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Asia:NZ Newsletter

Media Newsletter

July 2005

Yoboseyo, kia ora and welcome to the Asia:NZ media newsletter for July. There's a general election in the wind and there are interesting signals that ethnic communities, tired of negative stereotyping and being singled out over issues such as immigration, are keen to engage in the political process. The Asian ethnic media and community groups have been particularly active in organising political forums such as the July 17 event in Auckland which drew an audience of 600 Chinese New Zealanders. The demand to hear the messages being pitched by the different political parties at the growing ethnic segments in the electorate is a growing and evident.

In this issue:

* Mainstream media? What mainstream?
* Deja vu for Muslims
* Jakarta Post opportunity
* Director's leaving message
* Think global, businesses told
* Ready or not, China has arrived
* Send off for new Singapore scholars
* Biculturism or multiculturism?
* Crash course on Indonesia
* New faces
* Those Indian Guys in Malaysia


Mainstream media? What mainstream?

By Jim Tucker

Shrinking territory, encroaching sea. The word crisis might be too strong just yet, but New Zealand's mainstream media industry is waking up to a big problem.

There is sufficient concern about an inability to reach growing ethnic minorities for a small but powerfully representative group of industry leaders to turn up to an Asia:NZ Knowledge Working Group forum on the subject in Auckland on July 13.

For those whose radar has so far only vaguely detected a sea change, the forum - facilitated by former New Zealand Herald editor-in-chief Gavin Ellis and funded by Asia:NZ - was a revelation. They heard that:

Kiwi Asians are increasingly becoming a mainstream proposition. They are now the third biggest ethnic group in New Zealand, after Pakeha and Maori.

Within 10 years, one in four people in greater Auckland will be of Asian ethnicity. In Auckland City, the proportion by 2021 could be as high as 40 percent. Some 25 percent of Auckland's under-25s have Asian backgrounds. "We will be a leading Asian city," a researcher told the forum.

Recent migrants reject the mainstream media as a main source of news because it has no relevance to them. As trans-nationals, Kiwi Asians are hungry for business and political news from the East (but west of New Zealand).

To meet that need, the ethnic media is growing at a frantic pace. One Auckland media company with nine Chinese, Japanese and Korean-language channels will soon launch four more; it has two radio stations; there is one Chinese-language daily newspaper and 12 weeklies, all free.

There are eight Korean-language papers; a website aimed at Kiwi Asians has 70,000 registered members. Many of the publications contain only advertising or are published by the big advertisers themselves. Some with editorial content contain stridently polemical material with no thought to neutrality.

The forum was also told New Zealanders needed to be jolted out of their short-sighted views of Asia and the media had a responsibility to lead thinking in middle New Zealand.

There were many misconceptions, especially over the very label "Asian". We tended to include India, but Indians did not include themselves. The Indian community was the second largest of the so-called Asian groups here. The rapid growth of India would be felt soon while we were still trying to sort out our relationship with China.

New Zealanders needed to stop treating Kiwi Asians as employees and start to think of them as citizens. We made few allowances for key differences, such as the fact that while drinking might be a big part of our culture, for Asians it was food; that their body clocks were programmed for the late shift, so making a late-night phone call to someone's home was not considered discourteous; that they enjoyed junk mail because they saw it as a commercial opportunity.

New Zealand youth was much more in tune with the changes than the baby boomer generation. The impact on university campuses in Auckland and the Waikato had been profound. Generation Y now had Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai as its centres of trade and cool. Youthful eyes were on Asia, not America: "Asia is the new black."

A sobering message had emerged from research done among Kiwi Asian youth, such as boy racers. One, calling himself Mr X, was asked about breaking the law with his driving: "We don't care. We're showing you - we've got the numbers."

The forum was one of five industry focus groups being held as part of the Asia Knowledge Working Group to develop a vision for New Zealanders' improved understanding of the Asian region, and the long-term strategies required to achieve it.

The working group, a collaborative project between Asia:NZ and the Ministry of Education, will release a report in March 2006 following extensive consultation.

Guest speakers at the July 13 forum included consumer insight specialist Sandy Burgham, Sharon Henderson from the marketing agency Aim Proximity, John Maasland of Carter Holt Harvey, Jeremy Rees from the New Zealabd Herald and Raymond Huo from Brookfields Lawyers.

Organisations represented included the NZJTO, APN, TVNZ, Fairfax, New Zealand Magazines, ACP Media, The Otago Daily Times, The Radio Network, Chinese Voice Broadcasting, RNZ, iBall Media and CAANZ.

