Jacinda Ardern attributed it to a matter of perception versus reality. But in an increasingly complex geopolitical world, she must realize that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference.
Whether New Zealand’s popular Prime Minister has been judged fair or unfair, it is perhaps a reflection of the magnitude of the task ahead that relations between her country and Australia had been so rocky.
Those in the innermost circles of government will often comment that when they say it’s not about China, that usually means it’s all about China. And the bilateral meeting between Scott Morrison and Ardern in picturesque Queenstown on Monday was about China in almost every way.
Ardern felt she was struggling due to a visit to the Australian press and took to the morning radio to respond to an inflammatory report on 60 Minutes accusing the Kiwis of dumping us “for a fast Chinese dollar.”
Asked why Australia and New Zealand are “not going as one” to stand up to China, Ardern said: “we do – more often than we don’t”.
“I think what we’re dealing with here is more of a perception problem – in particular, I find, from the Australian media, than reality,” Ardern told the AM Show. “I don’t want to get too caught up in what a perception is rather than what we know is happening on the ground.”
She reiterated that Australia was not only a best friend, but also “family.”
“They are our closest family, in so many ways. When I think of the leaders I’ve interacted with through COVID over the past 15 months, it’s Scott and Australia. We can answer the phone at any time, ”she said.