Incoming Government says no 'deep and immediate' concern about China's influence in Pacific region

  • 11/11/2023

The incoming Government doesn't have any "deep and immediate" concerns about China becoming more assertive in the Pacific, National foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says. 

"Firstly, if you look at the history of the last 18 months where... the Chinese foreign minister turned up, he made a number of very enticing offers to Pacific nations - they weren't taken up in any great number," said Brownlee, who represented New Zealand at this week's Pacific Islands Forum alongside outgoing deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni. 

"Then you had the US saying... 'We probably could do a bit more in the Pacific, we need to follow up on some of the rhetoric from the past few years.' And you've seen now two summits in Washington with Pacific leaders and President [Joe] Biden, the commitment for a significant amount of funding but, more importantly, the reaffirming of the long-term relationships... between all the Forum countries and the United States." 

Brownlee spoke "at length" with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Grenfield at the Forum, he told Newshub Nation. 

"She sits at Cabinet level in the United States system and was very, very keen to hear what more the United States could do to help," Brownlee said. 

"The Pacific has a degree of opportunity here that I think does need to be captured and I'm sure that whoever is sitting in the Foreign Ministry in New Zealand, in the months and years ahead, will be able to be part of ensuring that big amount of funding is spent to the betterment of most Pacific Islanders." 

New Zealand has, in the past, taken a more appeasing approach towards Beijing than its Five Eyes partners - but Chris Hipkins, now the outgoing Prime Minister, said in a speech to the China Business Summit earlier this year the Pacific was becoming "more contested, less predictable and less secure". 

PR consultant Janet Wilson, breaking down Brownlee's comments on Newshub Nation's panel, said his remarks were "a slight deviation from what we would have got" from the now-outgoing Labour Government. 

"I found that interesting and is he following the [John] Key line that, 'We need to be seen to be more friendly towards China?'" 

Watch the full video for more.  

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