Trade Minister Tim Groser says New Zealand will pull out of regional trade talks if politicians in the United States use them as a vehicle to try to contain the rise of China.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations now involve nine countries.
Mr Groser says anti-China rhetoric coming out of the US is becoming increasingly virulent.
He says it seems to be coming from think-tanks and some academics, but does not think it is shared at the top levels of domestic politics.
If it is, he says New Zealand would have no choice but to leave the TPP talks.
Radio New Zealand's economics correspondent says American business lobbies are unhappy with what they regard as unfair trading practices by Chinese firms.
The US Chamber of Commerce in particular sees the TransPacific Partnership as the place to take on China's state businesses.
Former trade negotiator Charles Finny believes China will eventually join the TPP on terms reasonable to it.
More about how New Zealand navigates rising tensions between China and the United States can be heard on Insight on Sunday.