As Hong Kong protesters enter their third month of demonstrations, Simon Bridges has reassured China that New Zealand "understands and accepts" China's sovereignty.
The National Party leader is in China for a five-day visit, and sat down with state-owned news channel CGTN for an interview.
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He praised the Communist Party of China (CPC) for taking the country from mass poverty to economic prosperity, calling it an "amazing story".
"It's the [story] that I think New Zealanders are related to, because we have direct beneficiaries of it as well, as our trade has grown and we have been able to share that growing prosperity of China."
He said New Zealand enjoyed a "very strong" relationship with China as a trading partner.
"The transformation has been so dramatic," he said. "We have felt the privilege of being able to have many firsts with your party and with your country."
Those 'firsts' included the countries' first free trade agreement and New Zealand joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"These things have been very good between our countries, and of course have been driven by the CPC," Bridges added.
Bridges was then asked his opinion on the ongoing Hong Kong demonstrations, which the interviewer referred to as "illegal and violent incidents".
"We understand and accept China's sovereignty in Hong Kong," Bridges replied. "We want to see the peaceful resolution. I think the recent step around the extradition bill, to remove it, that's been very positive."
On Friday (local time), Bridges and National NZSIS spokesperson Gerry Brownlee met with Guo Shengkun, head of national spy agency the Ministry of State Security (MSS).
In a tweet responding to the meeting, prominent China critic Professor Anne-Marie Brady called Shengkun the leader of China's "secret police".
Also present at the meeting was Dr Yang Jian, an MP who admitted to training Chinese spies to monitor other countries' communications while he was working in military intelligence.
During his interview with CGTN, Bridges was also asked about increasing global instability and unilateralism, and again he reiterated New Zealand's support for China.
"As a small country, we never do well out of what might be the right approach, with the biggest and strongest always winning. We stand to gain and do well out of multilateralism, out of the rule of law, out of mutual cooperation, and this is our approach."
He cited problems with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), of which China and New Zealand are both members, as an example of unilateralism on the part of President Donald Trump's administration.
"Now we have a situation that we come to see that certainly in early next year, the WTO will not be able to function, because the US is not allowing new judges to be appointed. This is not right and it's not in New Zealand's interests – it needs multilateralism, that needs understanding, that needs what Winston Churchill once said: "Jaw-jaw, not war-war."