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The China Tightrope: Navigating New Zealand's relationship with a world superpower

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Sam Sachdeva
May 2023
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For the past 50 years, New Zealand has prided itself on a history of breaking new ground with China. We were the first to back the country joining the World Trade Organization and ink a free trade deal, with milk and meat flowing like water into the Middle Kingdom and enriching our exporters. But what might the next 50 years have in store?

As foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta has cautioned, we are moving beyond a 'relationship of firsts' into new territory - and the terrain is more treacherous than ever. The China Tightrope offers unique analysis and insight into how we got to where we are today and what the future may hold for the New Zealand-China relationship.

China's military expansion into the South China Sea threatens the shipping routes that Kiwis rely on for everyday essentials, while its draconian crackdown in Hong Kong and mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang is putting heat on Labour's claims to a values-based foreign policy.

The China Tightrope offers a behind-the-scenes look at key flashpoints in our relationship with China. Like the conditions on the ground for Kiwi companies and ex-pats and the political scandals that have called into question how willing our representatives are to call out China's wrongdoing.

Why has our relationship with China taken a different route to the country's ties with our friends across the ditch, and is it a matter of time before we end up in Australia's shoes? Are we really the weak link in the Five Eyes spying alliance? How viable is our independent foreign policy in an age when the global superpowers are pushing nations to pick sides? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what could the future hold for the Asian superpower - and its relationship with New Zealand?

China is not the malevolent monster some critics make it out to be, but nor can we - or should we - turn a blind eye to its hardening edge under Xi Jinping. It's time for Kiwis to wake up to the risks of becoming over-reliant on one country before it's too late.

Based on interviews with former and current politicians, diplomats and leading academics from home and abroad, this book is a valuable resource for those seeking to better understand the Asian superpower and how it is changing our world - for better and for worse.