PM Jacinda Ardern: No change in NZ-China relationship despite Mahuta’s ‘storm’ comments

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand’s relationship with China has not shifted, despite comments by her Foreign Affairs Minister about the diplomatic feud between Australia and China.

Those comments, made by Nanaia Mahuta to the Guardian, earned a warning from the Chinese Communist Party.

Mahuta told the UK-based publication that New Zealand could find itself at the heart of a “storm”, much like Australia, if it’s not careful about its relationship with China.

“We cannot ignore, obviously, what’s happening in Australia with their relationship with China,” she said.

“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.”

Diplomatic tensions between Australia and China have been fraught as of late amid mounting tension between the two countries.

New Zealand’s relationship with China will likely be close to the top of the agenda when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with Ardern this weekend.

Leaders of both countries will likely be pressed on the issue when they front a joint press conference.

Ahead of that meeting, however, Ardern said Mahuta’s comments don’t represent a shift in New Zealand’s position on China.

“I don’t consider that to be a change in our position or our rhetoric at all,” she told media this morning.

“If anyone had read the speech that was delivered by Minister Mahuta roughly a month ago, you would see very much New Zealand’s position on these matters.”

Although that speech stressed the need for New Zealand to be less reliant on China for exports, Mahuta also used it as a way to stress that the relationship between the two countries was “in good shape”.

“When I think about this relationship … I liken it to the respect a Taniwha would have for a Dragon and vice versa.”

Despite this, an editorial in the Global Times – a Chinese publication with strong ties to the ruling Communist Party in China – urged New Zealand to “rise above external disputations”.

“There is no denying that geopolitical struggles are bringing headwinds to China-New Zealand relationship as the New Zealand Government has been criticised by its Western allies for being ‘soft’ toward China,” the editorial said.

“For some time in the future, such pressure may continue to affect New Zealand, blocking it from maintaining normal ties with China.”

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