The reason behind the turn around is the fact, that the Dreamliner "did not have regulatory approval to land in China and was required to return to Auckland", Air New Zealand has reportedly explained to passengers.
Taiwan - a large island territory to the east of China - has been self-governing since 1949 - but China claims it is part of the country and fiercely opposes the idea of independence.
The unorthodox incident has prompted speculation the issue with the plane's paperwork was due to an error in the airline referring to the city of Taipei as the capital of Taiwan rather than a city in China.
"We know customers will be deeply disappointed and frustrated by this situation and we are very sorry for the disruption to their travel plans", it said. 787-9 Dreamliner that entered its fleet late a year ago and was not yet certified to fly to China was "unfortunately assigned" for the Shanghai flight.
The incident marks yet another arbitrary move by Beijing to impose its ideology upon foreign companies, following the CAA order on April 24 of past year that forced airlines to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, which the U.S. White House called "Orwellian nonsense".
Ardern said Monday the issue was that all aircraft flying into China need to be registered, and the Air New Zealand plane wasn't.
Earlier on Sunday, Eric Hundman, an assistant professor at New York University Shanghai, who was on the diverted flight, shared the apology message he received from the airline, confirming Ardern's assertion.
There is no doubt that the relationship is in a hard state, and many in media and foreign affairs circles are on the lookout for any sign that China is punishing New Zealand.
"Midway through our flight, the pilot informs us that Chinese authorities had not given this plane permission to land, so we needed to turn around".
Scheduling clashes happen - we all have to postpone sometimes.
Opposition National Party leader Simon Bridges blamed Ardern and her deputy Winston Peters for "steadily deteriorating relations" with China, and said the ties were at the worst ever.
"In the past New Zealand has enjoyed a consensus approach to foreign policy, a unified front, that's in New Zealand's best interests". "Look, there are no questions speaking more broadly... that our relationship with China is a complex relationship".
Back in October, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis was so excited by the coming China-New Zealand year of tourism that he posted an official statement on the Beehive website.
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