Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Charm and NZ-China friendship need boost of Fifth Milestone


When John Key met his second Chinese vice-premier in two days yesterday, he and Wang Yang shared a joke about the photo Key had seen of them hanging in Guangzhou's Foreign Affairs Museum.

"We're both very handsome," Wang said.

"I can't disagree with that," said Key.

They have history. Wang was hosted by Key in New Zealand last year when he was Governor of Guangdong, the wealthy southern province that has GDP on a par with Indonesia.

He has just been promoted to become one of four vice-premiers because of the sterling work he did as governor.

Key has a strong personal rapport with the new Chinese leadership, built up as they were on their way up.

It is clear he has had a great trip in the past week cementing those personal relationships.

But charm can take you only so far.

There are only so many times you can recite trade statistics or the "Four Firsts" milestones (the first developed country to recognise China's status as a market economy, the first country to sign a free-trade agreement and so on) before your eyes start to glaze over.

The question is what New Zealand needs to do to mark the new era of the relationship.

The new Chinese leadership has pledged to open up further to the world. That means it will be tougher for New Zealand.

It is now not enough for New Zealand to just do business for one's own benefit in China.

As Key's trade mission has been told, it's partnerships that will benefit China as well that will have the advantage.

One of the best questions put to the Prime Minister over the past week came from a Kiwi student studying at Peking University. You've had the "Four Firsts", the student said. "What will be the Fifth?"

Key did not have a good answer apart from a joke about the first rugby test between the All Blacks and a China rugby team.

His trade delegation and the first New Zealand-China Partnership Forum in Beijing yesterday have at least started the conversation.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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