China-NZ rift: Jacinda Ardern confirms Wellington tourism event back on

Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism event will launch this month after it was postponed by China. 

The event was set to launch at Wellington's Te Papa museum in February, but China postponed it, citing scheduling issues. It sparked speculation the Chinese government was sending New Zealand an ominous message.  

Manager of tourism policy at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Richard Davies, announced at the time that China had "advised that this event has had to be postponed due to changes of schedule on the Chinese side".

It came after the Prime Minister's scheduled visit to China was last year put on hold, prompting suspicion that China may have taken offence to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) warning Spark against using Huawei's equipment for 5G. 

Ms Ardern confirmed in her Monday press conference that the tourism event would go ahead and launch on March 29 in Wellington, with a delegation from China to be led by the Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism, Luo Shugung. 

"Government officials have been continuing to work with the Chinese Embassy on rescheduling the official opening ceremony for the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism," the Prime Minister said, adding that the event "will be hosted by the Chinese government". 

The Prime Minister did not confirm, however, whether her trip to China was still on the table. Inevitably, comparisons have been made between Ms Ardern and former Prime Minister John Key, who regularly visited China. 

Talk of a rift between China and New Zealand was exacerbated by recent Chinese newspaper articles that speculated there were tensions. For example, an article published in the China People's Daily, considered a mouthpiece for the Chinese state, claimed tourists were turning away from New Zealand

Another article published in the Global Times, also considered a Chinese government mouthpiece, warned New Zealand against the Government's "unethical" behaviour towards Huawei, and said the Government's recent actions went against New Zealand's interests. 

The controversy goes back to November when the GCSB identified major network security risks in Chinese company Huawei's equipment after telecom operator Spark notified the government agency, as is required by law, that it wanted to use the technology for 5G. 

Last month the Prime Minister said she was not concerned about the rescheduling of the tourism event. When asked what she thought about China's reasoning for postponing it, she said: "When I'm given a reason, it is not for me to question that."