Confucius once said the palest ink is better than the most retentive memory and as John Key meets and dines with the President of China this week, they'll be no doubt be reflecting that NZ was the first in the world to sign on the dotted line, diplomatically recognising the vast republic.

In the same year, 1972, a former pie maker from Palmy, the rotund Joe Walding became the first Kiwi cabinet minister to visit what was then a closed country ruled by a man, Mao Zedong, rather than by the rule of law.

Few would have imagined then that the most populous nation on earth would today be world's economic powerhouse. The cultural revolution has been replaced by an economic revolution.

Beijing just 20 years ago was a city teaming with bicycles, where the view across Tiananmen Square was crystal clear. Today it's teaming with traffic and thick with pollution which makes it difficult to see with great clarity the massive portrait of Mao if you're standing on the opposite side of the square.


A NZ delegation is today in the Chinese capital that just last week swamped by the Australians. Malcolm Turnbull took along a thousand of his country's business people for the ride - while this country mustered up just 41.

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The year John Key became Prime Minister the free trade agreement with China came into effect, another first for this country.

But since then the Aussies have secured their own deal and two-way trade with China is now worth around $NZ700 billion compared to this country's nineteen billion. It seems the Australian trade deal is a bit more generous than ours, understandable considering how the Chinese economy's opened up significantly since our deal was signed.

So the Prime Minister's mission is to try and squeeze a few concessions out of the Chinese this week. The insatiable demand of the fiery dragon for our goods has far outstripped what our trade deal originally anticipated, which means additional tariffs cut in earlier as import quotas are reached. The argument will be to extend the quotas - easier said than done of course.

For the Chinese, there's little sentiment in business these days regardless of what Confucius might have said.

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