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Wang's New Zealand visit opens a new chapter in ties

By Mariam Shah | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-03-25 14:52

Tourists take selfies in front of a dragon-shaped installation to welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year at Hagley Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, Feb 9, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

They say timing is everything, especially when it comes to enhancing bilateral relations and advancing diplomacy to further peace and development. Amid global and regional challenges and an ever-shifting environment, the recent visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to New Zealand can be referred to as very appropriate, considering the timing and goals.

Wang's arrival in Wellington marked his first visit since 2017, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and New Zealand. One can say that the foundations of the golden era in bilateral trade between China and New Zealand were laid a decade ago, with New Zealand's exports to China doubling in value since 2014, reaching nearly NZ$21 billion (90.74 billion yuan) annually. It is important to note that China showed high-quality growth in the post-COVID era, as it emerged as New Zealand's top trading partner. This post-pandemic recovery highlights the resilience of the economic ties between the two countries, particularly in the agricultural sector.

New Zealand and China have become longstanding economic partners, and further strengthening the bilateral relationship will contribute to achieving the domestic objectives and targets. During a recent meeting between Wang and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing cooperation and strengthening bilateral relations. Wang emphasized the significance of China-New Zealand relations, highlighting them as a cornerstone of China's ties with developed nations.

In 2008, New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a bilateral free trade deal with China and that agreement was expanded in 2022. The recent meetings between Wang and New Zealand underscore mutual focus on economic cooperation and China's dedication to boosting bilateral trade through an upgraded China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. Wang expressed that China views New Zealand as a reliable partner, expressing a willingness to deepen cooperation and elevate their strategic partnership to new heights. This boost would benefit both nations and contribute to global peace and development.

With China's economy showing growth and improvement, it is set to provide impetus to the world economy, offering new opportunities for New Zealand as well. At the moment, New Zealand's policy priorities are education, technology, and infrastructure, and the Chinese side showed readiness to be a reliable strategic partner in these areas. Moreover, China welcomes New Zealand's continued participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to explore new avenues of collaboration while strengthening traditional ties.

Furthering bilateral ties between China and New Zealand highlights the importance of multilateralism and peaceful dispute resolution. China rejects Cold War mentalities of unilateralism and protectionism and advocates cooperation. Additionally, this visit holds significant implications for global geopolitics, especially concerning the Asia-Pacific and the South China Sea.

Regarding the highly controversial AUKUS, which plans to equip Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, Beijing has been critical of the pact, saying it will destabilize the region by creating an unending cycle of arms race. New Zealand's potential involvement in this alliance, which aims to advance weapon systems and counter "China's influence" in the Pacific, is also a concern.

During the meetings, New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, discussed the potential involvement in the AUKUS alliance. New Zealand has a strict anti-nuclear policy prohibiting nuclear activities within its territory. It is highly likely that New Zealand might not participate in the submarine deal. Still, it might consider participating in "pillar two" of the agreement, focusing on cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, and hypersonic missile development.

Moreover, New Zealand's decision to join AUKUS will have far-reaching implications for regional stability. There is a current trend related to building partnerships through cooperation in order to prioritize shared peace and stability—both in the Pacific and globally. This is a time when New Zealand must choose wisely—peace over militarization—and aim to strike a balance between allies and regional peace priorities, economic ties, and cooperation for mutual benefit.

Wang's visit is definitely a welcoming move. It aims to engage proactively with New Zealand, using diplomacy and dialogue to maneuver crucial decisions and shape the evolving geopolitical landscape of the Asia-Pacific. Understanding the changing geopolitical dynamics and complexities of the 21st century diplomacy, among other things, is essential. The outcome of the recent visit and dialogues will foster greater mutual understanding, impact regional dynamics, and pave the path for economic opportunities for both countries.

In a world entrenched in chaos and instability, nations must seek to bolster ties and recognize the importance of maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared principles of mutual trust and cooperation.

Mariam Shah is a PhD Scholar and Independent Researcher in Peace and Conflict Studies.

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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