Emails reveal NZDF wanted to go harder on the threat of Chinese influence

Jacinda Ardern is likely to cross paths with China's President at APEC later this week - meeting for the first time since her government's war of words with Chinese officials.

China was fuming over the strong language used in July's Defence Policy Statement but Newshub can reveal that was the toned down version.

New Zealand is more concerned than ever about Chinese influence, the government making that clear in its Defence Policy Statement in July.

A TV show produced by Chinese state media bringing Chinese news to the Pacific is the latest sign of a growing Chinese influence.

China's also started a direct flight from Shanghai to Port Morseby and is lavishing gifts on Papua New Guinea - the poorest APEC nation, most recently nearly 100 vehicles to help PNG host APEC.

But Newshub can reveal what was released to the public was the dialed back version.

Defence wanted to go harder than diplomats.

Emails show diplomatic tiptoeing around how to describe any threat posed by China.

The NZDF refers to "sticking points" including it calling for "more meat on the bones of the 'Rules-based Order' section".

Translation: in the section all about China - Defence wanted to go harder on the threat China poses to international rules.

Defence also suggested MFAT's diplomats make their language more "transparent" and "plain speaking".

National's Defence spokesperson says we should have spoken directly to the Chinese, instead of publically distancing ourselves.

"I just don't like the way we are sending these strange messages through a defence paper that seems to be hardening our relationship with China," Mark Mitchell said.

But the Defence Minister insists everyone's on the same page.

"There's no daylight between any Government minister or Government ministry on that final print," Ron Mark said.

Even after being watered down, China was still seriously unimpressed with the language telling New Zealand to "correct its wrong words".

Jacinda Ardern is en route to APEC via Singapore which will be the first time she's seen the Chinese President since the war of words.

These emails offer a rare insight into what's usually closed-door diplomacy

New Zealand's walking a tightrope, keeping China, a super power and major trading partner on side, while also trying to combat its growing influence in the Pacific.