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flag of the People's Republic of China.

People’s Republic of China

New Zealand-China relations

Our Diplomatic Posts
in China

  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Guangzhou
  • Chengdu
  • Hong Kong

Since New Zealand and China established diplomatic relations in December 1972, the relationship has developed rapidly, particularly in recent years. 

The New Zealand Government has regular high level meetings with the Chinese leadership, either bilaterally or at regional gatherings. We regularly hold Foreign Ministry consultations, strategic dialogues, and economic and trade talks. There are formal bilateral dialogues on sanitary and phytosanitary issues, agriculture, dairy and forestry.  There is also regular contact on a wide range of issues including defence, law and governance, human rights, education and tourism, multilateral trade, regional security, international fisheries and development assistance.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is committed to ensuring that our diplomats to China are trained in Chinese, with many undergoing full time intensive language training for up to two years. We are among a small number of countries to do so, providing us with a competitive edge.

New Zealand agencies represented in China

A number of New Zealand Government agencies are represented in China. They include MFAT, NZTE, MBIE Immigration, MBIE Science, MPI, Education NZ, Tourism NZ, NZ Police, NZ Customs.



The first Chinese immigrant to New Zealand is thought to have been Appo Hocton, who arrived in Nelson in 1842. The first large scale influx of Chinese to New Zealand occurred in the 1860s, initially for gold-mining. 
Official contact between the two countries started with trade, missionary, immigration and other links between 1912 and 1949. Relations all but stopped when the People’s Republic of China was formed and during the Korean War. New Zealand re-kindled the relationship in 1972 by recognising the People’s Republic of China.

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Growing contacts

China’s opening up and experimental economic reform policies in the late 1970s and early 1980s (beginning in southern China and then spreading throughout the country) resulted in increased business and other contacts.  This received a further boost from China’s dynamic economic growth in recent decades.  Rising Chinese living standards has seen increased demand for New Zealand products. 

Education links have grown considerably.  From early beginnings when both countries offered an exchange programme for three students each, China is now our largest source of foreign students.  Around 23,000 Chinese currently study in New Zealand.

Tourism between our two countries has also increased rapidly.  Our first diplomats had to walk into China after flying to Hong Kong because China had no international air links.  There are now daily flights between New Zealand and China, serviced by Air New Zealand and China Southern Airlines.  China is the second, and most rapidly-growing, source of tourists to New Zealand (behind Australia).


NZ Inc China Strategy

NZ Inc is the Government’s plan to strengthen New Zealand’s economic, political and security relationships with key international partners—specifically countries and regions where we already have existing or growing relationships, and there is potential for significant growth. The China Strategy, launched by Prime Minister John Key in February 2012, sets an ambitious five-year plan for our relationship with China. This includes stronger political ties, doubling trade in goods, growing tourism by at least 60% and education by 20%, improving investment opportunities and collaborating on science and technology. Read more on the Strategy…

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The Four Firsts

China attributes “four firsts” to New Zealand:

  1. In 1997 New Zealand became the first country to agree to China’s accession to the WTO by concluding the bilateral negotiations component of that process.
  2. New Zealand was the first developed country to recognise China as a market economy.
  3. New Zealand was the first developed country to commence FTA negotiations with China. In November 2004, New Zealand and China launched FTA negotiations.
  4. In April 2008, New Zealand became the first country to successfully conclude Free Trade Agreement negotiations with China.



Trade with China has been one of the great success stories of the New Zealand export sector.  In 2008 the establishment of New Zealand–China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was as huge milestone. It was projected to increase our export revenue by between NZ$225-$350 million per year. It far exceeded expectations, increasing export revenue by NZ$1 billion (to $3.5 billion) in the first year. 

Our annual exports to China reached NZ$11.3 billion in September 2014. China has surpassed Australia to become New Zealand’s number one export destination for goods and services.

These numbers don’t include exports to China through Hong Kong. Up to one-third of New Zealand’s exports to Hong Kong are destined for mainland China.

Trade targets

Under the NZ Inc China Strategy, New Zealand had a target of reaching $20b in two-way goods trade by 2015. This target was reached in the second quarter of 2014. In March 2013 The Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Chinese President then revised the trade target up to $30 by 2020.

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New Zealand–China FTA

It was New Zealand’s biggest trade deal since the Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia in the 1980s. The New Zealand–China FTA cements the trading relationship between our two countries, and frees up business for exporters, the service sector and investors. Read more on the FTA…


Trade in goods

Agricultural products are the bulk of our exports to China, but the export profile is diversifying to include machinery, aluminium, plastics, wine and high technology products (especially telecommunications). New Zealand’s main imports from China are electronics, clothing, furniture and toys. More details on the goods trade is available on the Statistics New Zealand website.


Trade in services

China is New Zealand’s largest education market, with more than 24,000 Chinese students coming to study in New Zealand each year.

Chinese tourists number more than 240,000 each year, making China New Zealand’s second largest tourism market.

While education and tourism are the biggest service exports, New Zealand also exports our growing ‘knowledge economy’ services such as design, information technology, film and TV, and food safety.



Investment between New Zealand and China has been relatively small, but is set to grow with Fonterra planning to significantly increase its farming operation in China, and Rakon having recently opened a US$35 million factory in Chengdu. Some recent high profile Chinese investments into New Zealand include Haier in Fisher and Paykel Appliances, Shanghai Bright Dairy in Synlait, and Agria in PGG Wrightson.  Envirowaste?  = biggest Chinese investment in NZ to date.

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Aid and development

New Zealand no longer has an official aid programme in China — this stopped in 2005 — however we still contribute $500,000 a year through the Development Project Fund for activities to reduce poverty. The New Zealand Embassy in Beijing runs a small grant scheme of NZ$80,000 a year, focusing on the poorer, inland western provinces.

China and New Zealand now partner for aid and development work in places of common interest, such as the Pacific. This reflects China's significant economic development and emerging role as an active donor, and New Zealand's focus on its Pacific neighbours.

New Zealand and China are currently working together in the Cook Islands to replace the water supply system on Rarotonga to improve water quality, reliability and drought resilience.



Recent New Zealand High-Level Visits to China


Prime Minister


Recent Senior Chinese Visits to New Zealand

President, Vice President, Premier & Vice Premiers

Other senior leaders

Central Military Commission and other Defence-related visitors



Travel advice

The Safe Travel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to China [external link].

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Page last updated: Monday, 08 June 2015 14:48 NZST