While Key’s visit to China this week – built around giving assurances over food safety standards – is unusual, it is hard to argue with the evidence that relations with China continue to deepen and broaden.
Trade with China, an economy strongly controlled by officials in Beijing, continues to grow at remarkable speed.
Yesterday, there was formal announcement that New Zealand would be allowed direct currency trade with China, becoming one of only a handful of currencies in the world to do so.
That’s significant and useful, as we no longer have to do a double exchange by converting to say US first.
All of this came ahead of tonight’s dinner, intimate in terms of state dinners at eight or nine guests a side, believed to be the first with a New Zealand prime minister since David Lange in the 1980s.
In the lead-up to this trip, the schedule appeared lacking in any event which could match the pageantry of last year’s 19-gun salute on the courtyard in front of Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
But the night’s dinner suggests both that China has no interest in embarrassing New Zealand over the botulism scare, and that the relationship between the leaders is warm and personal.
This is Key’s third meeting with President Xi Jinping in a year, possibly the most the Chinese leader has had with any foreign leader.
As Stuff says, this does not win votes but …
Such details win few votes at home, especially with no media attending the dinner.
But in terms of giving confidence that all is well with one of the main drivers of New Zealand’s economy, it is hard to beat.
China has a growing middle class. They is a great opportunity for countries that can produce goods and services middle class Chinese families want.