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Antipodean surprises at Beijing & Washington conferences – & new challenges

April and May have been remarkable months for this small, antipodean country, New Zealand.

Last month, April, the United States President Obama invited New Zealand to his Nuclear Security Summit. This month, China included New Zealand along with just six others at a special climate change conference. They were India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Algeria and Grenada. New Zealand was the only country that was both Western and developed.

Leading New Zealand politicians twice surprised in as many months

New Zealand’s delegate, its Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser, was surprised to be invited to the Beijing conference, saying that his country’s presence there was “remarkable”. He was reported on Radio New Zealand as saying that he was “was not sure why New Zealand was included,” but that “I would like to think that the reason why New Zealand was invited was because … we have an extraordinarily productive relationship with China.”

Auckland University senior politics lecturer Jian Yang has part of the answer. Also speaking on Radio New Zealand, he says China seems to be trying to tell other developed countries it is serious about climate change. Dr Yang says “China trusts New Zealand’s perspective, which is believed to be unbiased and independent. He adds that now “the Government has gained China’s confidence, New Zealand must continue to encourage China to address emissions issues.”  New Zealand has ear of China – Sino expert (Radio New Zealand 10 May 2010)

Mr Groser has begun to convey that China “wanted to set the record straight that it is serious about climate change” as he has been reported as saying in the media report  NZ minister defends China’s climate change image (Radio New Zealand 9 May 2010)

It is worth recalling here how the major, United Nations Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen ended in deadlock, with acrimony prevailing between the United States and China. Copenhagen deadlock wrapped up as emissions deal (The Times, 19 December 2009)

Some liaison between the United States and China by someone that both might be prepared to listen to could be very useful here.

Last month, Prime Minister John Key was even more surprised than Tim Groser when he attended the Nuclear Security Conference in Washington. There President Barack Obama and his Vice President Joseph Biden both especially acknowledged New Zealand’s special nuclear-free background and credentials to him, and wanted his country to take a lead in helping to make progress towards the creation of a nuclear-free world. He had gone to the conference not expecting to make anything of New Zealand’s nuclear-free background.  President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit, & NZ Villagers (Village Happenings 16th April 2010)

Time for a small, antipodean country to take on new challenges

This Antipodean blogger is not entirely surprised. Village-connections blogs have regularly noted New Zealand’s special potential as a small, non-threatening but diplomatically engaged, antipodean country to connect well with larger countries, including when they get caught up difficulties with one another. This also situates New Zealand to help with liaison between them, and there are situations where they want and need this.

As well as our political leaders, our academic institutions also have special roles to play, in helping to ensure that our politicians and public are well informed about international issues and problems, notably including environmental issues, and how to broker solutions competently and professionally. See also on this website:

The need for well-connected universities in an interconnected world

Smart universities and localities for smarter intercultural collaborations

Your comments and links very welcome.

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