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China and New Zealand Discuss Pacific Engagement

National

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a summit | Image by Greg Baker/Getty Images

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The foreign ministers of China and New Zealand held a virtual meeting on Monday to reassert the relationship between the two nations and talk about Beijing’s growing power in the Pacific.

The discussion came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi completed a tour around the Pacific where he tried to rally 10 pacific governments to sign an economic and security agreement.


China’s increasing regional influence and the prospect of a more significant military presence have concerned New Zealand and its allies. Worries increased earlier this year when China and the Solomon Islands signed a security deal.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta voiced concerns about China’s growing power in the Pacific but did not express objections.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it “acknowledged that China has been present in the Pacific for a long time, but underlined the importance of engagement taking place in a manner that advances Pacific priorities,”

Chinese state-run media Xinhua News Agency reported that Wang said China was ready to work with New Zealand, emphasizing diplomatic discussions on climate change. Wang also said China was prepared to collaborate with New Zealand to build an “open” and “inclusive” South Pacific region.

“The cooperation between China and Pacific Island nations that China has diplomatic relations with can go hand in hand with existing arrangements in the region and complement one another,” Wang said.

The MFAT readout revealed that Mahuta expressed New Zealand’s concerns on issues such as human rights problems in Xinjiang, the decline in civil liberties in Hong Kong, and the importance of peace across the Taiwan Strait.

Those concerns were previously expressed in a U.S.-New Zealand joint statement after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.

Beijing criticized the joint statement and accused New Zealand of lacking its own foreign policy.

Chinese state-run news organization Global Times said the nation was incapable of resisting pressure from the U.S. and simply echoing American “anti-China rhetoric.”

Ardern recently said New Zealand and China still need to work together to address common interests, despite China’s increasing influence in the region.

Ardern told the BBC in April, “China is a very important trading partner for us, but it’s also a mature relationship for us.”

Beijing has previously reminded Wellington of New Zealand’s dependence on China as a trade partner, saying the South Pacific nation’s clean, green brand should not be “taken for granted.”          

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