Your Rt Hon Sir David Carter,
Your Excellency John McKinnon,
Deputy Mayor Laurie Foon,
Mr Chris Lipscombe,
Mr Deng Bangzhen and Madame Lu Bo,
Other Members of the Rewi Alley Whanau,
Mr Steven Wong,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to join you at the opening ceremony of the Rewi Alley Memorial Exhibition. Ninety-six years ago today, on April 21st, 1927, Rewi Alley set foot on the soil of China for the first time, marking the start of a lifelong legendary journey with the Chinese people through weal and woe during a most transformative, and sometimes, turbulent time in modern world history. Ninety-six years later, we are here today to honour the memory of Rewi Alley by displaying historical items and pictures that showcase his prominent contribution to China’s revolution and development and the friendship between our two countries. More importantly, we are here to celebrate the Rewi Alley spirit, a rich legacy he left to the world.
After so many years, Chinese people still remember Rewi Alley fondly as a good old friend. At the same time, Kiwis also value the important role he played in increasing mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples. Last month, during her trip to China, Hon FM Nanaia Mahuta paid a visit to the residence of Alley in Beijing and attended the unveiling of a new statue of him. Rewi Alley’s story and spirit have motivated generations of Chinese and Kiwis to champion the friendship between China and New Zealand. In fact, his ideas may still teach us useful lessons today about how to cope with the complicated challenges we face and deepen our friendship. I would like to share my observations on three of the most inspirational parts of the Rewi Alley spirit.
First, Friendship. The friendship between our two peoples has a longstanding history, and Alley himself was the best manifestation of such links. His deep love for the people knows no borders. Starting from his early years in China, he voluntarily participated in disaster relief in different parts of China and made every effort to improve the living conditions of the toiling masses. After the founding of the People’s Republic, committed to promoting the people-to-people exchanges between our two countries, he helped Kiwis to have a better knowledge and understanding of new China through his writings and speeches and initiated the establishment of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society. In these and many other ways, Rewi Alley made a unique contribution to better understanding betweeen our two peoples, including the way Chinese people view New Zealand in fond and friendly light up to this day, which lies at the heart of our evolving relationship.
Second, Inclusiveness. Kiwis are known for their love for different cultures from different ethnic backgrounds, which makes New Zealand a leader in building a multicultural society. Indeed, as a proud and outstanding son of New Zealand, Rewi Alley not only advocated mutual respect and mutual learning across cultures and social systems that are often different due to different circumstances, more importantly, he lived it. He rose above the ideological bias prevailing at the time by adopting an independent, objective, and rational approach to getting to know China, a country and civilization completely beyond his past knowledge. He integrated himself among the ordinary poor Chinese people, learning the Chinese language, including local dialects in Shanghai and Gansu. He appreciated traditional Chinese culture and published many translations of ancient Chinese poetry. By all means, mutual understanding, appreciation, and learning among different cultures and civilizations are even more important for the world today. They are a driving force for promoting human progress, transcending estrangement and conflicts, and bringing about unity to address common challenges facing the humankind.
Third, Endeavour. Rewi Alley was a practical man. The first book he published in China was Yo banfa!, meaning there is always a way to overcome difficulties. Alley practised this motto throughout his life and never gave up. He set up the Bailie School, where he led and encouraged the students to use their hands and brains to create and analyze. Despite the relatively poor infrastructure, Alley and his students together built from scratch self-sufficient schools of considerable scale that also benefited the broader local communities. The motto of the Gung Ho Movement launched by Rewi Alley is Work Hard and Work Together, which is also an essential reason why China-New Zealand relations have long been standing at the forefront of China’s relations with developed Western countries. Building on our respective and joint efforts, the two sides have built up a sizable agenda for practical cooperation and resolved differences and difficulties in a pragmatic approach, constantly breaking new grounds in our bilateral relations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As an internationalist, humanitarian and above all, a pathfinder for China-New Zealand friendship, Rewi Alley helped to bring our two peoples closer across vast oceans. He is truly a precious asset for both countries. We should build on his legacy and carry forward the Rewi Alley spirit of friendship, inclusiveness and endeavour, especially among the younger generation, with a view to taking the mutually-respecful and mutually-beneficial partnership between our two countries to new heights as we usher in the next 50 years for our diplomatic relationship. Such a relationship benefits both sides, especially both peoples, and contributes at the same time to world and regional peace and prosperity.
In concluding, I wish the Rewi Alley Memorial Exhibition a great success. May the friendship between China and New Zealand thrive forever!