So what has happened to New Zealand’s “independent” foreign policy and how “independent” is it when NZ’s leader has to sit and take a lecture on “trust” from the world’s most powerful dictator?
Our question is prompted by the editorial writer in the NZ Herald who wrote:
“If appearances count, the Prime Minister has made a successful trip to China. Jacinda Ardern could hardly have put her recent global acclaim to better use than to give China a signal of how much this country values the trading relationship”.
Hello! Did she have to travel to Beijing to do that?
Again, according to the NZ Herald editorial writer, President Xi delivered a message in making the statement
“Our two sides must trust each other.”
According to the editorial, “we must take to heart” this message.
In other words, suck it up, Kiwis.
President Xi told Ardern in their face-to-face dialogue China sees in NZ a sincere friend and cooperation partner.
“During the past 47 years of diplomatic ties, China-NZ relations have made historic strides and have become one of the closest between China and Western developed countries. Now the bilateral relationship faces new opportunities of development. Our two sides must trust each other, pursue mutual benefit and strive to open up new grounds in our bilateral relations.“
What are those opportunities? Where is the upgrade to the free trade agreement which has been under “negotiation” for several years? Where are the measures to give NZ the same treatment as Australia got in its revised FTA?
If Xi and Ardern were speaking on a one-to-one basis, wouldn’t it have been reasonable for her to say: “We need what Australia got, and we need it now. Let’s do it”.
Or is that a phrase we use only at home?
New Zealanders would like to know more about the “new opportunities of development” which President Xi spoke about, so long as they don’t have to bend the knee to find out.
But, according to the NZ Herald, if there’s a problem in the relationship, it’s NZ fault. Ardern had to go to China on a “political repair mission”.
Apparently that was due to the coalition government’s “mishandling” of the relationship in its first year of office.
“Too much of the country’s foreign policy was left in the hands of NZ First. Speeches by Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark sided too much with the US at a time of tension between the Trump Administration and China”.
The NZ Herald seems to think the Trump Administration is something other than the democratically elected government of the US. The corollary is we should be more chummy with the despotic mob in Beijing.
Bilateral trade between China and NZ is worth $30bn a year, sure, but that does not mean to say we have to sacrifice our independent foreign policy and become sycophants of China’s authoritarian rulers.
If push comes to shove in the South Pacific, who would Australia and NZ turn to for protection?
Oh, well at least New Zealanders can be pleased that Ardern’s debut visit to Beijing has resulted in a “welcome reset” in the relationship with NZ’s major trading partner.
That’s the view of the Herald’s Fran O’Sullivan (who flew to Beijing to report on the exchanges between Ardern and her Chinese hosts, courtesy of Air NZ).
The talks did not produce any immediate gains for NZ business. But there has been a re-commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and NZ.
And that’s important, apparently.