An expert on foreign affairs says New Zealand will soon be forced to choose between the US and China and will have to pick sides in the "biggest battle of the 21st Century".
Author and journalist Tim Marshall told Q+A’s Jack Tame that while New Zealand had pursued a more independent foreign policy than Australia, time is running out on that approach.
"I just think it’s inevitable that as the new form of a bi-polar world emerges in many respects, but especially on security, countries will be forced to choose."
"Australia is not hedging its bets anymore, it’s gone with the Americans. You, for various reasons — geographic and trade, political — are maybe a couple of years behind them but you too will be force to choose."
He warned that New Zealand could find itself on the opposite side from some of its Pacific neighbours.
"You’re not bang in the centre of it, but you’re close to the centre of the biggest battle of all of the 21st Century which is, basically, the Indo-Pacific and the relationship between America on one side, and China on the other."
"Now China will try to pick off everybody it can, of course it would, why wouldn’t it? It wishes to break out of from the First Island Chain — places like Taiwan, Japan, Philippines — and move down with its influence."
"You’ll know they’re busy bidding for a port in Papua New Guinea, they’re busy trying to make sure that they are the biggest economic players in some of the smaller islands."
Marshall warns that New Zealand could be out spent, and out muscled diplomatically and economically, in the Pacific.
"You will also be going to these small islands and trying to make sure that you are trading with them, that you can give them as many benefits as possible, but of course being a relatively small nation that’s extremely difficult because you don’t have the punching power."