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The China Challenge:
US and NZ must work together against Chinese aggression
July 7, 2021

The China Challenge: US and NZ must work together against Chinese aggression

This article is an op-ed for Stuff. original article here.

Kevin Covert: ‘’It is easier to push back against the Communist Party of China’s aggression together.’’. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State
Kevin Covert: ‘’It is easier to push back against the Communist Party of China’s aggression together.’’. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State

OPINION: Basic human rights, fairness, and fundamental freedoms matter. New Zealand and the United States are committed to these foundations of human dignity. That commitment is driven by values shared by many around the globe.

Unfortunately, these values – including a free press, freedom of religion, the right to dissent, equality under the law, freedom of navigation – are increasingly under threat. We must draw on strong partnerships, like the enduring partnership between the United States and Aotearoa, to promote the rule of law and stand up for those facing repression.

In his first foreign policy speech in February, US President Joe Biden articulated a values-based approach to our engagement with the world, an approach similarly voiced that same day by Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta in her Waitangi foreign policy address.

Biden said our engagement must start with “diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: Defending freedom. Championing opportunity. Upholding universal rights. Respecting the rule of law. And treating every person with dignity”. He stressed that the global challenges of the moment will only be solved by nations working together.


Those global challenges are immense. From the most immediate issue of responding to Covid-19, to the existential crisis of climate change, to rising authoritarianism impeding global co-operation, we must work together to make progress.

The United States is revitalising our ties with partners both bilaterally and multilaterally. We have rejoined the Paris Agreement, recommitted to the WHO and pledged US$4 billion for Covax, endorsed the Christchurch Call, championed peaceful space exploration and deepened economic ties with partners like New Zealand.

Recommitting to our democratic values and responsibilities is especially important in the Indo-Pacific. It is in both our countries’ interests for this region to be free and open, anchored by respect for human rights and the rule of law. New Zealand and the United States share this goal, and we are working together to achieve it. It is critical for our safety, well-being, and economic security.

Not all countries share this vision of fairness and equality. Some seek to challenge the rules, values, and institutions that reduce conflict and make co-operation possible. As countries in the region know, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is often willing to work outside the agreed rules to get its way, whether through asserting maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law or targeting trading partners’ exports.

To face these challenges to the global order, it is critical to work together as partners. It is easier to push back against the CCP’s aggression together. United, we must hold CCP authorities accountable when they commit atrocities in Xinjiang, violate human rights in Tibet, erode autonomy in Hong Kong, or exclude Taiwan from global health discussions at the World Health Assembly​. If we don’t act together and decisively, we surrender fairness and freedom.

It is important to emphasise that the United States is not seeking to contain China. We are seeking to uphold the rules-based international order – a set of principles and institutions that has led to remarkable progress globally, including for China.

We will continue to call out the CCP when its malign actions threaten the national sovereignty of partners and allies, and when its coercive economic activities pressure countries to choose.

We seek a results-oriented relationship with China, that includes fair and equitable trade and people-to-people ties. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, we will compete with China where we should, we will co-operate where we can, and our relationship will be adversarial when it must be. Compromising on our values is not an option.

Biden has acknowledged that the world is at a turning point. A fundamental debate is underway about the future – and whether democracy or autocracy offers the best path forward. Which form of government will lift the global economy, guide us through the fourth industrial revolution, help prevent the next pandemic? What’s in our collective interests?

It’s up to the United States, Aotearoa, and other democracies to come together and demonstrate that democracy and the international rules-based order can continue to deliver peace and prosperity for the world. This will require determination, hard work, and action. Together with our partners, we are up to the challenge.