China has threatened New Zealand’s trade access to its huge market after denouncing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for joining an American “disinformation” campaign to “discredit China.” The announcement came following Prime Minister Ardern sharing her concerns about Beijing’s behaviour in the Pacific with President Joe Biden at a meeting in the White House.
China’s ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Xiaolong, said that New Zealand should be a “friendly country” and not take its biggest trade partner “for granted”.
from the Australian
Beijing has threatened New Zealand’s trade access to its huge market hours after denouncing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for joining an American “disinformation” campaign to “discredit China.”
China’s ambassador in Wellington, Wang Xiaolong, on Thursday said New Zealand should be a “friendly country” and not take its biggest trade partner “for granted”, after Prime Minister Ardern shared concerns about Beijing’s behaviour in the Pacific with President Joe Biden at a meeting in the White House.
The trade threat followed an eruption by China’s Foreign Ministry after New Zealand and the United States said a Chinese military base in the Pacific would “fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region”.
In a joint statement released after Ms Ardern and Mr Biden met in the Oval Office, Wellington said security and defence would become an “ever-more-important” focus of its relationship with Washington.
They also noted their shared concerns over China’s menacing of Taiwan, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and political repression in Hong Kong.
In a speech to the New Zealand China Council, Mr Wang said the perception of NZ as a “green, clean, open and friendly country” in the world’s second biggest economy should not be “squandered”.
“This asset of ours did not come out of nowhere or as a matter of course, but has been slowly built up with hard work over the years from both sides,” he said.
“Nor can it be taken for granted. It is thus incumbent upon us… to protect it carefully, use it wisely, and make sure it will not be squandered.”
Earlier, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian launched a diatribe on New Zealand, using language he has hurled at Australia for years.
“We noted the relevant contents of the joint statement, which distorts and smears China’s normal co-operation with Pacific island countries, deliberately hypes up the South China Sea issue, makes irresponsible remarks on and grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs including issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong,” Mr Zhao said on Wednesday evening.
“The hype-up of relevant issues in the joint statement by the US and New Zealand is out of ulterior motives to create disinformation and attack and discredit China.”
The Chinese spokesman said the ongoing trip to the Pacific by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had been “widely welcomed” by countries in the region and said Beijing did not “intend to establish a military base”.
“China urges the US to abandon its Cold War mentality and ideological bias, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop slandering and discrediting China,” Mr Zhao said in the lengthy dressing down.
“We hope New Zealand will adhere to its independent foreign policy and do more to enhance security and mutual trust among regional countries and safeguard regional peace and stability.”
China has repeatedly praised New Zealand during its more than two year diplomatic and trade coercion campaign against Australia.
Geoffrey Miller, international analyst at Victoria University’s Democracy Project, said the Chinese Ambassador’s comments were reminiscent of the threats made by Beijing’s envoy in Canberra in 2020 before China launched sweeping trade strikes on Australia.
“This is a very dangerous moment for NZ,” Mr Miller told The Australian. “It might just be a warning signal to back off, but it could be the beginning of something stronger. The reference to ‘clean and green’ NZ, I took as a reference to agricultural products, which dominate the country’s exports. If NZ was punished by China over, for example, its milk powder, it would be a calamity.”
Mr Miller said the joint statement was a signal that NZ had allied itself with the US over the Pacific.
“That is significant because it put NZ on the same page with the US,” he said. “China doesn’t like joint statements. They’re a pet hate. They see it as countries ganging up on them.”
Last year, Beijing said New Zealand had demonstrated the importance of “mutual respect” in contrast to the “insane” approach of the Australian government.
NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta refused to respond officially to the remarks, saying New Zealand stuck by its independent foreign policy and would not be pulled “betwixt and between by the increasing interest here in the Pacific.”.
Speaking to TVNZ, Ms Mahuta said: “China has been active in the Pacific for a very long time, and it’s really important that New Zealand retains its approach which is to be consistent, predictable, and respectful in the way that we work with China because our relationship has matured,” she said.
“We want to make sure in the way we work with China, that the things we say in private are of no surprise when we say it publicly.
“So there are things that we can’t agree on, and we’ve made that clear, but they are of no surprise, and we’ve been very consistent on that front.”
Prime Minister Ardern has spoken frankly for more than a year about the rising difficulty of dealing with Xi Jinping’s China.
In a keynote speech to New Zealand’s China Business Summit in 2021, she said: “There are some things on which China and New Zealand do not, cannot, and will not agree … This need not derail our relationship, it is simply a reality.”
New Zealand’s agricultural exporters have watched on nervously as their counterparts in Australia — in the lobster, beef, timber, barley and wine industries — have been targeted by China.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week failed to get support for a sweeping security and trade agreement at a meeting of Pacific Island leaders in Fiji, a setback on a trip Beijing has billed as “unusual and historic”.
Beijing’s push into the Pacific dominated the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting between Ms Ardern and Mr Biden, the first visit to the White House by a New Zealand prime minister since 2014.
Ms Ardern told the President they were meeting at a “critical moment”, as the two leaders spoke of their families’ Pacific service in World War II.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong is currently visiting Samoa and Tonga, her second Pacific trip in the first fortnight of the Albanese government.
Beijing has dismissed concerns made by Wellington, Canberra and other Pacific Island countries about China’s new security agreement with Solomon Islands, which was signed last month.
New Zealand again made those concerns explicit in its joint statement with America after the leaders’ meeting.
“We note with concern the security agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Solomon Islands,” the New Zealand-US statement read.
“In particular, the US and New Zealand share a concern that the establishment of a persistent military presence in the Pacific by a state that does not share our values or security interests would fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region and pose national security concerns to both our countries.”
The statement also said that “security and defence will become an ever-more-important focus of our strategic partnership”.
Earlier on Thursday, Ms Mahuta said she welcomed Penny Wong’s visits to Pacific nations, but suggested if she did the same, it would “make us look desperate”.
Ms Mahuta, who has been criticised over her apparent lack of action over China’s increasing engagement with Pacific island nations, told NZ media the country was “not defined by China” and didn’t need to react in a way that “makes us look desperate.”
“I welcome Penny Wong’s engagement with the Pacific, because she is a new minister from a different government,” Ms Mahuta said.
“She has to establish new relationships across the globe. But in particular she has signalled three things: She wants to focus on the Pacific, she wants to focus on climate change, she wants to ensure that the way in which indigenous issues are brought into Australia’s foreign policy is a part of her legacy contribution.
“On those three points, we align very closely together. It is a shift in the way that Australia is reaching out to the Pacific, and I certainly welcome her engagement. She needs to do that.
“But we don’t have to rush into these things because the foundation of our relationship with the Pacific is very strong. We have a very different approach, and we are not defined by China and the way that they are conducting their relationship.”
She added: “We don’t need to react in a way that makes us look desperate about the relationship.”