New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in a tight spot. On one hand, she wants to remain the undisputed leader of the left-liberal world and a famed champion of human rights. But on the other hand, she intends to support China’s murderous Communist regime that hardly cares about human rights. In fact, Jacinda Ardern was slammed for her government’s spineless response against Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang and belligerence against Taiwan.
The Kiwi Prime Minister did try to ward off criticism by expressing formal concern towards Chinese atrocities, but she hardly got critical about Beijing’s actions. Yet, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has now assured Chinese President Xi Jinping about the Jacinda government’s loyalty and commitment towards Beijing.
The Jacinda government was fearing the possibility of a misunderstanding between Beijing and Wellington, after New Zealand’s PM raised “grave” concerns with China on human rights issues, including the situation of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and people who live in Hong Kong.
“And it will not have escaped the attention of anyone here that as China’s role in the world grows and changes, the differences between our systems – and the interests and values that shape those systems – are becoming harder to reconcile,” Jacinda Ardern said.
Therefore, Mahuta sought to make it clear that New Zealand might have to speak publicly about China’s murderous policies at times. However, it doesn’t mean that the Jacinda government won’t be loyal towards Beijing or that it would try to harm the Communist nation in any possible way.
In a speech to the NZ China Council on Monday, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister explained New Zealand’s “contemporary relationship” with its biggest trade partner- China.
Mahuta said, “Today we acknowledge the interests we share. Equally, we have become more alert to the values that differentiate us. Let me liken this perspective to the Dragon and the Taniwha.”
She elucidated, “I see the Taniwha and the Dragon as symbols of the strength of our particular customs, traditions and values, that aren’t always the same, but need to be maintained and respected. And on that virtue we have together developed the mature relationship we have today.”
We can’t help but agree with Mahuta. Chinese-communist and Kiwi values don’t match with each other. China is an authoritarian regime that thrives by killing dissidents and tormenting minorities, whereas New Zealand used to be a respectable democracy before Jacinda came to power. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister however suggests that the Jacinda government agrees that China’s violent ideology needs to be “respected”.
In order to reassure Xi’s China even further, the Kiwi Foreign Minister said that Wellington will take a “consistent and predictable” approach if there is “tension between the Dragon and the Taniwha”.
She added, “Matters such as human rights should be approached in a consistent, country agnostic manner. We will not ignore the severity and impact of any particular country’s actions if they conflict with our longstanding and formal commitment to universal human rights.”
Mahuta concluded, “Sometimes we will therefore find it necessary to speak out publicly on issues, like we have on developments in Hong Kong, the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, and cyber incidents.”
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister has given some very clear signals- Wellington will sometimes feel compelled to take a stand on Chinese human rights violations. But at the end of the day, the Jacinda government will maintain a “mature” relationship with Communist China.
As such, token statements will be issued about Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But Jacinda will never go beyond tokenism to actually punish China for its crimes. Wellington is looking to maintain strong ties with its biggest trade partner- China, even if it comes at the cost of democratic values, human rights and the need to stand up for the dignity of Uyghur Muslims.