Labor Party leader Jacinda Ardern (front), the incumbent prime minister, addresses a press conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Guo Lei)
The landslide victory of New Zealand’s Labour Party, led by the charismatic incumbent Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, during the 2020 parliament elections on Saturday suggests an overwhelming popular endorsement of the policies and practices of the current government in Wellington.
Over the past three years, the Ardern administration had successfully withstood a series of unprecedented challenges. These have included the Christchurch mass shooting, the White Island volcanic eruption, and more decisively, the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic that has brought about 12.2 percent shrinkage of the country’s economy.
Ardern’s resolute measures to unequivocally impose lockdowns during the peak spikes of the coronavirus outbreak, her empathetic and clear communication to the people during humanitarian crises, and her motivating image as a confident career woman politician have all contributed to what she celebrated as “the mandate.” That is to say, the New Zealand people have full confidence in her to run New Zealand for a second term.
The Labour Party’s definitively outright majority of 48.8 percent in the parliament is indicative of Ardern’s centrist pragmatism in dealing with domestic and international issues.
At a time in the West where widespread disarray and divisiveness pervade responses to COVID-19, Ardern’s pledge to bring unity to a “team of 5 million” New Zealanders has been effective to mobilize the country to successfully handle and contain the spread of the coronavirus.
When New Zealand was still immersed in the woes and throes from the Christchurch racist terror attack in 2019, Ardern paid a 25-hour flying visit to China, condensing the originally planned weeklong itinerary. This showed the overriding importance Wellington attaches to its all-round ties with Beijing.
As New Zealand’s biggest trade partner, China cherishes its political, economic, social and cultural relationship with the Land of the Long White Cloud.
New Zealand was one of the first developed countries to sign a free trade agreement with China. It has been positively and constructively collaborating with China in an extensive range of areas, including the projects under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
As a member of the Five Eyes alliance, which has been under the bullying and coercive manipulation of the Trump administration’s anti-China forces, New Zealand has from time to time danced to Washington’s tunes. However, Wellington is different from Canberra, which has been blindly trailing behind the White House’s anti-China crusade step by step. Wellington has adopted a more pragmatic and balanced approach to proactively maintain and develop its relations with Beijing.
China does not make any ideological or political demands on any other countries. And it expects due reciprocity from its comprehensive strategic partners like New Zealand. Although the two countries have distinctively different systems of governance, it is practicable for both sides to overcome political hurdles imposed with external interference by Washington and Canberra.
In a statement made after her visit to China in late March 2019, Ardern said at the annual China Business Summit in Auckland in May 2019, “New Zealand-China relationship is dynamic. Don’t define us by the bumps on the road, but define us by the things that we have achieved.” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang echoed Ardern later in the year in Bangkok by stressing the necessity of “seeking common ground while reserving differences.”
Both China and New Zealand have emerged out of the COVID-19 crisis sound and strong, with a readiness to drive the recovery of their respective economies. It is important for the two countries to jointly collaborate to tackle the extraordinary difficulties and challenges, while striving to bring about economic recovery as soon as possible.
The Maoris have the sagacity in this saying: “Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi.” It means, “Only with cooperation and the combination of resources can we forge ahead.”
We expect that the Ardern administration will continue to persist with the judiciousness to steer its mutually beneficial collaboration and partnership with China to a new height.
The author is a professor and director of the New Zealand Studies Centre, East China Normal University. firstname.lastname@example.org