Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is again opening its arms to tourists and students from China, as the borders fully re-open today under Covid management.
She said she is looking forward to the resumption of ministerial visits with China as Covid allows, and she hoped to lead a business delegation herself "to renew and refresh in-person connections".
In a veiled reference to China's threats of "resolute and forceful measures" over a possible visit by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, Ardern called for "diplomacy, de-escalation and dialogue".
She also called on China to use its interest in the region to deal with climate change and to use its influence with Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine.
Speaking at the China Business Summit in Auckland this morning, including Chinese ambassador Wang Xiaolong, she said New Zealanders were natural hosts.
"Manaakitanga streams through our veins and we open our arms to tourists and students including from China – which prior to 2020 was New Zealand's largest source of international students and second largest source of tourists.
"To those looking to make the journey, haere mai, we welcome you."
New Zealand's borders have been undergoing a phased reopening, with today being the first full day of open borders since Covid closed them in March 2020. China's borders, however, remain restricted as it pursues an elimination strategy.
Ardern spoke about international rules, norms and institutions being under threat, and pointed to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"As history shows us repeatedly, when large countries disregard sovereignty and territorial integrity with a sense of impunity, it does not bode well, particularly for small countries like New Zealand.
"And that's why, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and in line with its commitment to the UN Charter, we continue to urge China to be clear that it does not support the Russian invasion, and have called on China to use its access and influence to help bring an end to the conflict."
The implications of war were global and were felt far from Europe, including in the Indo-Pacific.
"In response to increasing tensions or risks in the region – be they in the Pacific, the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait - New Zealand's position remains consistent – we call for adherence to international rules and norms, for diplomacy, de-escalation and dialogue rather than threats, force and coercion."
Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific, including to Singapore, Japan and South Korea, but early plans to include Taiwan in the itinerary have been met with fury in China and unspecified "serious consequences".
In reference to other recent tensions, China's security pact with the Solomon Islands and bid for a wider Pacific agreement, Ardern said that the priority of others outside the region should be climate change.
"My message to all who wish to extend support and influence in any way to any region outside their own, is to extend that support first and foremost to tackle the violence of climate change.
"This is how we as an international community can make a lasting difference in bringing about the security of a stable planet."
She referred to managing the differences between New Zealand and China, which this year mark 50 years of diplomatic relations.
"Managing the differences in our relationship is not always going to be easy and there are no guarantees," she said. "But, as a government, we continue to work hard – through dialogue and diplomacy.
"We will never take our relationship for granted, but nor do we assume that it will not evolve."
As China's role in the region grew, its views and actions naturally reverberated with great significance.
"But even as China becomes more assertive in the pursuit of its interests, there are still shared interests on which we can and should cooperate."
She said New Zealand had been firm and consistent in its commitment to the one-China policy, and more recently in the implementation of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
But the two countries had their own world view, shaped by distinct political systems, histories and cultures.
"New Zealand's approach has been consistent. We have, over decades, had a fiercely independent foreign policy driven by our assessment of our interests and values.
In an apparent reference to human rights, she said there were areas that mattered deeply to New Zealand.
"In all of these areas, we are willing to engage – consistently, predictably and respectfully. But we will also advocate for approach and outcomes that reflect New Zealand's interests and values, and speak out on issues that do not.
"New Zealanders – and an independent foreign policy – demand nothing less.
Repeating a message from the same summit last year, she said: "Our differences need not define us but we cannot ignore them."