The Huawei ban, the $2.3 billion spent on American-made spy planes, the increased "aid money" to Pacific nations has made it clear to anyone in the world paying attention that this country is in an alliance with the United States against China.

The strength of that alliance is a more open question. Is it where the majority of us sit?

What with the housing crisis, the cost of living, global warming, New Zealand's foreign policy hasn't received much public attention. It didn't feature at the last election.

It's come as a surprise how much priority NZ First has given to strengthening ties with Trump's America.


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But blame or praise (depending on your view) can't all be laid at Winston's door.

The truth is, despite our anti-nuclear stance, we've never left the alliance with the United States, Australia and Britain.

We've just been a "weak member" as a conservative US think tank recently described us.
Remaining in that alliance has, at times, been a juggling act for the government, particularly a Labour-led one.

But even National has had to balance public sentiment against involvement in other countries' wars with the demands of being part of the "club" as John Key once put it.

So we've sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan for "civilian reconstruction", the odd aircraft or frigate for supplies and surveillance, and let our special forces under cloak of secrecy do whatever was asked of them by US, Australian or British command.

And perhaps mostly importantly we've kept the satellite dishes at Waihopai plugged in as part of the "Five Eyes" spy network.

Do these things and our allies weren't too worried if we preached nuclear disarmament and multilateralism at the United Nations.

However, with Washington's "pivot to Asia" to counter China's rising economic and military clout, there's greater demands on us.

Being in open alliance with the hawks in Washington, who favour an aggressive confrontation with China to maintain American global dominance, will have repercussions.
New Zealand's farming sector and tourist industry might well be worried.

Personally, I don't care about environmentally unsustainable trade in milk powder or Chinese tourists flying here in large numbers (equally unsustainable).

I do care about the country I belong to making decisions that could lead us to being actively involved in a war.

On November 28, an American warship, the USS Stockdale, sailed between Taiwan and mainland China, a provocative act prior to Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting at the G20 summit.

How far is the Trump administration — not known for its stability — willing to push it?

How much will China's rulers tolerate before they do something that sets off a chain of events that becomes difficult to stop?

It's easy to believe common sense will prevail, but plenty of wars have started because of ill-thought out provocations and responses.

New Zealand could play a role that encourages peace in our region, but we'd be kidding ourselves if we think we can do that in alliance with the United States, the most openly aggressive military presence. We'd do well to speak that truth occasionally.