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Remarks By NZ China Council Chairman Sir McKinnon At Meeting Of NZ-China Friendship Society

China’s status as an economic superpower is self-evident. The fact that it has attained this status in a relatively short period is remarkable, and China deserves respect for doing so.

Superpowers are fundamentally different from other states because they can do a tremendous amount of good in the world. Conversely, they can wreak havoc if they so wish. Having such a status in the world carries enormous responsibilities. It is not the same for major powers let alone minor powers or small states.

Superpower status creates an expectation that one will treat all other states with respect. The international community does not expect superpowers to use their status as a threat over any other state. The role of the superpower is to assist the whole world, not just part of it. To unite the world not divide it. To act magnanimously towards the weak, to create win-win situations. To be transparent, not opaque.

China has had a history of other states making demands on it for a few hundred years. Now, China is under the spotlight over the issue of the Coronavirus and is finding it challenging to respond.

However, as a superpower, their role is to help the world, not hide from it. Despite the hectoring from some states, China should proudly and rapidly gain the initiative. China should announce they have nothing to hide.

China should announce the initiation of a "no holds barred" major inquiry. They should invite to participate in the inquiry people from around the world, recognised for being pre-eminent in their fields. They should not exclude people from any particular country, but seek the best scientific minds from wherever they reside. They should open all documents, be prepared to examine all sites of relevance and answer all questions.

It will ultimately be the quality of the people chosen for this inquiry which determines whether China has been hiding information or has been reticent in making that information available. This inquiry must be driven by science, not politics. The WHO should be invited by China to agree to the terms of reference for such an inquiry, and offer suggestions as to participants.

Too many people have died and will continue to die, so China must do all it can to help. China must take that initiative and act now. Agreeing to such an action and accepting the conclusions, will demonstrate to the world that they are indeed a superpower.

Sir Don McKinnon is former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and is the Chair of the New Zealand China Council.

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