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The New Zealand China relationship remains strong

February 19, 2019

The New Zealand China Council hosted a reception in Wellington on 18 February following its first Board meeting of 2019.

Chinese Ambassador Mme Wu Xi and MFAT Deputy Secretary for Americas and Asia Ben King were joined by approximately 50 guests including Council Executive board members, government officials, business leaders and friends of New Zealand and China.      

Council Chairman Sir Don McKinnon welcomed attendees, reiterating the need for New Zealand to engage more actively with China, explaining and discussing differences clearly and looking hard for areas where the relationship can move forward.

“It has been reassuring to hear of our Government’s restatement of the importance of the relationship to New Zealand and also, in the words of China’s Foreign Policy Spokesperson, that our relations are developing healthily and with stability”, Mr McKinnon said.  

Chinese Ambassador Mme Wu Xi noted the need to properly handle differences between New Zealand and China and build on a more resilient relationship.

“As two countries, different in history, culture and social systems, it is only natural for us to have differences. We need to always bear in mind that a defining feature in our relationship is mutual benefit and a win-win outcome,” Mme Wu Xi said.

Ben King reminded attendees that China remains a very important and highly valued partner for New Zealand.  

“For those of us who work closely on the relationship we understand that China also values its relationship with New Zealand. And our relationship continues to grow,” Mr King said.  

The full speech by Ben King, MFAT Deputy Secretary for Americas and Asia can be found here.

Mme Wu Xi’s full speech can be found here. 

The full speech by Chairman Sir Don McKinnon is below:

Thank you for joining us this afternoon and a warm welcome to you all.
It’s fitting that the Council should gather, as festivities for the Chinese New Year
draw to a close on the occasion of the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition.
These warriors are a great and enduring symbol of ancient Chinese culture and
tradition and it is great that they have been brought to Wellington in the NZ China
Year of Tourism.

We know from research we undertook last year that 46 percent of New Zealanders
would like to visit China – that would clearly present less of a challenge to China
than 46 percent of China’s population visiting New Zealand!

New Zealand’s relationship with China – in tourism, education, trade and investment
and in many other areas – continues to expand rapidly.

The latest statistics tell us that one in five New Zealand export dollars is earned in
China.  Yet there is much more we can do.

Ambassador Wu Xi, whom we are delighted to have with us, has written of
opportunities in renewable energy, science and technology.

The NZ China Council has proposed enhanced co-operation in a Belt and Road
framework in trade facilitation, innovation and the creative sector as well as building
new connectivity between China, New Zealand and South America.

Just last week I met with the Minister of Education, Hon Chris Hipkins, to discuss
ways of increasing our Government’s investment in Chinese language learning to
supplement the valuable work of the Confucius Institutes.

If we want to expand the relationship we must improve our capacity and capability to
do so.

Yet again our research, and that of the Asia NZ Foundation, shows there are gaps in
our understanding and competencies but plenty of interest in learning and upskilling.

The last few weeks have been something of a rough and tumble for the relationship.
Amidst the many – and sometimes confused and alarmist – commentaries it has
been reassuring to us in the Council to hear of our Government’s restatement of the
importance of the relationship to New Zealand and also, in the words of China’s
Foreign Policy Spokesperson, that our relations are developing healthily and with

At times of global tension a relationship as increasingly broad and complex as the
one between China and New Zealand will face challenges of management.
There will even be occasional disappointments – some big, some not so big.
That is when we need to redouble our efforts to engage with each other, to explain
and discuss any differences and to look for those areas where we can move forward.

The NZ China Council is dedicated to building a strong and resilient relationship
between our two countries and we are pleased to be able to count on the support of
partners and friends in this room.



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