Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Looking Up from Down Under: New Zealand’s best options amid China’s rise and the U.S. foreign policy rebalance to the Asia-Pacific

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posted on 2021-11-13, 20:41 authored by Friesen, Ryan

With the rise of China and the United States (US) foreign policy rebalance to the Asia-Pacific meeting in international space, small states like New Zealand have decisions to make about how to manage their balancing act between the two major powers. This research is the result of an extensive literature review of the available material coming from international relations scholars, diplomats, governments, and news media. The focus of this thesis is on the options a small state like New Zealand has amid China’s rise and the US foreign policy ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific since late-2011, but some attention has been given to how the US rebalance has been rolled out and New Zealand’s position therein. The findings point to a spectrum of options available to New Zealand which goes between choosing a China-centric economic focused set of foreign policies on one end, and backing US interests both in economic and security terms on the other end. It is clear New Zealand has chosen a middle ground and has adopted a hedging strategy designed to optimize its relationship with both the US and China. The task ahead for New Zealand is to use what influence it has to foster an environment where the likelihood of conflict between the two major powers is reduced without giving up too much independence in foreign policy decision making.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Ayson, Robert