For the 10 billionth time Labour – how to counter China in the Pacific

New Zealand faces ‘negative trajectory’ of security threats in Pacific

New Zealand’s security is increasingly threatened by a more powerful China, growing militarisation of the Pacific, and the acceleration of climate change, according to a new defence report.

An unclassified version of the Defence Assessment, a policy document released for the first time since 2014 on Wednesday, outlined problems New Zealand faces as the global environment worsens, the international rules-based order is challenged, the potential for conflict in the Pacific rises, and China’s military grows.

“The trajectory is negative. There’s nothing that we see in the environment at the moment that would say that it’s going to get any more positive,” said Secretary of Defence Andrew Bridgman, during a media conference at Defence House in Wellington.

The assessment offered a stark view of the security challenges New Zealand faces, in contrast to the Government’s often softly-spoken approach to acknowledging the threats. Defence analysts were quick to question whether the Government was prepared to sufficiently respond.

We could spend money on basic infrastructure or aid, but China can out spend us so how can NZ maintain its influence in the Pacific while desperately countering the outrageous level of corruption China promotes and so many Pacific Governments revel in?

Auckland is the largest Pacific Island City and we do little to celebrate or leverage off that. We need to look at offering fundamental migration opportunities for Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati who face the worst impacts of climate change but we also need to think outside the square in terms of not only countering Chinese influence but beating it.

I think two ways NZ could uniquely promote its interests into the Pacific against China could be via Rugby Diplomacy and Journalism.

The All Blacks doing a tour of the South Pacific would actually be of huge cultural and sporting importance and something the Government should sponsor with taxpayer dollars to help subsidise the costs to the All Blacks as a sign of respect to the sporting and cultural contribution Pacific Island nations have provided NZ.

Why shouldn’t we use Rugby as a diplomatic tool to build standing throughout the Pacific? It’s something China couldn’t match and something NZ could excel at.

Likewise Journalism. AUT run the excellent Pacific Media Centre to promote quality Journalism throughout the Pacific. What if NZ saw the promotion of quality Journalism as a craft throughout the Pacific as a strong way to counter corruption and Chinese influence? Scholarships, Pacific News Media websites, support of local ethical journalism these could be the pillars of promoting corruption free politics and holding those Governments to account.

Rugby diplomacy and promotion of Journalistic standards throughout the Pacific could counter China and promote NZs strategic interests.

We can’t outspend China, but we can play a far smarter game.

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