Speech: Shanghai Nation Relief Foundation Dinner
Mr Han Zheyi, other distinguished guests from the Shanghai Chinese Nation Relief Foundation, and the Shanghai city government, elders of Te Haahi Ringatu, Wharekaihua Coates, Rangitukehu Paora, Te Kahautu Maxwell, honoured representatives of New Zealand's universities, the students of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great privilege and an honour for me to be here tonight to address you and to further develop the excellent relations that exist between the People's Republic of China and New Zealand.
There is a long history of contact between our two countries, ranging from the gold rush days of last century, through the years that Rewi Alley lived and worked among the people of China (starting off here in Shanghai), up to today, when the New Zealand Parliament is now proud to number a New Zealander of Chinese descent (in fact of Shanghainese descent), Pansy Wong, among its number.
Formal recognition between our two countries was established as recently as 1972. The warmth of our relations has deepened ever since.
In just the last six years, there have been 21 Ministers come here from New Zealand, while 22 of your most senior politicians have visited our country. We are looking forward very much to the visit of President Jiang Zemin in September.
I myself had the honour of escorting the then-Executive Vice Premier Zhu Rongji, the Minister of Defence, General Chi Haotian, and the Chairman of the People's Committee Li Ruihan, while they were in my country.
Just three nights ago, I had the great honour and pleasure of hosting the Mayor of Shanghai, Xu Kuangdi, at a dinner on Hoani Waititi marae in West Auckland, where he and his party were delighted by the performance of the children's kapa haka culture group that you have seen tonight.
I make these remarks to emphasise the strength of the ties that bind our two nations.
There is only one China and New Zealand is proud to be her friend.
One of the reasons I, and my New Zealand colleagues, are here tonight is to increase those ties, especially in the field of education.
New Zealand has an excellent education system and we are happy to share it with you. Growth in this area has been rapid.
In 1997, New Zealand operated a quota of 400 places for Chinese students to study at home.
Late last year, that figure was increased ten-fold to 4000. Over eighteen hundred of those places have been filled already. It is our intention that the opening of the New Zealand Immigration Service office tomorrow night here in Shanghai will improve those numbers.
As Minister of Immigration, I am pleased that the quota restriction will no longer apply to China as of 1 October. I look forward to many more Chinese students studying in New Zealand in the near future. I also look forward to many more New Zealand students visiting China.
I also bring to you greetings from the Maori people of New Zealand and especially from those of us who belong to Mataatua. The name Mataatua comes from the canoe that brought our ancestors to the shores of New Zealand many, many generations ago from the far off land of Hawaiki. And before that, perhaps thousands of years ago, I understand some say the Maori people came from China.
I also understand that recently DNA evidence has clearly shown that this in fact so. Therefore, can I say that on behalf of those of us here tonight who are of Maori descent, we are especially pleased to have finally come home to meet with you our relatives from times long, long ago.
As the Chairman of my tribal council I also bring you their greetings, and at a tribal meeting several days ago the people asked me to express their wishes that one day we establish formal links between our tribe and the Chinese people.
This sort of two-way exchange of knowledge and friendship will benefit both countries. New Zealand is but a tiny nation in a big world, while China is a huge nation in the same big world. It is certainly in New Zealand s interests to introduce our country first hand to some of China?s future decision makers.
And we believe Chinese young people will benefit from the top-quality, English language education in a safe and clean environment that New Zealand can offer.
I don't wish to detain you any longer, I look forward to seeing you all at the opening of the New Zealand Education Fair here in Shanghai on Friday night.
Thank you, sie sie ni!
[tou matou waiata - E Pa Tou Reo]
And now I would like to propose a number of toasts:
To the enduring friendship of the peoples of New Zealand and China;
To the Shanghai Chinese Nation Relief Foundation;
To Mr Han Zheyi.