The first time I heard the warning was two-and-a-half years ago in a lecture theatre in Washington, DC. I was on a short study tour of the US, and on this day was at a respected think tank.

The speaker at the lectern predicted what he thought would happen in the future. One day, he said, countries would have to publicly choose between the US and China.

At the time it made sense. And it was obvious New Zealand was going to be one of those countries. But it also seemed obvious that we were years away yet from that.


Except we weren't. It is happening right now.

And, quite clearly, New Zealand is choosing the US over China. Don't believe it? Look at what we've done in the last year — or even the last week.

This week our spies at GCSB refused to let Huawei help build our 5G cellphone network. Huawei is Chinese-owned. It's long been accused of spying for the Chinese government. But there's no proof. There never has been. Even a 2012 US government investigation found nothing.

The suspicion is that the GCSB has done this because the US asked it to. It's no secret the US has been putting pressure on its Five Eyes spying partners to ban Huawei. We're the third out of four to fold to US pressure.

So it looks like we're taking instruction from the Trump White House. Nice. And it looks like we're giving China the middle finger.

China has a lot to be angry at us about. In the last year, our Defence Force has published a White Paper using extremely strong language aimed at China, started throwing money around the Pacific in an obvious bid to curb Chinese influence, and blew $2.4 billion buying American war planes that just happen to be really good at spotting Chinese submarines from the air.

Then, this.

No wonder the Chinese reportedly told our Prime Minister not to bother dropping in. Jacinda Ardern was due to visit China this month, but the Chinese have done the diplomatic equivalent of texting back to say that they just want a quiet night with takeaways on the couch.


The fact that we're throwing shade at the Chinese shouldn't surprise anyone. This was bound to happen under Winston Peters' watch as Foreign Minister. Peters has a weird crush on the US. And he's always been a bit dark on the Chinese. Remember, he wouldn't even go to the signing of our Free Trade Deal with China back in 2008.

Of course, we're an independent country. We can choose who we are mates with and who we allow to fiddle with our telecommunications networks.

But, annoying China is a high-risk move. That country is our biggest trading partner. Two-way trade between the pair of us was worth $26 billion last year.

And we need them to like us. Our exporters especially need that. We're trying to renegotiate a better FTA right now. How's that going to work if we're snubbing them?

Plus, is it worth it to cosy up to the US this much? That country is the worst fair-weather friend — it kicked us out of ANZUS, put us in the cold for decades and now won't lift steel and aluminium tariffs even though it's given Australia a break.

This will probably sort itself out in time. That will probably be because the Chinese are pragmatic and play a long game. So they might just suck it up and move on.

The test will be how long it takes Ardern to get an invitation to Beijing. If China keeps deferring her canceled visit, then we've made a big mistake.