Chris Hipkins promotes that New Zealand 'open for business' during China trip as ministers under scrutiny at home

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was back on the charm offensive in China on Thursday.

The aim of the game was to boost tourism and he did that, securing new direct travel routes to Aotearoa.

But even 10,000 kilometres away in Shanghai, he couldn't escape questions about his ministers back home.

Hipkins engaged in a cultural exchange on Thursday in Shanghai, China, the final leg of a mission aiming to drum up business for our exporters. 

He's getting wins like new direct travel routes from China to New Zealand - 7000 more Chinese visitors a month - and a partnership with a booming new social media app boasting 260 million users.

The Shanghai serenade came off the back of a series of sit-downs with China's top brass. 

But right in the middle of his meeting with Premier Li, as Hipkins was tippy-toeing the diplomatic tightrope, another of his ministers threw out a trip-rope.

So instead of talking about China, Hipkins was talking about Kiri Allan.

Despite allegations about the way she treated staff, he’s standing by her and digging in for the defence.

Hipkins said he continues to have confidence in all of his ministers.

"I am not going to comment on rumours... I understand that my office was alerted to the Official Information Act request that was released to the National Party a couple of weeks ago... I wasn't aware of the specifics of that request until it was raised a couple of days ago."

But it's another unnecessary distraction.

"It's certainly not helpful."

Meaning the message he's trying to get across, that New Zealand is "open for business", is marred by another ministerial misadventure.