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flag of the People's Republic of China.

People’s Republic of China

Key facts


Official name People’s Republic of China
Land area 9.66 million square kilometres
Population 1.343 billion (July 2012 est)
Capital city Beijing
Religious practice, especially of Buddhism, Islam, Taoism and Christianity permitted under state-controlled structures
Language Chinese (Mandarin plus dialects) and minority languages
Currency Renminbi (the people's currency)
Exchange rate NZD 1.00 = RMB 5.08 (19 November 2012)

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Political system: Politically, while communist ideology has given way to market socialism, China remains a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Elections through universal suffrage have been introduced at the village level, but have not been permitted further up the system. The National People's Congress remains largely a rubber-stamping instrument for the CPC leadership, but it does play a more significant role in policy debate and drafting of legislation than in the past. There remain controls on freedom of association and expression, including strong state control of the media.

National government: Head of state is the President. The Premier heads the State Council (Cabinet), which is responsible for government administration through commissions and ministries, in accordance with CPC strategic policy.

National legislature: The unicameral NPC has 2,987 deputies representing provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and the armed forces. It elects (pro forma) the President, members of the State Council, and members of the Standing Committee of the NPC, which meets when the NPC is not in session. It also passes Chinese Communist Party policy into law.

Last election:March 2013 (pro forma of Presidential and State Council office-holders); village-level elections held nationally on three-year cycle.

Next election due: March 2018 (National People’s Congress).

Head of State Xí Jìnpíng
General Secretary, CCP Xí Jìnpíng
Chairman, NPC Zhang Dejiang
Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng
Vice Premiers Zhang Gaoli, Liú Yándōng, Wāng Yáng, Mǎ Kǎi,
State Councillors Yang Jing, Chang Wanquan, Guo Shengkun, Wáng Yǒng, Yáng Jiéchí (Foreign Affairs)

Key ministers:

Wang Yi (Foreign Affairs)
Gao Hucheng (Commerce)
Lou Jiwei (Finance)
Xu Zhaoshi (National Development and Reform Commission)
Chang Wanquan (Defence)
Yáng Guīrěn (Education)
Guo Shengkun (Public Security)
Hán Zhǎngfù (Agriculture)

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Over a period of 35 years, China has evolved into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, increasingly outwardly-oriented and market-driven.

Domestically, standards of living and economic freedom have improved markedly although China is still a developing country with a high proportion of low-income earners and significant rural poverty.  China’s major economic challenges include entrenching the rule of law, improving rural living standards, modernising the financial sector, unfettering private enterprise and implementing more robust environmental protection.

GDP US$7.99 trillion (2012 est.)
GDP per capita (nominal) US$5,899 (2012 est.)
GDP per capita (PPP) US$9,143 (2012 est.)
GDP growth 9.2% (2011)
Inflation 5.4% (2011 est)
Exports (FOB) US$1.898 trillion (2011 est)
Imports US$ 1.743 trillion (2011 est)

The economic and trade relationship (Stats for year ending December 2012)

Two-way trade was up 9.4% to $14.57 billion for year ending December 2012 

NZ exports (FOB) - NZ$6.86 billion (year ending December 2012, up 16.6% yoy)
(New Zealand’s second-largest market, constituting 13% of total exports)

NZ main exports (in year to June 2012)

NZ imports (CIF) NZ$7.71 billion (up 3.7% yoy)

(New Zealand’s largest source of imports, constituting 16% of total imports)
NZ main imports (in year to July 2012)

