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New Era In New Zealand's Relations With China

For immediate release
19 June 2003

New Era In New Zealand's Relations With China

A new era in New Zealand's relations with China has come about because China itself is becoming a more significant voice in international affairs, a more open, self-assured, society and a larger presence in our economy and society.

This assessment, by Prime Minister Helen Clark, is amongst a series of conclusions set out in a new publication by the New Zealand Asia Institute at The University of Auckland.

China and New Zealand: A Thriving Relationship 30 Years On is based on a series of lectures delivered at the university last year to commemorate thirty years of formal government-to-government relations between the two countries.

"This is an important stocktake of one of New Zealand's most important bilateral relationships", Institute Director, Dr James Kember, said today. "This relationship is more comprehensive, more far-reaching, and more promising than many would have imagined thirty, and perhaps even ten, years ago. This book traces the developments of the last thirty years, and earlier, and puts forward a series of views about where this relationship - strategic, political, economic, and social - might head in coming decades."

As the contributions note, relations with China have a long history, beginning in the middle of the 19th century. But even with the now greater movement of residents in both directions, issues remain about the expectation of migrants to assimilate. Dr Manying Ip questions whether Chinese are these days any more considered equal citizens than they were in the past.

As the book notes, the cautious expectations of 1972 about relations with China have certainly been exceeded. New Zealand's first ambassador to the People's Republic, Bryce Harland, believes the relationship has every prospect of flourishing in coming decades and, like others, notes the importance of a healthy Sino-US relationship for New Zealand's own developing relations with China.

The economic and business relationships outlined in this publication address the successes and otherwise of New Zealand enterprises in China, and the impact of China's accession to the World Trade Organisation. Associate Professor Robert Scollay, Director of New Zealand's APEC Study Centre, points out that New Zealand might not be as adversely affected as some other countries by China's WTO accession, because the two countries are essentially not competitors in terms of current principal exports. However, he cautions that New Zealand must look to diversify its own range of exports to China if it is to gain best advantage from that country's economic growth.

Given the relative size of the two countries and economies, the onus will be on New Zealand to take the lead in developing the relationship with China. More Chinese language teaching in New Zealand, the creation of a New Zealand-China Foundation and increased exchanges in cultural and professional spheres are among a number of ideas put forward for further consideration.


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