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CHRIS TROTTER: Opting Out Of The Coalition Of Containment

RIGHT NOW, New Zealand is in a very awkward geopolitical position. Heedless of its vital economic relationship with China, the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region are pushing New Zealand into a growing coalition of containment aimed at weakening the Chinese state and economy.

The most obvious outcome of this diplomatic pressure (and in all likelihood its purpose) will be a sharp deterioration in the Chinese-New Zealand relationship. Most probably, Chinese displeasure will be expressed through restrictions on New Zealand exports. Not that the United States and its allies will make good any consequential losses to New Zealand’s economy. The Coalition of Containment’s sole purpose in precipitating such a break is to erase the irritating question-mark beside New Zealand’s name on its list of “trustworthy” allies.

New Zealand’s national security apparatus, whose loyalty to the people of New Zealand, as opposed to the decision-makers in Washington, London and Canberra, has always been open to doubt, has been pushing the Labour Government hard in the direction of Uncle Sam’s Coalition of Containment. Its efforts have, as usual, been seconded by all the usual suspects in the mainstream news media. (As well as some interesting recruits from the blogosphere!) The resulting upsurge in Sinophobia must be a source of considerable satisfaction to China’s enemies in New Zealand. It is unusual, these days, to hear a kind word spoken publicly about China – without the guilty party being subjected to the most vehement reproof.

That the Left has allowed itself to be drawn into this anti-Chinese discourse is especially disappointing. There was a time when the machinations of US imperialism were subjected to consistent and sophisticated critique by New Zealand communists and socialists, and even one or two intelligent members of the Labour Party. So effective were these critiques that the left-wing arguments advanced against such imperialistic interventions as the Vietnam War were able to win massive public support. The political upshot of these campaigns was a weakening of New Zealand’s relationship with the United States and its allies. The high-point of the Left’s influence on New Zealand foreign and defence policies came in 1986, when New Zealand withdrew/was excluded from the ANZUS Pact.

What passes for the Left in 2023, however, is, for the most part, content to echo the principal talking-points of US imperialism and its Nato accomplices. The obvious fiction that China is an aggressive power seeking global domination is repeated ad nauseum, along with the absurd charge that the Chinese government is overseeing a genocidal campaign against the Uighur population of Xinjiang. (It is a curious exercise in genocide that leaves twice as many Uighurs in Xinjiang today as there were 50 years ago!) It is no accident that this “softening-up” of an historically ignorant Left, addicted to emotionally-charged international campaigns, preceded the creation of the Australian, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) military relationship in 2021.

That there has been no outcry against the decision of the Australian government to purchase eight nuclear-powered submarines from the United States is astonishing. These formidable weapons of war are intended to patrol the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans – and their strategic choke-points – and should have occasioned loud protests from “nuclear-free” New Zealand. At the very least, this present Labour Government might have been expected to gather the small nations of the South Pacific behind it in a concerted diplomatic effort to uphold – and enforce – the 1986 anti-nuclear Treaty of Rarotonga.

If New Zealand continues upon its current diplomatic trajectory its economically vital relationship with China cannot help being put at risk. Certainly, the pressure, both from Canberra and Washington, shows no sign of decreasing. Statement-by-statement, in language that demands much but offers little, Wellington is putting more-and-more distance between itself and Beijing. China is hoping that the hard, cold realities of a very small nation-state making its living in a very large world will continue to keep New Zealand out of the flash new military leg-irons being fastened around the Indo-Pacific region by the United States.

But, hope is unlikely to be enough. China needs to make New Zealand an offer it can’t refuse if it is to prevent the pinkie-finger of the Anglo-Saxon fist from clenching-up tight alongside its bigger brothers. A change of government in October could be just the opportunity Beijing is looking for.

Faced with mounting infrastructural and climate-related responsibilities, and committed to reducing state spending, what might a National-Act coalition not agree to if presented with Chinese promises of massive investment in transport, housing, and climate adaptation/mitigation projects? Roads of national significance, electrification of the railways, extensive and intensive housing developments, taming rivers and hillsides: China’s done it all before, all over the world. Why not here?

