Pressure on Ardern and Government over relationship with China

Jacinda Ardern’s first day in Parliament for the year was difficult, with questions being asked about New Zealand’s apparently deteriorating relationship with China.

Juggling different international interests is one of the biggest challenges for a Government. This cannot be done via PR and friendly media.

While Ardern has had positive coverage at the United Nations (last year) and Davos (last month), she doesn’t seem to have established good working relationships with two of the biggest economic powers, USA and China.

She has played a sort of anti-Trump card to the applause of some (but not Trump), and Foreign Minister Winston peters has been campaigning around the Pacific against Chinese influence.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): NZ-China ‘scheduling issues’ cause for concern

The tourism relationship between New Zealand and China is a “special and enduring one”, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said last October.

That was why the official 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism would be marked with a special event at Te Papa on February 20.

Just one problem: the event was quietly postponed – to an as yet unknown date – due to what Davis described as a “scheduling issue” on the Chinese side.

Coming on the heels of similarly nebulous scheduling issues which put paid to Jacinda Ardern’s plans to visit China before the end of 2018, it is difficult to shake the feeling that a point, however subtle, is being made.

Last year was particularly difficult for Ardern’s Government when it came to China.

He details well covered issues, then concludes:

Where things go from here is unclear: while Ardern says officials are still working on dates for a Beijing visit, there is a sense from some foreign affairs watchers that the delay at China’s end is directly related to other strains on the relationship.

The nature of China’s interventions means people will be on edge for any perceived slight, real or otherwise: some have questioned the fate of a trip to Beijing by Davis and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta which had supposedly been pencilled in for early March (both ministers’ offices say a firm date has never been set down, with discussions still underway).

The relationship may not be as dire as National is claiming – but there are certainly some issues which need to be resolved.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are challenges in NZ’s relationship with China

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is playing down any suggestions New Zealand’s diplomatic relationship with China is on the rocks but admits the two nations were facing some “challenges”.

Ardern was this morning grilled on a number of issues relating to New Zealand’s relationship with China.

She said New Zealand still puts a lot of effort into its relationship with China, but is “at the same time facing some challenges”.

Ardern added: “But in a way I think that preserves New Zealand’s independent foreign policy.”

Having an independent foreign policy is fine, but when it has an affect on relationships with important trade countries it can get quite tricky, as Ardern appears to acknowledge (the ‘challenges’).

Ardern’s predecessor John Key used to go to China every year during his time as Prime Minister.

But Ardern said she did not want to set that expectation.

She said the Government sent a number of ministers to China last year – Foreign Minister Winston Peters visited China midway through the year.

“Those exchanges are happening with our Government, it’s just that I don’t want to set an expectation that I go somewhere every single year.”

She stressed that the diplomatic relationship with China was important, but acknowledged there were some challenges.

When asked what those challenges are, Ardern said there were some questions over the Huawei decision.

Stuff:  Until Jacinda Ardern visits China, questions about the relationship will only deepen

There is no doubt that the relationship is in a difficult state, and many in media and foreign affairs circles are on the lookout for any sign that China is punishing New Zealand.

News that the Government’s security bureau may block Chinese giant Huawei from participating in the next generation 5G telecommunications network, seemingly under pressure from our Five Eyes partners, has left the political class on edge.

Everyone expects some form of punishment from the world’s largest command economy, creating a high risk of confirmation bias, where we interpret facts based on what we believe is coming.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was questioned repeatedly, forced to defend the state of relations with New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

Back in October, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis was so excited by the coming China-New Zealand year of tourism that he posted an official statement on the Beehive website.

An opening ceremony event was to be held at Te Papa on February 20, coinciding with the hosting of 2300-year-old Chinese artefacts, the Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibition.

However, a fortnight ago, the Chinese (who were the hosts of the event) unexpectedly cancelled.

“Officials are working with the Chinese Embassy to get a new date confirmed for this event,” a spokesman for Davis said.

