Intensifying US pressure on New Zealand government over China
29 November 2018
Following US Vice President Mike Pence’s vitriolic attack on China at the recent Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, divisions have erupted into public view within the New Zealand ruling elite over the US-China confrontation.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led government has come under pressure to strengthen its commitment to Washington’s aggressive drive against Beijing. Citing the Wall Street Journal, the New Zealand Herald reported on November 24 that New Zealand was one of the US allies targeted by the Trump administration to bar the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
The push came as telcos around the world prepare to buy new hardware for their 5G networks, the next generation of mobile technology. Earlier this month, Huawei partnered with local telco Spark for a trial mobile 5G rollout. Huawei already has a significant stake in New Zealand as a supplier to Vodafone, Spark and 2Degrees. It also promised to invest $400 million in telecommunications research.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington’s pressure “extends the battle lines” of a campaign to keep Huawei out of the US and also block Chinese telecom equipment in countries that host American military bases. New Zealand is a member of the US-led “Five Eyes” intelligence network and hosts a key spy base at Waihopai in the South Island. The Australian government has already banned Huawei and moved to block its further expansion into the Pacific.
Andrew Little, the minister in charge of New Zealand’s security services, initially told the Herald that the country would “plot its own course.” The government would not interfere with “commercial” decisions made…