Remarks by Ambassador Wang Xiaolong at the Annual Conference of New Zealand-China Friendship Society

2023-05-26 21:05

Mr Lipscombe, President of NZCFS,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Kia ora.

It is indeed an honor and pleasure to be invited to address again the annual conference of the New Zealand China Friendship Society. This is a marvelous occasion for us to renew friendship and explore new pathways to further develop our bilateral relations. I would like to start with some observations on China’s development and its implications for other countries, including New Zealand.  

In the first quarter of this year, with a successful and smooth transition of COVID-19 control and prevention measures, China’s economy showed strong momentum of stabilization and growth, with more optimistic market expectations, increasing driving forces for economic growth, and steady steps towards high quality development. The first quarter saw China’s economy rise by 4.5 per cent, trade in goods up by 4.8 per cent, and fixed-asset investment jump by 5.1 percent, compared to the same period of last year. More encouragingly, retail sales of consumer goods increased by 5.8% year-on-year, making consumption account for 66% of the economic growth. The catering, tourism and film industries all enjoyed accelerated recovery, and the May Day holidays tallied a total of 274 million trips.

Consequently, New Zealand’s export of dairy products and meats to China picked up quickly. At the same time, multiple Kiwi companies are keen to keep pace with the new demand of the Chinese consumers. Take Fonterra as an example, it has just opened a new application center in Shenzhen of China. Boosted by both our upgraded FTA and the enforcement of RCEP, the bilateral trade registered over 40 billion NZD last year. It is hopeful that we can reach the next milestone of 50 billion NZD by 2030.

We have also seen a quick recovery of people-to-people exchanges, given the appetite of Chinese tourists and students for NZ remains strong. New Zealand is among the first batch of 20 countries for China to resume outbound group tours. Flights connections between the two countries are increasing, together with the chance of bumping into Chinese tourists in the street. Data of the Chinese students coming to New Zealand is also heartening. From last September to April, the NZ Immigration issued 32445 new student visas, a rise of 10 per cent over the same period of 2018-2019, and 20 per cent of the visa holders were Chinese. With all the above positive progress, I believe the rapid recovery of China-NZ practical cooperation will benefit both sides, injecting new impetus to the socioeconomic development of New Zealand.  

Ladies and gentlemen, 

The new landscape of China-New Zealand cooperation is just an epitome of the international engagement of China, as a rapidly modernizing developing country, adhering to a global vision of win-win cooperation, and committed to the greater good of the whole world. We are now advancing the national rejuvenation through a Chinese Path to Modernization. We have identified this path on the basis of the long-term exploration and practice of the Chinese people led by the Communist Party of China. To achieve modernization through this path to realize people’s aspiration for a better life is the central task of CPC and the newly elected government of China. 

General Secretary Xi Jinping highlighted five defining features of the Chinese path to modernization at the 20th National Congress of CPC. It is the modernization of a huge population, with an emphasis on common prosperity for all, integrating material and cultural-ethical advancement, promoting harmony between humanity and nature, and pursuing peaceful development. Each of the five aspects will help to create new opportunities to promote the common development, unity and progress of humanity. Understanding the Chinese path to modernization is key to understanding the fundamental logic and long-term objective of China’s foreign policy, and will help you better appreciate and grasp the new opportunities of China’s development.

The pursuit of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation through Chinese Path to Modernization was also at the centre and foundation of China’s foreign policy, including major foreign policy initiatives, such as the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping in recent years, which aim to promote respectively world peace and stability, common development and harmonious co-existence. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Currently, both China and New Zealand are standing at a critical juncture in our respective development. This year marks the opening year for China to implement the blueprint formulated at the 20th National Congress of CPC. New Zealand also has a major domestic political agenda this year. Both countries are committed to promoting post-COVID recovery and long-term economic and social development, and to improving the well-being of the people. Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand with a series of events. Through taking stock of our achievements and experience in developing the bilateral relations, we have identified some golden rules underpinning the growth of the relationship, i.e. mutual respect, equality, mutually beneficial cooperation, and seeking common ground while accommodating differences. However the international situation evolves, China always takes New Zealand as an important friend and partner, believes that our commonality far outweighs differences, and has confidence in the certainty and stability of bilateral relations. 

This year also marks the opening year of the second 50 years of China-NZ relations. China is ready to work with Kiwi friends from various walks of life in the following areas to advance the relations to the next stage. 

First, we shall promote high-level exchanges to enhance mutual strategic trust. Last year, our leaders reached important consensus at their successful meeting in the margins of APEC, laying out important strategic guidelines for the development of the bilateral relations. As our two countries have fully reopened the borders, the high-level exchanges and exchanges at other levels have been resumed quickly. Hon Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has recently made a successful visit to China. China’s Science and Technology Minister is scheduled to visit New Zealand at the end of May. We look forward to more interactions between the leaders to set the keynote for the sound development of our relations in the next 50 years. 

Second, we shall leverage complementary advantages to advance practical cooperation. By tapping the great potential of the upgraded FTA and the RCEP ,we will reap more trade and economic benefits. Further to that, we should set our eyes on creating new growth poles for cooperation in such areas as clean energy, electric vehicles, climate change, innovation, sustainable agriculture, and Maori economy. China has demonstrated its ambition for higher-standard opening up  by actively seeking the accession to CPTPP and DEPA, and the future membership of China in both those arrangements will bring more opportunities to both China-NZ and regional practical cooperation. 

Third, we shall deepen people-to-people exchanges to consolidate our traditional friendship. The Chinese people and the Kiwi people cherish friendly feelings for each other. The engagement between the two peoples can be traced back way earlier than the establishment of the diplomatic relations and play a foundational role in the development of the bilateral relations.The two sides shall work together to resume exchanges in various fields to the greatest extent or even above the pre-COVID level. Special efforts should be made to enhance youth exchanges in order to pass on our friendship to future generations. 

Fourth, we shall  enhance coordination and cooperation on regional and international affairs to jointly promote world peace and development. Both China and New Zealand pride ourselves on our independent foreign policy, and support multilateralism and free trade. Both are committed to international and regional peace, stability and prosperity. Both are keen on international cooperation to tackle global challenges like climate change. Both stand with the Pacific Island partners in their pursuit of sustainable development.With the solid foundation we have established over the decades, we can do a lot more together on this front.   

Admittedly, as the international landscape undergoes profound and complicated changes, the development of the China-New Zealand relations is faced with some challenges including those posed by mis-or-disinformation. Seeing is believing. I have visited quite a few places of New Zealand since my arrival as ambassador. Wherever I visit, I can feel the depth of the friendship between the two peoples,and I’ve never failed to find new opportunities for practical cooperation between our two countries. Similarly, We welcome more Kiwi friends to have a field trip to China to get a real, multifaceted and comprehensive understanding of China, and appreciate the vast opportunities that China’s modernization may engender for the world.  

In concluding, I would like to acknowledge the NZCFS for the efforts and contributions you have made for the improvement of our friendship and the overall bilateral relations. As we all know, the Society itself was established at the initiative of Rewi Alley, one of the pathfinders of the New Zealand-China friendship and a beloved friend of the Chinese people. As a custodian of the Rewi Alley legacy, I firmly believe the NZCFS will continue to play a quintessential role in promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries, particularly the two peoples.

Thank you all.