China relationship a sensitive issue for Ardern

New Zealand’s relationship with China appears to be a sensitive issue, with Jacinda Ardern sounding quite defensive when questioned about it in Parliament yesterday by Simon Bridges. Ardern was supported by both Winston Peters and David Parker asking friendly questions.

Has New Zealand’s relationship with China deteriorated under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No. There is no question that an economic and people-to-people relationship with China is incredibly important to New Zealand. Visitor numbers in the last year are up 8.4 percent. There’s also been an increase in goods exports by 20 percent in the year to September. That demonstrates the strength of our economic engagement and, I would also say, demonstrates the importance of a bipartisan approach to our relationship.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister elaborate on her comments yesterday about the collapse of New Zealand’s hitherto foreign policy consensus?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely happy to, because I do think this is an important point. New Zealand, for a number of years, has rightly had an independent foreign policy line that is in the best interests of New Zealand economically, in terms of national security, and in terms of its values. That has generally been followed by both the Government of the day and the Opposition. It’s disappointing that in recent times, we have seen the politicisation of our relationship, which sits directly in contradiction to our economic interests and our national security interests.

Hon Simon Bridges: When the last Government Minister to go to China, David Parker, visited last year, did he secure a meeting with his equivalent ministerial counterpart?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not have in front of me the individual bilateral engagements of every Minister who has visited in recent times. But let us speak frankly in this House: there are challenges in our relationship. There are challenges in our relationships with a number of countries at any given time when you run an independent foreign policy.

Hon David Parker: Can the Prime Minister confirm that when I visited China as Minister of Trade and Export Growth in November last year, I met with Vice Minister Chang from the Chinese administration, who is responsible for both the World Trade Organization negotiations on the part of China and for the bilateral trade relationship with New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will her foreign Minister, Rt Hon Winston Peters, next visit China?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, I’ve already referenced the fact that he visited in May 2018. I haven’t asked him about his forward intentions for visits there, or in fact about any other of our engagements. But let us in this House speak frankly. I do not resile from the position that this Government has taken in support of our independent foreign policy, our economic interests, and our national security interests.

She has no idea when her Foreign Affairs Minister will be visiting China next?

Hon Simon Bridges: Is any progress being made on her visit to China as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve already pointed out, I have already had high-level engagement at the highest level, where, in fact, the Premier, the last time we met, talked about his invitation to me to visit. But, again, I do not measure the strength of our relationship in such binary terms. We have—[Interruption] Our people-to-people exchanges have increased—[Interruption]

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the fact that she hadn’t read that Georgetown speech before it was delivered, does she confirm that she agrees with all of its contents today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister’s address acknowledged that the United States had taken a different foreign policy line in recent times and that it is in all of our interests if the United States continues to engage both at a regional level and with multilateral institutions. If the Opposition doesn’t agree with that, then that’s a matter for them.

Hon Simon Bridges: Just who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s foreign affairs: the foreign Minister or Jacinda Ardern?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As is, of course, convention the Prime Minister and not the Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Simon Bridges: Then why didn’t she read the foreign Minister’s incredibly significant speech to Georgetown University before he gave it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We absolutely have agreeance on the principles of our position and our engagement both with the United States and with China, and in past Governments, there’s equally been general agreeance around New Zealand’s foreign policy interests between Government and Opposition as well. I was already aware of the principles contained in that speech.

So two sensitive issues – the relationship with China, and Ardern’s relationship with Peters.

Of note also was James Shaw’s contribution:

Hon James Shaw: Does the Prime Minister think that the relationship with China might be improved by, say, gifting a sheep farm to a wealthy businessman from that country?

I didn’t think it was Green practice to play those sort of diversionary games in Parliament.

NZ Herald addresses this in their editorial:  Has our govt antagonised China?

When friends fall out it can be very hard not to take sides. When the “friends” are superpowers and you are tiny by comparison, it becomes doubly hard. That is the position our Government is in. Its avowed foreign policy is to remain strictly neutral in the trade war and other tensions between the United States and China. Yet China appears to believe New Zealand is siding against it.

It is hard to draw any other message from the suspension of the invitation to the Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic this year and the postponement of a joint tourist promotion that was to be launched in Wellington next week. And it is not hard to see why China would have the impression this country is not the friend it used to be.

The new Government’s “reset” of policy towards the Pacific Islands is strongly tinged with support for the US and suspicion of China’s interests in the region. At a speech in Washington in December, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Southwest Pacific was “becoming more contested and its security is every more fragile”. A purpose of his visit, he said, was to “enlist greater US support in the region closest to New Zealand”.

“We unashamedly ask for the United States to engage more and we think it is in your vital interests to do so. And time is of the essence,” he added.

