Last week's demonstration in support of their homeland by thousands of Chinese New Zealanders seems to have come as a rude shock to the regime. It should not have. The only explanation for the surprise was that the government and the media had fallen victim to their own propaganda.
The regime's line on immigration is that foreigners come to these shores because they "identify with New Zealand values" and want nothing more than to become "just like us" enjoying the benefits of belonging to a "free, tolerant, diverse and democratic society" which occupies a respected position within the "international community". Implicit in this doctrine is the idea that people from non-British cultures, while retaining their own quaint customs, creeds, cuisine and festival days, will unhesitatingly accept that New Zealand should remain an integral part of the Anglo-American imperial system. This last assumption has been bouyed up by the apparent ease with which the regime has managed to coerce its new citizens into pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
But the reality is that immigrants submit to New Zealand's political institutions without a skerrick of personal conviction. Their true loyalties remain far removed from the British imperial connections which form the basis of the New Zealand state. The irony is that at a more profound level they truly are "just like us" (meaning just like the pre-dominantly British political class in New Zealand). Like the British, non-British immigrants remain loyal to "home", that is, to their own ancestral country of origin. And "just like us", most non-British immigrants come to New Zealand for purely material reasons. They do not choose to adopt a new cultural perspective and they do not want to live under a different kind of political order. Like the British, their first aim is to acquire wealth in the "new land", and like the British they discover that the easiest path to wealth in New Zealand is by financial speculation in real estate. Like British New Zealanders very many will choose to return to the bosom of their motherland rather than see out the rest of the lives in the last and loneliest (even if loveliest) place on earth, once they have either attained significant wealth or else given up the attempt.
In normal circumstances, immigrant loyalties go either unremarked (in the case of the British) or unnoticed (in the case of all other nationalities). It took the special circumstances of the staging of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, violent incidents in Tibet, and the astounding hypocrisy of the regime's moral pressure upon the Chinese government to surrender its rule over that country, before New Zealand's Chinese community could be provoked to display their true patriotic commitment which is to China rather than to Britain or "New Zealand". The Chinese did not want to be told by British New Zealanders (whose troops had invaded and occupied Samoa, South Africa, Iraq and Palestine, not to mention New Zealand itself, all in the name of the "British race") that they should quietly depart from occupied Tibet and presumably allow the resulting power vacuum to be filled by British and American military forces as in the aftermath of the "liberation" of eastern Europe. Nor did they want to repeatedly be told that the Chinese media was suppressing the truth about Tibetan independence protests at a time when the New Zealand media was grossly misrepresenting the nature of events within Tibet itself. The result was a flood of Chinese New Zealanders waving a forest of Chinese Communist flags on Auckland's Queen Street, something which the late unlamented Communist Party of New Zealand could not have anticipated in its wildest dreams.
My assessment is that the regime has lost this round, and the Chinese have won. Just as in the Ruatoki raids of last October, the government and the media have come politically unstuck after provoking conflict over issues of national loyalty and identity which they cannot realistically hope to win. The regime can now be expected to tone down its hostile commentary on Tibet. Those who thought that the Chinese community in New Zealand could be relied upon to comply and conform have now discovered that on the contrary, it is the regime which must conform, and it is the regime which must take care not to provoke Chinese nationalist, or imperial, sentiment.
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