Xi Jinping praises ‘great importance’ of China-New Zealand relations

Amid rising global tensions, Chinese leader tells PM, Chris Hipkins, his visit to Beijing is meaningful

Xi Jinping has praised the “great importance” of China’s relationship with its “friend and partner” New Zealand, as Chris Hipkins visits Beijing to promote trade amid growing geopolitical tensions.

Speaking after the two leaders met in the Chinese capital on Tuesday evening, Xi told reporters through an interpreter: “I myself [am] attaching great importance to our relations with New Zealand,” and “China always views New Zealand as a friend and a partner”.

“Your visit this time is very meaningful,” Xi said, addressing Hipkins. “The international community, especially countries in our region, have been following your visit very closely. “After taking office as prime minister, you have stated multiple times that you value China-New Zealand relations and will continue to strengthen cooperation with China.”

His remarks were reported by the New Zealand Herald and Stuff, two New Zealand media outlets that accompanied Hipkins’ delegation.  Hipkins said in a written statement after the meeting: “New Zealand’s relationship with China is one of our most significant and wide-ranging.”

He said the pair had discussed trade, support for “the international rules-based order” and the war in Ukraine. “We also engaged on areas where our cultures and political systems differ, and I reiterated we will always advocate for approaches and outcomes that reflect New Zealand’s independent foreign policy or interests and values, in a respectful but consistent way,” he said.

New Zealand has been attempting to walk a delicate tightrope with China – making critical statements on individual human rights and foreign policy issues, while maintaining a close trade relationship with its largest export market. It has been more cautious in criticism of China than its western allies, but increasingly fraught geopolitical conflicts – over the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the invasion of Ukraine and militarisation of the Pacific – have made maintaining that position challenging.

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China, New Zealand