Jacinda Ardern meets Chinese leaders despite spying fears

The Prime Minister is refusing to say whether she's using her own personal phone in China or a burner phone, like her staff, to avoid any potential security risks like eavesdropping spies.

Jacinda Ardern's meeting with the Chinese President and Premier on Monday - with the most challenging subject likely to be Huawei and the blocking of the tech giant's 5G plans in New Zealand.

Ardern had a long lunch with Premier Li Keqiang, who extended his condolences over the Christchurch terrorist attack.

But the media were quickly herded out before the inevitable thorny topic - how do you solve a problem like Huawei.

"Certainly I'll set out process and something entirely separate from us as politicians," Ardern told media.

The Prime Minister was distancing herself from the decision to block Huawei's planned roll out of 5G in New Zealand. It's on our spies - the GCSB - but they, of course, work for her.

The US has led the anti-Huawei offensive, saying it opens countries up to Chinese cyber espionage. And last week British spies issued a dire warning about long-term national security risks posed by Huawei.

Our government has blamed the Chinese government for a major global cyber-attack before, and it's still such a risk that staff from the prime minister's office aren't using their usual New Zealand numbers here in Beijing.

"I'm not going to get into individual devices I have what I'm using and what I'm not using regardless of what country I'm in I wouldn't give away that level of detail," Ardern said.

New Zealand is reinforcing its presence in China, officially opening the embassy in Beijing - our biggest in the world.

But the celebration was muted by the effects of the Christchurch terror attack, still keenly felt half a world away from home.

"Today had intended to be a very different than the one we're having today," Ardern acknowledged.



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