China is turning up the heat on New Zealand, threatening our booming tourism industry will take a lashing on the back of the Huawei saga.
An article published in the English version of China's People's Daily newspaper suggests New Zealand has fallen out of favour with Chinese travellers.
The paper, regarded as the mouthpiece for the Chinese government, quotes a traveller who saved more than $3200 to come to New Zealand but cancelled his plans.
"Is it a kind of robbery? New Zealand stabbed us in the back but asks for our money? This is double-faced," a Beijing-based worker told the Global Times.
The self-confessed Chinese patriot said he decided to travel to neighbouring countries over resentment towards New Zealand.
Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper said the Chinese were good at targeting certain industries that countries relied upon.
"For the first time in many years, New Zealand has been listed as not in the top 10 preferred travel destinations," he said.
"That's got to be a big concern, not just for the tourism industry but for the $27 billion of two-way trade that we do with China every year.
"It says a lot about this government that promised us absolute transparency, going to be the most transparent government on record."
In the past week, the issue of New Zealand's deteriorating diplomatic relationship with China has exploded into the public arena.
On Tuesday, the Herald reported Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.
The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was also meant to be launched at Wellington's Te Papa museum next week, but that has been postponed by China.
We have had a "brilliant relationship" with the Chinese Government, Beijing-based Kiwi businessman David Mahon.
But he believes that in the last 12 months it has gone into reverse.
"So there is now a very different view, almost an opposite view of New Zealand."
What's caused that?
Rising tension between China and the US - the trade war and the stand-off over telco Huawei's ambitions to build the new 5G mobile network around the world have put New Zealand in a difficult diplomatic position.
And the messaging from the New Zealand Government has not been clear enough, he says.
The Government decision to exclude Huawei from Spark's 5G network tender process has now been qualified as a "concern" but it was initially presented as a "ban", Mahon says.
"And that's how it was taken in Beijing," he says. "We didn't have discussion with them over concerns. We announced this publicly and as a result they now feel they cannot trust us."
The Prime Minister has denied there is a serious diplomatic issue with China, although she has acknowledged challenges.
"Clearly there's a lot going on in this relationship that the government isn't telling us," Soper said.
"And we see last night that Hong Kong Airlines are pulling out of New Zealand in May and that's another kick in the guts for New Zealand by the Chinese.
"The Chinese are very good at targeting areas where they know it will hurt the most and the Huawei decision [has] obviously been a big issue for China."