The Five Eyes is an “intelligence alliance” compromising of Canada, the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand that began as a World War 2 tool but for most of its existence been a weapon against socialist states.
Its primary function currently is to compile resources for propaganda attacks on China and supposedly validate a whole range of hyperbolic claims about Beijing.
With the population of New Zealand being only about 2% that of the United States’ alone, many would correctly assume that Wellington’s contribution to this arrangement isn’t substantial. A paper from the small country’s government estimated that for every 99 pieces of intelligence they received through the alliance, they contributed just one.
Yet New Zealand’s recent attempts to take an independent foreign policy have filled the rest of the clique with rage. Wellington has not left the alliance but merely decided that its relationship with the world’s most populous country should be more nuanced than just “rabid hostility”.
This audacious attempt by an independent state to pursue bilateral relations with a nearby country has been treated coldly by its fellow settler-colonial states and their birthplace, Britain. Neighbour Australia’s possessive reaction to the shift in foreign policy has had some particularly eye-catching results.
Nine Network is Australia’s highest rated television network that runs a segment every Sunday called 60 minutes, which is based on the American show of the same name. On Wednesday the show released a bizarre trailer for an upcoming hit piece on New Zealand.
Accompanied by dramatic music, the narrator starts with “what are the Kiwis up to now”, “we thought they were our friends”. As the tension builds, viewers are lulled into thinking they’re watching a trailer for a new Michael Bay film. This is finally shattered by the closing line, possibly stolen from The Onion, “Could it be that New Zealand is turning into New Xi-land?”
Last month, British MP’s claimed New Zealand was in “one hell of an ethical mess”. When New Zealand took the stance of respecting China’s sovereignty in Hong Kong, the chauvinistic alarms started ringing and The Spectator Magazine described this (in most of the world) normal tenet of foreign policy as a “shocking lack of solidarity”, assumingly meaning with imperialist nations. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald’s analysis concluded that New Zealand’s lack of imperial fervor could be because Wellington “may only just be waking up to the threat”.
One could be forgiven for thinking New Zealand had lifted the red flag and installed industrial democracy. Jacinda Arden has taken a baby step away from her allies’ extremism, yet Wellington is still far from neutral. The speed with which the 5 eyes alliance have started rolling out hit-pieces implies a deep concern that the era of hegemony may be finally coming to a close. Exclamations of concerns for human rights from Australia, who’ve been schooled by China for the last year on the topic, especially in regards to Afghanistan, is a transparent façade to most nations. The continued global support and weight of votes in China’s favor at the UN regarding things such as Xinjiang are evidence that the countries which dominated the 20th century are on their last legs.
Although far from perfect, New Zealand has begun to realise that the geopolitical instability the world is tilting towards imminently requires a more balanced approach. Those sliding from the top are threatening that they’ll crash into Wellington if they don’t get their way.
Mali Kakembo, is a member of the YCL’s Wales branch