The number of study visas granted to Chinese students has exceeded 30,000 a year for the first time in a decade.
Immigration New Zealand figures showed it approved 33,425 visa applications from Chinese students in the 12 months to the end of June.
That figure was up from 29,880 in the preceding 12-month period and a significant increase from a low of 21,777 in 2009/10.
Annual study visa approvals for China had not been so high since 2006/07, when 34,448 were approved.
The next highest number of approvals in the 12 months to the end of June 2016 was for India, with 21,891, though that country also had 13,257 applications turned down.
No other country had more than 1000 declined applications.
Education New Zealand spokesperson John Goulter said the improvement in Chinese numbers was the result of long-term work by Education New Zealand and education providers.
"For the best part of the last 10 years, really, we've been working to build it up as a good, sustainable market. So we've been focusing on the quality aspect and on the whole lifestyle and appeal of New Zealand in the China market."
Mr Goulter said the growth from China was helping offset downturns in other markets this year, especially from New Zealand's other big source country, India.
Victoria University vice chancellor Grant Guilford said about 800 of the university's 3000 foreign students were Chinese.
Enrolments had bounced back because tertiary institutions were taking better care of their students, he said.
"You're seeing there the benefits of that very high standard of pastoral care that we now offer across New Zealand's tertiary sector where we are regaining the faith of those international markets that, when they entrust their children with us, we will do a good job with their education and with their care."
But Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association president Jonathan Gee said the growing number of international students was putting pressure on student services.
"There's pressure on student health and student counselling, pressures on other learning support services as well."
The problem was due to overall under-funding of universities, not to international students themselves.
"Universities are forced to get more students because they need more funding. But it's caused an increased lack of space around the university and increased strain on services that we have here as well."
However, Mr Guilford said both domestic and international enrolments had increased at Victoria, and that had benefited student services through increased funding and economies of scale.
Education New Zealand figures showed 27 percent of foreign students in New Zealand last year were from China, with India providing 23 percent, and Japan 8 percent.
Overall, in the first three months of 2016, there were 27,268 foreigners with student visas, 6 percent fewer than in the same period for 2015.