• Jim Bolger
Foreign Affairs and Trade


Mr Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure today to address this New Zealand-China 25th Anniversary Conference.

I commend the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the University of Auckland for their role in organising this meeting.

This year marks several milestones.

The first that 25 years have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China.

Over that quarter-century we have seen increasing ties develop at the government level, in business and investment, and a multitude of people-to-people links.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rewi Alley, a man who described himself as an ordinary New Zealander, and who spent a unique 60 years in China.

In that time he witnessed revolutions, war, reconstruction, and the struggle to build a strong and prosperous China.

Throughout his life Alley worked with and for the Chinese people.

He retained faith and optimism in what could be achieved by people working together, whether in the poorest rural areas of Gansu Province, or in the capital, or in international relations.

Rewi Alley's belief in friendship and cooperative relations between people marked his life, and is an example to us all.

I am pleased to announce that to commemorate the cooperation between Rewi Alley and Gansu Province, New Zealand has made a special grant of NZ$100,000 to strengthen agricultural extension services at Gansu Agricultural University.

The Institute will be named after Rewi Alley.

Celebrations next week at the Great Hall of the People will commemorate Alley's life and service.

I am delighted that a former Governor-General of New Zealand, Sir Paul Reeves, who is also here at this Conference, will help represent the people of New Zealand at those commemorations.

New Zealand's links with China were already developing well prior to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations.

Then, as now, the impetus was given by people to people contacts.

As you heard yesterday from Dr Manying Ip, Chinese immigrants to New Zealand since the 1860s gave their energy and skills to New Zealand's development.

Our export horticulture sector is but one area where the early Chinese settlers made a lasting contribution.

I have to acknowledge that not all New Zealanders have appreciated as they should the role of immigration in our development.

This is now changing, for the better, as we see the real benefits that multicultural diversity brings to New Zealand.

But let me take this opportunity, here in Beijing, to place on record how much we, as a New Zealand Government, acknowledge and welcome the role that New Zealanders of Chinese descent have made and are making in New Zealand.

The movement of people has of course been a two way process.

In the period before official links were established, hundreds of New Zealanders like Rewi Alley travelled to China to live and work.

Their work in China covered a wide spectrum of the foreign presence here, including work as missionaries and aid workers, bankers, engineers, teachers and medical staff.

Their news and experiences of China filtered into New Zealand.

Slowly but surely a greater consciousness of China emerged in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

The establishment of diplomatic links in 1972 began a new phase of government support for the relationship.

The China Exchange Programme began building educational ties from the outset. Hundreds of students, teachers and scientists came together in education and research.

Today the Asia 2000 Foundation continues that work through education, media and business exchanges.

Perhaps it is in trade where the greatest growth in ties has occurred since 1972.

Only 25 years ago, bilateral trade stood at only NZ$6.4 million.

By contrast, total two-way trade last year with China was NZ$1.3 billion.

Two way investment has grown rapidly.

When Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji visited New Zealand earlier this year, he told us that, according to Chinese figures, New Zealand is now China's largest overseas investment destination.

That impressive statistic demonstrates the strong ties between us.

We may not be able to hold that pre-eminent position as China grows, but we do want Chinese investment to continue.

You have heard today from CITIC and Richina of their experiences in investing in New Zealand.

I hope more may follow.

New Zealand companies have significant assets in China.

According to Chinese Government figures, there are some 334 New Zealand projects in China, ranging across such areas as brewing, cement, iron and steel, dairy products and real estate.

The close links between New Zealand and China are also evident in the international arena.

A few days ago in Vancouver I attended the meeting of leaders from the APEC economies, along with President Jiang Zemin.

Through economic liberalisation and dialogue APEC is advancing the well-being of the Asia-Pacific region.

Our discussions in Vancouver confirmed to me that we are well on track to achieving those targets.

New Zealand will be chairing APEC during 1999 and China in 2001.

I am confident that both countries will continue to work closely together to maintain APEC's momentum and contribution to growth and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

In similar vein, I wish to reiterate tonight the importance New Zealand attaches to the early admission of China to the World Trade Organisation.

Put simply, the World Trade Organisation needs China just as China needs the WTO.

China's membership will both protect and promote the continued growth and modernisation of China as a leading global economy.

New Zealand was the first country to both commence and conclude bilateral negotiations with China over its entry to the WTO.

We will continue to actively support China's WTO accession negotiations with other countries.

I hope that before too long, WTO councils in Geneva and elsewhere may benefit from the wisdom of a new member.

China and New Zealand also have a good and cooperative relationship in the United Nations.

