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Simon Bridges' populist and partisan take on China and online extremism could come back to bite him, warns Professor Robert Patman.
The University of Otago international relations specialist says Mr Bridges was "gushy'' in his praise of the ruling Communist Party's achievements during a recent visit there - a visit that appeared designed by the Chinese government to boost the opposition leader's standing in New Zealand politics.
Mr Bridges' subsequent comments questioning the value of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Christchurch Call initiative contradicted his comments in China and signalled a new and risky direction in National's foreign policy, Prof Patman says.
"On the one hand, he's extolling multilateralism. On the other hand, he's saying he doesn't approve of Jacinda Ardern's attempt to come up with a multilateral solution to curb online extremism,'' Prof Patman says.
"I think, unfortunately, National's foreign policy approach is in danger of becoming politicised. And I think we are seeing a break in bi-partisan foreign policy.
"He seemed to be indulging in populist language. He was saying this doesn't really matter to ordinary New Zealanders.
"I think he should be very cautious about his language because it seemed to me strategic folly to say that these issues... do not matter to ordinary New Zealanders."