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New Zealand is a Five Eyes outlier on China. It may have to pick a side

June 4, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 25.4%. 2 min read.

Ardern needs to be seen backing her Five Eyes allies and their criticism on China, but without being so outspoken that New Zealand is landed with the type of sanctions Beijing has imposed on Australia.

In the past year, other members of Five Eyes -- a Cold War-era partnership to share intelligence between the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand -- have stepped up criticism of Beijing over alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, even labeling Beijing's actions in the latter a "genocide. " New Zealand has shied away from going that far.

On Monday, Ardern rejected suggestions New Zealand wasn't taking a strong stance on "incredibly important issues" relating to China, and said it had no intention of abandoning the five-nation alliance.

Ardern and her Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta have previously played down criticism they could be doing more on human rights, saying New Zealand is merely forging its own international relations path.

That position presents Arden with a delicate balancing act: she needs to be seen to be backing her Five Eyes allies and their criticism on China, but without being so outspoken that New Zealand is landed with the type of sanctions Beijing has imposed on Australia.

For some, it's not just trade that's at stake: if New Zealand is seen as failing to take a strong stance on China, it risks damaging its reputation as a moral leader on human rights.

The clearest sign New Zealand is taking a different tack on China than some of its fellow Five Eyes countries came in April, when an opposition party MP announced she would file a motion calling on parliament to follow United Kingdom, the United States and Canada in condemning China's actions in Xinjiang as "genocide. "

The following month, Mahuta said she was "uncomfortable" with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing agreement to include foreign policy statements, adding that New Zealand wanted to handle its own messaging, rather than sign on to Five Eyes' statements.

Since Ardern was elected in 2017, she has worked to recalibrate New Zealand's relationship with Beijing, taking a more considered approach than her predecessor who welcomed trade with China.

"We can't give away our trade relationship completely, but neither can we give away the things that characterize New Zealand as a nation for the longest time," said Stephen Jacobi, a former diplomat and former executive director of the New Zealand China Council, an organization majority funded by the New Zealand government that aims to build the relationship between the two countries.

Brady said, rather than criticize New Zealand for its China statements, the other Five Eyes countries could help make New Zealand more resilient by bolstering trade ties.

A New Zealand-based Uyghur, who asked to be anonymous to protect his and his family's safety, said even though New Zealand is small, there is value in speaking out about alleged human rights abuses Xinjiang, as the country is a "moral superpower" other countries look up to.

If it worked, New Zealand could help bring opposing sides together, and help resolve some of the differences between China and other countries, he said.

by summa-bot

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