New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that her long-awaited first official trip to China will take place next week, though the trip has been shortened in the wake of the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch. Ardern said she would travel to Beijing on Sunday then hold a full day of meetings the next day with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, before returning home the next day. During the visit, she will open New Zealand’s new embassy in Beijing, constructed on the site of the current embassy. It is New Zealand’s largest foreign diplomatic operation, with 80 staff members, according to the New Zealand Herald . She said she did not want to spend too long away from New Zealand as it continues to mourn the victims of the twin mosque massacre on March 15 that claimed 50 lives. China bans Huawei from 5G, prompting backlash from Beijing “It was originally intended to be a longer visit, including a business delegation, but under the circumstances that did not seem appropriate to be away for longer,” she told reporters. It will be Ardern’s first visit to China, New Zealand’s largest trading partner, since she was elected in late 2017 – an unusually long wait for the leader of a nation that signed a pioneering free-trade deal with Beijing in 2008. Experts said the timing of the visit was significant given the difficulties New Zealand has faced in the past few weeks. “The Prime Minister has been under a lot of public attention and is still finding time to visit China,” said Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the New Zealand China Council. “The Chinese government is making it possible for her to visit quickly.” In the wake of the attacks, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang expressed China’s condemnation of the incident. “We express our condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured,” said Lu. There were fears Beijing had postponed the trip amid strained relations after New Zealand’s intelligence agency last November halted plans for Chinese-owned Huawei to participate in a proposed 5G network, citing “significant security risks”. Ardern has repeatedly played down the Huawei spat and did not directly address it on Monday. “This is an important visit, New Zealand places a high priority on our relationship with China,” she said. “I look forward to our ongoing engagement.” There are some things which New Zealand has done, and which China has done, which the other side may not see eye to eye on, which the visit presents the opportunity to discuss. Stephen Jacobi, NZ China Council She said discussion items would include upgrading the bilateral free trade deal and combating climate change. Negotiations are ongoing on an upgrade to the free trade agreement between the two nations. The meeting comes after “some disturbance in the relationship”, said Jacobi. “There are some things which New Zealand has done, and which China has done, which the other side may not see eye to eye on, which the visit presents the opportunity to discuss properly.” New Zealand trade minister David Parker will be in Beijing at the Belt and Road forum in a few weeks, and New Zealand’s perspective on the Belt and Road Initiative may be on the table for this weekend’s visit, said Jacobi. New Zealand expands diplomatic presence in the Pacific After Wellington’s decision on Huawei, which it took in support of its fellow members in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, there was a debate on whether it had finally chosen a side in its long-running balancing act between the United States and China – its two most important economic partners. The US had asked other partners in the alliance – which includes Australia, Britain and Canada – to refrain from business dealings with Huawei over suspicions the tech giant could be spying on behalf of the mainland Chinese government. Former New Zealand PM distances herself from pro-Beijing article in Chinese state media In response, Huawei took out full-page advertisements in major New Zealand newspapers equating the roll-out of a 5G network without its technology to a rugby competition without the world champion All Blacks team. The timing of the visit shows both New Zealand and China value the relationship, said associate professor Jason Young from the Victoria University of Wellington.