Chinese Premier Li Qiang will visit New Zealand this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said on Monday.

Luxon said he looked forward to “warmly welcoming” Li in New Zealand this week and his visit would be a “valuable opportunity for exchanges on areas of cooperation between New Zealand and China”.

“New Zealand and China engage where we have shared interests, and we speak frankly and constructively with each other where we have differences. Our relationship is significant, complex and resilient,” Luxon said.

“The challenging global outlook makes it vital that we are sharing perspectives and engaging China on key issues that matter to New Zealand.”

Luxon added that his country aimed to “expand trade everywhere” and that he was “confident that trade with China will continue to grow”, while also noting that his focus was on “peace and stability” in the Indo-Pacific region.

The visit is expected to include bilateral talks and an official dinner in Wellington. Li is also expected to have engagements in Auckland focused on business, agritech, education and people-to-people connections.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has described his country’s relationship with China as “significant, complex and resilient”. Photo: Xinhua
This is the second visit by a high-ranking Chinese official to New Zealand this year. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a five-day trip to the country in late March and met Luxon. While there, he said China’s ties with New Zealand were “a force for stability”.

It will be the first visit by a Chinese premier since 2017, when then premier Li Keqiang visited Wellington and met John Key, New Zealand’s prime minister at the time.

New Zealand has long been seen as a moderate voice on China, its largest trade partner. But in recent years, it has spoken up about what it considers to be concerning actions by China.

New Zealand is among the candidates to join Pillar 2 of an expanded Aukus alliance – the trilateral defence technology sharing pact between the United States, Britain and Australia. The defence chiefs of the three member states announced the pact’s expansion in April.

Launched in 2021, Aukus has two key pillars: Pillar 1 supports Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines, while Pillar 2 focuses on cutting-edge technologies, including quantum computing, artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons.

The first pillar is limited to the core trio, with no plans for additional member states, while the expansion would take place in the second pillar, with Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Canada also reportedly listed as prospective partners.

In February, Australian officials reportedly gave their New Zealand counterparts a “background briefing” on joining Aukus, according to New Zealand’s defence ministry.

Beijing has repeatedly opposed the establishment and expansion of Aukus, saying it has “undermined the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and triggered arms races” in the region.