Global Insight: NZ needs to 'step up, help Pacific nations'

More needs to be done to meet Pacific Island nations’ needs if New Zealand is to help those countries resist China’s authoritarian ideas, Professor Robert Patman says.

Speaking to Global Insight, the foreign affairs specialist said leaders of Pacific Island states probably viewed attention from China as an opportunity to get extra help.

‘‘The United States, New Zealand and Australia have largely had the Pacific Island states to themselves for much of the post-1945 period,’’ Prof Patman says.

Tonga's Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week. Photo:...
Tonga's Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi this week. Photo: Consulate of the Kingdom of Tonga /Twitter
But with the offer of an economic and security agreement from China, the island nations ‘‘may well seek to maximize support... for what would otherwise be very limited resources’’.

New Zealand has itself played this leverage game, Prof Patman says.

‘‘We have pivoted and balanced our relationship with the two super powers, China and the United States.’’

But to help strengthen democracy and human rights in the region, New Zealand now needs to ‘‘step up’’, Prof Patman says.

‘‘If we are going to help the Pacific Island states resist Chinese authoritarian ideas, via their economic aid, we need to give them more choices on the ground,’’ Prof Patman says.

‘‘We are going to need to step up our assistance and target it at areas the Pacific Island states are very concerned about, such as climate change.’’

Prof Patman also talked about growing tension between China and the United States over Taiwan, the significance of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s description of the friendship between her country and the United States, and foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta’s efforts to build linkages with Pacific Island states.


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