Carry Forward the Spirit of Rewi Alley to Deepen China-New Zealand Friendship
Remarks by HE Ambassador Wang Xiaolong at the Annual Conference of NZCFS
18 June 2022, Auckland
Rt Hon David Carter, Patron of NZCFS,
Mr Dave Bromwich, National President of NZCFS,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be invited to the Annual Conference of New Zealand China Friendship Society. I would like to begin by expressing the warmest congratulations on the convening of today’s meeting off line, enabling us to meet with one another face to face again. Over the years，under the leadership of the patrons and President Dave Bromwich and with the joint efforts of its members, the Society has made continuous efforts to enhance understanding and friendship between our two countries and two peoples, deepen practical economic and trade cooperation, and support and promote the growth of our overall relationship. All present here today are good and old friends to the Chinese people. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your endeavors and contribution!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and New Zealand, which is not only a major milestone in the bilateral relations, but also an important opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved together and look ahead to chart the course for the future. In the past half a century, the two sides have worked together in the spirit of “striving to be first” to have created many “firsts” in China’s relations with western developed countries, irrespective of differences in political systems, historical and cultural backgrounds and stages of development.
In this course, the frequent high level exchanges have deepened our mutual political trust, building up to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership announced in 2014. Our practical trade and economic cooperation has been growing significantly, with the bilateral trade reaching NZD 35.5 billion in 2021. Both China and New Zealand believe in and advocate multilateralism, both support the international system with the United Nations as its core, and both are committed to international cooperation in addressing global challenges like climate change and COVID-19 pandemic.
But relationship between NZ and China is not transactional. It is much wider and deeper. Partnerships between states last when they are rooted in friendship between their peoples, which, in turn, starts from mutual understanding and trust. The strong people-to-people relationship is one of the most important pillars of the China-New Zealand friendly relationship of cooperation. Its foundational role cannot be overemphasized. It is heartening to observe that the bond between the two peoples has grown stronger over the years. Be it the Chinese in NZ or the Kiwis in China, or the students, tourists, and entrepreneurs going both ways, they have all helped to set up bridges for communications and cooperation and to draw the two countries and peoples ever closer.
In fact, the engagement between the two peoples dates back far earlier than the diplomatic relations between the two countries. One clear example is the establishment of this very Society 70 years ago in 1952, only three years after the founding of the People’s Republic, and way before most western countries, including NZ, entered into formal relationships with the new China.
Broad-based support among the two peoples from the bottom up and the stewardship by the leadership of the two countries at the very top, particularly since the start of diplomatic relations, have coalesced to add increasing breadth and depth to the relations, to the benefit of both countries and peoples, and contributing at the same time, to regional and global peace and prosperity.
In his phone conversation with Prime Minister Ardern last November, President Xi Jinping encouraged the two sides, especially the youths from the two countries, to enhance exchanges and communications in the spirit of Rewi Alley, one of the most preeminent pioneers for promoting friendship between the two peoples. The 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties coincides with the 125th anniversary of Mr. Alley’s birth and 95th anniversary of his first arrival in China. I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to pay tribute to him as a great internationalist, a forerunner of Gungho movement, an old friend of the Chinese people, and arguably the best known kiwi in China.
Though Mr Alley left us 35 years ago, his spirit, transcending time and space, still lives on, and is still relevant, particularly to what we are discussing today. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you five Cs that best embody the Rewi Alley spirit as I see it.
The first C is his firm Confidence in China’s future. His first encounter with China was in the 1920s, when China was still in the depth of her miseries. But Mr. Alley never lost his faith in, or hope for the country, even when a lot of our own countrymen were not so sure.
The second C is Consistency in his lifelong love for China and support for China-New Zealand relations, which is widely recognized and fondly remembered in both countries.
The second C is Consistency in his lifelong love for China and support for China-New Zealand relations, which is widely recognized and fondly remembered in both countries.?
The fourth C is Creativity in solving problems. In the period preceding the People’s Republic of China, not a single step of the Gungho movement and the Bailie School was easily taken. Without the creative contribution of the international friends like Alley, none of those would have been possible.
第五是對和平與發展的堅定追求（COMMITMENT TO PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT）。艾黎說：“和平意味著發展”?！叭祟愐l展和進步，就不能偏離和平的道路?！彼囊簧荚谯`行這一信念，始終為和平與發展的偉大事業而奮斗。
The fifth and final C is his unswerving Commitment to peace and development. Mr Alley famously said, “peace means development.” “If mankind wants development and progress, it shall never be diverted away from the peaceful path.” He lived out his own words, by dedicating selflessly all his life to the most noble cause of peace and development.?
Today’s world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century，with growing risks and uncertainties. It is only natural that against this background, China-New Zealand relations are faced with new opportunities and challenges. The above-mentioned five Cs provide us with important inspirations for steering the bilateral relations in the right direction in a changing world to ensure the relationship’s healthy and stable development.
Both China and New Zealand put people at the centre and take improving people’s lives as our top priority. Both are committed to upholding fair and effective international and regional rules and architecture. Both believe in openness, inclusion and integration, and multilateralism. Both support peace and oppose war. Both aspire to sustained peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region. These shared aspirations make our two countries partners. I firmly believe that NZ and China working together at bilateral, regional and global levels will contribute to a better world and will help us to realize our respective national goals, the Chinese dream in the case of China, and the Kiwi dream for New Zealand.
To make it happen, we need to rise above the clouds and keep our sights on the silver-lining, as Mr Alley did, and to persevere in promoting our bilateral relations and expanding and deepening our cooperation, in spite of, or sometimes because of the dramatic transformations underway in our world, which will empower both NZ and China to seize the new opportunities and address the challenges as they arise. Like Mr Alley, we need to think outside the box to tackle the new questions and issues of our time.
Looking back, the achievements in the China-New Zealand relations over the past five decades is the result of painstaking efforts from both sides. Looking ahead, further development of our relationship will still require the continued hard work from both sides.
By continuing to strive to be the first, by adhering to the principles of mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual benefit, and by seeking to build up commonalities while managing our differences constructively through dialogues and consultations, I am sure we shall see the best days, years, and decades of our relationship ahead of us.
A pressing challenge is to dispel the smog of mis-and-disinformation, to promote the development of accurate perceptions of each other that reflect realities. It is not as much the need to improve the image of China or NZ in the eyes of each other as the imperative that people should be able to see things as they are.
I understand that the theme of last year’s annual conference was “What it means to be a friend of China”. And this year, it is “what do friends do?” If there is one word that can sum it all up, it is then mutuality. Mutuality of respect, mutuality of understanding, mutuality of support, and finally and as a result, mutuality of benefit and fulfillment. And honestly, I cannot think of a better gift friends can give to each other.
In concluding, let me reiterate that for China, developing a strong relationship with NZ has never been a choice of convenience, but rather a long-term strategic decision both rooted in our shared past and more importantly, with eyes set on our common, brighter future. Let’s work together to build upon the progress over the past 50 years and bring about further development of China-New Zealand relationship in the next 50 years and beyond, generating even greater benefits for both sides, particularly both peoples. Once again, I thank the New Zealand-China Friendship Society for its important work, and look forward to the Society’s continued support and cooperation. And I wish this year’s annual conference of the Society a great success!