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New Zealanders increasingly see China as a threat

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China is increasingly seen as a threat by New Zealanders, but our country should continue to engage with it, according to people interviewed by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The annual survey released Wednesday shows that 35% of New Zealanders now perceive China as a threat, up from 22% in last year’s survey.

Only North Korea and Russia are considered a greater threat to the country.

For the first time, more New Zealanders see China as a threat than those who see it as a friend, according to the report.

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Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has warned exporters of the need to diversify outside of China.

Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has warned exporters of the need to diversify outside of China.

The results of the survey, which was carried out in late 2020, come at a time when our relations with China are increasingly under scrutiny.

In addition, there has been a lot of media and political commentary on China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority population, his crushing of the Hong Kong democratic movement, his actions in the South China Sea and the way he treats his neighbors.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has called on exporters to look to diversify their destinations, given New Zealand’s heavy reliance on Chinese consumption, which leaves the country vulnerable.

New Zealanders see these geopolitical issues as one thing, but they see these people-to-people relationships as something else, said Suzannah Jessep, director of engagement and research at the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.  The annual survey shows that 35% of New Zealanders now perceive China as a threat.

Xinhua / AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping. The annual survey shows that 35% of New Zealanders now perceive China as a threat.

As a result, New Zealanders polled remain keen to build on relations with China – 13% of those polled want New Zealand to expand relations with China, with most citing trade as the main one. reason for that.

Jason Young, director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Center at Victoria University of Wellington-Te Herenga Waka, said the shift in sentiment towards China was not surprising as the media had covered the stories well. Growing concerns about China’s behavior and, as a result, New Zealanders were more aware of it.

He further added that issues such as China’s behavior in the South China Sea had shocked many New Zealanders.

But while the country may fear China more, New Zealanders’ perceptions of Asia have more dramatically improved, with people viewing South Asia and Southeast Asia as having a growing importance.

A growing number of New Zealanders believe that developing political, social and economic ties with Asia is important for New Zealand’s future, he said, and noted that this was important because this report was produced after six months of border closures.

This research shows that New Zealanders want their country to move forward in building and deepening key relationships in Asia, he said.

The Kiwis want to continue building relationships in Asia and trade remains the key to that.

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER / Stuff

The Kiwis want to continue building relationships in Asia and trade remains the key to that.

The increasingly polarized view of New Zealanders is not limited to China. The United States has also declined in its level of perceived friendliness. 50% of people now consider the United States to be friendly.

Jessep said a survey was conducted during the U.S. election period late last year and that may have impacted respondents’ opinions, and it would be interesting to see how that changed in 2021 after the election of Joe Biden as president.

However, these findings are consistent with the research of the Washington DC think tank Pew Research Institute on the image of the Americas abroad.

Pew, who first included New Zealand in the annual survey, found that only 42% of New Zealanders had a favorable opinion of the United States. Meanwhile, New Zealanders are also skeptical of how America’s political system works, according to the study.

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