A semi-official Chinese newspaper is claiming that Chinese tourists are now cancelling plans to travel to New Zealand because of the country’s decision to ban Huawei from participating in Spark’s 5G network.
“During the seven-day Spring Festival holiday which ended on February 10, New Zealand was not ranked in the top 10 overseas tourist destinations on online travel platform lvmama, a spokesperson told the Global Times.,” the website www.globaltimes.cn reported yesterday.
“Some Chinese tourists are considering dumping their plans to travel to New Zealand this year as a way to punish the country,” it said.
The site said the decision to postpone an event next week to launch the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, “ may just be a trigger. “.
“New Zealand’s strained political relationship with China – following the ban of Huawei from building part of its 5G networks – is costing the country more than it can afford,” it says.
“That’s especially true in its tourism industry which China has become the nation’s second-largest source of visitors and contributed millions of dollars to its annual tourism income.”
The report will worry the tourism industry and Air New Zealand because the paper has considerable political clout.
Lowy Institute Senior fellow and China expert, Richard McGregor, discussing the Global Times and Huawei recently said: “The Global Times doesn’t speak for Beijing, but it has an outsized voice in China nonetheless, courtesy of its owner, the People’s Daily, itself the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party. “
The report is also at odds with assurances given to Parliament yesterday by Foreign Minister Winston Peters.
“If you look at the growth in exports, the growth in inter-country travel, the growth in expenditure between China and New Zealand, it’s all gone up in the last year dramatically,” he said when questioned on the relationship during Question Time yesterday.
Asked by Deputy Opposition Leader, Paula Bennett what recent reports or advice has he received from Government officials regarding delays for New Zealand exports at Chinese ports, Peters replied: “Making an allegation like that, impugning that there is a crisis when one does not exist.” (he was interrupted at that point by an interjection).
But that has been his consistent response all week to allegations that the relationship with China is in trouble; to deny that there are any problems.
Peters may say it is not a crisis, but it is certainly becoming a problem. And the Huawei decision has been the catalyst.
Writing on “The Spinoff” website, Robert Ayson, Professor of Strategic Studies at Victoria University says “On the whole, the coalition has not insulated itself from the charge that New Zealand sees itself as a willing member of a new Cold War. Addressing that problem means pushing back on treatments of the Huawei issue which regard any and all of China’s advances in information technology as an intrinsic threat. But, second, this also means creating a sense of distance from the United States which in the Trump era has enjoyed a relatively easy ride from Wellington, especially in contrast to the treatment of China. “
There are arguments that New Zealand should simply ignore its Five Eyes partners and agree to let Huawei in.
Writing on “The Standard” website, the former General Secretary of the Labour Party and convenor of the FGabian Society, Mike Smith says: we shouldn’t blindly follow our Five Eyes partners.
“ Huawei won’t be locked out of most of the world just because of American dictate,” he says.
“Look ten or twenty years ahead; if we are stuck with whatever second-best clunker is available, we might be.”
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has made it clear that the US would push back against any country which agreed to use Huawei technology.
Pompeo has apparently developed a good relationship with Peters.
The likelihood is that if New Zealand reversed its ban on Huawei, it would be pushed out of Five Eyes by Pompeo.
That would mean an end to the avalanche of intelligence that arrives in Wellington every day from the partnership.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will have a reason to brief herself on these issues next week because she is due to meet Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, in Auckland on Friday.
Australia is not so easily able to be picked off by China and remains an enthusiastic member of the ANZUS alliance which New Zealand left in 1985.
This Huawei issue is the first real test of the independence that New Zealand proclaimed for itself when it departed that alliance.