Services trade

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History exerts a powerful influence in Chinese politics.  Traditionally, China was ruled by an emperor, who was supported by an extensive bureaucracy that distributed his edicts throughout the empire.  These edicts were carried out, or in some cases ignored, by bureaucrats in the provinces - for many of them the emperor was a very long way away. 
This system established and preserved a political equilibrium, which lasted for thousands of years and was interrupted only by the rise and gradual demise of new dynasties.  While individual emperors and dynasties came and went, normally in tumultuous fashion, the fundamentals of the imperial system remained largely unchanged.  Under this system, and particularly towards the end of dynastic cycles, life for many of the emperor’s subjects was uncertain, often violent, and subject to frequent and destabilising change. 
Following its founding by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the People’s Republic of China proved to have much in common with this tradition.  The CPC was in essence controlled by a dominant leader, whose policies were faithfully implemented by the bureaucracy.  Máo Zédōng may have lacked the traditional prestige enjoyed by the emperors, but he was able, through manipulation of factions, military influence and force of personality, to enjoy powers similar to those of his imperial predecessors.  China remained under the rule of man, rather than the rule of law. 
Following Máo’s death in 1976 at the end of the devastating decade of the Cultural Revolution, China emerged into a period of political and social stability unprecedented for it in the 20th century, due largely to the assumption of power by veteran CPC leader Dèng Xiǎopíng.  Emerging as a paramount leader in 1978, Dèng was a pragmatist, committed to the economic modernisation of China and to maintaining the CPC’s hold on power. 
From late 1978, Dèng set in motion a dramatic process of economic reform and ‘opening up’, moving China away from a centrally planned economy to a more market-based system.  In the years since, China has undergone an economic and social transformation unparalleled in world history.  Between 1978 and 2005, China’s economy more than quadrupled in size, and 300 million of its vast population of 1.3 billion were lifted from absolute poverty. 
Dèng’s policies were not without critics, especially conservatives in the CPC hierarchy.  Dèng found it necessary to patch together coalitions and go forward on an incremental basis, an approach which his successors Jiāng Zémín and Hú Jǐntāo have continued to find necessary as they have forged more collective leaderships.  
Cycles of reform in China have been interspersed by periodic ideological crackdowns.  These have been more benignly expressed in the last 15 years than during the 1980s.  During that first decade of economic reform, the social stress of rapid change and public anger over high inflation and official corruption fuelled popular demands for political reform.  The reform movement eventually sparked the demonstrations in Tiān'ānmén Square in May/June 1989, and the bloody suppression that followed.  This decade laid the foundations for an overwhelming concern in government with the maintenance of public order in order to facilitate economic and social development.

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Political situation

With the substitution of economic pragmatism for the ideological fervour of Maoism and the freeing up of the economy, many of the more oppressive controls over individual actions and (private) expression have been lifted.  China does however remain a state ruled by the CPC. 

In 2004 China added a clause “the State observes and respects human rights” to the constitution, but this clause has yet to be given full practical effect.  Political and civil rights in the form of public expression, freedom of association and freedom of worship remain tightly regulated and China has not yet ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998.  Controls on the media, including the internet, activities of NGOs and academia have tightened somewhat in the last few years, though the media retains freedom to explore certain issues to a greater extent that in pre-reform times, and the internet is having an impact on political governance, particularly in highlighting popular grievances such as concerns with the environment or land confiscations.

Xí Jìnpíng is the current paramount leader of China, succeeding Hu Jintao who held the role for ten years.  Xi became the leader of the CPC at the 18th Party Congress, in mid-November 2012 and this set the scene for changes of leadership in government organs at the National People’s Congress in March 2013.  The change marked the end of the decade-long Hú Jǐntāo/Wēn Jiābǎo era and is only the second orderly leadership transition of this scale in modern Chinese history.  It is by virtue of the number of positions changed in fact the largest leadership change in 30 years.  Xí Jìnpíng visited New Zealand in 2010 as Vice President.  Xi had visited twice before, in 1995 to Wellington when Vice-Mayor of Xiamen and in 2001 when Governor of Fujian province.  Lǐ Kèqiáng, who visited New Zealand for the first time in 2009 , succeeded Wēn Jiābǎo as Premier.

Economic reform, and in particular recognition of the need to ‘rule by law’ if the economy is to function in the modern world and comply with WTO obligations, is having an effect on the foundation of Chinese society.  While the CPC continues to resist full western-style political reform in China, it accepts that some changes are necessary to make its governance more transparent and accountable.  

