New Zealand joined its Western allies on Monday in issuing a statement denouncing the Chinese state’s alleged involvement in the hacking. The statement, headlined New Zealand which condemns malicious cyber activities by Chinese state-sponsored actors, leaves no room for ambiguity.
Beijing knows that New Zealand will occasionally make statements critical of China, but that statement is unusually blunt. It cannot be easily reinterpreted in a more positive light.
Significantly, this is New Zealand’s own statement and not a joint statement made with one or more of its partners.
Earlier this year, New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta issued two joint statements with her Australian counterpart, one on human rights violations in Xinjiang, the other on the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. There was no similar movement this time around.
While the timing was coordinated, each Five Eyes country as well as the European Union, Japan and NATO issued a separate statement on the issue of piracy with quite different wording.
EU countries that also joined in the coordinated condemnation of China only released a joint statement by Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief. The EU statement appears to be milder than New Zealand’s own post, with the headline urging Chinese authorities to take action against malicious cyber activity from its territory.
As Reuters pointed out, the wording of the EU deliberately leaves an ambiguity as to the identity of the perpetrator. This leaves open the theoretical (and face-saving) possibility that the cyber attacks were carried out by non-state criminal actors who are simply located within China’s borders.
Additionally, the New Zealand statement cites Minister responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Andrew Little, who specifically and separately identifies Chinese state-sponsored actors as being behind the cyber attacks on Microsoft servers. Exchange in New Zealand earlier this year. The keyword in the Littles statement is separate.
The disclosure of details which relate specifically to New Zealand’s own situation are designed to show Wellington to be directly involved. The statement may also be a signal to both China and New Zealand’s allies that Wellington can talk tough with China anytime she wants.
From Beijing’s point of view, perhaps the only saving grace of New Zealand’s statement is the fact that it was only released as Littles, rather than Foreign Ministers or Ministers. Defense.
Given the sensitivities, Little perhaps plays a particularly useful role for the New Zealand government as a bad cop who can speak harsh words when needed, at least where a clear connection to his portfolio of intelligence can be. established.
The GCSB minister issued a similar statement in April that called on Russian state actors to hack SolarWinds last year, which targeted a range of organizations and institutions, including the US federal government. This statement was not as important as Monday’s on China, both because Russia is a much smaller trading partner for New Zealand and because of the lack of a real connection with New Zealand. -Zeeland. The statement admitted that there was no indication that New Zealand organizations were targeted in the SolarWinds hack.
The harsh statement on China released by New Zealand on Monday is a realistic shot through the arc, and it contrasts sharply with last week’s more idealistic approach.
Last week’s diplomacy round led by Jacinda Ardern, culminating at Friday’s APEC virtual summit on COVID-19, focused on inclusiveness and dialogue. Chinese Xi Jinping was greeted with open arms at the virtual diplomatic table by Ardern, who once again assumed his natural unifying role. By the simple fact of its existence and the apparent bonhomie, the summit was a success. He may also have hinted at an alternative way to ease tensions based on dialogue.
Xi warmly congratulated Jacinda Arderns on the tremendous efforts made to organize the summit. And to show his respect to the host country of the summits and perhaps to return the diplomatic kindness of Arderns, he even used a Maori proverb in the conclusions of his speech. The saying translated as Turn your face towards the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.
It seems the shadows of the West are now falling on Xi.
This article was originally published by the Democracy Project, which aims to improve New Zealand democracy and public life by promoting critical thinking, analysis, debate and engagement in politics and society.
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