Our move on China today comes with risks for us. But, credit to the government for, by the looks of things, doing what it can to minimise those risks.
Suspending that extradition treaty was necessary. There was no way we could extradite anybody to Hong Kong now that China’s imposed the national security law. It would mean taking the chance that anyone we extradited would be prosecuted under Mainland China’s draconian laws.
So while this was inevitable, the important thing here is the two week delay. Australia did this a fortnight ago, the UK a week ago, Canada three weeks ago, the US signalled it two weeks ago.
We have bought a bit of time.
The effect of that lag is that we get there eventually - which we have to - but we arrive after most of the others in the five eyes alliance.
That means that maybe we can sell the Chinese the story that we didn’t want to have to do this but were forced to.
Or, more realistically, send them a very clear message that while we had to do this, we don’t want to be seen internationally to be ganging up on them.
It allows them to save a bit of face if you like, at least in terms of our relationship with them. And, as we’ve said on the show before, that’s really important to the Chinese.
But be under no illusion: this is not the last time we’re going to have to make a tough call like this in the near future.
It is going to get harder and harder for us to carry on walking the tightrope like we have, not choosing sides between the US and China.
This relationship is deteriorating rapidly and the US – especially - is demanding its allies fall into line. Just in the last week, the US shut down China’s Houston consulate. China shut down the US’ Chengdu consulate in retaliation. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave an extremely hawkish speech warning that “If we don’t act now… our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world.”
This after the US-led Huawei ban, China flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, a rumble on the Indian border, the business in Hong Kong.
The chances are this will keep ramping up through to the November US elections. The hope is that a change in president might start to diffuse it.
But even then - even if Joe Biden wins - he won’t be able to immediately put the brakes on the tensions. So we’ve got tough choices ahead for New Zealand.