Jim Tucker is the executive director of the New Zealand Journalists Training Organisation.


Deja vu for Muslims

It is partly reassuring that someone has been arrested for the vandalism of six Auckland mosques, apparently in retaliation for the London public transport bombings earlier this month.

Despite the well publicised comments of New Zealand Muslim leaders deploring the attacks on innocent civilians, the response from a minority with a racist agenda was swift and unthinking. The best we can hope for is that this one arrest will lead to more because it is almost certain that this was not the action of a lone individual.

Their perverse retribution has been directed at a religious grouping that can hardly be blamed for the actions of extremists on the other side of world. In case you hadn't noticed, bombs made by Islamic extremists kill Muslim civilians on a weekly basis in Iraq.

While the vandalism of mosques may have been provoked by a sense of kinship certain white supremacist groups here may feel with Britain through culture and ancestry, it's easy to overlook the fact that nearly four percent or over two million Britons are Muslims.

You could say that Muslims are as much a part of the fabric of British society as the Irish, another large and significant minority. A parallel would be to blame Catholics for the bombings carried out by the IRA in the heart of London in the 1980s and 90s.

While the shock to the British public has been that the perpetrators of the London attacks have been local born Muslims, we have to remind ourselves that if substantial numbers of British Muslims embraced the Islam espoused by al Qaeda, one could expect bombs going off every week, as in Iraq.

The truth is the overwhelming majority of Muslims - in Britain, the Middle East, Asia and in New Zealand - want to worship and live in peace, just like everyone else.

Confronted with similar backlashes after the September 11 attacks and the Bali bombing, Islam's umbrella organisation in New Zealand responded swiftly to the London bombings.

"This despicable act caused by whosoever on the innocent people is senseless, shameful and totally against the teachings of Islam," said a Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand statement.

"Islam promotes peace and security to all mankind. It does not allow any lawless action against innocent people and their property, no matter when, where, or under what pretext such action might be taken. Islam denounces all kinds of terrorism at all levels."

This is hardly the stuff of firebrand zealotry. There are about 50,000 Muslims living in New Zealand. Some were born here and some came from the Middle East, some from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Disturbingly Islam is not the only belief system that has been targeted in New Zealand in recent times. Last year, dozens of Jewish headstones were vandalised in Wellington.

The fact that symbols of Judaism and Islam have been hit by unknown assailants exposes the stubborn and narrow currents of racism that exist in New Zealand society.

Like everyone else, Jews and Muslims came to New Zealand for a home where their cultures and religion are jointly respected. How sad that they should find a common hostility and ignorance.


Jakarta Post opportunity

A Google search on Indonesia reveals how much significant news comes out of New Zealand's large Southeast Asian neighbour.

There's been the massive tsunami death toll in west Sumatra, the Shapelle Corby verdict and sentencing, and Indonesia's political transformation to a democracy.

The Bali bombing, East Timor's troubled route to independence and, most recently, a breakthrough in peace talks between Acehnese rebels and the government in Jakarta are other notable news events.

There's now an opportunity for a New Zealand journalist to experience a short term posting at The Jakarta Post, an English language newspaper with a circulation of 40,000.

The initiative will be supported by Asia:NZ in partnership with The Jakarta Post and a New Zealand media partner. To find out more, contact Asia:NZ's media adviser Charles Mabbett.


Director's leaving message

By Christopher Butler

At no time in over 40 years has my job been either as challenging or as rewarding as the past 40 months with the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The "Asia effect" is already a forceful reality, and every analysis indicates that its global influence will drive the future in many different ways.

The trans-Atlantic models of New Zealand's past are being modified or replaced by new ways of doing things, and the patterns of the future are becoming increasingly Asian in both form and substance.

New Zealanders need the knowledge, understanding and relationships which will enable them to shape their own destiny in this rapidly changing world with certainty and confidence. Developing assets across such a broad spectrum is a large and urgent task, and it is the core business of Asia:NZ.

In the centre of the timeframe has been the 2003 Seriously Asia project, an ambitious public-private sector venture. The project built a broad consensus around the goals and actions which New Zealanders could pursue to strengthen their Asian links.

Many people took to heart the outcomes of Seriously Asia, both at home and within the region, and the past 18 months have seen an upsurge of Asia-related activity on every front.

One benchmark is the number of exchanges of Heads of Government. In the last year, the Prime Minister visited seven Asian countries and welcomed to New Zealand the heads of six Asian nations, accompanied on several occasions by their Cabinet Ministers. There have been additional top-level discussions at international meetings.

