Australia, New Zealand more wary on China as Premier Li visits

Regional security concerns will overshadow lucrative trade ties when China's Premier Li Qiang visits New Zealand and Australia this week, with the mood markedly different from the last Chinese premier's visit seven years ago.
Australia is the top supplier of iron ore to China, its largest trading partner, but there is competition for Australia's rare earths needed for electric vehicles and defence from Western security allies.
New Zealand was the first Western nation to strike a free trade agreement with China in 2008, and China remains its largest export market for milk and agriculture products, with two-way trade of nearly NZ$38 billion.
New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said Li's visit was an opportunity for businesses to strike deals, and there was "massive areas of cooperation with China, particularly in the areas of trade, energy, climate change".
Differences would also be discussed, he said.
Once a moderate voice on China, New Zealand has toughened its stance, this year calling out Beijing for hacking the country's parliament and noting the growing threat China poses to security in the Pacific.
"Since 2017, the relationship has moved from one which was primarily focused on opportunity to one that is also concerned about resilience and over-dependency," said Jason Young, director of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre at Victoria University.
China's ambassador, Wang Xiaolong, last month told a China Business Summit in Auckand that Beijing was not a threat, cautioning against "groundless accusations, which would erode the precious trust we have built up".

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