Our countries worked closely during New Zealand's tenure on the Security Council, and learned much about each other's interests.

So too has our joint membership of the ASEAN Regional Forum offered new opportunities for cooperation on political and security questions.

From tentative beginnings in 1995, the ARF has made good progress in opening channels for dialogue.

The mere fact of holding regular meetings to talk through these difficult issues is an achievement in itself, in a diverse region with few other mechanisms for doing so.

The ARF is now poised to move further along the track towards preventive diplomacy.

The region still has trouble-spots, and tensions, some of which have the potential to disrupt the current positive international trading and security environment.

I look forward to New Zealand and China continuing to make useful contributions in discussions on a workable and regional style of preventive diplomacy.

Bilateral links are also being established in the area of governance and human rights.

Under our International Good Government Programme, in 1997 New Zealand has hosted China's Minister of Justice, and a delegation from the Chinese prosecutions service.

Through our direct exchanges on law and governance, the New Zealand and Chinese governments are exploring ways together to enhance administrative reform and good government practice in China.

These are New Zealand's preferred means to share with China our views about human rights - not with a megaphone on the world stage, but through direct and constructive dialogue with the people who count.

I wish every success to this programme, and to the upcoming visit by the Chinese Minister of Supervision, who will be looking at ways New Zealand attempts to ensure transparent government and effective auditing of public spending.

Our education ties have also entered a new phase this year.

For the 1998 academic year, New Zealand has allocated places in secondary and tertiary institutions specifically for Chinese students.

We see great potential in offering New Zealand's education services to China.

New Zealand is a study destination which provides a combination of an English-speaking language environment, world-class standards of teaching, facilities and resources, and a lifestyle and climate which are uniquely our own.

Education builds broad bilateral relationships.

Students maintain friends, contacts, and business associates years after their studies are concluded.

These alumni provide points of contact and introduction, and further reinforce the relationship.

At this very conference, we can see the ongoing relationship born of educational experiences, with Professor Paul Clark of the organising Committee, and speakers Mr Richard Yan of Richina, and Mr Vincent Cheng of Hong Kong Shanghai Bank.

With the growing interest in New Zealand in studying Chinese languages, and a new education curriculum in Mandarin to equip our young people, I believe New Zealand will be even better placed in future to deepen this aspect of our relationship.

Tourism is also a major feature of our relations.

New Zealand visitors to China number close to 20,000 per year, many more if you include those who have come via Hong Kong.

The growth in Chinese visitors to New Zealand is even more impressive.

The number of visitors has been growing at over 50 per cent for the past several years and stood at over 17,000 last year.

We hope that formal approval, from China's State Council, to designate New Zealand as a preferred destination for outbound Chinese tourists will see further visitor growth in the near future.

I hope that if a Conference like this is held 25 years from now, our successors will view with satisfaction a half century of continued growth in the bilateral links between New Zealand and China.

There is every reason for us to be confident of a mature vibrant relationship enriched and driven by increasingly direct links between families, communities, schools, businesses and governments; a relationship which drives itself to the mutual benefit of both partners.

The seeds of just that relationship have been well-planted, and are already flourishing.

The challenge for both sides- and particularly for New Zealand as the smaller partner - is how best to foster that self-sustaining maturity in the years ahead.

The answer lies in our own hands; in the policies we each pursue at the domestic and international level.

My hope for New Zealand is that we will continue to look outwards; confident but not complacent in our ability to compete successfully in the international economy.

Globalisation need not be feared, but harnessed for the opportunities it provides for growth, new ideas, capital, immigration and innovation.

As our economy continues to grow, so too will the opportunities for more expansive provision of social support, education and health.

China and New Zealand alike know that to have a strong social policy requires a strong economy to sustain it.

I also have no doubt that China's re-emergence as a global political and economic leader will play an increasingly significant role in New Zealand's future.

We welcome that prospect, and look forward to a future of engagement and partnership in the common objective of promoting international growth, stability and prosperity in the new millennium.

In the meantime, I understand that a return conference is to be held in New Zealand next year.

It will take its place in the build-up towards the APEC Summit meeting which New Zealand will have the pleasure to host in 1999.

It will also enable Chinese delegates at the conference to see something of New Zealand, as the New Zealand side are seeing more of China today and in the days to come.

In this way, these conferences will do their bit to help draw our countries closer together, and enhance cooperation between us.

That in turn will, I am sure, strengthen the fabric of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific neighbourhood, to which we both belong.

Finally, may I say to our hosts again, thank you for your warm hospitality and your friendship.

We look forward to seeing you in New Zealand before too long.