If there are two messages from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's major speeches and engagements in Europe it is that New Zealand has a fiercely independent foreign policy, and does not fall into one or other diplomatic "camp"; and that New Zealand is concerned with China's growing assertiveness in the Pacific, and its willingness to challenge the balance there.
It is difficult to see both of these things being true at the same time.
Repeatedly calling out China to Nato members is not the most obvious way of demonstrating an "independent" foreign policy.
But if it is difficult - it is not impossible.
Ardern has been touring Europe promoting a "values-based" foreign policy. She is often attacked for stuff like this.
It's decried as vapid, meaningless, virtue-signalling guff. And it can be. On the first day of her European sojourn, Ardern announced a "Global Values Partnership" with Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, "based on the global outlook and common values" shared by New Zealand and Spain.
It's a lovely idea, but one that smacks of a scramble to put together an "announceable" for Ardern's first visit of the tour.
But it's not fair to write-off those values as entirely without substance. Indeed they can be quite effective at demonstrating how the independent foreign policy can grapple with increasingly difficult questions around China.
The question hanging over Ardern's European trip has been whether it marks yet another step on the road to the end of New Zealand's independent foreign policy.
This policy sees New Zealand as not belonging to any global camp (which it does not, New Zealand's only formal ally is Australia), but using values to evaluate each foreign policy decision on its merits.
This strategy has undoubted benefits, allowing New Zealand to cultivate good relations with near(ish) neighbours like China, which do not share our liberal values.
There's been a concern the independent foreign policy has been eroded. Not deliberately, but simply because Russian aggression and China's assertiveness in the Pacific have pushed New Zealand into the loosely "western" camp where siding with China and Russia would be immoral and sitting on the sidelines isn't an option.
Ardern was desperately keen to lean out of this narrative on her trip.
Before leaving, there was a mild keenness to talk up Ardern's invitation to the Nato summit and the win it represented for New Zealand on the world stage.
By the time Ardern arrived, she was keen to downplay the significance of her being there, noting her predecessor, Helen Clark had been to a Nato summit (so it wasn't unprecedented). Ardern also said she was in Madrid for bilateral trade talks as much as she was there for talks on defence.
Her speech to the conference doubled down on this, saying New Zealand was not seeking a new defence alliance, and was instead at Nato to uphold international values.
Those remarks didn't do a whole lot of good at diffusing any perception New Zealand was tiptoeing towards Washington. The one line in Ardern's speech referencing China was spotted by the Chinese Embassy in Wellington and worked into a grumpy press release.
Likewise in her Chatham House speech, Ardern talked up New Zealand's independence, its values - but she also strongly called out China.
There are areas where New Zealand is fairly independent. One doubts many at Nato were ready to hear a full-throated call to disarm. But these calls are perhaps undermined by Ardern's saying in her Chatham House speech that she welcomed renewed interest from the UK (and America) in the Pacific.
China might rightly question why Ardern is welcoming the UK to a region it has no geographical connection to, when she is, at the same time critical of China's increased presence there.
Ardern might have been calling for a less black and white world but it's clear China saw the first speech as coming from the Nato-aligned camp. The Chinese statement on the matter even called out the independent foreign policy, alleging it was a fig leaf for greater alignment with the so-called West.
They have something of a point. National's foreign policy spokesman, Gerry Brownlee, noted before the trip that the history of New Zealand's diplomacy had seen New Zealand tend to end aligning with the Western camp more often than not.
Each policy decision is evaluated on its merits, rather than because New Zealand belongs to this or that "side", but if foreign policy is about values and your values are similar to your friend's values, then it's no coincidence you tend to fall into their camp more often than not.
Does it matter whether New Zealand uses values-based decision-making if it arrives at the same conclusion as its historic allies anyway?
Methods of communication can be important, for example.
The Government will sometimes (though not always) shy away from slamming the likes of China for its abuses in Hong Kong in a joint statement from the Five Eyes partners, but issue a similar statement independently.
The message is clear: New Zealand isn't making a statement simply because our friends published it, but because the Government thinks it's the right thing to say under the circumstances.
Ardern has floated the idea of doing a foreign policy speech laying out some of these foreign policy values for transparency's sake.
She stated some in her speech to Nato, and again at Chatham House. There were the usual ones, like commitment to the rules-based order on which New Zealand, more than most other countries depends, but Ardern also mentioned the importance of treating fairly countries that had different histories and institutions to our own - a possible nod to China, which, in the view of this and other governments deserves to be judged on its own merits, not through a George W Bush-era democracies versus everyone else lens.
This strategy appears to be working … for now. New Zealand speaks out on China with some regularity, but has yet to be punished with the kind of aggressive trade sanctions visited upon Australia.
The strategy wins friends too. Europe has been changed by the war in Ukraine. Those in the room at the Nato summit said they witness unusual unity from the Europeans, who have a (not undeserved) reputation for fractiousness.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen appears to have been particularly moved by the conflict, which seems to have spurred a desire, on her part, to encourage like-minded democracies to stick together and help one another.
Her speech announcing the trade deal dwelled on this in some detail.
Ardern has been keen to stress this year that she has not been trying to play a transactional game with the EU by suggesting New Zealand expects a strong trade deal as compensation for its assistance in Ukraine. Ardern is of the belief that such nakedly transactional politics is so obviously cynical it eats up as much political capital as it might earn.
The fact the Ukraine response appears to have helped New Zealand's prospects whether negotiators exploited it or not is probably another win for this style of diplomacy.
Ultimately, the success of this style of politics will rest with others and how they decide to treat us. As China drifts towards authoritarianism, New Zealand faces little choice but to call it out - it would risk other relationships if it did not.
This is fine if, as now, China and New Zealand can quietly spar whilst respecting each other's differences.
It's quite something else if China decides to take a less measured response to New Zealand's call-outs (it might help too, for the sake of fairness, if New Zealand were able to call out questionable behaviour from the United States too, as Ardern partially did in her response to the Roe v Wade decision).
The world is becoming more polarised and difficult to do business in, for reasons beyond our control.
Assessing each decision based on its merits, with clearly defined values is one way of transparently conducting diplomacy without falling into one camp or another. But as the war in Ukraine shows, sometimes events are so black and white, it would be immoral not to pick a side.
And as China knows, whether or not Ardern's values-based diplomacy is a success is ultimately not up to her, but to them.