COMMENT:

Let us be clear. New Zealand is on the edge of a historic fallout with The Peoples Republic of China.

Not since NZ's snub of the US through its Nuclear Free policy has this country directly antagonised a world super power and with the heightened tensions between the worlds two largest economies, New Zealand along with the majority of our western allies are very much at a crossroads in our future relationship with both.

In short we have a choice between pledging staunch allegiance with United States and their China Containment foreign policy or to remain an independent nation navigating the best path for ourselves as geo-political dynamics evolve.

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Whereas this crossroads for East Asian countries was played out on the Korean Peninsula and The ASEAN Nations over the South China Sea Islands dispute, for Western Powers the arena is that of telecommunications infrastructure.

The Huawei situation is very much the "Canary in the coal mine" as to how western nations will engage with China and the US in years to come.

For those that take a Cold War mentality, the warmth they receive from the US military blanket will be countered with the long chill of China's economic disdain, a taste of which has already been felt in New Zealand with recent snubs, cancellations and media reports out of Beijing.

The current situation smacks of "Where there is smoke there is fire" and it is a complete farce to think as Winston Peters has stated that our current relationship is "excellent".

He knows better and is simply fuelling confusion and friction to catalyse a breakdown in our relationship with China to support his US allegiance agenda.

Whatever games are at play the key takeaway here is that our relationship and reputation with China is precarious at best, seriously damaged at worst.

As noted we have a second option, to maintain the status quo as a freethinking state.

This approach has served NZ well over the last 40 years of Bi-Partisan China Foreign Policy as seen with our "Four Firsts" and unparalleled trading relationship.

To move away from this longstanding position due to rumblings from an unhinged and xenophobic US Administration is ill-advised and any step in that direction must be based on transparent evidence and robust domestic debate.

Prime Minister Ardern is correct when stating that our relationship with China is "complicated".

Then-New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at opening of Jade Gray's pizza shop Gung Ho!. Photo / File
Then-New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at opening of Jade Gray's pizza shop Gung Ho!. Photo / File

Whether we have a Labour or National led government the current situation would remain fundamentally the same, a moment of truth with a super power that will require a deft diplomatic touch.

The good news is that we have enough time and credit in the "goodwill bank" with China to steady the situation and bring it back from the brink.

Unlike the US with its Five Eyes dismissal hints, China does not demand an unwavering loyalty.

All it asks is to be treated with a level of respect and decency that any long time friend and largest trading partner would expect.

It wishes to be genuinely acknowledged by New Zealand and the West as an equal, a lingering desire left from a bitter history of foreign imperialism.

China appreciates New Zealand as a small country is in a difficult situation, unintentionally caught between a "rock and a hard place". It understands our

sense of enduring gratitude for the United States protection during the Second World War while hoping that New Zealand remembers China's single handed role in ensuring our economic bouncy during the recent Global Financial Crisis, the worlds worst recession in 80 years.

What is imperative here is not whether or not we allow Huawei to build our 5G infrastructure, but whether or not we have a fair and transparent process in making that decision.

We need a process that is equally applied to all potential contractors, where findings are communicated clearly, one in which all parties are given an opportunity to address any concerns raised.

If after a robust and unbiased analysis it was determined that a roll out by Huawei was not in the best interest of NZ then at least we would face any potential repercussions with our reputation in tact.

It may well be that if we were to deny their bid then our immediate working relationship with China would deteriorate, however the severity of that fallout would be less severe and our long term integrity in the eyes of the Chinese would remain.

We may have muted relations with a friend through process but we would not have betrayed a friend through discrimination.

- Kiwi entrepreneur Jade Gray has been working in China since 1996. He owns and runs highly successful Beijing based restaurant chain Gung Ho! Pizza. He has served as a Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) advisor assisting NZ businesses to enter the China market and more recently has helped train senior civil servants as part of the NZ Governments China Capable Public Sector Masterclass program.