Diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand

Posted: August 19, 2016


            Diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China were established in 1972. New Zealand has an embassy in Beijing, where it diplomatic relations in China are represented by their ambassador to China. The bilateral relationships between the two countries have been excellent over the years, given that the relationship between the two was mutually lead to the development and sharing of trust between China and New Zealand. The main elements of the diplomatic relations between the two countries are the exchange and education programs that are provided by the two countries and the Free Trade Agreement, which is the only major trade agreement that exist between New Zealand and any major country in the global economy (Kember, 2003).

            The FTA between China and New Zealand was signed in 2008, and in this trade pack it was agreed that one third of the overall exports of New Zealand exports to China would be free of tariffs by the year 2013. On the other hand, 60% of the Chinese exports were expected to be free of tariffs by 2016 to New Zealand. The two countries also agreed that investments, trade in the area of service, and migration would also be facilitated between the two countries (Dan 2008).  The trade agreement between New Zealand and China is one of the largest between New Zealand and any other foreign country since the signing of Closer Economic Relations pack with Australia in 1983.  In the area of education as well as exchange programs, the two countries have over the years enjoyed bilateral academic cooperation and scholarship programs.  In order to improve the exchange and education programs between the two countries, a restricting clause, allowing only 100 students per year to study in New Zealand was removed in 1998, and this has seen a dramatic expansion in this area of bilateral relation, with an increased in the number of Chinese students studying in New Zealand institution of learning.

            Despite the two countries enjoying good diplomatic relations over the years, the position of New Zealand-China relations have been threatened by a number of issues. In order to overcome the threats to its relationship with China, New Zealand government has responded by developing a number of strategies aimed at dealing with these threats. Hence, this paper seeks to look at the threats that threaten the diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China. In addition, the paper will look at the measures that have been put in place by the New Zealand government with an aim of overcoming the posed threats.

Threats to Diplomatic Relationships between New-Zealand and China

            As mentioned earlier a number of disputes between China and New Zealand threat the excellent diplomatic relations between these two countries which has existed over the years. To start with, the maritime territorial disputes in the Asian region, especially in the North Asia region are a threat to the good diplomatic relations between the two countries. China has been in the center of these disputes, and over the years has been involved in diplomatic rows with countries, such as Japan ad Korean republic over the control of some marine time territories (Ralph, 2010). New Zealand, which enjoys good relations with countries such as Korean republic and Japan, has found itself in the center of the marine time disputes within the region. Most of the maritime territory disputes revolved around fights over water territories and fishing waters. The stand of New Zealand in the Asian region marine territory disputes, especially in some areas where New Zealand and China are fighting for control, threatens the good relationship that exists between the two countries. Lack of consensus on what should be done to marine territories under dispute threatens the existence of peace between countries in the Asian region, making it hard for countries involved in the dispute to maintain good diplomatic relations. Additionally, the stand taken by New Zealand when it comes to East Asian maritime territorial disputes have not been in favor of the Chinese approach to the dispute.  Instead of siding with China as it fight with Japan and Korea over the ownership of a number of islands, New Zealand has sided with Japan and Korea over the issue.  The stand of New Zealand in the disputes has not gone down well with Beijing, and this threatens the diplomatic stand between the two countries. Therefore, the existing disputes over the control of maritime territories in the Asian region, due to the need for control of region that are rich in fresh water and fish threaten the future diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand unless long term solutions to this issue are formulated.

            Secondly, the Fiji diplomatic dispute with New Zealand over its military coup, has also threatened the relationship between these two countries, as China did take a stand that is contrary to the one taken by New Zealand. The New Zealand and Australian governments withdrew their diplomatic relations with Fiji due to the military coup. On the other hand, the Chinese government instead of condemning the act has provided financial and military support to the Fiji government against the wish of the international community, especially New Zealand and Australia. Hence, the contrary political position taken by the Chinese government has not been taken well by the New Zealand government and this threatens the excellent diplomatic relations that have been experienced between the two countries. The relations between New Zealand and China is threatened by the Fiji internal wrangles as the stand taken by China over the issue has negatively affected the diplomatic trust that has taken years to develop (Elder, 2012).

            Additionally, the nuclear power disputes have also been a major threat to the good diplomatic relationship that exists between New Zealand and the countries in the Asian region. Given that New Zealand has always taken a stand taken by its Western allies, mainly the U.S.A government; on matters associated with Nuclear weapons, this has sparked mistrust between Beijing and New Zealand. China has always been in support of many countries becoming nuclear powerhouses in the region. New Zealand on the other hand, has been opposed to a number of countries becoming nuclear powers due to the threat that they pose to the international security and peace (Kember, 2003). Lack of a common stand, when it comes to international nuclear disputes, especially the ones affecting South Korea and Iran has been a major threat to the diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China. New Zealand has been opposed to Iran and Korea being nuclear power, while China is in support of the countries becoming nuclear powers. New Zealand has openly opposed the Chinese stand on the issue and this has led to shaky political relations between the two countries in the area of international nuclear treaties.

            Lastly, the dispute between China and Taiwan has also in a number of occasions threatened diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand. New Zealand has openly opposed the China over its dispute with Taiwan. New Zealand has been in support of Taiwan independence, and democratic process in the country. Consequently, the stand of New Zealand, in support of Taiwan in their dispute with China has not been taken lightly by China, thereby leading to shaky relationships between the two countries.

Ways in which the Fiji Government is managing the Threats

            For purposes of managing the threats that are arising from various international disputes the New Zealand government has taken a number of steps. To start with, the New Zealand government has signed a number of trade agreements with China in the recent years, with an aim of improving the diplomatic relations that exist between the two countries. For example, in 2008 New Zealand government signed the FTA with an aim of increasing trade and investment activities between the two countries (Elder and Ayson, 2012). When it comes to this trade agreement the New Zealand government has been committed to implement all the clauses found in the agreement, with an objective of maintaining good diplomatic relationship, by improving the trust that exist between these two countries.

            In order to manage the threat posed by nuclear disputes, New Zealand government in 2005 signed the ASEAN- nuclear dispute and diplomacy treaty with an aim of resolving any nuclear related disputes in a diplomatic manner. The signing of this treaty with the New Zealand government has been instrumental in managing the threat posed by international nuclear disputes, as it provides the two countries with forums to discuss nuclear related disputes in a peaceful and amicable manner. Additionally, as part of the New Zealand government to improve its relationship with China, it is a member of the ASEAN treaty, which is mainly used by China in improving its diplomatic relations with countries in the region (Elder and Ayson, 2012). The treaty enables China and other Asian countries to improve economic, political and military cooperation. New Zealand as a member of the ASEAN treaty,  has been able to reduce the threat posed by various international disputes. The forum ensures that New Zealand and China continue cooperating in the area of trade, investment and education disputes that arise from time to time. 

            Finally, the New Zealand has entered into maritime territorial use agreements with China and other Asian countries with an aim of resolving maritime territorial disputes. (Ralph, 2010). The agreements focus on the area of fishing and use of fresh water in the region. The treaties have played an important role in reducing the threat to China- New Zealand diplomatic relations arising from maritime territorial disputes in the Asian region, to which the two countries are part of.


            New Zealand stands to gain a lot from its diplomatic relationship with China, in terms of investments and trade. Given that China is New Zealand, second trading pattern, it will gain a lot from the FTA due to the free trade that it will enjoy with China as far as it one third of its exports are concerned (Elder and Ayson, 2012). Therefore, New Zealand efforts to maintain good relationship with a diplomatic relationship with China should be encouraged at all times, in spite of the various international disputes that threaten the existing good relations.