of the 21st century.
   In a post earlier this month, I quoted Robert Muldoon: ‘throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.’
   Those words still resonate today, and should resonate to any New Zealander who sees strength in what our country stands for: the Kiwi sense of fair play, tolerance, and team spirit.
   Unfortunately, between the Conservatives’ latest, ‘two Wongs’ (and its dismissal by the PM as merely ‘a stunt’, in spite of an open door to attack it), and Dirty Politics, certain people in the political arena seem woefully out of touch with New Zealanders.

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Posted in business, globalization, New Zealand, politics | 3 Comments »


How brands fool us

13.04.2013

The Google experience over the last week—and I can say ‘week’ because there were still a few browsers showing blocks yesterday—reminds me of how brands can be resilient.
   First, I know it’s hard for most people to believe that Google is so incompetent—or even downright corrupt, when it came to its bypassing Safari users’ preferences and using Doubleclick to do it (but we already know how Doubleclick bypassed every browser a couple of years ago). People rely on Google, Google Docs, Google Image Search, or any of its other products. But there’s something to be said for a well communicated slogan, ‘Don’t be evil.’ Those who work in computing, or those who have experienced the negative side of the company, know otherwise. But, to most people, guys like me documenting the bad side are shit-stirrers—until they begin experiencing the same.
   Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s OK for a small publication to get blacklisted, or people tracked on the internet despite their requests not to be. But I don’t think we can let these companies off quite so easily, because there is something rotten in a lot of its conduct.
   By the same token, maybe it doesn’t matter that we can’t easily buy a regularly priced orange juice from a New Zealand-owned company in our own supermarkets. Most, if not all, of that sector is owned by the Japanese or the Americans. We haven’t encouraged domestic enterprises to be global players, excepting the obvious ones such as Fonterra.
   However, most people don’t notice it, because brands have shielded it. The ones we buy most started in this country, by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board.
   And like the National Bank, which hasn’t been New Zealand-owned for decades, people are happy to believe they are local. It was only when the National Bank changed its name to ANZ, the parent company, that some consumers balked and left—even though it was owned and run by ANZ for the good part of the past decade.
   Or we like to think that Holden is Australian when a good part of the range is designed and built in Korea by what used to be Daewoo—and brand that died out here in 2003. Holden hasn’t been Australian since the 1930s, when it became part of GM—an American company. However, for years it had the slogan, ‘Australia’s own car,’ but even the 48-215, the ur-Holden, was American-financed and developed along Oldsmobile lines.
   Similarly, Lemon & Paeroa has been, for a generation, American.
   Maybe it’s my own biases here, but I like seeing a strong New Zealand, with strong, Kiwi-owned firms having the nous and the strength to take on the big players at a global level.
   We can out-think the competition, so while we might not have the finances, we often have the know-how, that can grow if we are given the right opportunities and the right exposure. And, as we’ve seen, the right brands that can enter other markets and be aspirational, whether they play on their country of origin or not.
   Stripping away one of the layers when it comes to ownership might get us thinking about which are the locally owned firms—and which ones we want to support if we, too, agree that our own lot are better and should be stronger.
   And when it came to Google, it’s important to know that it has it in for the little guy. It’s less responsive, and it will fence with you until you can bring a bigger party to the table who might risk damaging its informal, well maintained and largely illusionary corporate motto.
   We only had Blogger doing the right thing when we piggy-backed off John Hempton having his blog unjustifiably deleted by Google, and the bad press it got via Reuter’s Felix Salmon on that occasion.
   We only had Google’s Ads Preferences Manager doing the right thing when we had the Network Advertising Initiative involved.
   Google only stopped tracking Iphone users using a hack via Doubleclick (I would classify it malware, thank you) on Safari when the Murdoch Press busted it.
   That’s the hat-trick right there. Something about the culture needs to change. It’s obviously not transparent.
   I don’t know what had Google lift the boycott after six days but we know it cleans itself up considerably more quickly when it has accidentally blacklisted The New York Times or its own YouTube. One thought I had is that the notion that Google re-evaluates your site in five hours is false. Even on the last analysis it did after I resubmitted Lucire took at least 16 hours, and that the whole matter took six days.
   But it should be a matter of concern for small businesses, especially in a country with a lot of SMEs, because Google will ride rough-shod over them based on its own faulty analyses. Reality shows that it happens, and when it does happen, you haven’t much recourse—unless you can find a lever to give it really bad publicity.
   We weren’t far off from issuing a press statement, and the one-week mark was the trigger. Others might not be so patient.
   If we had done that, I wonder if it would help people see more of the reality.
   Or should we support other search engines such as Duck Duck Go instead, and help the little guy out-think the big guys? Should there be a Kiwi search engine that actually doesn’t do evil?
   Or do we need to grow or work with some bigger firms here to prevent us being bullied by Google’s, and others’, incompetence?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 5 Comments »