Jacinda Ardern scales back China trip because of shootings

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Monday, 25 March 2019, 5:31p.m.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she will only be on the ground in China for a day and will be back in New Zealand the Tuesday after. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she will only be on the ground in China for a day and will be back in New Zealand the Tuesday after. (Photo / Mark Mitchell)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be travelling to China on a diplomatic mission this Sunday but has scaled her trip back because of the terror attacks in Christchurch.

She will only be on the ground for a day and will be back in New Zealand on Tuesday.

This comes after plans for Ardern to visit Beijing were put on ice last year, sparking some concerns of diplomatic tension between the two nations.

Speaking at her post-Cabinet press conference today, Ardern said she would be in Beijing for meetings with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Monday.

She will formally open the New Zealand embassy.

Ardern said it was a visit that was planned "some weeks ago".

"But given the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, I cut it back to one day of meetings."

She said it was intended to be a longer visit and to include a business delegation – "but under the circumstances that just didn't seem appropriate".

Originally, she was meant to visit three cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Bo'ao – but she will now just visit Beijing.

Ardern said Chinese officials and leaders have been "incredibly accommodating" of New Zealand's needs.

She said it was an important visit, as New Zealand places a high priority on its relationship with China.

"Our businesses relish the opportunity to look forward to our ongoing engagement."

Executive director of the NZ China Council Stephen Jacobi told Larry Williams that this meeting is well overdue, and they are pleased to see it going ahead.

He says that it is good that she has secured a meeting with President Xi Jinping, and does not

"This is always complicated. It's always the same when the Prime Minister tries to go to Washington. I know it seems crazy to us that it seems so difficult, but the reality is the whole world is courting China,  and the President has a very full diary." 

Jacobi says that even though it is a short visit, it is highly symbolic that Ardern meets the President and Premier in their capital.

He imagines that Huawei, which was banned from being involved in Spark's 5G upgrade last year, will be raised during meetings. 

"That's going to be a discussion between the leaders without a doubt." 

Discussions with officials and leaders are expected to include a broad range of bilateral and international issues of common interest.

These include talks around updating the New Zealand/ China free trade agreement, protecting and promoting a rules-based international trading system and combating climate change.

"China is an important regional and global actor, with whom we must work on challenges facing the global community and those critical to the security and prosperity of our region," Ardern says,

Ardern had previously downplayed any concerns that the delay in her planned trip was due to diplomatic tensions.

She said in November last year, after the trip was delayed, that she was looking forward to visiting China at the "earliest opportunity" and emphasised how important the relationship with China was to New Zealand.

Ardern had previously been unwilling to speculate when the trip would go ahead, other than to say she still planned to go.

Questions about the diplomatic relationship between China and New Zealand were again raised after the New Zealand/China Year of Tourism event was postponed by the Chinese in February.

Ardern said it was a "scheduling issue" but a few weeks later, she confirmed the event would take place on March 29 – this Friday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced he will tomorrow be travelling to Malaysia.

He said it was a scheduled visit but it now takes on that takes on "special significance following the terrorist attack in Christchurch".

"This visit gives us the opportunity to thank Malaysia in person for their friendship and support during this difficult period, and to express our own sorrow for their loss as well."
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country.

In Malaysia, Mr Peters will meet with Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato' Saifuddin Abdullah, and parliamentarian Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Peters will be back in New Zealand on Thursday.




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