New Zealand established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on 22 December 1972. This was formally effected by the signature of a joint communique in New York by New Zealand’s Permanent representative to the United Nations, John Scott, and his Chinese counterpart Huang Hua.
In announcing the decision the newly-elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, Hon. Norman Kirk, commented that ‘China has now re-entered the mainstream of world affairs. It is playing an active part in the United Nations. In Asia and the Pacific its influence is great, and is bound to grow. It is logical and sensible for New Zealand to recognise the People’s Republic of China and enter into normal relations with it. There is no point in delaying about such a fundamental issue.’
New Zealand’s recognition of China necessarily led to a termination of the relationship it had previously had with Taiwan. In the communique, New Zealand ‘acknowledged’ the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China and an inalienable part of its territory.
Shortly after the formal act of recognition, in March 1973, New Zealand sent a Ministerial Mission to Beijing. The purpose of the Mission, which was led by the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Joe Walding, was to establish contact at Ministerial level, and set in train an active bilateral relationship, including expanded trade links. In Beijing, the Walding Mission held talks with Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua, and was accorded a meeting with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.
By mid-1973, the two countries had exchanged ambassadors, and established a permanent diplomatic presence in each other’s capital. The foundation had been laid for a relationship that has seen unparalleled growth in its scope and importance to New Zealand over the intervening 40 years.