Even as China grows more assertive, there are still common interests, New Zealand PM says

Even as China grows more assertive, there are still common interests, New Zealand PM says

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Portal) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that even “as China becomes more assertive in pursuing its interests,” there are still common interests on which the two countries can and should work together.

New Zealand has recently tightened its tone on both security and Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific, in part due to the signing of a China-Solomon Islands security pact earlier this year. At the same time, however, New Zealand remains dependent on trade with China.

Ardern, speaking at the China Business Summit in Auckland, said that New Zealand is willing to get involved, although there are areas of major concern to New Zealand where the country’s views differ from China’s.

“We will also champion approaches and outcomes that reflect New Zealand’s interests and values, and speak out on issues that do not,” she said.

“Our differences don’t have to define us. But we can’t ignore them,” she said.

New Zealand has consistently expressed concerns about economic coercion, human rights abuses and in particular the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and most recently the possible militarization of the Pacific. On a number of occasions, New Zealand has been part of joint statements on these concerns.

Ardern added that managing the differences in relations between the two countries was not always easy and “there were no guarantees”.

She added that she looks forward to in-person ministerial visits and plans to lead a business delegation there if COVID measures allow, and that there is also potential for foreign ministers to visit between the two countries.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Sandra Maler)