Over ten years President Hú Jǐntāo and Premier Wēn Jiābǎo maintained China’s commitment to market-style economic reforms, but they also spoke of balancing economic development with social and environmental concerns and to do more to bridge the widening gap between urban and rural incomes

Maintaining social stability is a major concern of the Chinese government, and maintaining economic growth and social order was emphasised during the global economic slowdown. Over 2008/09, China addressed challenges, including those associated with the lay-offs of some 10% of its approximately 200 million migrant workforce, with a massive RMB4 trillion public stimulus package.  Investment led to China weathering the recession with 8.7% growth in 2009 (IMF) and spurred inflation which required tighter government spending controls in 2010-12.  Over the last decade there has been an increase in the frequency of local demonstrations over labour issues (such as seeking redundancy payments for factory closures), local government corruption, and environmental damage or compensation following land confiscation.  Some demonstrations have ended in violence and deaths following clashes with police or vigilantes.  In part to deal with the sources of protest, the government has placed greater emphasis on raising the living standards of rural residents, combating corruption and increasing access to basic social services such as health and education.  The government is also gradually expanding the social security system, though its coverage and scope is still relatively limited. 

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Economic situation

From 1978 when China began its reform and opening up to the prsent, China has maintained an average growth rate of close to 10% per annum.  Over this period it attracted sizeable foreign investment, greatly expanded its international trade and built up over US$3.305 trillion in foreign reserves (by the end of March 2012, according to the People’s Bank of China).  GDP per capita increased from US$148 in 1978 to an estimated US$5,899 in 2012.  China is now the second-largest economy in the world, and some predictions have it overtaking the United States as the world’s largest economy on a PPP basis by as early as 2016.

Spectacular as China’s growth has been, much of it covered the easier yards: breaking the communal mould to release rural productivity, stimulating urban construction and consumerism, infrastructure building, and exploiting wage competitiveness in the growth of manufacturing.  Since 1998, under Premiers Zhū Róngjī and then Wēn Jiābǎo, China began to tackle the harder tasks of dismantling the ‘iron rice bowl’ through reform of State Owned Enterprises (SOE), housing, the financial sector, and creating a national social security system.  This remains a work in progress.

The Chinese economy slowed in 2012 but is now stabilising.  It exceeded its growth target of 7.5% in 2012, and in on track to maintain this in 2013.  While the flat international environment is important to China’s overall economic fortunes, its government has more options than most to stimulate the domestic economy in a period where its imperative remains stability and a smooth transition of power.  The consumption story (of most direct interest to New Zealand’s trading interests) remains generally positive, and growth in goods exports from New Zealand to China was 16% in the year to December 2012. 

China’s economic policy makers are concurrently grappling with a number of challenges: controlling inflation; holding property prices to affordable levels; concerns around local government and SOE debt; rising labour costs and a slowing in the numbers of new workers as demographic changes linked to the one chld policy and the impact of rural wage growth contribute to some labour shortages.  There are strengthening public concerns about the increasing environmental impact of rampant growth.

China's exchange rate has for years been a controversial topic with many of China's trade partners, particularly the US and the EU, claiming the RMB is artificially undervalued and constitutes an unfair export advantage.  Since July 2005 the renminbi has been pegged to a basket of foreign currencies and allowed to trade within a band against this basket.  The People’s Bank of China has allowed the renminbi to increase gradually in value which it has done. 

As China has opened its economy, it has expanded its engagement in international economic and trade forums.  It has been a member of APEC since 1992, and hosted the 13th APEC Ministerial Meeting in Shanghai in October 2001, and will host APEC again in 2014.  Since 2001, China has hosted the annual Bó'áo Forum for Asia, a leading Asian economic conference attracting political and business leaders.  China became a member of the World Trade Organisation on 11 December 2001.  China’s WTO accession package of improved market access for goods and services, and reform of its foreign trade regime, added impetus to its long-term programme of economic reform.  China is one of the ‘+6’ countries (along with New Zealand) seeking to join a proposed trade pact with ASEAN nations known as RCEP (Regional Closer Economic Partnership).  The first round of negotiations on a free trade agreement with China and Japan occurred in March 2013.

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Foreign relations

China’s relationship with the US remains its greatest foreign policy preoccupation.  The US’ so-called ‘return to Asia’ is widely perceived by Chinese as being prompted by its rise.  There is nevertheless a strong commitment on both sides to managing challenges in what has become the most significant bilateral relationship in the world.  In May 2012, both countries convened their 4th Strategic and Economic Dialogue (led at Vice Premier level), notwithstanding that a human rights dissident (Chén Guāngchéng) was seeking asylum concurrently within the US Embassy compound.  It seems likely that both new Chinese and US administrations will continue with the bilateral architecture established from 2008. At any one time, the two countries are managing a portfolio of foreign policy and economic issues including: Taiwan, intellectual property protection, trade imbalances, regional stability in Asia and the middle east, nuclear proliferation and defence issues, currency relativity, human rights and religious freedom, and their relationship in the UN Security Council.  

