There is never a good time for macho diplomacy, but especially not now in the midst of an economic crisis.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters is indulging in an unnecessarily provocative exchange of words with China.
Such has been Peters' disregard to the realpolitik, that it has required Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to step in to reaffirm that the One-China foreign policy adopted by New Zealand 48 years ago is still New Zealand policy.
Peters was not able to verbalise that bedrock policy once in what have now been four sets of question-and-answer sessions between himself and journalists at Parliament over Taiwan in the past week.
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Ardern was forced to spell that out in the Beehive Theatrette yesterday because Peters had not done the basics.
In the past two days, Peters has suggested that nobody else determines New Zealand's foreign policy except New Zealand.
He should heed his own words. He has no mandate to unilaterally deviate from New Zealand's carefully managed relationships with China and United States.
He has no mandate to take New Zealand back into an Anzus-lite relationship.
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He has no mandate to elevate Taiwan's participation in international forum as one of national significance to New Zealand.
It is no coincidence that it is close to an election and during a crisis in which Peters is going back to his nationalistic playbook.
It is not so much what Peters is saying, it is how he is saying it - basically with the same swagger and machismo that the United States and Australia regularly use in their dealings with China.
Peters is like a bull in a China shop and he appears not to care about the damage he is doing.
The row began with his calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 and have now extended into New Zealand campaigning for Taiwan's bid to regain observer status at the World Health Assembly next week. Both are worthy of support.
New Zealand has supported the WHO bid previously without it becoming a diplomatic incident or federal issue. It has not strongly campaigned for it.
Peters has followed the United States and Australia in repeatedly pressing for an outside inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 in China.
Ardern has supported an inquiry more diplomatically and complimented China's response to Covid-19.
In comments dripping with irony, he suggested China would never retaliate against New Zealand because of personal reassurances over his many dealings with China.
He was rude to the Chinese Ambassador, Madam Wu Xi, saying she should listen to her "master" in Beijing, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
That prompted Wang's spokesman in Beijing to publicly question whether such assurances have ever been given.
We may be used to Peters behaving badly in Parliament or in press conferences, but his belligerence over China's hypothetical retaliation against New Zealand is almost a dare to make it a reality. We all know it is highly possible.
In the ideal world, a public spat over China's power would not matter so much. In the real world, when the views of the Chinese Government exert such strong influence over the behavior of its consumers, it is reckless to encourage it.
Peters is plainly contriving to make this a David and Goliath issue for electoral advantage.
New Zealand's relationship with China is more important now than it has ever been in the economic recovery.
It is not a matter of kow-towing to China's every whim, but New Zealand is not a super power like the United States or a middle power like Australia.
New Zealand has succeeded in small country diplomacy successfully, gaining free trade agreements with both China and Taiwan, supporting Taiwan's membership of Apec as an "economy" and supporting its membership of the World Health Organisation.
It may be time to step up that level of diplomacy to support greater participation by Taiwan in global affairs but in a careful and considered way.
Peters' macho diplomacy is putting an important relationship at risk.