New Zealand should desist from undermining China’s growing influence

By Yu Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/20 16:16:04


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



Since the incumbent New Zealand government took power in October 2017, relations with China have been sliding with Wellington joining other Western powers to undermine Beijing's growing influence.

In July last year, New Zealand released a new strategic defense policy statement explicitly outlining what the government saw as potential threats posed by China. In November, the country banned China's tech behemoth Huawei from supplying equipment for its first 5G mobile network. One month later, media revealed that spy bosses from New Zealand and other countries in the Five Eyes group had met secretly in Nova Scotia, Canada in July, cooking up the campaign to kill Huawei as lobsters were being served. New Zealand also made an issue of the cooperation between China and the Pacific Island countries, betraying anxiety over Beijing's growing influence in the South Pacific. 

On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that Huawei has not been ruled out from playing a role in development of the nation's 5G network. "There's been no final decision here yet," she said. But the government's latest statement didn't clarify the confusion. 

China is New Zealand's largest trading partner and biggest commodity export destination. According to stats.govt.nz, New Zealand's two-way trade with China reached NZ$26.1 billion ($18 billion) in the December 2017 calendar year. The country has witnessed a rapid growth in exports to China, which has driven the country's trade surplus. New Zealand had a NZ$3.6 billion ($2.5 billion) goods and services trade surplus with China for the December 2017 calender year. In order to further liberalize and facilitate trade and investment between the two countries, Beijing and Wellington are negotiating to upgrade the free trade agreement (FTA). It is believed the revamped FTA will be finalized in the near future, taking bilateral economic and trade cooperation to new heights to benefit people of both sides. 

Blocking Chinese high-tech companies is not only unethical, but also runs counter to the interests of New Zealand. 5G technology matters to New Zealand, which is found wanting in advanced communication technology. It will fundamentally alter the country's digital environment, providing opportunity for accelerating economic restructuring and development.  

Many telecom businesses around the world have used Huawei equipment because of the company's cost-effective technology that is superior to competitors. The ban on Huawei would not only significantly raise the cost, but also delay the 5G network rollout in New Zealand and the Oceania region. Blindly following the US in containing Huawei will end up in New Zealand hurting itself. 

New Zealand has benefitted a lot from the Asian economic development. It shouldn't act as an anti-China pawn of the US. Some New Zealand politicians believe that compared with staunch US allies like Australia, Wellington is only playing second fiddle to the US and China won't take steps against it. Even if the Chinese government doesn't take tit-for-tat action for the sake of bilateral relations, the Chinese public, riled by the hostile moves of the Ardern government, will cold shoulder New Zealand. 


The author is a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries, Liaocheng University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

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