National Defence University

  • Max Bradford


General, officers and gentlemen of the People's Liberation Army, thank for your invitation to be here today. As this is the first official visit to your country by a New Zealand Minister of Defence I am especially pleased to have been asked to address an audience of distinguished officers, at this very notable institution. It is truly an honour.

The past five years have seen enormous changes in the political and economic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region, and of course in China. Economic development during this period has brought increased affluence to regional nations, and a growing global influence, but also growing regional interdependence.

This globalisation has seen the adoption of a more outward focus for regional policy makers and planners, including defence planners. In this China is no exception. It has brought too increased regional expectations that these policy makers and planners will design and implement sound policies for the future stability of our collective place in the region.

New Zealand/China relationship
China and New Zealand have had diplomatic representation in each other's capitals for 25 years. There is frequent contact at the highest political levels through bilateral visits and participation in regional forums. Underpinning this is a broad framework of consultations between senior officials, including defence officials.

China is New Zealand's fifth largest bilateral trade partner. In economic investment activity New Zealand is one of China's largest investment destinations. This commercial activity is underpinned by growing people-to-people links through sponsored government and academic exchange schemes, and tourism. These contacts are invaluable for our young people in learning about the regional environment in which we live, and develops their understanding and appreciation of other cultures and systems.

On the bilateral Defence relationship, activities have continued to increase in number during the past two years, and I am confident that this has set a firm base for further expansion. New Zealand, in common with other regional countries, recognises China's increasing strategic significance. We recognise too China's demonstrated commitment to developing wide-ranging regional relationships, including defence relationships.

The modest but growing Defence and security interaction includes the visit of General Xiong Guangkai to New Zealand and the Secretary of Defence to China in 1996, the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister to New Zealand this year, and also this year the visit of Chinese Navy ships to New Zealand. My visit, as the guest of your Defence Minister General Chi Haotian, coincides with the first Royal New Zealand Air Force Staff College visit to your country. Additionally we now have a Chinese Defence Attache at your embassy in Wellington, and our first Defence Attache to China will start work in Beijing early next year. Later this year we also hope that ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy will visit the PLA North Sea Fleet base at Quingdao. This closer defence and security co-operation contributes significantly to the overall bilateral relationship, and this will enhance regional security co-operation and dialogue within the ASEAN Regional Forum and other multilateral fora of which both our nations are members.

Regional security
I believe that regional security co-operation through multilateral structures such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, Council for Security Co-operation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), and other official and academic bodies is fundamental, if regional security and stability is to be achieved, and maintained in the longer term.

Our region is huge - a third of the surface of the earth - diverse culturally, geographically, and developmentally, there is an increasing sense of a common future, and so increasing common interests in regional stability and security. But the balance of world power is moving towards Asia and China remains predominant in this region.

In this context we recognise and support China's stated regional security objectives; the preservation of China's own stability and prosperity; the maintenance of peace and stability in its surrounding regions; and the conduct of dialogue and co-operation with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond on many levels; diplomatic, economic, defence and security, and cultural.

China and New Zealand are culturally quite different, and geographically thousands of kilometres apart. We are also very much smaller than you but we do share a common partnership and a common interest - that of an emerging regional identity at peace with respect to each other's place in the world. This gives us a shared concern and a shared responsibility to contribute towards maintaining regional security and stability.

New Zealand views regional security and stability as having three key pillars: China, Japan and the United States, each of which is vital to the stability of our Asia-Pacific region. Critical to regional future security and stability is the United States/China relationship. The development of a comfortable and durable relationship between China and the United States is pivotal to the well-being of the region.

New Zealand welcomes the official visits that have taken place during the past year between China and the United States at the highest level. We are encouraged that this crucial relationship is clearly moving in a favourable direction.

After China, the US and Japan, ASEAN has become a de facto fourth regional power, in economic and political terms at least. However, the continuing economic crisis and regional forest fire induced haze pollution problems have shocked ASEAN states. Both crises have demonstrated that the organisation appears to lack an ability to identify problems, and to broker effective solutions to collective problems. This has disrupted the prized ASEAN consensus and given rise to a feeling of unease among members, particularly those that have been most affected by these events. The region has enjoyed nearly 30 years of peace, stability, and growing prosperity, but these crises have shaken all this. In my view the unease in ASEAN has reflected on the rest of the region by making the future less certain, and thus less stable.

While growing regional trade and economic interdependence may mean conflicts are less likely, this is yet to be proved. The New Zealand view is that the regional security situation, while relatively stable now, is more uncertain and less predictable than a year ago. The Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests for example, have served to impede international non-nuclear proliferation efforts and damaged the stability of our adjoining South Asian region, and the rest of the World.

In spite of conflicting national interests, we strongly believe that conflict is better avoided and that collectively all regional states should devote as much effort in preserving peace and stability as they put into military development.

