New Zealand changes tune towards China after warnings of unprecedented threat

Wellington announced the purchase of 4 Boeing anti-submarine aircraft in wake of defense report prompting NZ to take harder line towards China's militarization and influence peddling

New Zealand PM Winston Peters (center) and Defense Minister Ron Mark (left)  at a Press Conference Monday, July 9

New Zealand PM Winston Peters (center) and Defense Minister Ron Mark (left) at a Press Conference Monday, July 9 (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Monday, July 9 Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters and Defense Minister Ron Mark announced that the country was preparing to purchase four anti-submarine aircraft from Boeing, indirectly citing the “challenges” being posed by China’s militarization and influence in the region.

Shortly following the announcement on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying gave a curt response claiming that China is a “builder of world peace, ”asserting that New Zealand should “correct its wrong words and deeds.”

On Wednesday, July 11 the Prime Minister defended the previous statements, replying that there would be no correcting of any “wrong words.” Peters emphasized that New Zealand is a sovereign nation and will act according to its own interests, according to the situation as it appears.

The decision of the New Zealand government to purchase the US$1.6 billion dollar fleet of four P-8A Poseidon aircraft, equipped with anti-submarine and anti-surface weapons systems follows the release of a report last week by the country’s Defense Ministry reports AP.

A U.S. Navy Poseidon aircraft dropping an anti-submarine torpedo (Wikimedia Commons Image)

The report says that "China has set an alternative model of democracy - a liberalizing economy absent liberal democracy - challenging conventional wisdom in the West that the two go hand-in-hand."

The document warns that “meddling” in democratic systems, and China’s expansive reach and attempts to influence the internal politics in foreign nations “is challenging international governance values and norms” reports News Hub.

Much like its neighbor Australia, over the past few months several alarms raised by allied intelligence agencies about the level of influence China has achieved throughout New Zealand’s political and business sectors.

In June Canada’s intelligence agency issued a report with a stern warning for New Zealand stating China was crafting a “multi-dimensional strategy to lift China to global dominance” and that New Zealand was both a key pawn in that campaign, and an ”exemplar” of how China would like to conduct future relations with Western states, reports the Guardian.

The spy agencies of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States comprise the “Five Eyes,” a coalition of allied states that share intelligence reports with other members.

In Canada’s most recent report it was made clear that New Zealand is considered a potential liability for other members as the “soft underbelly” of the alliance, and the most vulnerable to China’s guile and subversive tactics.

The report issued last week by the Defense Ministry and the subsequent decision to purchase the Boeing aircraft for purposes of national security, likely indicate that Wellington has taken the warnings from its allies seriously, and will take a harder line on subversive, threatening and undemocratic activity in the region moving forward.