China is also placing a high priority on engagement with its neighbours.  China shares a border with 14 countries.  Not all of these relationships are easy (the historical legacies in its relationships with Japan, Vietnam and India are cases in point).

China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are a point of tension in the region and have the potential to seriously challenge regional stability.  China disagrees most strongly with ASEAN claimants (e.g. the Philippines and VietNam in particular).  It has also expressed strong concerns regarding the ‘interference’ of other third parties in what it regards as bilateral disputes.  There is also strong discord between China and Japan over respective claims in the East China Sea (Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands), which is undermining longstanding efforts to build a trade and economic relationship distinct from a difficult political relationship. 

While China is Chair of the stalled Six Party Talks on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, its close relationship with the DPRK has come under scrutiny, with many countries calling on China to bring greater pressure to bear on the regime following nuclear and missile tests on the peninsula. China has joined recent international action through the UN Security Council and continues to maintain that its bilateral representations deliver it no more influence than other countries over Pyongyang.

Russia and China have put long-standing enmity behind them, agreeing a common border and embarking on energy and military cooperation.  Their relationship has assumed a greater international profile in recent times given their shared positions on non-intervention – Syria being a high-profile case in point.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), formed in June 2001, strengthens China’s links with its central Asian neighbours.  Beijing hosted the SCO Leaders’ Summit in June this year.  China has hitherto focused on its economic/resources relationship with Afghanistan.  However, the 2014 withdrawal of international troops is of concern to China, given its investments and concerns with stability in Xīnjiāng, a province with a strong Muslim population on Afghanistan’s border.  

China’s successful engagement with the developing world is a big part of its global footprint.  China’s combination of diplomacy, aid, trade and commercial investment helps it access developing world commodities that it needs to support its economic growth, as well as open new markets for Chinese-manufactured exports.  This has been particularly evident in Africa, where its approach of separating commerce from political or human rights concerns has seen China invest in countries where many Western firms have not (e.g. Zimbabwe, Sudan). 

China has a long term interest in the Pacific Islands region, with Chinese nationals living in the area and involved in the logging, fishing, retail, tourism and mining industries.  Several Pacific Islands do not maintain diplomatic relations with Beijing. While smaller in scale than its footprint in Africa, China’s engagement in the South Pacific is significant for the region and the region’s partners, like New Zealand. China is a post Forum dialogue partner to the Pacific Islands Forum. China’s aid to its Pacific partners tends to be through bilateral channels, either to partner governments or to regional organisations. In August 2012  China joined the Cook Islands and New Zealand in supporting a trilateral water partnership (for water delivery in Rarotonga).

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Relations with New Zealand


2012 marked the 40th year of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China. The bilateral relationship has grown to become one of New Zealand’s most valuable and important.  China is a global power and New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner, as well as a major source of migrants, students and tourists. 

The relationship is characterised by regular high-level contacts; an expanding range of official dialogues; diversifying trade; and strengthening people-to-people links.  During Premier Wēn Jiābǎo’s 2006 visit to New Zealand, an agreement to hold annual leaders’ meetings was reached, and this has been maintained since.  Prime Minister Helen Clark witnessed signature of the Free Trade Agreement in April 2008.  Prime Minister John Key visited China in April 2009 - his first bilateral visit to Asia - and in July 2010 visited Běijīng and the Shànghǎi Expo.  He will visit China for the third time as Prime Minister in April 2013.

NZ Inc China Strategy

In February 2012 Prime Minister John Key launched the NZ Inc China Strategy, New Zealand’s first whole-of-government plan to guide the development of its bilateral relationship with China.  The strategy sets five key goals over a five year period which frame efforts by all government departments who work with China: 1) retain and build a strong and resilient political relationship; 2) double two-way goods trade by 2015; 3) grow services trade (education by 20%, tourism by at least 60%, and other services trade) by 2015; 4) increase bilateral investment to levels that reflect the growing commercial relationship; and, 5) grow high quality science and technology collaborations to generate commercial opportunities. 

