New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta has warned the country’s exporters to diversify trade away from Beijing or risk being at the centre of a “storm” provoked by Beijing’s ire.
“And if they are close to an eye of the storm or in the eye of the storm, we’ve got to legitimately ask ourselves—it may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us,” Mahuata said.
“The signal I’m sending to exporters is that they need to think about diversification in this context—COVID-19, broadening relationships across our region, and the buffering aspects of if something significant happened with China. Would they be able to withstand the impact?” she asked.
The country is increasingly vulnerable to the Chinese regime with a heavy trade dependence on the Chinese market. New Zealand’s export trade to China has surpassed its other four trading partners, Australia, the U.S, the U.K., and Japan, with $33bn of New Zealand’s total trade and nearly 30% of exports heading to the Asian nation.
The warning comes after the New Zealand Foreign Minister initially told exporters to diversify trade away from China in late April and follows New Zealand’s failure to speak strongly to the Chinese regime over issues like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the military expansion in the South China Sea.
Something its Five Eyes allies—the United Kingdom, The United States, Canada and Australia—choose to do.
New Zealand has instead stated that it feels “uncomfortable” pressuring Beijing.
“New Zealand has tried to walk a tightrope between the West and the Chinese Communist regime, maintaining its balance cautiously,” Chen Weijian, an editor with Beijing Spring, a U.S.-based pro-democracy publication, said in an interview with The Epoch Times. “It attempts to maintain a strong trade relationship with Beijing while keeping its values of respecting human rights.”
But Chen Weijen said this would not work. “The terms—human rights abuse or genocide—are no different to the Chinese Communist Party; they both mean New Zealand is no longer on its side.”
As demonstrated by the New Zealand Chinese embassy response to New Zealand most recent condemnation of the CCP’s treatment of the Uyghurs, which said that such proclamations about human rights in China would “only harm the mutual trust between China and New Zealand.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted earlier this month that New Zealand’s differences with China are becoming “harder to reconcile,” although the country still prefers to pursue its own bilateral relations with Beijing.
But experts believe that the time is fast approaching for New Zealand to choose a side.
Chen Kuide, a China scholar and chief editor of the publication’ China in Perspective,’ told The Epoch Times that the two factors—“national security and the country’s fundamental values”—will push the country to return to its western allies.
“Sooner or later, New Zealand will come back to join the western allies,” Chen said.
Luo Ya contributed to this report.