In an era of multiple ‘world orders’ we need to embrace the grey in global politics. The nuances involved in the recent stoush over Winston Peters’ discussion about learning from Taiwan’s COVID-19 response, and a rise in COVID-related racism at home both underscore that there is a pressing need to not view the world in black and white, good and bad. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) isn’t automatically always ‘bad’. The United States of America (US) isn’t automatically always ‘good’. This might seem obvious (it might also not seem obvious, which is the point) but we are at risk of falling into this way of thinking in part because we retain assumptions about who is ‘like-minded’ in our approaches to foreign policy, giving more or less credit to others depending upon our preconceived assumptions without considering the utility and consequences of those assumptions.
In late 2015 I suggested that New Zealand might not be as ‘like-minded’ with the US and Australia as we like to assume. The election of Trump increased these differences. Economic protectionism and the withdrawal from CPTPP negotiations, the rejection of attempts to mitigate against climate change (indeed this refusal to act on climate change is shared by Australia, despite Pacific Island states clearly identifying climate change as their greatest security threat in the 2018 Boe Declaration and despite Australia’s assertion that they want to be the ‘partner of choice’ in the region) and the (lack of) federal response to COVID-19 constitute obvious and significant policy differences between the US and New Zealand.