Prime Minister the Rt Hon John Key's speech at Tsinghua University, 19 April 2016.

Da jia hao. Good morning. 

I am delighted to be back here in China.

This is my sixth visit to China as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The fact that I’ve visited so many times reflects my personal commitment to the relationship between our two countries.

I have also been pleased to welcome President Xi to New Zealand.

Our countries are vastly different in size.

China makes up close to 20 per cent of the world’s population.

New Zealand makes up less than 0.1 per cent.

Yet our two nations have developed close ties over time.

China has developed and been open to greater integration.

New Zealand has been keen to engage.

Last year, for example, New Zealand was the first developed country to support the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and was a vocal advocate of this initiative.

We were also the first developed country, back in 2008, to have a bilateral free trade agreement with China.

I am also pleased on this visit to be speaking at the prestigious Tsinghua University here in Beijing. 

On a previous visit I spoke at Peking University, and I am told that Tsinghua and Peking are regarded as the two top academic institutions in China.

I have brought a large and high-ranking delegation with me to China this week.

It includes our Minister for Primary Industries, Hon Nathan Guy; the Minister of Trade, Hon Todd McClay; MP Dr Jian Yang, the Chair of Parliament’s Education and Science Committee; and top-ranking government officials.

My delegation includes members of the New Zealand China Council, the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre and the Asia New Zealand Foundation. 

These are bodies that play a central role in improving understanding and awareness between our two countries.

I am also joined by leaders in the fields of business, science and innovation, education and culture. 

Innovation and creativity are key themes of my visit, and dynamic change in the Asia-Pacific region is creating new opportunities for our countries, businesses and people to work together.

The seniority of my delegation reflects New Zealand’s commitment to seizing those opportunities, strengthening our ties and making new connections in China. 

Those ties have advanced a great deal since Appo Hocton, the first Chinese immigrant to New Zealand, arrived in 1842.

He jumped ship in the port of Nelson, and became a successful businessman and farmer.

Ten years after his arrival he also became a naturalised New Zealander.

By the end of the nineteenth century, there were a few thousand Chinese immigrants in New Zealand.

Now there are almost 200,000.

Shortly after I return to New Zealand, I will be taking part in ANZAC Day commemorations.

The ANZACs were a Corps of Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the First World War who fought bravely at Gallipoli and in France.

The term ANZAC has iconic status in New Zealand as a symbol of our identity as an independent nation. 

Until the recent publication of a book called “Chinese ANZACs”, few people would have known that 55 New Zealand-born Chinese served with our forces in the First World War.

It is an important and touching reminder of the contribution Chinese have made to our country.

Chinese New Zealanders continue to make a significant contribution to New Zealand.

As I mentioned earlier, I am delighted to be joined on this visit by Dr Jian Yang, born in Jiangxi Province, one of four Chinese members of New Zealand’s parliament in recent years. 

Meng Foon, whose family came from Guangdong province, is one of New Zealand’s longest serving mayors, and attended the inaugural New Zealand China Mayoral Forum in Xiamen last year.

Over the years, a number of New Zealanders have also left their mark on China.

The most famous was, of course, Rewi Alley, who went to China in 1927.

He intended only to visit but stayed for the rest of his life, receiving honorary citizenship in 1982.

The fruit we know as kiwifruit is an iconic New Zealand product, but the older  generation still sometimes refer to them as “Chinese gooseberries”.

That’s because, until recently, all commercial kiwifruit cultivars in New Zealand could be traced back to those brought from China in 1904 by a New Zealand school teacher, Isabel Fraser. 

Our connections are growing, and very quickly.

Since the free trade agreement between New Zealand and China was signed eight years ago, two-way trade has more than doubled.

We trade more with China every five hours than we did in the whole of 1972, when diplomatic relations commenced.   

China has become New Zealand’s largest export market for goods and our biggest source of imports.

New Zealand has become China’s fourth-largest supplier of agricultural goods. 

We’ve been able to provide high quality, safe food and beverage products to China’s growing consumer base.

The FTA has been a win-win for our countries. 

