From politicians to diplomats, from journalists to other people as well, all eyes are on a seismic moment in international relations.
The geopolitical spotlight will be trained firmly, unwaveringly on the Great Hall of the People in Bejing this afternoon. As New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins’ motorcade readies to transport him to a meeting with the man many consider the most powerful individual in the world, President Xi Jinping, there is but one question on the lips of observers everywhere: what’s up with your plane, Chris?
The prime minister’s plane, described by one foreign policy analyst as a “charming but scurvy dog”, has transfixed national security experts from Washington to Whanganui. One well-placed Pentagon source said, “what’s up with his plane?” She added: “Or is it two planes, by which I mean double the number of one plane?” The point is well made.
The wood-panelled corridors of global diplomacy have echoed over recent days with fevered discussion. In a world where the rules-based order has frayed, where contests for finite resources are rife, where human rights and democratic principles face generational threats, just what is going to happen with that grunty old NZDF 757, or is it two 757s [1,514]?
Such conjecture about the planes, for there are two, barely scratches the surface of a challenge which, according to one Danish geostrategic expert, has “layer upon layer upon layer” of meaning. “Cuban missile crisis? More like Cuban missable crisis, compared with this business around Chippy’s plane,” said one Beijing insider, who requested anonymity for fear of being exposed as not real. “Once the New Zealand plane crisis is sorted out then that will be the end of history, pretty sure,” added Francis Fukuyama, cackling.
“Whether in the South China Sea or among our Pacific neighbours, and within a context of escalating tension and an intensifying climate change emergency, why are you banging on about the fucking plane,” said a leading New Zealand academic who is probably about to be fired. According to one search engine optimisation expert, it is a good idea to add a reference to the Titan submersible at this point.
In Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko is understood to have urged his Russian ally Vladimir Putin and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the mercenary paramilitary leader who in recent days produced the kernel of a mutiny that punctured the Russian strongman’s authority in scenes that had the world on the edge of its seat until they became distracted by the situation around Chris Hipkins’ plane, to come together in a more urgent and shared cause. “Check out Twitter and what’s going down with the plane,” he said. “Or is it planes,” he added, with a wink, according to a well-placed Belarusian bear.
“I want to underscore our close ties with our good friends in New Zealand at a time when the Indo-Pacific family is united in a purpose to get a plane for Jacinda is it a plane is it who now hoo boy that’s how you do it an ice-cold tea and a snack for supper,” said the US president, Joe Biden.
In the Chinese capital, both leaders were playing their cards close to their chests ahead of the bilateral engagement, but it is understood that discussions will focus heavily on the visiting prime minister’s means of international transport. Xi is expected to harangue his New Zealand guest by unleashing “wolf warrior” diplomatic tactics, stuffing him full of cooked sausage and pastry goods until Hipkins coughs up some really good anecdotes about the funny planes.
Back in New Zealand, an emergency meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee was convened in the Beehive Bunker to discuss the implications for not just national security, but whether we might make it on to Stephen Colbert. “Our planes have got to get their mojo back,” said Christopher Luxon, adding: “How are you today?”
“I’m a plane,” said David Seymour, whizzing around the room with his arms spread wide, making noises that did sound quite a lot like a plane. “I’m a plane,” said Marama Davidson. “You’re both talking bullshit,” said Kieran McAnulty. “I’m a plane.”