Unlike Europe, Latin America, or Africa, the Asia-Pacific region has no inheritance of institutions to build confidence and manage crises. As our sense of regional identity strengthens, a range of multilateral forums are beginning to develop. Like China, we believe that the key to regional peace and stability is co-operation between and among states as this leads to creating greater confidence. Co-operation too in recognising and managing differences and working through them. While relatively recent in creation, the ASEAN Regional Forum together with other official and non-official regional organisations are proving to be effective vehicle in achieving greater comfort and confidence. To quote your Defence White Paper:

"The countries of the Asia-Pacific region rely more and more on each other economically, and, to solve their disputes by peaceful means, to stress the search for the meeting points of their common interests and to strengthen co-operation and co-ordination are becoming the main current of the relations among the countries of the region"
One way of avoiding conflict is to maintain an open interstate dialogue, characterised by mutual trust and a well developed system of conflict avoidance and management. This is why we are strong supporters of the ARF and other regional organisations as well as strong bilateral relationships such as ours. It is pleasing to note that the efforts of China, New Zealand and other ARF members have been rewarded with good progress during this fourth year of the organisation.

I believe that this young organisation has achieved more than most members expected. I believe too that it has built sufficient confidence and co-operation among members to continue and build upon the progress. The next steps will be more difficult, more controversial. The challenge now faced by ARF is to debate and agree to address the potentially "difficult" topics of preventive diplomacy, and assisting in the avoidance and management of regional crises. I am sure that China and New Zealand will not shrink from these challenges.

New Zealand view of region
New Zealand, as many of you will know, is an English speaking democracy with limited resources, a small but increasingly diverse population, and which is geographically remote. We do not face any direct threat to our security. Our policies are thus directed towards the protection of our broader interests. As little as 20 years ago conflict in Asia would not necessarily have threatened New Zealand's core commercial and political interests. Today, anything that inhibits free trade among the major Asian and Pacific powers is liable to have direct impact on regional growth, and thus adversely affect New Zealand in an increasingly global and interconnected world.

New Zealand has a critical interest in the maintenance of open economic regionalism, and a secure trading environment. For this we are dependant on peace and stability in the region in order that we may trade with the region and the rest of the world. An unstable Asia-Pacific equals destabilised New Zealand trade. New Zealand must continue to play its part in preserving the regional stability which we all have enjoyed for the past 30 years. We are too small to do this alone, and can only contribute through collective endeavours such as the UN and other regional arrangements of which we are a member.

Our Defence Policy, force structure, capabilities and development plans reflect our strategic assessment in which we clearly spell out a policy of self-reliance in partnership with others. This policy requires that:

I. we counter low-level threats to our security close to and within New Zealand;

II. that we are ready to operate with other nations in pursuit of regional peace and security;

III. and that as a good world citizen we are prepared to co-operate in peace keeping and peace support operations in the region and beyond.

To do this New Zealand does have a balanced range of defence resources which can be made available as a contribution to regional and global stability. These resources include forces trained for UN peace support operations, and other coalition operations such as they have been in Bougainville most recently, and also in Bosnia, in Africa, and within a coalition of like-minded states during the Gulf War.

China's responsible attitude
Regional security, economic growth, and prosperity are closely linked. This delicate balance requires hard work, wisdom, and an adherence to a values system that may be different from others, but contributes to a larger regional culture. Such balance can come only from an understanding of other value systems.

There is a long tradition of Chinese statesmanship and statecraft, particularly in the field of international security co-operation. Your recent White Paper states unequivocally the great importance China places on international security co-operation. We too echo these sentiments in our own White Paper.

Given our respective defence policies I am reminded of the sage advice of Zhuge Liang who said in 300 BC, or thereabouts:

"In ancient times, those who governed well did not arm;
those who were armed well did not set up battle lines;
those who set up battle lines well did not fight;
those who fought well did not lose;
those who lost well did not perish"
We note China's policy of active promotion of co-operative regional confidence building measures as an effective means of maintaining security. These measures include the establishment of more frequent contacts between the defence organisations of regional states, and increased security dialogue and co-operation. Bilateral defence consultations, such as those between China and the US, and China and Australia, together with China's continuing and enthusiastic contribution to multilateral regional security forums, give substance to these policies.

We applaud the various agreements and treaties China has entered into with bordering countries. In our view such arrangements contribute significantly towards building mutual trust and confidence and reduce the risk of accidental confrontation.

Though geographically and culturally distant China and New Zealand share a strong common linkage though multilateral security forums such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the United Nations. This close multilateral co-operation supports and strengthens our bilateral relations. A vital element in the bilateral relationship is the defence-to-defence links we share, both professional and academic. The fact that I am here today is clear evidence of how important I believe this linkage to be. I look forward with enthusiasm and confidence that our bilateral defence relationship will continue to deepen and prosper.