And why stop there. Large-scale investment in renewable energy projects would set New Zealand up for the green re-industrialisation of its economy. Chinese companies will not be the only ones seeking-out nation-states with plentiful, cheap and reliable “clean” energy to offer investors in a post-carbon world.

Too much? Not when one considers that New Zealand 1.0 was built, almost entirely, out of British capital. Why shouldn’t New Zealand 2.0 be the creation of massive Chinese investment? Across the broad sweep of human history, imperialism has always been colour-blind.

Such a shift would, of course, entail a diplomatic revolution greater even that New Zealand declaring itself nuclear-free. Canberra, Washington, London and Ottawa would be livid. Accusations of treachery would be hurled at New Zealand by its former allies and, doubtless, all kinds of clandestine efforts would be set in motion to destabilise – even topple – its wayward government. Outright intervention would, however, be unlikely. It is difficult to persuade the world that China is the greatest threat to peace in the Indo-Pacific, when US Marines are splashing ashore on New Zealand’s beaches.

In the face of New Zealand’s diplomatic realignment, its South Pacific neighbours might also find it expedient to adopt a new stance vis-a-vis the neo-colonial objectives of the USA and its English-speaking allies. Pacific leaders might feel moved to inquire exactly what the United Kingdom thinks it is doing – again – in this part of the world. Were New Zealand to propose the creation of a South Pacific navy, dedicated to protecting and defending the resources within each member-state’s Exclusive Economic Zone, it might be surprised at the level of interest.

Especially if China offered to supply the patrol vessels.

Such a nightmare scenario could, of course, be easily avoided if the United States was willing to offer what China was ready to negotiate with New Zealand 15 years ago – a Free Trade Agreement. It has always been the easiest and, ultimately, the least costly option for the Americans: agree to take whatever New Zealand can send them – just as Great Britain did for more than a century. Just as China is doing right now.

But that would require US Imperialism to do what it has never done before: put the word “give” ahead of the word “take”.

This piece was first published at The Daily Blog. Chris Trotter blogs at Bowalley Road

2,786 views71 comments


Maybe maori could get China to sign a treaty, and pigs might fly. China has only one objective, "takeover", I will stick to tried and true allies thank you.


Sounds like we need an urgent review of the military in NZ so we can develop some serious weaponry to defeat the imminent Chinese attacks.

2 more Hercules and a new second hand frigate should be enough.


John May
John May
Aug 06, 2023

Business 101: Never have all your eggs in one basket!

It has staggered me over the past 15 years in particular that we should allow one country to dominate us through plain old economic expediency. Many businesses might start out with one dominant customer, but the most basic of SWOT Analysis tells any half-@$$d business-person that this is your biggest Threat. What is more is that the corresponding Opportunity is to diversify. And for the long-term stability and survival of your business, this needs to be a very, very high priority.

New Zealand Inc is the biggest business in the land. Furthermore, NZ Inc and for that matter, other large NZ businesses generally have been lazy. Why bother to diversify…



Dear, dear! Chris Trotter reverting back to his old colours! Bright Pink!

China is a threat, make no mistake. No, they are not going to invade us with soldiers or bomb us into submission, they are far too subtle for that. It is the Americans who lack that subtlety in their imperial aspirations!

In the strategic belt from the UK via Canada and the US to Australia, New Zealand is a weak link that must not be. To think NZ could be neutral is pie in the sky - neutral countries like Switzerland have substantial Armed Forces to ensure that neutrality.

The major problem New Zealand has is that it has put most of its eggs in the…

Replying to

Chris seems to envision the futre of NZ as a colony of China just as it used to be a colony of Britain.

That is a very discouraging vision we shoukld not accept as inevitable.

We could, if we had the desire and made the effort, have a much better vidion for the future of this nation and its people. Agriculture is the economy of the past. It will be repaced by the technologies for manufacturing food in laboratories that are much more efficient, scalable, productive, cost-effective and profitable. The means of production of food will be owned by global corporations.

Manufacturing was the means of production that made America prosperous and powerful. NZ was never very successful and never will…


Mark Hubbard
Mark Hubbard
Aug 05, 2023

Interesting piece Chris.

As far as China's territorial and ideological ambitions are concerned, however, I'd be interested in your comment of Xi's disgusting crushing of freedom in Hong Kong, and his sabre rattling over Taiwan which I think he means?

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