Taiwan's representative in Auckland has rejected the Chinese Embassy's "overtly untrue" message to National Party leader Judith Collins that "Taiwan is part of China".
Jeff Liu, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, says Taiwan is a "full-fledged democracy" with its "own government and military" and is independent from the People's Republic of China (PRC).
"Taiwan's president is directly elected by its people. Taiwanese people travel around the globe on passports issued by Taiwan government. All of these facts tell that the PRC's claims over Taiwan are totally groundless," Liu said in a statement to Newshub.
It comes after the Chinese Embassy urged Collins on Tuesday to remember that "Taiwan is part of China" after the Opposition 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 if she would change New Zealand's official position on Taiwan if she became Prime Minister, after she 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.
Collins was then 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.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy 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."
The response sparked backlash from ACT leader David Seymour who said China "should not be telling any party in New Zealand how to campaign" and said China should "be learning from Taiwan how to run free and fair elections".
Seymour wants to establish an Epidemic Response Unit in New Zealand based on Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Centre, and thinks New Zealand should adopt its technology-driven response to the coronavirus.
Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, has only recorded seven deaths and 495 cases since the pandemic began. Compare that to Australia, with a similar population, which has recorded more than 700 deaths and more than 26,000 cases.
Liu sent Newshub an article written in August by Taiwan's Foreign Minister Dr Joseph Wu, which highlights Taiwan's success in fighting COVID-19 and makes the case for Taiwan to join the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"We have joined forces with like-minded democracies to explore the development of rapid test kits, medicines, and vaccines. Working together for the greater good is how the world will defeat COVID-19," Dr Wu wrote.
But China claims Taiwan as its territory and has blocked it from joining the United Nations body, which itself regards Taiwan as part of China under Beijing's 'one China' policy.
The Chinese Embassy issued a pointed statement in May on New Zealand's position on Taiwan after Foreign Minister Winston Peters expressed support for it to join the WHO.
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".