- China’s furious gaze has fallen on another country.
- New Zealand appears to be the latest Western-aligned nation to have inadvertently called down the wrath of Beijing, according to a report from The New Zealand Herald.
- Auckland’s ties with China, its key trading partner, are sailing close to the rocks, according to The Herald, which says the island nation’s prime minister is on the outer in Beijing.
- Perhaps more tellingly, a yearlong New Zealand tourism promotion – in the pipeline for years and due to roll out across all of China – is suddenly on ice.
Now it looks as if New Zealand has fallen afoul of an increasingly sensitive and assertive Beijing.
The oceanic nation of about 4.7 million people is joining the likes of Canada, Australia, Turkey, Poland, the Czech Republic, and even Norway as members of a growing club that is out of favour with the world’s second-largest economy.
Until a few months ago, New Zealand was something of a darling of Beijing, enjoying favoured-nation status and kicking off all kinds of economic firsts under China’s economic largesse.
Now, the kiwis are suddenly on the outs, according to The New Zealand Herald.
New Zealand’s popular Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has had a high-level trip to China in the pipeline ever since she took office in 2018. But now, the Herald says, citing New Zealand sources within China, that the planned visit for early 2019 is all but scuttled.
According to The Herald, Ardern’s “invitation has been put on hold.”
“Our relationship with China is a complex relationship and sometimes it will have its challenges,” the prime minister told TV New Zealand.
An equally big deal is the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism 2019, which New Zealand acknowledged on Tuesday had failed to launch. The event had been received with significant fanfare, but now that’s been skewered at the behest of Beijing.
The sudden cancellation is a familiar form of political cold shoulder presented by a Communist Party that wishes to send a clear message.
Diplomatic alarm bells began ringing a little more intensely just this week, when an Air New Zealand flight to Shanghai was turned around midway over the weekend, with media reports suggesting the national carrier had committed the misstep of listing Taipei as the capital of Taiwan instead of just another big Chinese city, as Beijing insists.
The news website Stuff.co.nz cited several sources with knowledge of the incident as saying the midair turnaround was due to a reference to Taiwan that “China took to be an acknowledgement that the island was independent,” but Air New Zealand has disputed this.
And then there is the other, other problem for New Zealand, the very public travails of the respected China expert Anne-Marie Brady, who says she has been the target of an ongoing official harassment campaign.
A vocal critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s increasingly autocratic government, Brady, who teaches Chinese politics at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, says she’s been burgled at home, robbed at work, and had the brakes on her car tampered with.
Some 150 of the world’s most respected China academics signed a joint letter urging New Zealand’s government to intervene on Brady’s behalf and at least provide a little extra security.
If that weren’t a deal-breaker for Beijing, there is also Huawei – in this case the decision by Auckland’s top intelligence bureau, in adherence with allies Canada, Australia, and the United States, to block China’s telecom giant from participating in the rollout of New Zealand’s next-generation 5G broadband infrastructure.