Barry Soper: How far China has come

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New Zealand Prime Minister John Key meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Great Hall of the People, Beijing. Photo / Barry Soper
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key meets Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Great Hall of the People, Beijing. Photo / Barry Soper

This is being written while I sit waiting for the arrival of the Prime Minister to meet with his Chinese counterpart out the front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square - where the New Zealand and Chinese flags are fluttering in a cool breeze.

A number of things run through your mind when you're in such a place with the benign portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong greeting the tourists from his mausoleum. Of course when he was around there were no tourists, but there were always plenty of portraits of him waving at his oppressed people.

An amusing thought comes to mind. Imagine if John Key's Kyle Lockwood was flying alongside the red flag and the trouble that would have put the Chinese to. Although in this country of counterfeit, knocking up a few thousand flags would be the least of their worries.

Looking at the expansive square in the middle of Beijing, which has a population several times the size of New Zealand, it's hard not to forget the iconic image of that single protester standing in the path of the intimidating line of tanks during the massacre here in 1989.

Coming to this place a few years after that in the 90s, there was just a flicker of light beaming up from the capital. Today it's ablaze - with sky scrapers outlined by neon highlighting the marvels of modern architecture.

The fire from the dragon's breath is now palpable. Communism has been replaced by consumerism, even if the party cadres still rule with an iron fist, controlling the cyber highway, outlawing Twitter, Google and Facebook.

There's an app, one Chinese official tells me, that can easily bypass that without detection (isn't there always?) but it's only those in the know who have the nous to download it.

One who saw the opportunity to exploit the cyber highway is Jack Ma, who with a bank balance said to be around fifty billion bucks, is China's richest man. He's the founder of the massive online shopping platform called Alibaba - which sells everything, even though he claims he's never bought anything from it himself. He leaves that to his wife.

John Key sat with him at lunch and couldn't help but be impressed. Ma's offered to help small businesses in New Zealand to access his site. He'll even train them how to sell their product which he's effusive about. He's signed an agreement to that effect.

And that's how far China's come, helping others to help themselves.

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- NZME.

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