Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's positive view of New Zealand-China relations backed by experts

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's optimistic outlook on New Zealand's relationship with China has the backing of experts.

On Monday, Ms Ardern confirmed the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism event will launch later this month at Wellington's Te Papa museum after being postponed by China.

The delay fuelled concerns that diplomatic ties with China were cooling, with the People's Daily, a mouthpiece for the Chinese state, publishing an article claiming tourists were shunning New Zealand. 

But Ms Ardern has consistently downplayed the postponement and said the delay was simply a scheduling issue.

"Those conversations have continued [since the launch was postponed] and we got confirmation very recently that everyone was now in a position to talk about those dates at the end of March," she told The AM Show on Tuesday.

Ms Ardern also hasn't visited China since she came to power, but said there just hadn't been an opportunity for both sides to meet.

"Obviously, I had an invitation extended to me sometime ago, and for us it is a matter of both finding dates that work on our side but also, of course, on China's side.

"My aspiration has been for it to be as soon as we are able. As soon as we have got something to share, and we have found something that works for everyone, we will be sure to share it with you," she said.

The Prime Minister's optimistic view of the relationship was supported by Stephen Jacobi, the executive director of the New Zealand-China Council, who called the Year of Tourism event a "positive step".

"We have got the launch reinstated and a Minister coming to do it, it is not very often we have a Chinese Minister visiting New Zealand, so let's bank that and let's get on with the business," he told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"I think she will visit, but just when, we don't know."

Mr Jacobi said from a New Zealand perspective, it was vital Ms Ardern travelled to China - Aotearoa's largest trading partner.

But he also reckoned Kiwis need to recognise that China doesn't obsess over us.

"It is vitally important that the Prime Minister goes to China from New Zealand's perspective, but you have to realise that the Chinese don't wake up every day and wonder about what is happening in New Zealand"

Stephen Hoadley, an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland specialising in foreign and trade policies, agrees and said China doesn't need New Zealand as much as New Zealand needs China.

"If China did want to send a message of disapprobation, the Chinese would be very wise to start with New Zealand because New Zealand products and New Zealand diplomacy are not essential to China," he told Newshub.

"China would suffer not one bit from the lack of infant milk powder, whereas New Zealand would be very severely handicapped".

Some experts have speculated that the cooling of ties may be linked to the Government Communications Security Bureau's (GCBS) warning against China's Huawei telecommunication company building Spark's 5G mobile network.

Mr Jacobi said the Chinese have made it clear that they don't agree with everything the New Zealand Government does, but that was to be expected.

"There are always going to be disagreements and disappointments, and even occasional setbacks."

But Mr Hoadley said any signs of tension have been exaggerated.

"Has trade been intercepted and been reduced? No. Have other diplomats had full contact with their Chinese counterparts? Yes."

On Saturday, former New Zealand ambassador to China, John McKinnon, said Ms Ardern's assertion that delays in her visiting to China were due to scheduling conflicts was likely correct.

"I was there from 2015 to 2018 scheduling visits. It's fiendishly difficult because you're trying to line up diaries from important people in New Zealand and important people in China," he told Newshub Nation.

"It will happen, and it's important that it happens because those high-level visits are very significant in terms of sending messages through the system about what we think of China and what China thinks of us."

Ms Ardern said she has still had opportunities to meet with Chinese leadership during bi-lateral meetings at other foreign events, but stressed the Government wouldn't get complacent about the countries' relationship.

"They are important relationships, but actually, our tourism numbers with China have gone up, we haven't experienced anything unusual at the border for our exporters... we are keeping a check on those issues as well."

She said the Year of Tourism had already begun, despite the delay from the Chinese Government.

"Things have already been happening anyway. This is one event and there other events. Those who live in Wellington will know that the Terracotta Warriors are here. There has been training programmes going on in Rotorua.

"The whole aim of this Year of Tourism is to try and encourage those who are coming as tourists from China to visits other parts of New Zealand, stay a little longer, to expand the kind of experience they have."