Friday, January 21

New Zealand Faces Growing Challenge From Chinese Nationalism, Advocacy Report Warns | New Zealand

New Zealand faces “a substantially more challenging and complex strategic environment,” largely due to the rise of China and “an increasingly strong nationalist narrative,” according to a stark report released by the country’s Defense Ministry.

Wednesday’s remarkably explicit warning included a detailed discussion on China’s military modernization and emphasized the importance of New Zealand’s deep security relations with Anglo-Saxon countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

“It paints a pretty sobering picture of the changes in New Zealand’s strategic environment,” says Professor David Capie, Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. “He argues that the South Pacific is no longer a benign backwater, but rather that some of the challenges we’ve seen unfold in the broader Indo-Pacific are now getting closer to home.”

The report comes as New Zealand plunges into a tense debate about how to manage strategic competition between the United States and China in its Pacific backyard. Many officials and observers in Wellington have taken a tougher view of China in recent years and pushed for a closer security partnership with the United States.

The ministry’s report seems designed to influence that discussion. Some will see it as a setback for Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, who earlier this year voiced her displeasure at expanding the reach of Anglosphere’s Five Eyes association beyond intelligence gathering.

The report noted that “the defense aspect [of Five Eyes] it is as old and as fundamental as the aspect of intelligence ”. He strongly supported New Zealand’s continued participation in the partnership, saying the country “reaps enormous benefits from this partnership, including in terms of access to defense capabilities, information technology and military developments that would otherwise be unattainable.”

Strategic competition between the United States and China was singled out as a “major driver” of increased insecurity. The ministry characterized the Indo-Pacific as the “central global arena for strategic competition.” He warned that an outside power, almost certainly China, could establish a military base or use paramilitary forces in the region, and implicitly warned US lawmakers that the fulfillment of President Joe Biden’s “renewed commitment” to the Indo-Pacific “will be important to determine the future for this region ”.

Another driver of the increased security threats facing New Zealand now, according to the ministry, is the intensification of climate change. He noted that the impacts of climate change are already present and include extreme fires, intense cyclones and prolonged droughts. These will drive further social and political instability. “More frequent disasters mean shorter recovery time between events, and more intense disasters mean more damage to recover from.”

“After decades of deployments in Afghanistan and the Middle East, [the report] makes it clear that the South Pacific is where New Zealand needs to focus its main defense efforts going forward, ”says Capie. Whether that will cause a change in New Zealand’s foreign policy in the future remains to be seen. “The government has presented a very worrying picture of New Zealand’s strategic environment, but is it willing to spend more or do something different than it has done in the past?”

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