He talked of “asymmetries at play in the region when larger players are renewing their interest in the Pacific” and said, “the speed and intensity of those interests at play are of great concern to us.” He went on to acknowledge China and said New Zealand “welcomes all partners in the Pacific on terms that take account of the Pacific’s needs, where quality projects are sustainable and delivered transparently”.

Point taken in Beijing no doubt.

Two key points from all of this is how Peters is managing the sometimes relationships between both the USA and China, and how much influence (and knowledge) Ardern has with Peters and his Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Peters has a history of being not very complimentary about China, even making Chines ‘jokes’. He also seems to see himself as the experienced statesman compared to the inexperienced Ardern.

It was always going to be a challenge having the crucial Foreign Affairs role taken by someone in a different party to the Prime Minister. And when that role is being carried out by Peters I think Ardern may continue to have problems with dealing with China.

It will be a real test of Ardern’s mettle as prime Minister that won’t be helped by feel good PR.

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41 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  14th February 2019

    Time for us to pack our bags and head for Indian and Brazil. It’s obvious with China, it’s their way or the highway. Underneath the glitz of modern China, nothing has changed, it’s a nasty country with a nasty track record of showing little respect for human life.

    Reply
  2. Finbaar Rustle

     /  14th February 2019

    I thought the house debate was very well handled by all speakers.
    Lots of thoughtful questions and lots of succinct answers from the PM.
    I am very heartened and confident in this Government to
    continue delivering brilliantly on all policies.

    Reply
    • Mother

       /  14th February 2019

      I like that Jacinda talked of being frank in the house. Isn’t that what we want more of (without childishness)? Jacinda is stuck with the ill effects of National’s past lack of transparency.

      China is free to abuse our freedom of speech (eg their propaganda ads here) whereas we will never be free to influence their ancient ways. Meanwhile, we use our freedom of speech to bicker.

      I personally am pleased that Mr Peters has taken his action.

      I agree with Mr Peters that time is of the essence, but my point of view is from the angle of our collective attitude as individuals toward our values – especially looking ahead for the children.

      Compare the ancient Chinese ethos with our youthful ethos.

      Time is of the essence. The Chinese want to use our ‘she’ll be right mate’ purely for themselves.

      We can do better. We can show China that we are mature in our values. Let them be the hagglers while we stand firm. Wait for them to tow the line behind what we have clearly laid out for their consideration.

      I don’t see any big deal about China sulking for a bit. Let them. She’ll be right.

      Reply
      • adamsmith1922

         /  14th February 2019

        Yesterday I noted that economics was not your forte,clearly history and foreign policy should join economics as subjects you should study.

        Reply
        • Mother

           /  14th February 2019

          And you’re reading my message Adam. Perhaps you’re interested, as I am, in learning from others.

          Foreign policy needs a good dose of knowing what our internal values are to begin with, plus an astuteness when dealing with foreigners.

          If you were not behaving childishly in your need to put me in my place, you might really read my message.

          Do you personally know the differences between ‘should’, ‘could’ and ‘will’?

          I note that it seems you are a ‘should’ person who has a need to apply his ‘should’ ism to others – even people he doesn’t know.

          Reply
          • adamsmith1922

             /  14th February 2019

            I know the difference thank you.
            I have spent most of my life living and working with people outside the culture and country I grew up in. Much of that time was in cultures where WASPs were not predominant, a significant amount of time was spent living and working with colleagues and friends from a Chinese ethnicity. Consequently, I know a little bit about them.
            My comments were predicated on my perception of your moral absolutism and my further perception that your view is the right view. It might be,from your moral viewpoint – but that does not mean I have to agree with it,accept it or forebear from comment.
            I was not putting you in your place, rather I was commenting on what I perceive as weaknesses.

            Reply
            • Mother

               /  14th February 2019

              Thank you for sharing that Adam.

              I’m not a Protestant, nor Anglo Saxon.

              It seems you have not had the benefit of getting to know me, nor me you.

              Please may I suggest that you refrain from jumping at what you perceive as moralising and/or weakness in my personality. It doesn’t matter does it? Considering you’re as free as any one to know what your morals are.

              I challenge you on this because I like to see even playing fields wherever I go. I wonder if there are others who might like to comment on YourNZ. They will be put off if people are jumping on each other.

              ‘You could be kinder.’ This challenge really only demands a ‘yes I could’ or a ‘yes I will’ or a no… What’s with the anger Adam? We don’t know each other do we?