These things will take more than a feature in the Womens’ Weekly or a friendly article in the Guardian to resolve.

Whether the current low level tension escalates is impossible to know.

On the one hand, China faces bigger problems, in its ongoing trade war with the United States, meaning it cannot afford to get into unnecessary fights elsewhere.

On the other, if China wanted to demonstrate its power to cause considerable pain to a country resisting its expansion, while causing relatively little pain to its own economy, New Zealand could be an attractive target.

There are certainly challenges for Ardern here, especially with Winston Peters in charge of Foreign Affairs.


  1. Mother

     /  February 13, 2019

    Really tricky.

    In this case I’m pleased that Mr Peters is influencing Jacinda. Her form of kindness is scary. I think that Jacinda’s form of kindness suits her for raising her family, but she’s way out of depth with pushing that ‘kindness’ onto others.

    I think we should firmly show China that we don’t need them. Our values are vastly different to theirs, aren’t they? Wait for them to want to come to us. If it never happens, there’ll be something better for us in store.

    • adamsmith1922

       /  February 13, 2019

      Stick with religion,Trade,Employment and Revenue is clearly not you

    • Blazer

       /  February 13, 2019

      • Mother

         /  February 13, 2019

        Yes, but some people here have shown an affinity for spiritual matters since I began commenting. People with common sense understand there are overlaps.

  2. Gezza

     /  February 13, 2019

    Think I’ll just repost this from last night:

    Gezza / February 12, 2019
    The 1ewes at 6 item on the potential problems in the China/NZ relationship issue Bridges has raised. Interesting that in, their coverage, Jess Mutch McKay seems to be giving qualified support to Bridges’ utterances on this. Even took the time to include a very short clip of Winston making a twat of himself while they took the issue seriously.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  February 13, 2019

      Anyone who thinks that we don’t need China will be in for a rude awakening when they try to buy a new computer and can’t because Winston has stuffed up. Or pretty well anything else that we use. My new underwear and the dress I’m wearing are from China. The fan that’s keeping me cool is from China. The mat on the floor is from China and so forth and so fifth….

      • Duker

         /  February 13, 2019

        They wont stop sending their stuff here.. thats a given . Its always a threat to what we send to China. Your head can sleep soundly on your Chinese pillow

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 13, 2019

          It may well be a Chinese pillow, I didn’t look when I bought it. I know that the carpet square is because it had a long label that I use as a bookmark. It’s a very nice mat.

      • Gezza

         /  February 13, 2019

        I think I need to be scrupulously fair here, Kitty. If it’s good enuf for me to demand photographic evidence of an actual book & his actual library from Corky … really need to see a photo of your actual new underwear, the dress, the fan, & the mat. 😐

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 13, 2019

          Oooh, you are awful !

          The fan and knickers are from the Warehouse and the mat’s from Briscoe’s. It’s a brown, shaggy one called an Auckland.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 13, 2019

          I think that we might be waiting a while for the photo of the book and library :-/

          There is no way that all my books could fit into one photo…six might do it !

      • Mother

         /  February 13, 2019

        Most that breaks comes from China.

        I didn’t say to do away with China!

        I said to let them come to us.

        That means standing firm upon our own values first.

  3. PartisanZ

     /  February 13, 2019

    I’ll take one each way on being a target then, thanks …

  4. Dave K

     /  February 13, 2019

    ” Sometimes values and interests cost – in many ways, the only true measure of what is valuable is the price one is willing to pay to defend it. Too many of these Beijing defenders don’t seem to have any particular interest in defending our system, our people – let alone standing against the sheer awfulness of the PRC regime at home and abroad.”

    “Frankly, it is hard to tell at present which side of politics is worse on this issue, but on balance I’d have to give it to National – whose only interest in all of this, in anything they say in public, seems to be placating Beijing. In office there are hard choices and calls to make – even if that is still no excuse for not openly engaging on the “challenges and complexities”. In Opposition one might have hoped, just occasionally, for a slightly more principled position. But I guess their actions, their people, their words reveal what their “principles” really are in this area.”

