Foreign Minister Winston Peters has suggested western commentators need to give more regard to China's huge economic and population challenges before criticising it over its freedoms and laws.
The comments were part of a major foreign policy speech Mr Peters gave to a conference on the New Zealand-China relationship at Victoria University.
Mr Peters said "when we are making judgments about China and about freedom and their laws... you have hundreds of millions to be re-employed and relocated with a change of your economic structure, you have some massive, huge problems".
He went on to say that "sometimes western commentators should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcomes for those people, rather than constantly harping on about the romance of freedom".
Mr Peters then quoted a song lyric "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" from the song Me and Bobby McGee, most famously sung by Janis Joplin.
He said "in some ways the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everybody's economic future in their plans".