Suddenly there is a flurry of news items that China is showing its displeasure with New Zealand through surreptitious pullbacks in relations.
New Zealand was a pioneer in engaging with China on trade, being one of the first Western nations to sign a free trade agreement. A number of other 'firsts' have followed.
But the China under authoritarian Xi is a different country to when those pioneering agreements were made. And we also have a new democratic administration assessing policy decisions.
Clearly, Wellington doesn't want to take sides between superpowers. It just wants to trade.
But both the US and China will only grant trade access to their economies with political strings attached. We won't like that, but it is the world be now must navigate.
Hard, choices are being thrust on us.
We are economically small - a rounding error for trade considerations in Beijing and Washington - but we have pushed our chest out in the world political arena. And we have a UN vote, something that does motivate the superpowers.
Trade is our Achilles heel in all of this.
Here is what we have 'at risk'.
|$ bln||$ bln||%|
|Goods export trade to China||NZ$12.1||NZ$13.9||+14.9|
|- share of all NZ goods exports||22.6%||24.2%|
|Services export trade to China||NZ$3.0||NZ$3.4||+12.0|
|- share of all NZ services exports||13.0%||13.6%|
|Goods export trade to China||AU$99.6||AU$117.5||+18.0|
|- share of all AU goods exports||33.0%||34.0%|
|Services export trade to China||AU$12.0||AU$13.1||+9.3|
|- share of all AU services exports||14.0%||14.0%|
New Zealand and Australia are part of a growing group of Western countries that have become sceptical of China's ambitions and the authoritarian nature of how it seeks to control both its diaspora and the way others think about it. Part of that scepticism is reflected in the reach and risks of technology giant Huawei. But this is just the tip of an iceberg of concerns. How Beijing deals with us could provide clues for how it may push back elsewhere. We may be being seen as an easy test case, one where China risks little from aggressive trial actions. Market research testing if you like, for a more broader strategy to how to push their agenda forward in the West.
And the hard truth is that no other country stands ready to buy what we have to sell China if we decide we don't want to buy what China thinks is good for us (Huawei's 5G, for example). The new US Administration has suddenly shown a willingness to throw its friends under a bus, any bus. So they are not a viable option.
Buckle in for a rocky ride. We will need broad bipartisan support to stand up for our beliefs.