Speech to the NZCC
8.30am, 19 April 2021
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Korihi Pō, Korihi AoE rongo e turia no MatahauNō Tū te winiwini, Nō Tū te wanawanaTū Hikitia rā, Tū Hapainga maiKi te Whai Ao, Ki te Ao MāramaTihei Mauri Ora!
Hawaiiki Tangata kua Hawaiiki-tia, oki oki atu rā koutouHawaiiki Tautau e tau nei, Tēnā tātou Kātoa!
Tēna tātou i runga i te tini me te rahi o ngā āhuatanga o te wā. E te Kaunihera, nei ra te reo karamihimihi ki a koutou. He hononga tangata, he hononga wairua, he hononga whakaaro e tuitui nei ki tenei ikapahitanga whakawhiti korero, whiriwhiri tahi, whakatau anō hoki ki ngā take ngākau nui ki a tātou…
Mai e te tipua, ma e te tawhito, mai e te kahui o nga ariki, mai e tawhiwhi ki nga atua!He Taniwha He Tipua, He Tipua He Taniwha!
I bring greetings to you all and acknowledge the length and breadth of work that has been done to get us all here today. I acknowledge you the council for your deep dedication to upholding this relationship. This is not just a gathering of people, this is a spiritual gathering of cultures, of values and of traditions born before us, designed to allow us to unite. To gather and share thoughts, to have discussion, and to make decisions on topics of great importance to us all.
I invoke the inspiration and guidance of the universe and the gods, I bestow a life-force upon this gathering.
The dragon and the Taniwha.]
I want to start by acknowledging the important contribution that the New Zealand China Council makes to our relationship with China.
For nearly a decade the New Zealand China Council has helped inform discussion, forge connections, and promote engagement through events, publications, and now – I have heard – podcasts.
Given the breadth of our relationship with China, which touches on almost all sectors and groups in New Zealand, I welcome the emphasis of the Council on collaboration, on language and culture, and on public awareness, alongside economic resilience and sustainable trade.
We have experienced the benefits of a diverse range of members; from across the business community, Chinese community groups, local government and iwi forging their understanding and relationship with China.
Sir Don, in your Chair’s Report on the Council’s activities last year you noted that we live in an increasingly complex global environment.
You also outlined the impact of COVID-19 not only on New Zealand’s relationship with China – but on the activities of the China Council – and I congratulate you on your pivot to online and digital activities during this period. I too have had to make that pivot!
Digital tests aside, it has been an exceptionally challenging year. We are all having to adapt and adjust. The businesses represented in this room have shown remarkable resilience and agility in the face of the unprecedented challenges thrown up by COVID-19. The Government’s trade recovery strategy has worked to support businesses in these times, protecting our supply chains and flow of goods across the world, including to China.
And as we continue to navigate COVID-19, and what comes next, we are mindful that we were already navigating choppy waters.
It is not getting any easier to be a small country. Global competition is intensifying, the international rules-based system is under pressure, and protectionism is on the rise – all at a time when the need for coordinated global action on issues such as climate change has never been greater. Now more than ever, New Zealand’s commitment to multilateralism and to broadening the diversity of our relationships is essential to build resilience as we undertake our recovery from COVID-19.
NZ-China bilateral relationship – The Dragon and the Taniwha.
Aotearoa New Zealand’s relationship with China is one of our most significant. China is an influential regional and global actor. It has been our largest trading partner since 2017.
This is a relationship in which all New Zealanders have an interest. And it is a relationship that the Government approaches keeping in mind all New Zealanders’ long-term interests.
We have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which continues to serve us well, supported by a long-standing commitment to our one China policy nearly half a century on.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year, we can and should acknowledge how far our trade and people connections have come.
Pre-COVID China was our second largest source of international visitor arrivals in 2019 – with over 400,000 visitors. We look forward to being able to extend our manaakitanga to visitors from China again when international travel conditions can safely return to normal
I would like to just quickly acknowledge New Zealand Chinese Association President Richard Leung, and others here today who are among the more-than-200,000 New Zealanders who identify as ethnically Chinese. Your diverse community – including those tracing whakapapa back to the 19th Century gold fields of Otago, and those who chose their life in New Zealand more recently – plays a central role in the rich exchanges between the peoples of Aotearoa and of China.
I’d also like to congratulate the New Zealand Chinese Association and Te Roroa and Te Rarawa hapū on delivering the SS Ventnor memorial in Ōpononi earlier this month. The combined effort to honour the lives lost over a century ago represents the extraordinary history and enduring relationship between our peoples.
That relationship continues to be powerful. It is an important part of the historical and contemporary relationship between the people of Aotearoa New Zealand and the people of China – a relationship built over decades of contact and exchange, whether through formal cultural delegations, or significant flows of migrants, tourists and students.
This has been a journey. Today we acknowledge the interests we share. Equally we have become more alert to the values that differentiate us.
