Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the think tank RAND Corp. in Santa Monica, California and adjunct professor in the practice of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California. He formerly served as an intelligence adviser at the Pentagon.
During her meeting with Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit last month in Bangkok, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed interest in continued cooperation, but also pressed the Chinese president on controversial issues, including Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
The meeting was the clearest sign yet that Wellington has adopted a harder line on Beijing. This will be good news for allies who have questioned whether New Zealand has been the weak link in collective approaches to countering China. But Wellington’s increasingly hard-line stance could antagonize Beijing, risking what has heretofore been a productive partnership.
For years, Wellington has assiduously tried to keep its political and economic interactions with Beijing separate.