Political connections

New Zealand contact with China started very early in our history, with trade, missionary, immigration and other links in China’s republic era (1912-49).  The establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the Korean War brought these links to a halt.  New Zealand recognised the People’s Republic of China in 1972.  

The history of New Zealand’s formal relations with China since 1972 has not been without discord.  The Chinese Government crackdown on the Tiān'ānmén Square demonstrations in June 1989 was strongly condemned in New Zealand and ministerial and senior official contact was suspended for more than a year. 

The relationship has expanded considerably since the mid-1990s with many high-level visits, including by heads of state and government.  Bilateral communication between officials has also expanded.  Foreign ministry consultations, strategic dialogues (between militaries) and economic and trade talks are held regularly.  There are formal bilateral dialogues on sanitary and phytosanitary issues, agriculture, dairy and forestry.  There is regular contact on a wide range of issues including defence, law and governance, human rights, multilateral trade, regional security, international fisheries and aid.  Developments in Tibet in March 2008 put the focus on human rights issues, prompting several Government statements of concern and a motion by the New Zealand Parliament. 

New Zealand is careful to abide by its undertaking to China in our joint communiqué of 1972.  While faithful to its ‘one China’ policy, New Zealand maintains economic and cultural ties with Taiwan, an important trade partner. 

Free trade Agreement (FTA)

In May 2004, New Zealand and China signed the Trade and Economic Cooperation Framework, under which New Zealand recognised that China had established a market economy system.  Negotiations for the FTA began in November 2004, following the release of a Joint Feasibility Study.  The signing in Beijing in April 2008 marked the conclusion of 15 rounds of negotiations over three years.  The result was a comprehensive Agreement covering trade in goods and services, as well as investment.  Over time the FTA will result in the elimination of tariffs on 96% of New Zealand exports to China.  A Most Favoured Nation clause further ensures that any provisions extended by either New Zealand or China to third parties in future trade agreements will automatically apply to each other.  New Zealand and China also entered into binding agreements on labour and environment, aimed at encouraging dialogue and cooperation. 

The FTA entered into force on 1 October 2008.  It was projected to lift New Zealand’s export revenue from trade with China by between NZ$225-$350 million per year.  Far exceeding expectations, in the first year exports increased by NZ$1 billion (to $3.5 billion).  New Zealand is the only developed country to have signed a comprehensive FTA with China.  For more details see www.chinafta.govt.nz

Merchandise trade

China is our second-largest trading partner, largest source of imports and second largest export market.  New Zealand exports in the year to December 2012 totalled $6.86 billion, up 16.6% year-on-year.  Our exports to China have more than trebled over the last five years (the increase alone in goods exports to China between June years 2011 and 2012 would have edged Viet Nam out for 21st place in our top export destinations).  In the June 2012 year total two-way goods trade reached $13.8 billion. 

These statistics do not take account of exports to China through Hong Kong.  Up to one third of exports to Hong Kong are destined for the mainland, while the use of packaging plants in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries means that some New Zealand products enter China as goods of those countries. 

New Zealand’s exports to China are led by primary products - dairy, wood, wool, seafood and meat.  The export profile is diversifying, however, with machinery, aluminium, plastics, wine and high technology products (especially telecommunications) featuring in New Zealand’s non-agricultural exports to China.  New Zealand’s largest imports from China include electronics, clothing, furniture and toys. 

Trade in services

New Zealand’s exports are also maturing in the services sector; education and tourism are our major services exports to China.

2003 and 2004 saw the peak of education related foreign exchange earnings, totalling around NZ$2 billion. A huge increase since 1998 in the number of Chinese students travelling to New Zealand for secondary, tertiary and English language study, reaching around 65,000 in 2003/04, was largely responsible for the boost in the education sector’s foreign exchange earnings. For a number of market and reputation-related factors this number subsequently declined to a more sustainable level of around 20,000 students (2009 figures).  China remains New Zealand’s largest source country of foreign students.

