As a small country, New Zealand is fond of the idea that it "punches above its weight" in many fields of international activity, such as sports, trade and diplomacy.
Wisely, we do not make the same claim in military activities. We concentrate our defence efforts on our maritime zone and the South Pacific.
But we need to keep a wary eye on wider events, particularly those involving Australia, which is more vital to New Zealand's security than perhaps we like to acknowledge, and the growing rivalry between the United States and China.
Their "strategic competition" is one of the two principal threats to New Zealand's security identified by the Ministry of Defence in its recently published Defence Assessment 2021, the other being climate change. Both threaten to have far-reaching consequences for all countries.
The US has enjoyed a quarter of a century of unrivalled power since the end of its Cold War with Russia. In that time it has seen China allow its huge population to prosper via private enterprise and its economy to grow rapidly to match America's as Russia's never did.
But China did not abandon totalitarian rule as Western democracies expected it would when it acquired a prosperous, educated and enterprising urban population. Rather it has become more totalitarian in recent years under a Communist Party leader who has steadily consolidated his command of the party and the party's control of China.
It is not yet clear how much threat this poses to countries outside China's immediate sphere of influence, which includes Hong Kong, Taiwan and the whole of the South China Sea.
Western democracies have watched helplessly this year as Hong Kong's liberties have been steadily removed. Nor has there been much resistance to the construction of bases in the South China Sea.
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But Taiwan might be the crunch. The US carefully avoids declaring it would come to Taiwan's defence if China attempted to reclaim the island by force, but China clearly remains wary that it would. Replicas of US ships have recently been spotted in China as practice targets for its air force.
New Zealand is doing its utmost to retain its good relationship with both the US and China, a valued export market.
Australia has discovered how difficult that can be, suffering trade retaliation from China for seeking an inquiry into the source of Covid-19. That has not stopped Australia forging a new military pact this year with the US and United Kingdom.
New Zealand's Defence Assessment stresses its security relationships with Australia and the other "Five Eyes" partners, the US, Canada and the UK, which our Government now accepts is more than an intelligence sharing partnership. The Assessment declares, "the defence aspect is as long-standing and as fundamental as the intelligence aspect".
It is hard to avoid taking sides but New Zealand's diplomatic efforts must continue to avoid needless antagonism of China and to do what we can to remind the US its real power lies in its competitive economy and fair rules for trade.
Pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which China wants to join and the US should rejoin, are the most reliable source of security, for they generate mutual prosperity and peace.