New Zealand secures its interests by distancing from US-led clique
Published: Apr 20, 2021 10:13 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Monday that Wellington wanted to chart its own course in developing relations with China and won't allow the US-led Five Eyes alliance dictate its foreign policies, adding that "we are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship."

Given that the US is sparing no efforts in pushing the alliance, which also including Australia, Canada and the UK, against China, the comment from the foreign minister is remarkable and drew praises in China. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday praised New Zealand's positive attitude in attaching importance to and working to develop China-New Zealand ties and said that China is willing to work with New Zealand to enhance communication and deepen cooperation. 

China and New Zealand have enjoyed a steady trade relationship. China has been the largest trading partner for New Zealand for years. The two countries signed a free trade agreement (FTA) in 2008, covering sectors of goods, services and investments. And they upgraded the FTA in January, further reducing trade barriers and expanding cooperation in such areas as e-commerce.

Two-way trade has more than tripled from NZ $9 billion to over NZ $32 billion since the FTA was signed. In 2019, the two economies recorded over NZ$30 billion of trade, reaching a long-standing target for bilateral trade volume one year earlier. 

In addition to trade, China and New Zealand have also developed sound communication mechanisms by promoting trilateral development cooperation. In 2012, the two nations and the Cook Islands jointly announced the launch of a water supply cooperation project. It has since become a pilot for China's participation in trilateral development cooperation.

Despite mounting pressure, Wellington does not show intention to follow the lead of the US at the expense of its own national interests. The Five Eyes alliance, which originated from World War II, has become an anti-China clique, serving the US' interests. Moreover, it has now turned into a source of instability among the international community, threatening the sustainable development of the world.

In sharp contrast with Australia, which tied itself to the US' chariot, New Zealand has maintained a relatively independent approach on foreign policies, paving the way for the country to pursue policies that benefit its own economy and citizens. As long as China and New Zealand can genuinely respect each other's core interests, bilateral economic and trade cooperation will be promising in the future.

By pursuing an independent approach, New Zealand is also securing a stronger economic recovery and growth path in the post-COVID era. Maintaining a healthy cooperative relationship with China, which has a massive market and is on a rapid economic recovery path, will yield concrete benefits to New Zealand. 

In fact, the drastic deterioration in China-Australia relations since last year, to some extent, is beneficial to New Zealand which can offer alternatives for Chinese businesses. Also, Chinese investors may choose New Zealand as a preferred destination in Oceania as Canberra has been damaging its business environment by taking a discriminatory attitude toward Chinese capital.

New Zealand's decision to be strategically independent also offers an example for other countries, as the US relentlessly threatens the multilateral system and seeks to sow discord in the Asian-Pacific region. Maintaining strategic independence is the crucial premise of long-term economic development for any country, or it'll end up being held hostage by the political schemes of other powers.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Song Wei, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.