The government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement, launched on Friday by defence minister Ron Mark, signals a new view of New Zealand’s security challenges. It sounds a more worried tone about the security picture in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Perhaps most notably it breaks new ground with its frank language about China’s actions in the South China Sea and how it characterises the rising power’s wider ambitions.
The statement describes three major challenges putting pressure on the “rules-based order” that has served New Zealand well over the last seven decades. These are shifts in the balance of power and the emergence of “spheres of influence”; challenges to open societies such as the rise of populism and illiberalism; and what it calls “complex disruptors” including the proliferation of new technologies, extremist ideologies, climate change and transnational crime. As these pressures grow and interact, it concludes, “the foundation of international security is shifting.”