          • adamsmith1922

             /  14th February 2019

            Further to your reply to my comment, which is below as it seems there is a limit to nesting of replies
            Mother whoever you are, please do not seek to dictate.
            You moralise on every subject under the sun, with platitudinous utterings and pratings about kindness. Yours is the worst kind of bigotry, driven as it is by sense of self righteous moral rectitude.
            However, I belive in free speech.
            I did not ask you to stop preaching.
            I did ask you to educate yourself as to broader more informed viewpoints as based on your stance so far, your sanctimonious rubbish, which it is from my perspective, does not reflect the geopolitical and economic realities we face in NZ.
            NZ as an economy has signally failed to move from a commodity based exporter of primary product, ie dairy and logs, to one based on high value add end or intermediate products with a few exceptions. This economy suffers from low educational attainment, poor productivity and as such is essentially a pricetaking exporter of bulk commodity. This problem has not been addressed by either National or Labour.
            In order to support the current, effectively declining economy, moral stances are not something we can afford especially given the one already taken on climate change.
            However, you have your view and I have mine.
            We disagree, Fair enough, but please don’t tell me what to think, or how to behave.

            Reply
            • Mother

               /  14th February 2019

              Strange Adam. I invite you to show me where in YourNZ I have told others what to think and how to behave.

              I doubt that I disagree with you nearly as much as you disagree with me. What’s the issue?

              You are correct that experience in economics, foreign policy etc is not my strong point.

              Just don’t read my comments if they ruin your day.

              I’m happy to learn from you. Be polite.

              Yes, I just told you to be polite. Why not? You were rude. You are my equal. You won’t get either Labour nor National with the ability to address the issues your intelligent mind knows need to be addressed, until social media is a whole lot more grown up. If you perceive my ‘be polite’ as telling you what to do – case in point. How could my ‘be polite’ ever affect your inner equilibrium?

              Telling others what to think can only come from a dictatorship type government and telling people how to be behave could only come from an authority. Social media in a free land hardly qualifies.

              I think your response to me is strange.

  3. NOEL

     /  14th February 2019

    It was obvious the the Reset was going to annoy China. It is not only aid that has been reset but security alignments and communications.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  14th February 2019

      We are probably already too dependent on China. This situation was always going to arise as long as we are involved in Five Eyes, and so historically politically & culturally closely aligned with other similar English-speaking free Western democratic countries, once the US started to put the squeeze on friends & allies to avoid giving too much support to what it correctly sees as the primary threat to its existing global economic & military dominance.

      The assertive expansionism of China under the ruthlessly authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping & its new habit of arresting nationals of countries whose governments have annoyed it diplomatically are both a concern because it is decidedly not a friendly country with the same sort of free speech democratic values as ours.

      We have to walk a fine line between the US & China & it certainly doesn’t have our interests at heart any more than the US does.

      Reply
      • Mother

         /  14th February 2019

        The US has our interests at heart way more than does China. It may be difficult to see, because of all the bickering.

        The US are clinging by a straw to Christianity. We are much worse than them in that regards. On the other hand, we could be much closer than them to turning ourselves around. Being smaller makes that easier.

        We need to stop separating economics from our emotional/spiritual health. We need a wholesome approach.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  14th February 2019

          Trump putting the economic squeeze on China AND the US’s friends who trade with it – via tarrifs, for example – as well as becoming more parsimonious with US foreign aid (ours is a drop in the bucket compared with what assistance [& later pressure] China can provide to Pacific Island nations) seems to me to be typically somewhat self-defeating.

          We may need a more wholesome approach to government but we also have to deal with the realities of global politics & economics & the fact that the big players who can damage our economy if they really want to are not exactly wholesome.

          Reply
          • Mother

             /  14th February 2019

            A wholesome approach from government could be for us to realise that we can live without perceived necessities for a season if it means learning to approach every reality with a wholesome approach.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  14th February 2019

              You are so inspiring..Mother.
              I think I’ll go and make a good olde fashioned,wholesome…apple..pie.

            • adamsmith1922

               /  14th February 2019

              Unmitigated balderdash or in plain words – rubbish

        • adamsmith1922

           /  14th February 2019

          The US does not have our interests at heart. They are protectionist bullies who are seeking,as much as anything else to protect their over priced telecommunications equipment manufacturers under the guise of security.
          BTW their equipment probably has built in flaws to enable US spying.

          Reply
          • Mother

             /  14th February 2019

            Most probably. Did you think any of us really need to be told that?
            We could learn to protect ourselves from them too.
            Everyone knows there’s going to be an end coming anyway. I’m just putting it out there – Aotearoa could possibly enjoy a special, unique, safe existence for the next 500 years? We are at a cross roads.

            Is it too late for Aotearoa to convince the US that there’s no need to spy on us? We know with certainty that communists would never be convinced in true friendship with us.

            Reply
            • Mother

               /  14th February 2019

              “Unmitigated balderdash or in plain words – rubbish” – from Adam.