Let me liken this perspective to the Dragon and the Taniwha – a metaphor for the relationship to which I will return to later.
Members of this Council are familiar with the breadth of our engagement with China.
Where we can, we pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. Obvious opportunities exist in a range of areas including the economy, agriculture, and improving the business environment.
We were pleased to sign the Upgrade to our Free Trade Agreement with China in January. The Upgrade will modernise our existing agreement, now more than a decade old, and deliver new benefits for New Zealand businesses (including new goods and services market access and trade facilitation). I want to thank the Council for its support for the Upgrade.
In thinking about long-term economic resilience we also understand that there is value in diversity. Just as the Council has noted, it is prudent not to put all eggs into a single basket. The New Zealand government will continue to work with business to pursue a range of trade opportunities.
And while COVID-19 constrains our ability to travel, I had the pleasure of an engagement with my counterpart, State Councillor Wang Yi in December. We agreed that the relationship was in good shape. A similarly constructive call followed in January between my colleague Hon Damien O’Connor and his counterpart Trade Minister Wang Wentao.
Our ministerial contact has been supported by regular conversations at official levels, both in the context of our established officials’ dialogues, and busy, daily engagement in both countries. Exchanges like these help build understanding.
We have special opportunities this year as New Zealand hosts APEC. As we work with others in the region to recover from the pandemic, it is hard to overstate the importance of processes that bring together business, policy-makers and political leaders across the APEC agenda. And China, which itself hosted APEC in 2014, can make an important contribution.
Our two countries engage regularly in other regional fora, including the East Asia Summit, and through the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
Beyond the regional agenda, many countries –including New Zealand – will continue to engage with China on climate change. The undertakings China has already made and its future actions, along with those of other big economies, will be hugely consequential.
It is a statement of the obvious that China’s actions are having ever more impact on our regional interests. It is in everyone’s interest for China to act in the world in ways consistent with its responsibilities as a growing power. Indeed, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has special responsibilities.
New Zealand has a firm view on the nature of those responsibilities. They are represented in the various pillars of the multilateral order that were crafted in the second half of the 20th century, and the rules and norms that flow from them.
Where Dragon Meets Taniwha
My intention with this speech is to outline what New Zealand’s contemporary relationship with China looks and feels like. When I think about this relationship as referred to earlier I liken it to the respect a Taniwha would have for a Dragon and vice versa.
Taniwha are endemic to Aotearoa but can trace their whakapapa across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean – Te Moana nui a Kiwa. Taniwha are protectors or guardians, often of water, and hold dominion over rivers, seas, lands and territories. Deeply steeped in culture, they are spiritual and one with nature. They symbolise a sense of guardianship for our people and our land and a strong belief in self.
And like the Dragon, they are powerful, auspicious, and embedded in our epistemology. They have many forms, and are a symbol of leadership, prestige and strength, and are to be revered.
We are two peoples – with characteristics and symbolism unique to our respective countries.
I see the Taniwha and the Dragon as symbols of the strength of our particular customs, traditions and values, that aren’t always the same, but need to be maintained and respected.
And on that virtue we have together developed the mature relationship we have today.
China is a major trading partner for Aotearoa New Zealand, but as this Council well knows, there are strong cultural and people-to-people connections that have been forged over a long period of time.
The willingness of the Dragon and the Taniwha to engage and have regard for one another is not simply a matter of economic convenience, competition or prowess. The Taniwha, like the Dragon, has the ability to understand the essence of its environment and changing conditions – as well as the ability to adapt and survive. After all as custodians and kaitiaki, Taniwha are intrinsically linked to the wellbeing and resilience of people, the environment and the prosperity from which all things flourish.
This is the perspective I bring to New Zealand’s relationship with China – an intention that New Zealand is respectful, predictable and consistent in the way we seek to engage in the pursuit of our own long-standing and deeply held values and interests.
New Zealand’s approach to foreign policy
This is also a moment in time where, as New Zealand’s first indigenous female foreign minister, I can bring forward a perspective founded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our bicultural pillars.
As set out in my inaugural speech at Waitangi this year, I believe our foreign policy settings can be enhanced by te Tiriti.
The principles of partnership, active participation and protection can be called upon to enable equity and tino rangatiratanga (self-determination). Increasingly these principles continue to shape the type of democracy Aotearoa New Zealand is becoming; confident in our bicultural foundation, and determined to pursue our interests for those who call this land home and for those who share our values of openness, transparency, democracy and the rule of law.
New Zealand’s experience means that we can advocate with certainty for the recognition and inclusion of all peoples – including indigenous people and ethnic minorities – for their participation, knowledge and economic contribution to society. We believe this can address issues of social exclusion, poverty and inequity worldwide and at home.
