The Chinese Embassy is urging Judith Collins to remember that "Taiwan is part of China" after the National Party leader said she didn't think China would mind if she referred to Taiwan as a nation.
New Zealand does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan because the Government follows what's called the 'one China policy', which asserts that there is only one sovereign state under the name China.
It's opposed to the idea that there are two states, the People's Republic of China - which is the China most of us know - and the Republic of China, which is the official name of Taiwan. The People's Republic of China claims Taiwan as its own.
Collins was asked on Tuesday if she would change New Zealand's official position on Taiwan if she became Prime Minister, after she had referred to Taiwan as a country when discussing its success in combating COVID-19.
"We can't really because of the fact that we have this relationship with the People's Republic of China. But let's be frank here, some of the biggest investors in China come out of Taiwan and some of the biggest investors in Taiwan come out of China," Collins said.
The Opposition leader was asked if she is worried that referring to Taiwan as a country might upset China and threaten New Zealand's trade relations with the Asian powerhouse.
"Do you know what? I don't think so. I think the fact is the thought that the People's Republic of China is so concerned about what I might say around the Taiwanese response to COVID-19, I think they're bigger than that, actually," she said.
The Chinese Embassy in New Zealand is now urging the National Party to respect the 'one China' policy and to remember that "Taiwan is part of China".
A spokesperson told Newshub: "Our position is very clear: Taiwan is part of China and is not a nation. We hope the National Party will adhere to the one China policy."
Collins is not the first New Zealand politician to get a warning from China over Taiwan.
The Chinese Embassy issued a pointed statement on New Zealand's position on Taiwan and the World Health Organization (WHO) in May after Foreign Minister Winston Peters expressed support for it to join the United Nations body.
Peters said at the time Taiwan's handling of the coronavirus had been a "standout world success story" and said China must "surely want to know the secret of their success" by allowing them to join the WHO.
The Chinese Embassy responded, "WHO is a specialised UN agency composed of sovereign states. As a province of China, Taiwan is not eligible for the membership of WHO."
In response to the statement Peters said the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wu Xi should "listen to her master, Wang Yi, back in Beijing" who had given him assurances "China does not behave that way".
Tensions between China and New Zealand increased after the Government recently suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's decision to pass a controversial national security law for the semi-autonomous region.
China responded by suspending Hong Kong's extradition treaty with New Zealand, and has accused New Zealand of "gross interference" in its internal affairs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a speech to the Chinese business community in July, in which she said New Zealand-China bilateral relations have been stable. But she also expressed concern over Hong Kong and the treatment of Uighur Muslims.
China is New Zealand's largest trading partner with two way trade increasing from $10 billion in 2007 to $30 billion in 2018, spearheaded by the 2008 New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement - China's first with a developed nation.