It has been so successful that we are keen on upgrading it to reflect the growth in bilateral trade, to modernise some parts of the agreement and to expand trade opportunities even further.

New Zealand is also committed to working with China as it reforms and modernises its agricultural sector. 

We are sharing expertise in agriculture, horticulture, food-science and technology through initiatives such as the Agricultural Growth Partnership, which our governments signed yesterday.

Cooperation will help build the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of China’s agriculture sector. 

A good example of this is a recently-concluded joint water quality project, which researchers here at Tsinghua University contributed to. 

The project demonstrated how effective livestock waste management practices can reduce the need for chemical fertilisers, while also improving yields and saving farmers money.

This is good for Chinese farmers, and a great example of innovation and cooperation between our two countries. 

New Zealand and China are also working together to make it easier for our business people to trade with each other, so they can take full advantage of the opportunities our FTA has created. 

For example, our customs agencies will later this year launch a Joint Electronic Verification System to accelerate customs clearance procedures.

They are also undertaking a study into the feasibility of a mutual recognition arrangement for approved exporters.

Beyond our trade in goods and services, foreign investment, including from China, has an important role to play in supporting New Zealand’s economic growth. 

My Government welcomes overseas investment in New Zealand, because it adds to what New Zealanders can invest on their own.

It helps create jobs and increases incomes.

My Government supports those rules and we apply them fairly and consistently across all potential investors, regardless of nationality and in a transparent way.

Our transparency and stable business climate are part of the reason we are considered a good country to do business with.

China is becoming more important to the global economy all the time, and more integrated with it.

Its economic rise has been an important driver of growth in the world and particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

China’s transition away from investment and export-led growth to an economic model based on increased domestic consumption, and a larger services sector, will lead to continued growth in the size and wealth of China’s consumer-base.

Your demand for quality products and services will grow.

As Premier Li said recently, 1 per cent of GDP growth today is the equivalent of 2.5 per cent of GDP growth ten years ago given the scale of China’s economic growth.

China’s economic reforms will not only transform your country but will also influence developments in the region and in the world. 

We know that pursuing economic reform has its challenges. 

That is from first-hand experience, with New Zealand experiencing extensive economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s.

But those reforms have made New Zealand a stronger, more resilient and more competitive economy.

So I am very confident about China’s prospects.

For our part, the New Zealand Government’s priorities are to keep the country’s finances in good health, find better ways to deliver public services to our citizens, and build a more competitive and productive economy. 

On this last point, we are focusing on six key areas businesses have told us are important for them to grow and succeed: export markets, investment, innovation, skills, natural resources and infrastructure.

We are trying to grow more internationally-connected businesses, diversify our export markets, and capture a greater premium for New Zealand’s exports.

China is a very important part of that story.

The connections between our two countries are also deepening in other areas.

New Zealand now has consulates in three cities in mainland China – Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu – and we are building a new flagship embassy in Beijing. We are welcoming an increasing number of Chinese visitors to New Zealand each year. 

China is New Zealand’s second-largest, and fastest-growing, tourist market.

In the past 12 months  we have welcomed approximately 370,000 Chinese visitors to New Zealand.

To appreciate the significance of that number, it is the equivalent of 8 per cent of the New Zealand population.

Through TV shows, movies like Lord of the Rings, and events like actress Yao Chen’s marriage in Queenstown, more and more young Chinese people are connecting with New Zealand and what it has to offer.

In response, the Government has been working closely with the tourism industry to ensure Chinese visitors have a positive experience when they come to our country.

And we have been looking at ways to make it easier for Chinese travellers to visit New Zealand.

As part of that work, New Zealand Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has today announced new measures that will make the visa application process even easier for hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals.   We are introducing online eVisas, which will reduce the time and effort required to obtain a visa.

With this type of visa, an application can be made anywhere, with no need to bring a passport to an embassy or visa centre.

And the whole process, from logon to approval, will be in Chinese.

Education is another important link between our two countries.

30,000 Chinese students chose to study in New Zealand last year, making China our largest source of international students.

A growing number of New Zealand students are also going to China or learning to speak the language.

I recently went on my first visit to New Zealand’s Stewart Island, which has a population of just 300 people.

