The comments come as New Zealand faces pressure from some elements among Western allies over its reluctance to use the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the differences between New Zealand and China were becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile as Beijing’s role in the world grew and changed.
In a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland, Ms. Ardern said there are things that China and New Zealand “can’t agree on, can’t and won’t agree on,” but added that these differences did not necessarily have to define their relationship.
“It will not have escaped anyone here as as China’s role in the world grows and evolves, the differences between our systems – and the interests and values that shape those systems – become more and more evident. more difficult to reconcile, ”Ms. Ardern said.
“This is a challenge that we, and many other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, but also in Europe and other regions, are also grappling with,” she added.
The comments come as New Zealand faces pressure from some elements among Western allies over its reluctance to use the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance, which includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, to criticize Beijing.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said last month that she was uncomfortable expanding the role of Five Eyes.
China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, accused the Five Eyes of ganging up on China by issuing statements about Hong Kong and the treatment of ethnic Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Ms Ardern said New Zealand would continue to speak on these issues individually as well as through its partners. Managing relations with China will not always be easy and “there can be no guarantees,” Ms. Ardern added.
China is engaged in a diplomatic row with Australia and has imposed trade restrictions after Canberra pressed for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus. Beijing denies the restrictions are retaliation, saying the reduction in imports of Australian products is the result of buyers’ own decisions.
Ms Ardern said how China treats its partners is important.
“We hope that China also considers it in its own interests to act in the world in a manner consistent with its responsibilities as a growing power, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.” , she added.