Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Point of Order: Govt is open about NZ’s science relationship with China....

.....but a ministerial statement on defence relationship is hard to find

The Government is coy about some aspects of its relationship with China – and with the United States.

Earlier this month, the PM spent a hectic 23 hours in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, where he responded to the superpower security deal just struck between the United States and PNG by saying New Zealand did not support the “militarisation of the Pacific”.

He also said “having a military presence doesn’t necessarily signify militarisation”.

Foreign Affairs analyst Geoffrey Miller commented:

Effectively, this was Hipkins giving Wellington’s green light to Washington’s new pact.

It is an agreement that Beijing has already sharply criticised as ‘geopolitical games’.

To some extent, the PM’s linguistic gymnastics are only to be expected, given New Zealand’s gradually more US-friendly approach to foreign policy that has unfolded under the leadership of both Chris Hipkins and his immediate predecessor, Jacinda Ardern.

However, ambiguity remains over just how far this new approach will go.

There’s ambiguity about our relations with China too.

In a recent speech, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said China is a significant trade and economic partner.

We have a mature relationship with China underscored by our willingness to continue to engage on the matters where we find common ground and those that are difficult and challenging. Nonetheless as we defend the international rules, norms and standards that we rely on for peaceful co-existence and shared prosperity we express our view if these norms are ignored.

We have stayed the course in our approach with China. Being predictable, consistent and respectful does not mean we cannot and should not speak our mind. In fact it compels our small nation to use our voice, with conviction, when our interests and values are confronted. This is a feature of what we mean by independence in foreign policy.

Later in the speech – carefully avoiding mention of China – she said

Democratic norms and universal human rights are being trampled on by the military regime in Myanmar. North Korea’s repeated missile launches in breach of UN Security Council Resolutions present a serious threat to regional stability. Developments in the South China Sea and increasing tension in the Taiwan Strait continue to be of concern. In a diverse Indo-Pacific, where we have differences we must have the maturity to discuss these openly and frankly. The Indo-Pacific architecture, with ASEAN at its centre, remains a critical platform for such discussions.

The government drew attention to another aspect of NZ’s relationship with China today.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and the Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang met in Wellington to affirm the two countries’ long-standing science relationship.

We have a defence relationship, too – the New Zealand-China strategic defence dialogue.

On May 11, the Defence Department announced that the New Zealand-China Strategic Defence Dialogue had taken place in Xi’an, China, the previous day.

Point Of Order can find no mention of this from ministers of the Crown on the government’s official website.

Not this week – or ever.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and the Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang met in Wellington today and affirmed the two countries’ long-standing science relationship.

The Government is making it easier for the screen sector to access support in order to attract more domestic and international productions to help grow the economy.

Deputy Prime Minister and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region) Carmel Sepuloni will represent New Zealand at Samoa’s 61st Anniversary of Independence commemorations in Apia.

The Government is continuing to support retailers with additional funding for the highly popular Fog Cannon Subsidy Scheme, Police and Small Business Minister Ginny Andersen announced today.

The Government has received the first independent review of the Intelligence and Security Act 2017, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says.

In the press statement from Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall, she said Minister Wang was in New Zealand for the 6th New Zealand-China Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation.

Following their meeting the ministers toured the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research at Victoria University Wellington. The Malaghan Institute has a joint venture with China’s Hunan Zhaotai Medical Group to develop a new approach to fighting cancer called Car T-cell therapy.

“China is one of our key science and innovation partners and Minister Wang and I confirmed our commitment to this strong relationship,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“We have significant mutual research interests, particularly in food, environmental and health sciences. New Zealand and Chinese scientists have been cooperating for more than 40 years and each year we jointly fund research projects that benefit our two countries.”

Since China and New Zealand established the Strategic Research Alliance in 2010, the annual fund has invested in a range of different projects in the bilateral priority areas of food science, environmental science and health and biomedical sciences.

“China is rapidly increasing its investment in science, research and innovation and has a number of research interests that align with New Zealand, including tackling the global challenge of climate change,” said Ayesha Verrall.

“Minister Wang and I discussed our next five-year roadmap for science and technology, which will set out the priorities for our ongoing collaboration.”

Joint Commission Meetings on science and technology are held between Chinese and New Zealand officials every two to three years and each year five-year roadmaps are signed that set priority areas for cooperation. The next roadmap is due to be signed later this year.

News about the New Zealand-China Strategic Defence Dialogue is harder to find.

It is a regular officials’ level meeting.

The Dialogue this year was led for New Zealand by Vice Chief of Defence Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, and Ministry of Defence Deputy Secretary Policy and Planning, Richard Schmidt.

The New Zealand Defence Force statement says:

The Dialogue was cordial, and offered a useful opportunity for both sides to exchange perspectives on regional security issues. Further dialogue and cooperation at existing multilateral fora was also discussed.

The New Zealand-China Strategic Defence Dialogue is one of a wide suite of regular engagements that the New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Defence undertake with counterpart organisations internationally.

This meeting is the 11th iteration of the Strategic Defence Dialogue between New Zealand and China. While the Strategic Defence Dialogue is an annual engagement, the 11th meeting is the first to take place since 2019, due to the interruption in regular Defence engagement activities that occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

News of the meeting in China was reported by Defence Connect in Australia.

The only media report in New Zealand (according to our Google search) was on The Daily Examiner. Mainstream media made no mention of it.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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