Hon Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan,
Hon Speaker Adrian Rurawhe,
Mr Mervin Singham,Chief Executive of Ministry for Ethnic Communities,
Ms Jenny Too, President of New Zealand Chinese Association,
Mr Paul Chin, Chairman of Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust,
Members of Parliament,
Other Chinese community leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa!
It is a great pleasure to join you at the Beehive to celebrate the Chinese New Year for the Year of the Rabbit.
The spring festival, as the start of the lunar new year is known in China, is a time for reunion with family and friends. Although I could not join my family for the festivities, I am fortunate to have shared the joy of farewelling the old and ushering in the new with members of the Chinese community and kiwi friends of different ethnic backgrounds at the many Chinese New Year celebrations I have attended in New Zealand.
Here I would like to acknowledge the Ministry for Ethnic Communities for the organization of the event, and Minister Radhakrishnan for her kind invitation.
To begin with, please allow me to extend my best wishes of the season. May the Year of the Rabbit bring good fortune, happiness and prosperity to all guests present here today.
Aotearoa New Zealand is a world leader in diversity and inclusiveness, where people of different ethnicities get along well with each other and their distinct cultures co-exist in harmony. Together, they make up the rich and dynamic multicultural mosaic in the country. I would like to flag my appreciation to the New Zealand government and friends from all walks of life for your longstanding support for the Chinese community, which has enabled the Chinese traditional culture to take roots and blossom in New Zealand.
In fact, the people-to-people links between China and New Zealand have a long history and have played a foundational role in the development of our bilateral relations. The first Chinese set their foot on Aotearoa soil as early as more than 180 years ago. Since then, generations of Chinese immigrants, with their diligence, perseverance, and wisdom, have made their share of contributions to New Zealand’s economic and social development.
I am glad that their contribution is again acknowledged here today, together with the checkered past some of them were subject to, especially in the early years.
Today, the Chinese community accounts for about 5% of New Zealand’s population. They have not only become an integral part of the country’s multicultural landscape but also served as unique bridges and bonds in enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries, which helps to underpin and drive the growth of our relationship over the years.
Looking back on the Year of the Tiger, China and NZ worked together to have continued the keynote of mutually beneficial cooperation for our bilateral relations. In that process, we have overcome the impact of COVID and other challenges and celebrated the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties.
We have deepened mutual trust, as demonstrated by the successful meeting of President Xi Jinping and then Prime Minister Ardern in Bangkok when they reached an important consensus on promoting the further development of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between us, maintaining the positive momentum for progressing our relationship on the right track.
We have made further headway in bilateral practical cooperation. The implementation of the FTA upgrade gave new impetus to our trade ties and helped to bring our trade volume to a new high, benefiting our two peoples and providing much-needed support to efforts in both countries at economic stability, resilience and recovery.
The two sides have also defied the odds and managed to maintain the links in education, science and technology, sports, and sub-national cooperation. With borders fully reopened, cross-border travels are bouncing back, boosting the post-covid recovery of the people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. In this connection, China has listed New Zealand as one of the first 20 or so pilot countries to resume outbound group tours. The symbolism of this measure speaks to the close bond between the two countries. The clear signal it sends will help to bring widely missed tourists from China back to New Zealand.
This year is significant for both China and New Zealand respectively and for our relationship as we open the next 50 years of our bilateral relations.
We welcome the recent statements by Prime Minister Hipkins that China and New Zealand are mutually important partners in a wide range of areas. The Chinese side shares the commitment to working together to grow the partnership further on the basis of mutual respect, mutual benefit and the constructive management of differences, as has been agreed between the two sides at the highest level and, above all, in line with the aspirations and needs of the two peoples.
In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is a symbol of cleverness, agility, and happiness. In such an auspicious year, I believe China and New Zealand will make greater progress in economic and social development and the relationship between the two countries will continue to strive to be the first so as to better serve the well-being of our peoples.
In concluding, once again, I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year! May China and New Zealand enjoy peace and prosperity! And may our bilateral relationship continue to grow and flourish towards a brighter shared future!