Such a level of dialogue is unprecedented, as have been the outcomes. New trade agreements have been signed with Thailand, Singapore and Brunei, and negotiations have started with China, Malaysia and ASEAN.

New Zealand has signalled its intention to accede to ASEAN's cornerstone agreement, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. And the national response to the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster exceeded $20 for every New Zealander.

Much has been done, but much more remains to be done. New Zealand is facing a long term evolution involving all parts of society. Public information and discussion on Asian issues needs to increase.

I am profoundly grateful for the chance to have been part of all this, and for the friendships which have been the reward. I wish my successor John Austin every success when he takes up his position in October this year.

Christopher Butler is leaving Asia:NZ to pursue private interests after three and a half years as executive director. John Austin, a New Zealander currently working as an executive director at the World Bank in Washington, has been appointed as his replacement. John Austin joins Asia:NZ in early October.


Think global, businesses told

Sending hundreds of young New Zealanders to top Asian universities would be extremely useful in developing business links there, says a former New Zealand-based academic.

Professor Rolf Cremer, formerly of Massey University, is the dean and vice president of a leading business school in the Asia-Pacific region, the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.

He said such an initiative would be a type of 'reverse Colombo Plan', a reference to the programme in which New Zealand played a leading role from 1951 in bringing students to New Zealand from Southeast Asia after which they usually returned to positions of prominence.

New Zealand graduates with China experience would be an incalculably valuable asset to the future of this country. The country would benefit from the relationships or guanxi they acquired and from their local knowledge of the business culture and language.

Prof Cremer said the country was also neglecting international students from Asia as a vital resource in forming stronger business links with China in particular.

"These students are here for maybe one, three, four years and then they go back and they are forgotten about. They are here from their late teens to their mid twenties, their most formative and impressionable years," he told audiences.

"New Zealand is usually the first western country they have travelled to and their first and most important experience of the West. New Zealand is imprinted onto them - its natural beauty, its people and its institutions. They, and their families, have extensive networks and they are being lost."

His advice for businesses looking to China also included cultivating a global vision, forging business to business relationships and capitalising on the personal strengths of being a New Zealander.

Rolf Cremer and Dr Bala Ramasamy, an Associate Professor of Economics and International Business at the University of Nottingham's Malaysia campus, gave joint presentations at a series of business seminars held in Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Auckland.

They are co-authors of a report entitled The Internationalising Firm: Seven Effective Strategies for New Zealand's Success in China.

Nicholas Clark and Kiersten Larsen, both Sydney-based economic management consultants, co-authored another report; Success in Asia: How New Zealand enterprises succeed in Asian markets.

Mr Clarke said their research found that successful small enterprises understood business cultures in the Asian countries they worked in, and compliance standards and the ability to deal with language issues. In many cases, the first entry into Asia had been due to an unsolicited inquiry or a chance encounter.

He said a dotcom presence was an essential part of any operation looking to export but "if your website has lots of bells and whistles on it, sack your website designer. Just sit there and see how long it takes for all of it to download and ask yourself how long you would be prepared to wait if you were a potential client".

The Making it in the New Asia seminars were organised by Asia:NZ and Export New Zealand and based on research funded by Asia:NZ. Both papers will be available soon on the Asia:NZ website -


Ready or not, China has arrived

By Prof Rolf Cremer and Dr Bala Ramasamy

It takes a long time to make an oil tanker change course. But it can be done. The renaissance of Chinese civilisation is an example of a colossus doing just that and steering clear of the rocks.

The process began a long time ago after the defeat of China at the hand of Japan in the 1880s. From that humiliating reverse, the aging Qing dynasty, and with it, thousands of years of dynastic rule, were doomed.

Since then, through revolutions and wars, uprisings and civil wars, natural and man-made disasters, China has struggled to reinvent itself in a rapidly modernising world.

And it has arrived. Anyone who has observed the nation over the past 25 years can be in no doubt that China is finally reclaiming its role as a leading civilisation.

At the heart of developments is Deng Xiaoping's expression, "gaige kaifang" which on the surface means economic reform and opening up. It suggests preparing a competitive economy that is ready to engage with the rest of the world (which has since been engaged in a debate about the future significance of China's rise).

International reaction has included economic fear ("We cannot compete"), blue-eyed optimism ("Don't worry, we are investing in China"), dismissive predictions ("Full speed ahead to another Asian meltdown"), cultural insecurity ("We will be subsumed by the Chinese juggernaut"), military lunacy ("How do we fight China?"), and racism ("We are selling our souls to the devil").

