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Why China’s furious with Jacinda Ardern after the New Zealand Prime Minister was pictured smiling with Joe Biden at the White House

  • Jacinda Ardern’s meeting with US President has not gone down with China 
  • Beijing accuses Kiwi leader of joining in a US campaign of ‘disinformation’
  • New Zealand remains coy in response with export market in the balance
  • Main issue of contention is China’s growing influence in the Pacific 

New Zealand could be joining Australia in China‘s bad books after the Chinese accused Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of joining a ‘disinformation’ campaign following her meeting with US President Joe Biden.

China has previously favourably contrasted New Zealand to Australia but a joint statement from Ms Ardern and Mr Biden after Wednesday’s White House meeting was met with angry denunciation by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

In the statement New Zealand and the US warned a Chinese military base in the Pacific, a possibility raised by China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands, would  ‘fundamentally alter the strategic balance of the region’.

The two nations also expressed a shared concern about China’s intentions towards Taiwan, South China Sea territory disputes, the squashing of democratic rights in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.  

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded furiously saying these issues had been ‘hyped up’ or were being raised ‘out of ulterior motives to create disinformation and attack and discredit China’.

In the joint statement that came out of the meeting of Ms Ardern and Mr Biden New Zealand and the US expressed concern over the prospect of a Chinese military base in the Pacific

In the joint statement that came out of the meeting of Ms Ardern and Mr Biden New Zealand and the US expressed concern over the prospect of a Chinese military base in the Pacific 

He denied China intended to set up a military base in the Solomon Islands, saying the communique ‘distorts and smears’ China’s cooperation with Pacific nations and the other matters raised were China’s internal affairs.   

‘China urges the US to abandon its Cold War mentality and ideological bias, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and stop slandering and discrediting China,’ he said.

‘We hope New Zealand will adhere to its independent foreign policy and do more to enhance security and mutual trust among regional countries and safeguard regional peace and stability.’  

China’s NZ ambassador Wang Xiaolong on Thursday followed this by warning that New Zealand should not take its friendly relationship with China ‘for granted’ and make sure it is ‘not squandered’.  

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta dodged questions over whether there would be an official response to Beijing’s criticims.   

‘We want to make sure, in the way we work with China, that the things we say in private are of no surprise when we say it publicly,’ she said.

‘So there are things that we can’t agree on, and we’ve made that clear, but they are of no surprise, and we’ve been very consistent on that front.’ 

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has reacted cautiously to China's criticisms and has not committed to follow her Australian counterpart's example of visiting Pacific nations

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has reacted cautiously to China’s criticisms and has not committed to follow her Australian counterpart’s example of visiting Pacific nations

Regarding rising tensions over China’s activities in the Pacific, Ms Mahuta praised Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s recent trips to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

However, she defended not doing likewise in response to criticism New Zealand is not doing enough to counter China’s regional involvement.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been on a prolonged diplomatic mission to the area attempting to secure further security agreements following the one the five-year one his country made with the Solomon Islands in April.

 During the election campaign the now prime minister Anthony Albanese said this development made Australia ‘less secure’. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping has even weighed in to say China will be ‘a good friend, a good brother and a good partner’ for the Pacific nations. 

Ms Mahuta said New Zealand had a different relationship to the Pacific than Australia, one that was ‘not defined by China and the way that they are conducting their relationship’ in the region and didn’t need to ‘look desperate’.

Australia and China’s relations have been stormy for two years which has led to trade restrictions between the two countries, something New Zealand has avoided.

Ms Mahuta has previously warned New Zealand’s exporters that they need to diversify and not just rely on China trade, which is worth $20.1billion. 

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