The Dominion Post

Precarious dependency

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At the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared, ‘‘We will continue to promote the things we believe in and support the rules-based system that underpins our collective well-being.’’

The Chinese ambassador, Wu Xi, replied that NZ should not interfere in China’s internal affairs if it wanted to maintain ‘‘the sound developmen­t of our bilateral relations’’.

John Key then added, ‘‘We are much more likely to be successful if we have a constructi­ve relationsh­ip as friends’’, although NZ exporters should consider all markets – ‘‘China is going to be more important going forward, not less’’.

By taking such a finely balanced position Ardern leaves herself open to pressure from our American allies and human rights supporters to be principled and openly criticise China for perceived abuses of political power and oppression of its ethnic minorities. Already pressure from the Five Eyes partners has been intense, if not hysterical.

Within NZ there is also a strong antiChines­e faction for Ardern to placate. Should she blink and openly give support to our traditiona­l Western allies, the consequenc­es for our living standard from trade bans would be dire, as they were for Australia.

Since President Biden is calling upon traditiona­l Western allies, India, Japan and Taiwan, to unite with the US in forming a technology and security network to oppose Chinese growth, this would seem an opportune time for NZ to lobby for the formation of a full economic and defence union that includes all America’s supporting countries.

Free trade among all these nations would free NZ rapidly from its precarious dependency on China.

Paul Wah, Petone [abridged]

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