Published on Saturday, May 3, 2003 by the Guardian/UK
New Zealand Warns on 'Law of the Jungle'
by Charlotte Denny and Jonathan Freedland
One of Tony Blair's closest foreign political allies has warned Britain and America that they may live to regret unleashing the "law of the jungle" in international relations when China becomes the dominant world power later this century.
The Labour prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, told the Guardian that Washington and its allies had created a dangerous precedent by going to war without a UN resolution.
"This is a century which is going to see China emerge as the largest economy, and usually with economic power comes military clout," she said.
"In the world we are constructing, we want to know [that the system] will work whoever is the biggest and the most powerful."
She understood why Britain had stood beside the US, its closest ally. But New Zealand had taken a different view, because of the danger of setting a precedent for ignoring the UN.
"It would be very easy for a country like New Zealand to make excuses and think of justifications for what its friends were doing, but we would have to be mindful that we were creating precedents for others also to exit from multilateral decision making," she said.
"I don't want precedents set, regardless of who is seen as the biggest kid on the block."
Ms Clark said the the damage to the UN had to be re paired to prevent the world returning to 19th century style anarchy in international relations, which could leave countries like New Zealand at the mercy of the great powers.
"New Zealand has always argued for the rights of small states," she said - one of her predecessors, the wartime Labour prime minister Peter Fraser, helped to write the UN's founding charter.
"We saw the UN as a fresh start for a world trying to work out its problems together rather than a return to a 19th world where the great powers carved it up ... Who wants to go back to the jungle?"
The multilateral system had been damaged by the rifts over Iraq, but countries were now redoubling their efforts to cooperate in the Doha round of global trade talks.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003