              In the context of all my comments over several weeks, and that this is social media, Adam’s comment is an oxymoron.

              If you don’t wish to combine wholesome ness/mental wellbeing with economics, then don’t! It seems you have shown your ignorance Adam.

  4. Blazer

     /  14th February 2019

    desperation from the B team.

    Winston dealt with their nonsense on radio this morning and kicked Hosking into…touch.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  14th February 2019

      Which radio station – RNZ?

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  14th February 2019

        the one Hosking is on.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  14th February 2019

          Ah, ok. NewstalkZB. Might see if I can find it later, out of curiosity.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  14th February 2019

          Yes that was a solid Ministerial and diplomatic performance from Winston.
          He certainly knows his onions in the Foreign Minister’s job.

          Reply
            • Gezza

               /  14th February 2019

              Oh -sorry that’s RNZ. :/
              I’ll get back to you if I can find him on NewstalkZB, been busy all morning.

            • Gezza

               /  14th February 2019

              Couldn’t find him on NewstalkZB. If Blazer’s claim above is that Winnie kicked Hosking into touch on ZB have to regard that claim as unproven.

            • Gezza

               /  14th February 2019

              Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern … accused National leader Simon Bridges in the first question time of the year of acting against New Zealand’s national interest through what she called “the politicisation” of the New Zealand-China relationship.

              Ardern listed the six visits that ministers undertook to China last year: Foreign Minister Winston Peters in May, Climate Change Minister James Shaw in July, Education Minister Chris Hipkins in July, Forestry Minister Shane Jones in September, Science Minister Megan Woods in September, and Trade Minister David Parker in November.

              She said five ministers might well be intending to visit in the future, given six had visited last year, then she was prompted by Foreign Minister Winston Peters to elaborate on what he called “New Zealand’s hitherto foreign policy consensus.”

              She accused Bridges of “playing politics” over the relationship with China. Ardern said it was important to have an independent foreign policy line that was in the interests of New Zealand economically, and in terms of economic security and its values.

              “It is disappointing that in recent times, we have seen the politicisation of our relationship, which sits directly in contradiction to our economic interests and our national security interests.”

              Peters and Bridges in questions to Ardern raised controversial comments made by the other, Bridges in a secretly taped conversation with ex-colleague Jami-Lee Ross, and Peters during the 2014 election campaign.

              Peters: “Is it true that the Government’s position is to treat every nation and every people fairly, politely, equally, and respectfully, and would never say, for example…’two Chinese are better than two Indians?'”

              Bridges: “Does she agree with her Foreign Minister’s form comments that ‘two Wongs don’t make a white?'”

              Speaker Trevor Mallard admonished them both.

  5. David

     /  14th February 2019

    Peters has openly moved to annoy China which is totally unnecessary and achieves nothing, he kissed up to the Trump administration for god knows what reason. The fool is way out of his depth, he is too much of an anti Asian renegade to be in that role and Ardern has failed in her overtures to the EU with them restricting our exports further.
    Bloody amateur hour, this coalition cant execute anything competently.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  14th February 2019

      A rudderless ship heading for the rocks, Dave. Let’s hope they fluke a beach landing for all our sake’s.

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  14th February 2019

      I love the notion of Peters kissing up to the Trump administration for god knows what reason.

      There are enough in recent years who’ve seemed to consider Trump God so maybe it’s an inside job. 😊

      Then there are those who hate Peters with a passion and are equally staunch in their support for Trump. Fortunately any bind or confusion in Peters kissing up to the Trump administration will beyond them.

      Reply
  6. Reply
    • Gezza

       /  14th February 2019

      Very interesting – seems very well informed. Sensible-sounding comments about the 5G Huawei issue, & the Chinese low key way of making things awkward by applying full “process” to trade and maybe other situations. An example being when they were unhappy with the Australian government and suddenly every single bottle of Australian wine was being checked before being approved for sale, slowing down their exports significantly.

      Reply
  7. Fight4NZ

     /  14th February 2019

    China being massive self-interested bully boys. Anyone surprised? What did you expect from such an avaricious culture when they rediscovered Capitalism?
    So they get really pissed and boycott. What does that mean? We get back F&P, PGG Wrightsons, our farms? Will they shut down their dairy plants so they can’t subvert our dairy industry anymore? The procession of kiwi companies who gone over and ploughed money into their economy never to return a cent will stop? If their tourists still turn up will they have to spend money with our local tour companies and operators? No The Warehouse or 2 dollar shops. What will become of us if we have to buy goods from sources that maintain a modicum of quality and reliability? Can we go without cheap shit steel in our buildings and overpasses?
    Dark times.

    Reply
  8. Reply

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