There is only one school on the island but I was told that through ultra fast broadband all 26 students were learning Chinese.

Here in China, we help support student exchanges through the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, and I would like to acknowledge the Prime Minister’s scholars studying at Tsinghua University, who are in the audience today.

I would also like to acknowledge the role that Tsinghua is playing in building education links.

For example, it has relationships with a number of New Zealand universities, including three-way partnerships with Auckland University and Qinghai University; and with Lincoln University and Kunming University of Science & Technology. 

I’ve talked about connections between China and New Zealand but our two countries are also part of the wider Asia-Pacific region.

We consider that further regional economic integration has the potential to benefit all the constituent countries in our region and strengthen its peace and prosperity.

We have seen significant progress in recent years.

China’s innovation with institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to deliver further benefits to the region.

As I said earlier, I am proud of the part New Zealand played in the formation of the AIIB, and we look forward to playing a constructive role in the future.

New Zealand is also part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and hosted the signing of the TPP agreement in February. 

TPP involves 12 Asia-Pacific countries which together are home to 800 million people and account for 36 per cent of global GDP.

The agreement liberalises trade and sets consistent rules to make it easier to do business across the region.

TPP is open for membership across the Asia-Pacific region. 

A number have already expressed interest in joining.

New Zealand has maintained dialogue with China throughout the TPP process. 

We would welcome and support China joining TPP in the future, should it choose to do so.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is another regional trade negotiation that has significant potential.

It involves New Zealand, China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries. RCEP includes six of our top ten trading partners, and could be a key step towards our shared vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

To achieve its potential, however, RCEP countries need to continue working towards achieving the level of ambition that Leaders committed to at the launch of negotiations in 2012.

The region’s economic prosperity also requires a foundation of stability and security.

China and New Zealand work together on these issues through regional bodies like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. 

In our view, these forums play an important role in addressing common security challenges, including the threat posed by nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and rising tensions in the South China Sea.

As a small, globally-focused, trading nation, the multilateral, rules-based system is very important to us.

It is a system that provides security for all countries, and allows them to have their issues heard and resolved peacefully. 

So New Zealand has always been a strong champion of international law, and a stalwart advocate of respect for that law and respect for the associated dispute settlement mechanisms. 

New Zealand believes it is important that, where these processes are used, their outcomes are respected by all parties. 

New Zealand and China also currently share a responsibility for maintenance of global peace and security, as members of the United Nations Security Council. 

We have a shared interest in improving Security Council performance in areas such as conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations. 

We also have a responsibility for ensuring that the Council is able to respond effectively to the most pressing international challenges, from Syria to South Sudan to the Middle East Peace Process.

Earlier this month, I nominated Helen Clark to be the next UN Secretary-General. 

Helen Clark was my predecessor as Prime Minister of New Zealand, and was committed to building the NZ–China relationship.

Under her leadership, for example, New Zealand concluded the free trade agreement with China.

The major global challenges we face today mean the United Nations needs a proven leader who can be pragmatic and effective.

We think Helen Clark is the best person for the job.

Having been a Prime Minister for nine years, and having subsequently held one of the top jobs in the United Nations, she has the right mix of skills and experience.

She is deeply immersed in international affairs.

Coming from New Zealand, she is also well-placed to bridge divisions and get results.

She knows our region and the issues we face. 

Can I conclude by thanking you again for inviting me to speak at your university today.

Together, New Zealand and China have made enormous strides.

This comes from the top down – from the commitment our countries’ leaders have shown over time.

We are working together in areas ranging from food safety and security, to the film and television sectors, to defence, to the provision of development assistance in the Pacific.

But it also comes from the bottom up – from ordinary citizens wanting to visit, trade with, or enjoy the culture of each other’s country

Through movies, travel, sports and social media, our people are connecting in numbers and in ways that could never have been imagined by the earlier pioneers.

But the principle is the same.

A Māori proverb tells us that the most important thing in the world is people.

The same is true of the relations between New Zealand and China. 

New Zealanders and Chinese should rightly be proud of the relationship between our two countries.

And a bright future awaits us.

Xie xie. Thank you.


Tags: