New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, ahead of his official trip to China at end of this month, said on Thursday he did not agree with U.S. President Joe Biden's remark that Chinese leader Xi Jinping was a dictator.
"No, and the form of government that China has is a matter for the Chinese people," Hipkins told reporters.
Asked by a reporter whether the Chinese people had a say in the form of government, Hipkins said: "if they wanted to change their system of government, then that would be a matter for them."
Hipkins is scheduled to visit China from June 25 to 30, leading a trade delegation that includes some of New Zealand's biggest companies. He will meet Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang, and the chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress, Zhao Leji.
China hit back on Wednesday after Biden referred to President Xi Jinping as a "dictator", saying the remarks were absurd and a provocation, an unexpected flare-up following attempts by both sides to reduce friction.