Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office has confirmed she will not visit China this year.

Ardern was invited a year ago by Premier Li Keqiang to visit but with the end of the year fast approaching, her office said it had been difficult to find a time that suited everyone.

"All capitals are busy approaching the end of the year, and Beijing is no exception. The PM is looking forward to visiting China at the earliest opportunity," Ardern's office said in a statement.

"China is one of New Zealand's most important international relationships. Visiting Beijing will build on her constructive discussions with Premier Li at the East Asia Summit earlier this month, where a visit was discussed again. It was agreed during those discussions that there is much on which our two countries can work together," the statement said.


The East Asia Summit was held in Singapore just before Apec in Port Moresby where a trade spat between the United States and China led to a failure to produce an Apec consensus.

The dispute was mainly over a sentence in the draft communique that read: "We agreed to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices."

China reportedly refused to agree to the sentence as it amounted to singling out Chinese trade practices.

It was the first time in Apec's 29-year history that a communique was not issued.

Ardern earlier described the failure to reach a consensus on the communique as "disappointing".

During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Vice President Mike Pence made competing cases about trade, attacking each other's position as they vied for global influence.

Xi met leaders of seven Pacific Island countries on the sidelines in a bid to strengthen trade and tourism, while the US said it would join Australia in developing a naval base in Papua New Guinea, a move seen to counter China's influence.

Trade Minister David Parker has said New Zealand was trying to position itself as the bridge between the US and China.


"We have a bit of a reputation for the honest broker, and it's times like this that we should draw upon that reputation," he told Newshub Nation last week.

Another issue on the radar in the relationship between China and New Zealand however, is the apparent targeting of China researcher Anne-Marie Brady.

Police have been investigating burglaries at the Christchurch academic's home and workplace, and allegations her car was tampered with.

University of Canterbury professor Brady has gained international profile over the past 18 months for her work exposing China's influence campaigns, notably a landmark paper in September Magic Weapons: China's political influence activities under Xi Jinping using New Zealand as a case study.

She told an Australian parliamentary committee in February she believed she was being targeted by a campaign of criminal harassment in direct response to her work investigating China's foreign policy.