None of these often pessimistic scenarios demonstrate a clear understanding of what "gaige kaifang" represents to the Chinese. The key part is the opening. But it is not used as one would describe the opening of a drawer, or a door, or a window. It more accurately describes the unfolding of a flower.

It is a declaration that China is ready to grow, prosper, blossom and shine in the world, as it had done for many centuries before it lost its leading role to the Europeans.

The reality is that China will change the world. It has already begun to change and influence everything as we know it and no bursting real estate bubble or banking or corruption scandal will stop the energy behind this change.

The issue now facing the rest of the world is not whether or not China is a threat or an opportunity. It is both.

At the heart of the matter is whether others are prepared to accept China - and perhaps not far behind it, India - as a major player in every aspect of global affairs, and to which extent countries like New Zealand are preparing to live in the changed and changing international environment.


Send off for new Singapore scholars

Kimberley Huston is a Singapore veteran. The former Paraparaumu College student has completed a double major in finance and marketing at the National University of Singapore and is about to begin her Honours year.

Earlier this month it was her turn to welcome a new group of New Zealanders with scholarships to study at a university placed in the world's top 20.

During an Asia:NZ orientation day held in Wellington to farewell the scholarship winners, Ms Huston addressed a lunch gathering made up of the students, their parents and other guests.

Three years of study at NUS has given her the opportunity to travel to 18 countries, working and forging friendships with people from all over the world and imbued her with an international perspective on life.

She also wished the trio all the best for their NUS studies and said "may the experience open your minds and open as many doors as it has for me".

This year's Asia:NZ Singapore Scholars are Robina Ang from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School and Mark Cordiner from Hutt International Boys' School. Kaiying Chin from Westlake Girls High School is an NUS Scholarship Recipient.


Biculturalism or multiculturalism?

A conference featuring international speakers will examine differing but overlapping histories in terms of biculturism and multiculturism in New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

It will be held at the School of Culture, Literature and Society, University of Canterbury from September 1-3.

Speakers include: Simon During, Diana Brydon, Sneja Gunew, Bridget Orr, Gassan Hage, and Vijay Mishra. For more information, contact the conference organiser Mark Williams at


Crash course on Indonesia

There is no limit to what there is to know about Indonesia. It has the allure of being one of New Zealand's most complicated Asian neighbours and it is one of our closest.

Made up of hundreds of islands spread over a large swathe of ocean and with a population of over 210 million, the country consists of dozens of ethnic and linguistic groups all bound in a federal political framework.

Those wishing to gain a better understanding of Indonesia's political, social and cultural complexities are being invited to attend a day long conference at Victoria University's Asian Studies Institute on September 6.

The event is also being organised by the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington. For more information, contact Dewi Warli at


New faces

Joshua Shu Hua Takuta Thompson is a fourth generation Chinese New Zealander and a descendant of Ngati Kahungunu. He is a former kapa haka leader and sports captain at Rangitikei College who says his dream is to play professional basketball.

He is also one of 20 youthful ethnic New Zealanders featured in Portraits, a new publication from the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Also portrayed is Rina Patel, a New Zealand Drama School graduate and part of the 16-strong Untouchables Collective. Rina grew up in Auckland. Her mother is a second generation Gujurati New Zealander from Eltham and her father emigrated from India in 1975.

Rina says she and the collective seek to express a South Asian identity through theatre but "my family believes I'll end up on Shortland Street".

The director of the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Mervyn Singham, says the booklet aims to give insight into the lives of young people from communities as diverse as Russian, Chinese, Indian, Greek and Somali.

Portraits is being distributed to all schools and public libraries and copies can be obtained by sending an email to


Those Indian Guys in Malaysia

Comedy duo and former Asia:NZ grant recipients Those Indian Guys - Rajiv Varma and Tarun Mohanbhai - are returning home after completing a season of performances in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

The original two week season was extended by two nights to accommodate demand for their unique humour which blends their Indian cultural identities with growing up as New Zealanders.

A Malaysian production company managed their visit and the staging of two of their plays From India With Love and D'Arranged Marriage. The trip was supported by the New Zealand High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.

It is hoped the pair will contribute their comic talents to Asia:NZ's Diwali festivities in October, as they did to great effect last year.


The views expressed by various contributors to the newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the newsletter, please contact Asia:NZ's media adviser Charles Mabbett at

He iwi tahi tatou - we many peoples make up a nation

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