Visitor numbers from China have grown by a factor of six since New Zealand was granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) by China in 1999. China has overtaken the Republic of Korea to become New Zealand’s fourth-largest source of visitors with numbers swelling by 19% yoy to 145,542 visitors in 2011.

Although there has been a recent down turn following the global economic crisis, visitor numbers are forecast to reach 200,000 in the medium term, which would make China our third-largest visitor market.  Chinese visitors made an economic contribution of NZ$362 million (year ending March 2011).


The New Zealand government aims to increase two-way investment to better reflect the commercial relationship.  To date, the level of bilateral investment has been relatively small.  According to official statistics China has invested approximately NZ$1.8 billion in New Zealand, and it is estimated that less than half of this is foreign direct investment.  This underestimates the true level as some investments are routed through subsidiaries registered in other jurisdictions.  Investment from New Zealand into China is even smaller but is set to grow with Fonterra's plans 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 into Fisher and Paykel Appliances, Shanghai Bright Dairy into Synlait, Agria into PGG Wrightson, and Shanghai Pengxin's purchase of Crafar farms.


The bilateral education relationship has recovered from the events of the early 2000s, which saw the high-profile collapse of two English language schools with majority Chinese enrolment.  Since that time, a number of steps have been taken to assist the recovery of New Zealand’s reputation as a high-quality education destination, with the result that New Zealand is now a world leader in areas including the pastoral care of international students and fee safeguarding.  This said, the relationship remains a sensitive one, which must be balanced carefully to ensure that student recruitment ambitions are firmly supported from a base of non-recruitment focused education initiatives (quality assurance work; fostering institutional linkages including further in-country delivery of New Zealand qualifications; regular policy dialogue, and so on). 

China is in the early stages of an ambitious 10-year education reform and development plan, and is consequently seeking knowledge and expertise from countries like New Zealand in areas such as curriculum development; technical and vocational education and training; and, staff and administrator training.  Both countries work to support the promotion of Chinese language study in New Zealand.  One of the flagships of the bilateral education relationship is the Tripartite Partnerships Programme, which sees New Zealand universities joining Chinese universities in partnerships designed to benefit China’s western and developing provinces.


Visitor numbers from China have grown by more than a factor of 10 since 1999, when New Zealand was granted approved destination status by the Chinese Government. More recently, the number of visitors from China surged 33% in the year to June 2012 year-on-year, driven largely by the entry of China Southern Airlines into the market. China has now overtaken the United States to become our third largest source of visitors, and is forecast to overtake the United Kingdom as the second largest source of visitors by the end of 2012.

Air services

An air services agreement was signed in 1993, extended in 2004 and then again in 2012 with a tripling of allowable capacity. Air New Zealand commenced direct flights between Auckland and Shanghai in November 2006 and aims to be daily from this port by Chinese New Year 2013. Air New Zealand flies daily to Shanghai. In November 2011, China Southern Airlines went to daily direct flights from Guangzhou to Auckland.

Business and relationship associations

In July 2012 the New Zealand China Council was formed with Sir Don McKinnon as the Chairman and a number of senior New Zealand figures on its executive board including former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. 

The New Zealand China Trade Association (est) has long fostered the development of strong commercial linkages between New Zealand and China, encouraging New Zealand companies to explore the potential of China’s market and hosting many inward delegations from China.

The New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS) celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2012. It has a relationship with the Youxie, Chinese Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

Official development assistance

Following a 2005 review of New Zealand's aid programme to China, New Zealand's aid relationship with China moved to one of donor partner in regions of common interest, in particular the Pacific. This decision reflected both China's significant economic development, emerging role as an active donor and New Zealand's focus on its Pacific neighbours. While New Zealand no longer has a core bilateral aid programme with China some smaller poverty alleviation activities totally around NZ$500,000/year continue to be carried out under the Development Project Fund, and the Embassy runs a small grant scheme of NZ$80,000/year.

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Cultural and business linkages


China and New Zealand have a long history of people-to-people contacts, beginning with the arrival in New Zealand of large numbers of Chinese immigrants in the latter half of the 19th century (notably gold miners) and travel by New Zealand missionaries and others to China to live and work.  In the 2006 census, close to 4% of New Zealanders identified themselves as Chinese. 

