The New Zealand Government needs to take care of its relationship with China, warns National leader Simon Bridges.
He said New Zealand's default position should not be to question the legitimacy of China's actions in the Pacific and around the world.
The failure of Prime Minister of Jacinda Ardern to secure a visit to Beijing this year was a sign that New Zealand was not a priority for China, he claimed.
And New Zealand should be careful not to take sides in the "stoush" between the United States and rival superpower China.
Bridges also said he was not aware of any evidence to suggest New Zealand should join Australia and the United States in banning the Huawei telecommunications company from tendering in some aspects of the delivery of a 5G network.
Bridges was speaking to reporters at Parliament in the wake of confirmation from the Prime Minister's office that a trip she had hoped to make to Beijing would not happen.
She insists it is not a diplomatic snub and says that if there were any rift, she would not have been able to have a bilateral meeting with Premier Li Keqiang in Singapore two weeks ago at the East Asia Summit.
But Bridges said the Chinese Government was sending a clear message that it had other priorities.
He said Foreign Minister Winston Peters through comments in a Strategic Defence Policy Statement and in his questions about the Belt and Road Initiative – which the former Government supported - had suggested New Zealand had concerns about China.
But Bridges said New Zealand had an independent foreign policy and should take care not to take sides.
"I do think in these matters where they are big partners of ours, we should be temperate in our language, we should take care…we shouldn't take sides.
"And that's not about being weak. Where there are specific issues, we should be dealing with them and making clear our position to China but also to the United States."
Where there was evidence in relation to security or in relation to claims of intimidation by China-watcher Anne-Marie Brady, the issues should be dealt with seriously.
But where the was not evidence, New Zealand should not be adopting intemperate language just because that was what America was doing.
As a superpower, the United States had legitimate interests around the world and he was relaxed about it establishing a naval base in Lombrum, Papua New Guinea, with Australia.
"I think what is also true is China is now a superpower. It's a massive economy. It has got a very significant military so we shouldn't start with the default position that everything they do around the Pacific, everything they do around the world is going to be illegitimate, because often-times it wont be."
Asked if he would be relaxed with China establishing a naval base in the Pacific – it is rumoured to want one - Bridges said he would understand concerns about it.
"But I come back to it. Our obligation in terms of New Zealand's core interests is to be temperate and to do our best to walk a line of not getting into some US-China stoush."
Asked about any potential role for Huawei in providing 5G in New Zealand, Bridges said he was not aware New Zealand had seen any evidence against it.
"Huawei is top of the game in terms of telecommunications infrastructure and equipment and if they are not part of a tendering process for some of these things in New Zealand, there will be quality and there will be pricing issues that go with that.
"That is not a reason ultimately if the evidence was there not to do something but it is a reason to say actually let's have some evidence. Let's have a clear case if we were going to do what other countries like Australia have done and ban them.
"I think we are a far way away from that."
Ardern would offer no definite view when asked which country, United States or China, was more important to New Zealand.
"Some of the discussion around choosing lanes in which we swim does not fit with our independent foreign policy," she told reporters.
"New Zealand has a range of important relationships, some for different reasons, some with different histories. But for me, the most important thing is maintaining the independence of that foreign policy basing it around New Zealand values, upholding those values and continuing to strengthen them when it is in New Zealand's interests."