When considering the longstanding complex challenges faced by nation states and economies, we believe there is a need for an intergenerational approach. Challenges like social exclusion, civil and racial unrest, inequity, climate change and poverty are both domestic and international. New Zealand’s experience has taught us the value of righting past wrongs and pursuing restitution and reconciliation for peace, prosperity and stability. We advocate in ways that are patient, pluralistic and accommodating of the views of both the weak and the strong.
Drawing from our Treaty context, our approach can be understood through values such as:
manaakitanga – kindness or the reciprocity of goodwill;
whanaungatanga – our connectedness or shared sense of humanity;
mahi tahi and kotahitanga – collective benefits and shared aspiration; and,
kaitiakitanga– protectors and stewards of our intergenerational wellbeing.
It’s my strong view that diplomacy favours dialogue. Outcomes will be stronger and more enduring if they are built through dialogue and understanding of each other’s perspectives. However diplomacy requires commitment from both the Dragon and Taniwha to respect the tikanga of engagement. And we look for a similar spirit of respect and engagement to be shown to all international friends and partners. As a significant power, the way that China treats its partners is important for us.
Understanding Values That Inform Action – Ka Niwha, Ka Whanake Ake
Each of these values when expressed within a relationship gives a sense that everything is connected and purposeful. When integrated into our approach to China it would mean that as kaitiaki, the Dragon and the Taniwha can have respect for solutions that seek to benefit kotahitanga and our future generations.
The Taniwha and the Dragon know, for example, that their ecosystem is rapidly experiencing change because of climate change. Their environment has been disrupted due to a significant and profound virus causing a global pandemic. Survival is predicated on a set of norms or tikanga, growing partnerships, and stronger collective action by the international community. These are areas for further cooperation.
In expressing manaakitanga, tackling issues such as poverty is another area of focus for both New Zealand and China. But this does not mean that matters like exploitation or treatment of labourers can be left unchallenged.
In terms of whanaungatanga the Dragon and the Taniwha may share similar characteristics but they exist in very different environmental conditions. The perspective each holds about the “optimum” environment for survival such as a country’s political system, democratic institutions, freedoms and liberties can and have shown to be significantly different.
Different perspectives can be positive, and underpin cultural exchange and learning,
But some differences challenge New Zealand’s interests and values. There are some things on which New Zealand and China do not, cannot, and will not, agree.
It is important to acknowledge this, and to stay true to ourselves, as we seek to manage our disagreements mindful that tikanga underpinning how we relate to each other must be respected.
On many occasions New Zealand has raised issues privately with China. Where there is tension between the Dragon and the Taniwha, we take a consistent and predictable approach, through diplomacy and dialogue.
Matters such as human rights should be approached in a consistent, country agnostic manner. We will not ignore the severity and impact of any particular country’s actions if they conflict with our longstanding and formal commitment to universal human rights.
Sometimes we will therefore find it necessary to speak out publicly on issues, like we have on developments in Hong Kong, the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and cyber incidents. At times we will do this in association with others that share our views and sometimes we will act alone. In each case we make our decisions independently, informed by our values and our own assessment of New Zealand’s interests.
In our ongoing engagement with China, we will seek to extend our advocacy towards sustainable outcomes, inclusive trade, ethical investment, and social and economic inclusion.
Pacific Connections – Ngā Taniwha nō Te Moana nui a Kiwa
I want to briefly go back to the whanaungatanga New Zealand has to the Pacific. In many respects one could surmise that we share common Taniwha. Our historical, cultural, social, linguistic and kin connections across the Pacific are significant. We refer to the Blue Pacific Continent as Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.
In the Covid-19 context our Pacific reset policy is an important commitment. The level of economic vulnerability and indebtedness is a major risk for the future of the Pacific.
We will look for ways to work closely with all partners committed to the long term resilience of the Pacific. Regional stability and multilateralism will have a stronger more enduring impact than bilateral arrangements which could lead to variable outcomes.
China can play a role in the long term economic recovery of the region but there is a substantial difference between financing loans and contributing to greater ODA investment in particular to the Pacific. We must move towards a more sustainable Pacific that respects Pacific sovereignties, and builds on Pacific peoples’ own capabilities, towards long-term resilience.
Conclusion: Ka Niwha, Ka Whanake te Taniwha me tōna Tuakana!
New Zealand’s diplomatic relationship with the China has been steadfast for nearly fifty years, but the relationship between the people of New Zealand and the people of China is much longer.
A resilient and constructive relationship requires ongoing communication and investment in understanding one another. This is true of government, but also across the many sectors of New Zealand interacting and engaging with China – and I would like to acknowledge the role the NZ China Council plays in that regard.
The Taniwha and the Dragon – similar but different, unique able to adapt, and resilient. New Zealand will continue to build cooperation in areas of mutual interest, bringing benefits to people in both countries, and I hope the resilience of the Pacific, while protecting and promoting New Zealanders’ well-being, security and prosperity.