Signs of strain? China postpones New Zealand tourism campaign

Sergio Conner
February 12, 2019

'A technicality meant the particular aircraft operating this service did not have Chinese regulatory authority to land in China'.

Opponents and local media reports questioned if an Air New Zealand flight which was recently refused entry to China may be a part of the deteriorating relationship, although the airline, the government and Chinese authorities have all said it was due to some administrative issue.

The same flight, NZ289, was turned back on a flight to China on August 24 previous year, although an airline spokeswoman said that was due to an engineering issue, not a permitting one.

That followed a defense policy statement in July, in which New Zealand said China's rising influence in the South Pacific could undermine regional stability, and alluded to tension in the disputed South China Sea, sparking complaint from China.

Scheduling clashes happen - we all have to postpone sometimes.

The National Party says it looks like New Zealand's relationship with China is deteriorating and the government needs to get its act together quickly to sort it out.

Air New Zealand did not respond to questions about a Taiwan link but said "as is required, the application includes a list of destinations the airline operates to, including Taipei".

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Dismissing such conjectures as "irresponsible", Ardern accused the opposition of spreading "misinformation".

John Nicholson, CEO of industry body Aviation New Zealand described the incident as "very unusual".

"In the past, New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front". She said the two countries "continued to discuss dates" for a visit sometime in 2019. That's in New Zealand's best interest.

The prime minister asserted that despite complexities in ties, Auckland's relationship remains robust. New Zealand was the first developed nation to sign a free-trade deal with China in 2008, and China has since become New Zealand's largest trading partner.

The exhibition - featuring eight warriors standing 180 cm tall, and two full-size horses from the terracotta army, as well as two half-size replica bronze horse-drawn chariots - opened to the public on December 15 in the run-up to the beginning of 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.

Exactly how much the difficulties in the relationship with China can be blamed on the Government is hard to know.

Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, was quick to clarify that the administrative issue was separate to China-New Zealand relations.

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