New Zealand government nervous over US-China confrontation

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The US confrontation with China threatens to escalate into open war following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan. Beijing had said such a visit to the island, which it considers part of China, would have serious consequences. The Chinese military has surrounded Taiwan and is conducting live-fire exercises, which could lead to a direct confrontation with US, Taiwanese or other forces in the region, giving Washington whatever pretext it wants for military action.

The danger of war between nuclear powers, which endangers the whole of the world’s population, has caused great concern in New Zealand’s ruling circles. The Labor Party-led government of Jacinda Ardern has pursued a policy of strengthening New Zealand’s military alliance with US imperialism, while seeking to maintain strong economic ties with China.

This increasingly tense balancing act was on display on August 4, when New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta met her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia. .

Previous Virtual meeting on June 13, 2022 between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta (Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China)

A statement from the New Zealand Foreign Ministry highlighted “deep concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong”, echoing Washington’s hypocritical denunciations. Mahuta pointed to New Zealand’s alignment with the United States and NATO in their war with Russia over Ukraine, urging China to “use its access and influence with Russia” to pressure her to withdraw from Ukraine.

At the same time, Mahuta has taken a neutral stance on the crisis in Taiwan. The statement called for “peace and stability in the region, including across the Taiwan Strait, and stressed the importance of de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue.”

The world timeswhich is part of Chinese state media, reported favorably on Mahuta’s statement, saying, “New Zealand continues to adhere to the one-China principle, respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. and upholds the fundamental norms of international relations”.

The newspaper also highlighted Ardern’s comments on August 1 at the annual China Affairs Summit in New Zealand, where she marked 50 years of diplomatic relations with China. Ardern said New Zealand had been “firm and consistent in its commitment to our one China policy” and that there was “a long history of commitment and beneficial interactions between our governments, our peoples , our cultures and in trade”. She also indicated that she intended to visit China with a trade delegation in the near future.

The theme of this year’s summit, organized by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and think tank NZ INC, was to maintain “a balance” between trade and “heightened geo-strategic sensitivities”. A statement on the event’s website noted that trade with China has supported New Zealand’s economy during the global financial crisis and the pandemic. Organizers noted that “New Zealand’s merchandise exports to China grew by 19.8% in 2021, taking the bilateral trade relationship to over $37 billion worth of goods and services and accounting for 33% of exports. total New Zealand goods”.

Two days after the summit, however, Ardern refused to condemn Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, accompanied by four US warships including an aircraft carrier. She told reporters that “it was not for New Zealand or me to pass judgment on other leaders’ decisions about where they go and why.” Striking a neutral pose, she called for “diplomacy and dialogue to overcome tensions, especially around the Taiwan Strait.”

Such an equivocal position will not be tolerated by the Biden administration, which demands unwavering support from its regional allies. Washington’s objective, both in the war against Russia and in the preparations for war with China, is the imperialist redistribution of the world and the crushing of any rival to US global hegemony.

The New Zealand and Australian ruling class, which has its own imperialist interests in the Pacific region, has acted in alliance with the United States since World War II. New Zealand sent troops to the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Ardern government, which took office in 2017, continued to strengthen military and intelligence ties with the United States and in 2018 called Russia and China “threats” to the “world order based on on rules”, that is to say the post-World War II order dominated by the United States. Wellington supports the war between the United States and NATO against Russia and has sent military aid to Ukraine, as well as New Zealand troops in Europe, where they are helping to supply and train the Ukrainian army.

During a recent visit to Washington, Ardern highlighted New Zealand’s commitment to bolstering anti-China action, including the US military’s provocative assertion of its “freedom of navigation and overflight.” , in the South China Sea and beyond”. Ardern and Biden’s joint statement said, “As the security environment in the Indo-Pacific evolves, our defense cooperation must also evolve,” including the interoperability of armed forces, personnel exchanges, co-deployments and “defence trade”.

Coinciding with Ardern’s speech at the China Business Summit, US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino made his first visit to New Zealand, where he met with the Chief of the New Zealand defence, Kevin Short. Aquilino, who oversees 380,000 military personnel in the Indo-Pacific region, said the visit was aimed at identifying “new areas where we can work together and continue to expand our partnership.”

Aquilino’s visit follows his attendance at the Indo-Pacific Defense Chiefs Conference in Australia last month, which was attended by military leaders from 26 countries, including New Zealand. US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told media the three-day meeting focused on “the whole situation with the rise of China”, which he hypocritically accused of wanting to “dominate” the Pacific.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Navy has just completed participating in the US-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercise near Hawaii from June 29 to August 4. The largest maritime exercise in the world, RIMPAC involved 26 countries, dozens of ships and 25,000 personnel and played a key role in military preparations against China.

Sections of the New Zealand media are demanding a more open and belligerent stance against China and in favor of the United States. Anna Fifield, Wellington-based editor of the main news site Things, said, “Taiwanese, like Ukrainians, are fighting for us and our values… in the face of authoritarianism. The implication is that New Zealand should be prepared to join a war on the island, as it did in the case of Ukraine.

Fifield, who worked as head of the Washington Postfrom the Beijing office until the end of 2020, urged the Ardern government to follow Pelosi’s lead and prepare a delegation to travel to Taiwan. Similarly, far-right ACT party leader David Seymour defended Pelosi’s visit, saying he was open to visiting Taiwan if invited.

There is no principled opposition to the war within the parliamentary establishment. The Green Party, which sometimes utters pacifist phrases, has remained silent on Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which threatens nuclear war. The party is part of the Labor-led coalition government and has backed all of its budgets, which have dramatically increased military spending.

Despite the obvious nervousness of the business community over the US-China confrontation and the hypocritical pleas for restraint from Ardern and Mahuta, New Zealand is integrated into the US alliance, the war against Russia and the war plans against China. The only way to stop what is rapidly turning into a third world war, is through the socialist strategy of unifying the working class in an international anti-war movement, aimed at ending the capitalist and nation-state system. .

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