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New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern says differences with China are becoming harder to reconcile

PM Jacinda Ardern says resolving differences with China is difficult.

May 4, 2021: -On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that differences between New Zealand and its top trading partner China are become hard to reconcile as Beijing’s role in the world grows and changes.

The comments start as New Zealand faced pressure from some elements among Western allies over its reluctance to use the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance for criticizing Beijing.

In a speech in Auckland, Ardern said things on which China and New Zealand “do not, cannot, and will not agree,” but added that the differences don’t define their whole relationship.

“It will not have escaped the attention of anyone here that as China’s role in the world is growing and changing, the differences in both the systems become hard to reconcile,” Ardern says.

“This is a challenge that we, and many other countries across the Indo Pacific region, but also in Europe and other regions, are also grappling with,” she said.

In comments that came in as a reaction among Western allies, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said last month she was uncomfortable expanding Five Eyes, including Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States.

“This speech appears to be crafted to deflect surprisingly sharp and severe criticism from commentators after Mahuta’s remarks last month,” Geoffrey Miller, an international analyst at the political website Democracy Project said.

Although the comments do not change New Zealand’s overall shift to a more China-friendly, or at least a more neutral position, he added.

“Ardern and Mahuta sell the new stance as New Zealand advancing an ‘independent foreign policy that is not loyal to any major bloc,” he further said. On Tuesday, New Zealand’s parliament is set to look at a motion put forward by a minor party to declare the situation in Xinjiang as a genocide.

New Zealand would continue to speak about these issues individually, and through its partners, Ardern said, noting that managing the relationship with China is not always going to be easy.

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