One of the world’s most delicate international relationships is on rocky ground again this week.
New Zealand irked China on Wednesday by shipping a bundle (a 20 ton bundle) of rotten apples in the mainland’s direction. The antipodeans have called their ship back but this is nothing but a shake to the political tightrope that the two nations have walked for the past few weeks. A month earlier, the world’s largest dairy exporter, Fonterra, was forced to cut its whey exports to China after a full-grown lamb was discovered in one of the products.
This couldn’t come at a worse time. Shipments of new Apple phones are at an all-time high this week, filling a gap in the market left by New Zealand. You may say, “Hey, one of those is a fruit and the other is a mobile communication device! You can’t compare those!”
Actually, you can. Right now, branding for Western companies in China is extremely important, especially in smaller cities. When young Chinese hear, “New Zealand apple bad; US apple good,” that’s an impression that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Another bad bit of news for New Zealand is that Alibaba won’t be taking its IPO down under. The company had a falling out with Hong Kong this week and New Zealand was the obvious next choice. That is, until the apple incident. The fact that Alibaba’s listing would be worth more than a fourth of NZX total market cap didn’t help either.
Expect China to push New Zealand out of the international service talks the big red bully is currently trying to sneak into. It will likely accuse the tiny country of providing only global sheepherding expertise – not enough to remain in the discussion.
Perhaps the only bright spot this week for the island nation is that China is cutting its greenhouse gases faster than once thought. That means the rate at which the ozone is tearing open above New Zealand might slow down. The country should count its blessings.