When Ron Mark is speaking in China, the best form of Defence (it seems) is to refrain from attack

NZ’s  Defence Minister  Ron Mark is  visiting  China for talks  with  Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe and the vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, Air Chief Marshal Xu Qiliang.

Before  he   left   on his  four-day mission  he described China as  a  “key strategic  partner”,  saying he aimed to improve the relationship “and help build our understanding of the country”. He said he would discuss the security implications of climate change, and also discuss peacekeeping and disaster relief efforts.

But even though he is   renowned   for   being politically  feisty on  his home patch, it is unlikely he  would raise  with his Chinese   counterparts such  issues as  the   round of  protests   in  Hong Kong  or  the  fate  of  the   Uighurs.

That  omission  might   appear  strange  given  that –  in  a  speech  to  the  National Defence University  (where he  said it was an  honour to address the  next generation of   leaders  of the  People’s Liberation Army) he emphasised  how  New Zealanders  have a built-in sense of responsibility around always “doing our part”.

This applies,  he said, to NZ Defence’s contributions to the rules-based order, both in the Pacific and further afield.

Perhaps  he  thought it  was  more  diplomatic  to  try  the oblique approach.

In a  section of   his  speech  headed  “Challenges”  he spoke  of how for NZ,

“ … our stake in the international rules-based order is fundamental and concrete.  The order enables us to pursue prosperity and an independent foreign policy”.

He  emphasised NZ’s security depends on the maintenance of this order, which has broadly led to the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of states — large and small — for nearly 75 years.  It has given all states an equal seat at the table.

The laws, norms, and institutions of a healthy order preserve stability and safeguard against conflict and uncertainty.

Mark told   his  Chinese   audience Defence makes real differences in real lives.

We maintain a level of capability to detect, deter and counter a range of threats to NZ”.

He  pointed   out  how the NZ  government  had  raised the priority placed on  the NZ Defence Force’s ability to operate in the Pacific to the same level as NZ’s own territory, the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

NZ’s own prosperity and security are intrinsically linked to those of the Pacific.  This lift in Defence priority comes in the context of the government’s Pacific Reset.

Mark went  on to  say NZ and China, together with many other countries in the region and around the world, have benefited from the rules-based order.

It’s important that we continue to look for opportunities to work together in a practical way.  Peacekeeping operations, counter-piracy efforts, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief are areas where we have common interests”.

The international rules-based order has many important aspects.  One is transparency, which includes transparency in defence policies and actions.

This is one key reason that NZ released the Strategic Defence Policy Statement, including its frank assessment that the international rules-based under is eroding in ways that challenge our security.  By communicating our views openly through this public document, our international partners can clearly see what we stand for, and where we are prepared to take action.  If we are all transparent in our motivations, we reduce the risk of misunderstandings and miscalculations”.

 Could this have  been   a  reference  to  China’s  efforts to  militarise  the South China Sea?

If  so  it  might  have  been a  trace too  subtle for  his listeners.

3 thoughts on “When Ron Mark is speaking in China, the best form of Defence (it seems) is to refrain from attack

  1. Whether “If so it might have been a trace too subtle for his listeners” is too nuanced is moot because the listener won’t care a fig for NZ’s view if they decide to further militarise islets and atolls in the South China Sea – rules based order or not NZ cannot do a thing about it.

    Saying “our international partners can clearly see what we stand for, and where we are prepared to take action” means little if we lack the means to carry it (action) out ourselves with our “independent foreign policy” unless we join up with a much bigger entity – “…independent” pfft.

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  2. A slightly “putting down” toned article. What exactly would be gained by Mr Mark explicitly putting strong views about Hong Kong, and the South China Seas.

    The “it is unlikley”, and “perhaps he thought” suggest a reporter interviewing his typewriter, rather than news..

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    1. The tone of the article is correct and the questions asked by the reporter valid. The NZ political elite and mandarins in MFAT are to scared to criticise the PRC because of trade. MFAT are run by a trade at all costs cabal and the political elite, and Treasury, have been captured by it through continued advice and policy input; and by Chinese interests through political campaign funding etc. We do need to tell the PRC that we are not impressed when they do commit actions that are not acceptable, regardless of any retaliation. We have done that with other nations and the PRC should not be an exception.

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