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

2024-05-28 15:24

Photo by Vicky Lu

Sir David Carter,

Chris Lipscombe, President of NZCFS,

Rachel Boyack, Labour MP for Nelson

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Afternoon,

It’s such a pleasure to join you today at the AGM of the NZ China Friendship Society, together with Consulate-General He Ying, colleagues from the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and colleagues joining online from Huangshi and Yangjiang. To begin with, I would like to acknowledge the organizers of this event, those from the Society and particularly its Nelson Branch for their efforts to bring us together in Nelson, where one of the earliest Chinese settlers used to live and work, starting in a way the people-to-people links between our two countries. For this reason, there could not be a better place to reflect on China-New Zealand friendship and explore ways to take it forward. I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Society and acknowledge everyone here for your long term support for and contribution to the development of China-New Zealand relations.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s state visit to New Zealand and the establishment of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and New Zealand, yet another major milestone for the bilateral relationship, which offers us an important opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and chart the course for our future cooperation. Both China and New Zealand value the bilateral relationship, given its significance for both of us. Over the years, thanks to the strategic guidance of leaders from both sides and the joint efforts of people from all walks of life, China-New Zealand relations have grown with sound and steady momentum, long spearheading China's relationships with developed countries. This has greatly benefited the two countries, particularly the two peoples, and at the same time, contributed to the peace, stability, development, and prosperity in the region and beyond.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties over 50 years ago, in particular since the upgrade of the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership 10 years ago, the two countries have worked together to carry forward the spirit of “striving to be the first”,build upon our commonality and common interest, and uphold the principle of mutual respect, mutual accommodation, focusing on cooperation and aiming to benefit the people. As a result of joint efforts, the bilateral exchanges and cooperation in areas such as politics, economy, trade, culture have come a long way, creating many "firsts" in China's relations with Western developed countries and setting a fine example of how countries different in social system, history and culture, and stage of development can find common cause and work together for mutual benefit.

China and New Zealand have maintained frequent high-level exchanges and political mutual trust has deepened in that process. However the international landscape evolves, dialogue and cooperation for win-win results has been the mainstream of our bilateral relations, with high-level exchanges leading the way. Over the past decade, the two sides have continuously pushed bilateral relations in the right direction by implementing the important consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries during President Xi Jinping's visit to New Zealand. High-level exchanges have maintained a positive momentum, even during COVID. Since the inauguration of the coalition government in New Zealand, Wang Yi, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Minister of Foreign Affairs, has paid a successful visit to New Zealand, and New Zealand Trade and Agriculture Minister Todd McClay has just wrapped up his visit to China. Such visits have further enhanced mutual understanding and trust and injected impetus into our pragmatic cooperation. Currently,  the two sides are working on further higher-level visits within the course of this year. I believe that such exchanges will help to steer at the strategic level the development of the bilateral relationship in the right direction, and more consensus generated therefrom will help to open up new prospects for exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

China and New Zealand have enjoyed robust bilateral relations with a growing pie of common interests. Our economies are highly complementary, and economic and trade cooperation has long been a ballast and propeller for the broader bilateral relationship. It not only enables our two peoples to enjoy more quality products and services, but also generates additional income, tax revenues and jobs for the two countries. In 2008, China and New Zealand entered into a bilateral free trade agreement, which opened up significant trade and economic opportunities for businesses from both sides. In April 2022, the Upgrade of the FTA entered into force to ensure it fully reflects the latest developments in our respective trade policies. This year also witnessed the full implementation of China-New Zealand FTA as the special safeguard measures on milk power were removed as of 1 January 2024. All of the above has kept injecting impetus and stability to the bilateral trade and practical cooperation. Defying global economic headwinds, the bilateral trade and economic cooperation has shown strong resilience: China has been New Zealand’s largest trading partner, largest export market and largest source of imports for many years in a row with two-way trade valued at over NZ$38 billion in 2023. On top of trade cooperation in traditional areas, the two sides are  exploring new areas of growth for our cooperation, such as infrastructure, green transformation, digital economy, and science and technology, to further advance our practical cooperation for win-win outcomes.

China and New Zealand enjoy time-honored friendship with strong people-to-people bonds. The engagement between our two peoples dates back far earlier than our diplomatic 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 integrated into the New Zealand society, and made their share of contributions to local economic and social development. With unique advantages, they also become an important bridge of friendship between the two countries. 

Till this day, we bear fond memories of how friends from New Zealand such as Rewi Alley and Kathleen Hall went through thick and thin with the Chinese people during the war years, and made outstanding contributions to China’s revolution and development. Their words and deeds fully demonstrated how the profound friendship between the two peoples can cross mountains and oceans. Their rich spiritual legacy has inspired generations of people in both countries to make continued efforts to advance China-New Zealand friendship. Notably, it was at Rewi Alley’s initiative that the New Zealand China Friendship Society(NZCFS) was established in 1952, 20 years before the two countries formally established diplomatic ties. As the heir and custodian of the spirit of Rewi Alley, NZCFS has since played an important role in promoting people-to-people friendship and bilateral relations between the two countries over the years.

The Chinese people hold immense good will towards New Zealand and its people. This largely explains why China is also the leading source of international students and a major tourist market for New Zealand. What’s more, New Zealand is among the first few pilot countries when China resumed outbound group tours in 2023. Chinese tourists are coming back to New Zealand quickly, and 2023 saw a total of 151,300. In February of 2024, the number has recovered to 74% of the same period in 2019, and two-way direct flights have outnumbered pre-COVID levels. It’s also worth noting that Chinese students accounted for 36.08% of the overall international students enrolled in New Zealand schools between January and August, 2023. As more and more people are engaging in the bilateral exchanges, the seeds of China-New Zealand friendship will become  embedded deeper in their hearts. 

Both China and New Zealand pride ourselves on an independent foreign policy, champion multilateralism and free trade, and support tackling global challenges by way of international cooperation. Both are participants, contributors, upholders of a functioning and just international system and international order, with firm commitment to the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law centered on the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter. Both are keen on maintaining international and regional peace and stability and promoting common development and prosperity. All of the above have enabled us to keep longstanding communication and cooperation on international and regional issues. China calls for an equal and orderly multipolar world and a universally beneficial and inclusive economic globalization, which is fundamentally in the common interests of our two countries and all mankind. China is ready to continue strengthening dialogue and cooperation with New Zealand, so as to bring more certainty and stability to a world rocked by upheavals and turmoil.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite the profound changes in the international landscape and in our respective countries,  China would want to continue to regard New Zealand as a good friend and important partner on the basis of mutual respect, inclusiveness, cooperation, and benefits to the peoples, and stands ready to work unremittingly with the New Zealand side to follow through on the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, enhance political mutual trust, further facilitate people-to-people exchanges, and promote pragmatic cooperation in various areas, so as to take our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership to the next level, better benefiting both countries and our two peoples. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

As most of us will agree, China-New Zealand relations are way beyond the transactional. In essence, the bilateral relationship is by the people and for the people. People-to-people links, which have been widely recognized as an important pillar and fundamental driving force for the development of bilateral relations, together with practical cooperation, constitute  the ‘dual anchors’ to underpin the sound development of the bilateral relations. And between the two, the former plays a more fundamental and enduring role. Hence, consistently enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples will create favorable conditions for pragmatic cooperation to break new ground while moving steadily forward. I firmly believe that New Zealand China Friendship Society, as the custodian of the legacy and spirit of Rewi Alley, will continue to make positive contribution to promoting friendly exchanges and enhance mutual trust and understanding between the two peoples.

Finally, I wish the New Zealand China Friendship Society Annual General Meeting a great success!