  5. Duker

     /  February 13, 2019

    Key had his own issues with China during his time , as per his normal operating mode he just lied , with ‘what problem’
    McClay ended up having publicly having to cover for Key ‘not being informed’ …yeah right.

    Even when there was evidence of Chinas retaliation ,
    “But Key continued to describe the fears of China retaliating as “unsubstantiated rumours”.

    Thats how constant liars work, they have to maintain the lie , not matter what

    • PDB

       /  February 13, 2019

      China and Japan were at war in 1940 so on that basis I think the Coalition govt should be given a pass.

      • Gezza

         /  February 13, 2019

        Wot ? 😳

        • Duker

           /  February 13, 2019

          PDB has this mental block about anything that happened in NZ before 2018 – its pre history for him, and those players may as well be the pharaohs

        • PDB

           /  February 13, 2019

          The ‘whataboutism’ is very strong in this one…apparently the current issues (if you believe the MSM) between the govt and China are not a problem because once upon a time John Key had an issue to deal with that turned out to be nothing. Righto!

          • Duker

             /  February 13, 2019

            You tell the same lines as Key..they did have a problem and in the end the national govt kowtowed to make it go awy

  6. Blazer

     /  February 13, 2019

    I think Ardern should copy Key and schmooze up to China.

    Then when she withdraws from political life she might get lucky and sell her house for twice its RV.🎂

    • Mother

       /  February 13, 2019

      There is a family – family! – who understands very well what being off side with China feels like. Like with any issue, while politicians’ behaviour makes it glaringly obvious that we don’t know what our values are, families are victimised and their plight ignored. (The brave ChCh academic who does her job with integrity.)

      Why are we scared of China? Free people aren’t so easily scared.

      Please think carefully about your choice to practice, or not, Christianity and think about the future ramifications of your choices.

      I would love to see real free politicians serving us.

  7. Finbaar Rustle

     /  February 13, 2019

    This is just normal business. The Chinese are offended if you don’t haggle. So the more we haggle the more respect they have for us. She’ll be right 🙂

    • duperez

       /  February 13, 2019

      Surprising that the commentators, who generally like to set the agenda, don’t come out with their lists, maybe in the form of ‘open letters’: “Dear Prime Minister, We think this is exactly what you should do ….”

      Some Toms, Harriets and Dicks are going on about how bad things are with China and New Zealand. The magic combination of their favoured ones being in opposition and a bit of a poll shock with the attendant embarrassment has roused them and they want to attack the Government, blame the Government.

      Of course through their life experience of the politics of their work places and their gardening clubs they know how things work. They’ve got a handle on things about China’s place in the world and New Zealand’s relationships with China. The subtleties of international diplomacy, evolving intricate geopolitical nuances, the inter-related economic complexities and an appreciation of historical and cultural replies are well within their ken.

      So it’s Ardern’s and Peters’ fault. 🙃

      • PDB

         /  February 13, 2019

        Strangely enough we don’t hear anything from some of the more anti-USA left wingers on here about Winston’s sucking up to the Trump administration but putting the boot into China is all go – wonder why?

        • Duker

           /  February 13, 2019

          Isn’t that whataboutism… Or in your case whatbotulism

    • Mother

       /  February 13, 2019

      I’m sure it doesn’t feel like she’ll be right for our academic who was harassed. If the Chinese like to haggle, then we are showing ourselves very inept.

      Again, I think it’s because we don’t know what our values are, let alone value what we already enjoy enough to think about the future.

      I think people are not willing to admit what they are scared of. If we can’t identify those things, we won’t take right action in the present.

      I think Kiwis should show China that we hold firm to our values. If we did this, more Chinese individuals would assimilate themselves. I suspect that our fear holds many Chinese individuals back from being able to stand strong against their government.

