Time International - 02.03.2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1

same forces to which she is responding.
“If I look around the world at what has
given rise to some of those movements,
and these leaders that we may not have
expected to find power, I don’t think we
should be cynical about the origins of
that,” she says. “People are feeling either
disenfranchised or like they are just strug­
gling to survive and that their democra­
cies haven’t heard that.”
New Zealand, as Sam Neill says affec­
tionately, “is tiny, obscure and remote.” Its
chief export, milk in some form, is not the
kind of commodity nations fight over. A
country with its attributes has two meth­
ods for making itself heard on foreign pol­
icy: joining forces with others and model­
ing the behavior it wants. Ardern has done
the former, signing several multilateral
treaties with such like­minded nations as
Norway, Iceland and Fiji to fight climate
change and discourage nukes, but it’s the
latter that comes most naturally to her.
“It is very important for New Zealand
that the only kind of leadership that we
can offer globally is moral,” says Bron­
wyn Hayward, a professor of political
science and international relations at
the University of Canterbury in Christ­
church. “When you have particular in­
dividuals who can harness the moral
voice with authenticity and sincerity,

that becomes a very powerful moment.”
New Zealand has several claims to
setting moral precedents. Famously, it
was the first country to give women the
vote—Ardern is its third female national
leader—the first to introduce some form
of social security for its elderly and the
first to ban vessels carrying nuclear weap­
ons from entering its waters.
Ardern has tried to continue this
example­ setting trend when forming
foreign policy. While Australia has been
mired in a crisis over the migrant work­
ers to whom it has denied entry and de­
tained on islands off its coast, Ardern has
said New Zealand would take 150 of them.
Starting this year, she raised the number
of refugees her country would accept by
50%. And she has refocused some of New
Zealand’s attention on its near neighbors
in the Pacific (her father, a former police
officer, is a diplomat in the region), offer­
ing $150 million to help those on smaller
islands deal with rising sea levels.
But many of these are little more than
symbolic gestures. She probably knew
Australia would ignore her offer, fearing

it would set up a backdoor entry for the
migrants. New Zealand’s new refugee
intake is still only 1,500. Sweden, with
about double New Zealand’s population,
took 23,000 in 2018.
When dealing with larger neighbors,
New Zealand is at an obvious power dis­
advantage. Take China, for example; New
Zealand was the first country to support
China’s inclusion in the World Trade Or­
ganization, and in 2008 became the first
Western country to sign a free­trade
agreement with it. But it rejected Chinese
telecom giant Huawei’s first application
to provide some of its 5G infrastructure.
Giving it the green light after it tries again
might anger the U.S., which has called on
all its allies to deny Huawei access for se­
curity reasons. But refusal could be bad
for its most significant trading relation­
ship. Officially the position is that Hua­
wei is welcome to rejigger its offer so it
meets New Zealand’s regulations, and
then re apply. The coronavirus has already
revealed the extent to which New Zea­
land’s economic health is tied to China’s;
in February, Ardern’s government had to
relax some regulations on New Zealand’s
lobster industry when Chinese New Year
celebrations were scaled back, and start
a plan for how best to prop up its timber
industry as supply chains were disrupted.


“China sees in New Zealand a sincere friend
and cooperation partner,” Chinese President
Xi Jinping said in April


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