Of the early New Zealanders in China, the best known is Rewi Alley, who lived and worked in China for 60 years until his death in 1987.  Alley came to symbolise the important role of people-to-people contacts in building good relations and accentuating common ground between countries as different as New Zealand and China.  In 1997, the 100th anniversary of Alley’s birth was marked by celebrations in Beijing and New Zealand.  In 2010 a TV documentary series on Rewi Alley’s life was produced by China Central Television and Natural History NZ. 

Cultural societies

The New Zealand-China Friendship Society (NZCFS) in New Zealand, and the China-Māori Friendship Association (CMFA), have each maintained a long and active relationship with the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (Yǒuxié), the organisation with which Rewi Alley was closely associated for many years. There have been numerous exchanges of delegations and projects undertaken. In 1999, Yǒuxié gifted Rewi Alley's China papers to the National Library of New Zealand. The National Library gifted China a complete microfilm record of these papers in 2005. In 1999, Yǒuxié opened a Friendship Museum in Beijing in the building where Rewi Alley spent his last years, restoring his apartment in his memory. In 2002, Yǒuxié conferred the title of Friendship Ambassador on Professor Bill Willmott, long-time President of NZCFS, and on Hiwi Tauroa, founder and president of CMFA.

Business associations

In July 2012 the New Zealand China Council was formed with Sir Don McKinnon as the Chairman and a number of senior New Zealand figures on its executive board including former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley. The New Zealand China Trade Association has long fostered the development of strong commercial linkages between New Zealand and China, encouraging New Zealand companies to explore the potential of China's market and hosting many inward delegations from China.

Sister cities

The establishment of sister-city relationships between New Zealand and Chinese cities and provinces has contributed significantly to the people-to-people dimension of the bilateral relationship. There are currently more than thirty Chinese cities/regions that have a sister or friendly city relationship with a New Zealand city or district. 2006 marked both the 25th anniversary of the first New Zealand-China sister-city relationship between Hastings and Guilin, and the addition of a new sister-capital relationship between Wellington and Beijing.

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Recent New Zealand High-Level Visits to China


Prime Minister


Recent Senior Chinese Visits to New Zealand

President, Vice President, Premier & Vice Premiers

Premier and Vice Premiers

Other senior leaders

Other Politburo members

State Council

Central Military Commission


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List of NZ-China Friendship City Relations

Chinese City New Zealand City
Beijing City Wellington City
Changchun, Jilin Province Masterton District
Dayun, Liaoning Province Far North District
Fangshen, Beijing Province New Plymouth District
Gansu Province Christchurch City
Guangzhou, Guangdong Province Auckland City
Guilin, Guangxi Province Hastings District
Guiyang, Guizhou Province Palmerston North City
Harbin, Heilongjiang Province South Taranaki District
Huangshi, Hubei Province Nelson City
Jiading District, Shanghai City Hauraki District
Kunming, Yunnan Province New Plymouth District
Kunshan City, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province Palmerston North City
Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province Napier City
Liaoning Province Far North District
Mianyang, Sichuan Province Napier City/Hastings District
Ningbo, Zhejiang Province Auckland City
Rizhao, Shandong Province Gisborne District
Port of Shanghai Ports of Auckland
Port of Yantai, Shandong Province Port of Tauranga
Puyang, Henan Province Ashburton District
Qingdao, Shangdong Province Auckland City
Shanghai City Dunedin City
Suzhou, Jiangsu Province Taupo District
Taizhou, Jiangsu Province Hutt City
Wehai, Shandong Province Timaru District
Wuhan, Hubei Province Christchurch City*
Wuxi, Jiangsu Province Hamilton City
Wuzhong District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province Rotorua District
Xiamen, Fujian Province Wellington City
Xian, Shaanxi Province Hutt City
Xian, Shaanxi Province Taupo District
Xuyi County, Huai’ai, Jiangsu Province Rotorua District
Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province Hawkes Bay Regional Council
Yantai, Shandong Province Tauranga District
Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province Porirua City

* Christchurch has a 'Friendship City' relationship with Wuhan.

- Selwyn County has proposed a sister city relationship with Shandan in Gansu.

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Travel advice

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

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Page last updated: Thursday, 12 December 2013 13:02 NZDT