      I am disappointed that we have Chinese, Korean etc congregations of Christians here. It should not be this way in Aotearoa.

      Why would believers from traditionally persecuted countries feel a need to separate themselves from Christians here?

      She’ll not be right.
      She’ll be right used to work OK. It won’t continue that way. We need to grow up.

      • MaureenW

         /  February 13, 2019

        You need to grow up.

      • Blazer

         /  February 13, 2019

        keep your eyes wide open when dealing with…

      • High Flying Duck

         /  February 13, 2019

        Suspected, but not proven.

        And it appears it will remain that way:

        Police investigation into incidents against Christchurch-based China expert stalls

        An ongoing police investigation into a series of alleged incidents against a Christchurch-based academic remains “unresolved”.
        Allsop-Smith said in a statement on Wednesday that police had taken the incidents “very seriously” and had carried out a “lengthy, detailed and extensive investigation”.

        “This has involved all necessary police resources including detailed forensic analysis, interviews and expert advice.

        “The burglaries and other matters reported remain unresolved at this time.

        “The investigation is now at a point where there are no further lines of inquiry to pursue unless new information becomes available.”

        Allsop-Smith said any new information would be carefully assessed to determine what, if any, relevance it had.

        “Police, in conjunction with Professor Brady’s employer, will continue to provide updated advice to Professor Brady including security advice if required, and maintain an active response plan.”

        Professor Brady has been updated on the status of the police investigation, he said.
        Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier said she would respond if conclusive evidence was obtained.

      • Gerrit

         /  February 13, 2019

        Mother — “I am disappointed that we have Chinese, Korean etc congregations of Christians here. It should not be this way in Aotearoa.

        Why would believers from traditionally persecuted countries feel a need to separate themselves from Christians here?” —

        One of the New Zealand values is freedom of association (try that in China).

        If Chinese or Korean or Tongan or Samoan, or New Zealand Christians want to associated with like minded individuals, who are we to judge? They are free to associate with whoever they like.

        Just like Sikhs worship in their own temples, Buddist in theirs, Bahai in theirs, Hindus in theirs, Catholics in theirs, Protestants in theirs, etc., etc., etc.,so can any other gathering of religious orders.

        Long live freedom to associate.

      • david in aus

         /  February 13, 2019

        You are missing something, these ethnic congregation are more than Christian services. They are centres of their community. Outside of the Church there are few areas for the community to come together. So you see some people who were not religious or even Christian in the Old country but coming to church in NZ. Just to be connected with the community.

        These Churches are more than religion.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  February 13, 2019

          It must be good to have services in one’s own language in any foreign country. I’m sure that I’d like it if I lived in an Asian country; no offence to the new country, just a liking for what I grew up with.

          Long live the freedom to worship when, where and how one likes .

        • PartisanZ

           /  February 13, 2019

          ALL CHURCHES are more than religion!

  8. Loki

     /  February 14, 2019

    There is a problem and it is going to get worse.
    Expect to see exporters feeding lines anonymously to the media in the next few weeks. Especially in the perishable time critical sectors.
    Goods are going to be held up at ports, paperwork errors will be blamed.
    No exporter will come out publically until he has gone broke for fear of being singled out.
    Huawei is only part of the problem .
    The ore election racist attacks by a Labour aimed at China around the property market.
    Winston’s multi decade racist attacks and his run thumping in Washington last year to the Hawks.
    These clowns will still get paid.
    Wouldn’t want to be exporting any perishable item to China right now.

  9. Terry Marsh

     /  February 23, 2019

    Having lived for nearly a year in Shanghai. I in no way want our country to become more Chinese. The environmental situation there is truely dire to the point where I had become ill. Corruption is also a serious concern – we would never consider having to bride our university professors to gain a pass for example. They will try to make us trade dependent. But we must be able to have our own voice no matter how it impacts our financial well being. Our lives here are truely amazing because so much of what we can enjoy , the forests and the beaches , are free to us ,