Sir John Key says our Government is entitled to take an independent stance on China.
The former prime minister is among business leaders, government officials and political figures, speaking at today's China Business Summit in Auckland.
This year's events come amid global controversy about China's human rights record, and New Zealand's relationship with China.
Sir John told Mike Hosking our Government should be able to take a different position on China than other members of Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
"That's what it is, an intelligence sharing, not a platform for peddling views on any or all other issues. I think it should be kept for security."
He says the souring of relations between China and the west - sparked in part by Donald Trump - is having very real consequences for New Zealand.
Sir John says it's in New Zealand's interests to continue to maintain an independent and civil relationship with our largest trading partner.
"We know that China is a massive market, we know it's going to continue to get wealthier, we know it will become a superpower, and within that there will be enormous opportunities for a country like New Zealand."