Economic Statecraft and the Making of Bilateral Relationships: Canada-China and New Zealand-China Interactions Compared


Conventional wisdom would suggest that middle powers, being hyper-attuned to great power politics, can be expected to bandwagon with their traditional allies. In a unipolar world, Canada and New Zealand could thus be expected to play follow-the-leader with the US. However, the rise of China has a confounding effect on the US-led unipolar order and thus on our traditional expectations of American middle power allies as well. In this article, we probe the apparent variation in what we term “strategic value” for China of New Zealand and Canada. While the two hold a great deal in common, we find that the Canadian case is made considerably more complicated by both the range of strategic considerations present, and the potential payoff for China of one in particular—closeness to the US, China’s prime geostrategic rival. These higher stakes in the Canadian case not only make strategic inroads in New Zealand relatively easy for China, but also suggest that Chinese economic policy is selectively sculpted to suit the PRC’s higher strategic purposes.

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    A similar approach is taken by in Gilley and O’Neill [30] and Manicom and O’Neill [47].

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    For a thorough examination of China’s mid-twentieth century approach, see [77].

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    See, for example Xue [75] and Wong [73].

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    Such data points are also commonly referred to as critical junctures or causal process observations. See [23, 59].

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    There are some factual inaccuracies in the NZCFS source material on this event, including the attribution of a crucial role to Princess Te Puea. The Princess died in 1952, and thus could not have facilitated the gifting. We are indebted to Hirini Kaa for his clarifying comments on this issue.

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    The American journalist Edgar Snow was a contemporary of Alley’s, was likewise instrumental in setting up Industrial cooperatives in China, and extensively chronicled the formation of the communist insurgency, most notably in his 1937 book [62].

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    CICs were organized around the China Industrial Cooperatives Association, better known outside China by its less formal name, the Gung Ho International movement.

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    For a much more critical view of Alley’s life and times, see [8].

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    For further readings, see [26].

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    The Australia –China free trade agreement was concluded November 17, 2014, and came into force on December 20, 2015.

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    For a more complete breakdown of the statistics, see: “Trade with China nearly tripled in past decade,” Stats NZ, September 7, 2016, accessed December 6, 2017,


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Research assistance from Lisa Jagoe is acknowledged with gratitude, as are words of guidance on NZ-China relations from Jason Young at the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington, and Hirini Kaa, Kaiarahi, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland.

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Noakes, S., Burton, C. Economic Statecraft and the Making of Bilateral Relationships: Canada-China and New Zealand-China Interactions Compared. J OF CHIN POLIT SCI 24, 411–431 (2019).

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  • Canada
  • China
  • New Zealand
  • Economic statecraft
  • Foreign policy