Prime Minister Chris Hipkins lands in Beijing for week-long trade trip

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has touched down in Beijing on Monday morning (NZ time) beginning his week-long trade trip to China highlighted by a meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Hipkins landed at 2:30am and was greeted at the airport by New Zealand's ambassador to Beijing Grahame Morton and a welcoming committee of Chinese soldiers and officials.

The Prime Minister was met by China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ma Zhaoxu on the tarmac. 

Accompanying Hipkins is a group of business leaders, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor and Tourism Minister Peeni Henare, marking the first visit to the country by a New Zealand Prime Minister since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Trade isn't all that's on the agenda, with Hipkins also looking to discuss important issues such as climate change, human rights and the war in Ukraine. 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins arrives in Beijing, China.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins arrives in Beijing, China. Photo credit: AM

Newshub's Political Editor Jenna Lynch is in China with the Prime Minister for the trip and told AM it will be high stakes. 

"He (Hipkins) has brought with him the largest-ever business delegation," she said. 

"Today is all about showcasing New Zealand and the Prime Minister will be showcasing his cheffing skills, jumping on the barbecue to cook for the Chinese ski team before he is off to Tianjin for a meeting with the World Economic Forum."

The Prime Minister's trip will include stops in Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, with events including a sustainability forum, a gala dinner, giving a keynote address at Peking University, and attending the World Economic Forum "annual meeting of new champions".

The big ticket item on the trip for the Prime Minister is a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

He is also lined up to meet with Premier Li Qiang, and chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Zhao Leji.

The New Zealand delegation includes representatives from a wide range of sectors including dairy, tourism, education and gaming.

Executive director of the New Zealand China Council Alistair Crozier told AM on Monday while Aotearoa's primary produce exporters have been a "bedrock" of the trade relationship with China, new sectors like gaming are also proving a hit.

"There's always new areas for growth in the Chinese economy," Crozier told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.

"When you look at some of the success stories over the last few years, perhaps under the radar here, such as Les Mills and what they've been able to achieve in that health and wellness sector, some of the work people like Sir Richard Taylor have been doing in new areas like the metaverse, the gaming sector. New Zealand's value proposition is as strong there as it is with our primary produce."

Executive director of the New Zealand China Council Alistair Crozier.
Executive director of the New Zealand China Council Alistair Crozier. Photo credit: AM

China was one of the last major economies in the world to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and Crozier says it's been a "bumpy ride".

Despite that slow emergence, Crozier believes they've fully moved on from COVID which is good news for our exporters as China is New Zealand's largest trading partner.

"I think that's one of the first impressions we all had when we hit the ground in May was that no one talked about COVID, it's in the past now and everyone's focused on the future," he told AM.

"China's increasingly digital in the way it consumes and so, order in meals and takeaway coffees delivered to your door and things like that are certainly a trend now.

"But Chinese people love to go out, They love to eat, it's a very social thing and certainly the streets looked as dynamic and busy as they were in my previous visits."