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The Significance of Jacinda Ardern’s Resignation

She is burnt out and losing popularity, so she’s leaving. Others could try it.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces her resignation at the Napier War Memorial Centre in New Zealand on Jan. 19. Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at reactions to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, defense leaders convening in Germany, and an Australia-China thaw.

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Will Jacinda Ardern’s Departure Set an Example?

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at reactions to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, defense leaders convening in Germany, and an Australia-China thaw.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Will Jacinda Ardern’s Departure Set an Example?

Following New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s surprise announcement that she is resigning, much of the rest of the world responded by expressing admiration.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Ardern had “shown the world how to lead with intellect and strength. … She has demonstrated that empathy and insight are powerful leadership qualities,” while Tom Udall, U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, said she was an “incredible world leader.”

Further afield, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered that Ardern made an “immeasurable” difference. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said Ardern was “a friend to Europe who has been a trailblazing example—to young women in particular—showing how politics can be a force for positive change.”

Ardern announced that she was resigning because she didn’t have enough of herself left to give to the job. She also had her lowest poll numbers since 2017, and New Zealand is holding elections this fall.

That Ardern decided that it was better for the people of New Zealand if she were to step aside is no small thing, Leslie Vinjamuri, dean of the Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs at Chatham House, wrote in an email to Foreign Policy. “Jacinda Arderns decision to resign is radical in an era where so many leaders are clinging to power. Contrast this with the former US President who went as far as to incite an insurrection in an attempt to block a peaceful and democratic transition of power.”

It also stands in stark contrast to Brazil, where former President Jair Bolsonaro attacked the integrity of the presidential election shortly before losing it. (His supporters stormed government buildings on Jan. 8; the first charges against protesters were made this week.)

“But even for normal leaders in normal times, Arderns announcement is decisive, bold, and unconventional. It could, perhaps should, inspire leaders everywhere to rethink the purpose of their power,” Vinjamuri added. Ardern, she noted, is young enough to take a break and then go off to do whatever it is she’s most passionate about. “Maybe this will be an important example that shows that leading a country can in fact be a mid-career job and also not meant to be forever.”


What We’re Following Today 

Defense leaders meet in Germany. Western defense leaders are meeting Friday to discuss Ukraine at the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The meeting comes days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appointed a new defense minister, Boris Pistorius. Pistorius has already met his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin. The meeting also comes as Germany continues to express reluctance to send tanks to Ukraine, saying it will only do so if the United States does so first.

Other countries’ ability to send their German-built Leopard 2 tanks is also technically contingent on German approval, although Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has pledged to send the tanks with or without Berlins blessing. “Consent is a secondary issue here,” Morawiecki told Polish media. “We will either get this agreement quickly, or we will do the right thing ourselves.”

U.S. officials remain wary of sending American-made Abrams tanks to Ukraine, Pentagon official Colin Kahl said Thursday, “The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. Its expensive. Its hard to train on. It has a jet engine.”

WTO chief issues “friendshoring” warning. Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said countries looking to engage in “friendshoring” should be careful. The term has been used by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, among others, to describe doing business with friendlier, more democratically minded countries or countries with less geopolitical risk.

“Who is a friend? Youre not too sure theyll be a friend tomorrow. Weve seen examples of that,” Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters. She also said there was a need to focus not just on trade with Asia but also Latin America and Africa.


Keep an Eye On

An Australia-China thaw? Australia and China are considering having a virtual meeting to discuss trade in the coming weeks, the Guardian reports. It would be the first such meeting between an Australian trade minister and a Chinese commerce minister—posts now held by Don Farrell and Wang Wentao, respectively—in more than three years.

China is Australia’s largest-trading partner, but relations have been rocky in recent years due to Australias push for a global investigation of COVID-19s origins in 2020, Chinas retaliatory tariffs against Australian wine and other products, and Canberras growing defense ties with Washington and Tokyo. China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, noted last week that the two countries had gone to the WTO over trade disputes but suggested a bilateral solution would be preferable and “much easier.”

Children killed during Indian kite festival. Six people, including three children, were tragically killed at an annual kite festival in India. Their necks became entangled by sharp, glass-coated strings, and they reportedly bled to death. The Uttarayan festival in Gujarat attracts hundreds of people, and some festival attendees are known to coat their kite strings with glass powder to cut opponents’ cords. There has been a ban on the practice since 2016, but the ban is apparently lightly enforced.


Thursday’s Most Read

The World Economy No Longer Needs Russia by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Steven Tian

‘Strategic Ambiguity’ Has the U.S. and Taiwan Trapped by Raymond Kuo

The U.S. Lets Ambassador Posts Sit Empty for Years. China Doesn’t by Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch


Odds and Ends 

Messi and corny. A specially designed corn field in Argentina was planted using a seeding algorithm so that it now shows a giant picture of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi’s face. “For me, Messi is unbeatable,” said Maximiliano Spinazze, the crop farmer who planted it in celebration of his country’s World Cup victory. “Now, they are world champions. I am delighted this can be expressed by planting the crop.”

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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