Experts urge New Zealand to remain clear-headed on China after release of security strategy
Published: Aug 04, 2023 10:07 PM
National flags of China and New Zealand on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 25, 2023 Photo: VCG

National flags of China and New Zealand on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 25, 2023 Photo: VCG

New Zealand on Friday released its new defense and national security strategy, which Chinese experts said echoes the US strategy toward China. They remind the New Zealand government to remain clear-headed and vigilant against some domestic hawkish politicians who push for a tougher China stance to divert the current positive China-New Zealand relations onto a more dangerous path.

The New Zealand government on Friday presented its first national security strategy, along with the first stage of a defense review. The review outlined how New Zealand will increase its military expenditure to address challenges and priorities in defending the country in the coming decades, according to the New Zealand Herald. 

Chen Hong, professor and director of the New Zealand Studies Centre at East China Normal University, saw the security strategy from New Zealand as echoing the US' strategy toward China.

However, its depiction of New Zealand's relations with China is somewhat ambivalent and ambiguous, which betrays Wellington's reluctance to choose sides between the US and China, Chen told the Global Times. 

The strategy document outlined China's challenges but at the same time highlighted China's important role to New Zealand. It said "the relationship with China is significant for New Zealand, and its cooperation will continue to be essential in addressing many global challenges. At the same time, the Chinese government's assertive pursuit of its strategic objectives is the major driver for the new era of strategic competition among states." 

Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries of Liaocheng University, attributed the ambiguity of the new strategy to the strategic difficulties facing New Zealand and poor economic performance domestically, so Yu expects to see generally stable relations between China and New Zealand, though it might suffer a short period of fluctuation. 

The document claims that the "Chinese Government in particular has sought to grow its political, economic, and security influence in the Pacific at the expense of more traditional partners such as New Zealand and Australia." 

Chen said China's cooperation with Pacific Island countries is open to any third party for the purpose of improving local economic development. He refuted the untenable allegations that China is sacrificing the interests of New Zealand and Australia.

Chinese experts said China-New Zealand ties have remained stable and positive in general, especially after the just finished visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to China in June, which he described as fruitful.

Chinese experts are urging Wellington to keep a clear head and make judicious decisions when handling its relations with China. The currently positive relationship between the two countries should not be risked for the sake of the US' anti-China strategy. New Zealand is advised to remain vigilant for some hawkish politicians pushing for a tougher China stance, in particular against the backdrop of impending national parliamentary elections in October.