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50 years of New Zealand-PRC relations acknowledged in unique style

December 13, 2022

A room full of Wētā Workshop’s fantasy monsters and robots might seem an unusual backdrop for a lunch to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China.  But for the New Zealand China Council, showcasing our longstanding creative industry links with China was as important as acknowledging our primary produce exports, tourism, education and cultural connections.

The Council combined with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the New Zealand China Trade Association to host an anniversary lunch for 200 people on 9 December in the unique Wētā Workshop Unleashed exhibition space at SkyCity in Auckland, generously made available by Council member Sir Richard Taylor.  The event showcased the diversity of New Zealand’s engagement with China, and the optimism for future cooperation that exists in many sectors.  The lunch menu carefully fused Chinese and kiwi flavours, with Waikato-grown Zealong green tea continuing this theme.

Council Chair John McKinnon said it was important to mark the half-century milestone given the significance of the relationship for both countries since 1972.

“The impact of trade with China on New Zealand’s economy is obvious, particularly since our free trade agreement was signed in 2008, as are the expanded people to people connections between our two countries”, McKinnon says.

“New Zealand has also played a unique role in aspects of China’s international engagement. There have been challenges along the way, but we have maintained a constructive and dynamic relationship for 50 years.  That deserves to be acknowledged.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Trade and Export Growth Hon. Damien O’Connor and Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Hon. Priyanca Radhakrishnan attended the lunch alongside other members of parliament, our Council members, mayors, and leaders of business, iwi, education and academia, media, young professionals and the New Zealand Chinese Community.

Prime Minister Ardern focused her speech on the three themes of tangata/people, aorangi/planet and tōnuitanga/prosperity which the New Zealand government used to mark the anniversary year, as well as the people from both countries who have been active in these areas.

“Around this room are many of the esteemed businesspeople, academics, public servants, artists and mana whenua who have dedicated time to building relationships across our borders.  We celebrate today each of these relationships, which add to our collective resilience, the wellbeing of our planet, and the prosperity of our people”, the Prime Minister said.

China’s Ambassador to New Zealand H.E. Wang Xiaolong and Consuls-General in Auckland Mr Chen Shijie and Christchurch Ms He Ying represented the Chinese government, joined by major Chinese businesses with operations in New Zealand.

In his remarks Ambassador Wang characterised 50 years of bilateral engagement using the words direction, cooperation, friendship and enterprise.  And he took a positive view of the future: “For all the turmoils in the world, China always regards New Zealand as an important partner and friend, and China’s commitment to the partnership with New Zealand has not and will not change. China looks forward to working closely with New Zealand to take our relationship to an even higher level so as to better benefit our two peoples and make greater contributions to the world.”

During the lunch the New Zealand China Trade Association (NZCTA) launched its “Fifty over Fifty” project to showcase 50 New Zealand and Chinese companies which have made major contributions to the bilateral trade and business relationship.  NZCTA Chair Martin Thomson introduced the design of a new website which would spotlight these companies and provide additional commentary on the development of key bilateral sectors by those involved at the time.

The Prime Minister’s remarks can be found here.

The Chinese Ambassador’s remarks can be found here.

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