New Zealand's former ambassador to China John McKinnon believes Jacinda Ardern will travel to China

New Zealand's former ambassador to China believes Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will travel to China despite growing concern Aotearoa's relationship with the nation is on the rocks.

Concern that New Zealand's diplomatic ties with China were deteriorating came to the forefront in February when an Air New Zealand flight was denied permission to land in Shanghai.

A 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism launch event was also postponed by China, while the China People's Daily, considered a mouthpiece of the Chinese state, published an article claiming tourists are beginning to shun New Zealand.

Ms Ardern has said the two countries' relationship is complex, but downplayed concerns of cooling ties, despite an invitation for the Prime Minister to visit China being placed on hold.

But John McKinnon, who previously served as New Zealand ambassador to China, said Kiwis shouldn't read too much into it.

"I was there from 2015 to 2018 scheduling visits. It's fiendishly difficult because you're trying to line up diaries from important people in New Zealand and important people in China," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"It will happen, and it's important that it happens because those high-level visits are very significant in terms of sending messages through the system about what we think of China and what China thinks of us."

Ms McKinnon said a visit from the Prime Minister would guarantee a greater focus on New Zealand from the Chinese government.

"I'd like to see her go, and I think she will go. I wouldn't want to put a 'soon' into a particular time frame," he said.

"I'm sure it'll happen , but the point about it is that when you have a high-level visit, it means that the system in China, and this will apply in most other countries, for that moment in time it focuses on New Zealand and right up to the highest level."

He said, as with all foreign relationships, China's views of New Zealand's domestic policy changes and diplomatic strategy would need to be navigated.

"Well, I think there are always going to be areas where we say and do things where China will not necessarily agree with and vice versa," said Mr McKinnon.

"There are changes in New Zealand; there are changes in China; there are changes in the world, and it's making navigating a relationship with a country such as China more difficult and, to use the Prime Minister's words, more complex."

Some experts have speculated that the cooling of ties may be linked to the Government Communications Security Bureau's (GCBS) warning against China's Huawei telecommunication company building Spark's 5G mobile network.

Advertising from Huawei in Kiwi papers have criticised the decision.

"Huawei, I think, one would have to infer from the extent of their advertising that they still feel that they're in the game, and that would be in a technical sense very accurate.

"I mean, the decision hasn't actually been made. It's now in the hands of Spark as to what they should do with that. So Huawei may still see itself as being a contender there."

Auckland University Politics Lecturer Dr Stephen Noakes told Newshub Nation that over-analysing the relationship between New Zealand and China should be avoided.

"There is an inherent danger in the power of suggestion - and in reading the tea leaves on the China relationship in the way that national media has done," he said.

"China is going to be China and we should let them. We're not going to talk it out of anything that we wish we could probably talk it out of. It's going to be what it is whether we sell milk to China or not. So we might as well sell milk to China."