Readers' Views: The Long March

By This Readers' Views page is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated. 

The Herald spent two weeks in Shanghai, trying to find out why so many Chinese want to find a new life in New Zealand. Our report was published in three parts, April 15-18, with extended online coverage. To read the series, please click on the Long March link below. 

Friday May 5, 2006: 

I read with interest the Long March series recently published in the Herald. I was on holiday in New Zealand from the UK where I have been living for the past two years. Immigration is simply a fact of life worldwide now, and it is good to see that New Zealand is able to attract skilled people to boost the economy. However, I wonder if more could be done by the government to attract or retain New Zealanders that are leaving. It seems that people are continually attracted to Australia in search of higher wages, or to the UK for travel and work opportunities. Although most young New Zealanders who live and work in the UK probably intend to return after a few years, there are inevitably some that do not return. Why not do more to encourage skilled New Zealanders to stay in the first place, or to come back earlier? Having a website with a photo of a beach and some pohutakawa trees is nice (NZ Now), but couldn't the government come up with some better ideas than this!
- Matthew

Friday April 21, 2006: 

I came to NZ in 1995 to study high school, then university. The tension between locals and immigrants were felt much not to the situations of nowadays. Most of the incidences were all very minor ones revolving around prejudice, envy or miscommunications. It was probably because many of the early Asian migrants were from Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan these developed countries. These countries are all very different from NZ economically and socially. But at least, these countries are all have very developed, decent and relatively uncorrupted legal systems. Therefore, migrants are mostly well behaved and tried to respect the NZ cultures. While there are a few mainland Chinese came here, they were the hard working and humble bunch coming here really tried their best to give to the society. Many of the market gardening operations have started as a result. I had a fantastic time during high school and university since I reached out to integrate as much as I could. And this proves the best for both locals and immigrants. However things started to change when the young generations of mainland Chinese, who were born under the one child scheme, started to came here to study in language school in late 90s. There has been kidnapping, unlicensed driving, murdering. Most of them were committed by these mainland students. I feel so shame to hear "another Chinese" has been caught again and again since I also bear the same Asian face every minute. There are several things I want to say to both the immigrants, students, to the Government and most importantly fellow Kiwi.
* To immigrants, no matter where you came from, if you have chosen this road to settle in this heaven of the earth, please don't take things for granted. This place maybe heaven in terms of environment, but opportunities are not specifically catered or waiting for you out there. If your English is not good enough, go out and try to reach out. Talk to locals, not gather together in groups of your own people all the time. If you do this, Kiwis will say we are not integrating and stick to our own small Chinatown. Practicing your English will also greatly enhance your chance of getting a decent job in NZ. And most importantly, to your next generation since they also have a better chance of experiencing the language and the local culture. Try not to complain so much about why Kiwis treat you like this and that. We are in a transitional period and we are trying to repair our reputation damaged by our own Asian people. Get over it and focus on what can you do better. Set an example of a good citizen. Try to be more considerate on the road, and to your neighbours. Be more culturally sensitive. Open your mouth and greet people wherever you meet one on the road and at work. These tiny little things will greatly improve the relationships.
* To students. Please remember the purpose of why you are coming here. If you want to learn English and widen your vision, you should grab this chance dearly. You are the lucky bunch compared to many of your fellow countrymen. Respect the local culture and rules. Something you can freely do in your home doesn't mean that you can do it here in NZ. The simple fact is we are a new comer. We got to behave and perform better. Early immigrants tried every bit of their effort and time to build up their name and reputation. Just because of your little selfishness and inconsideration will costs it dearly. In Chinese, we have a say "Good news not always spread outside your home, but bad news spread thousands of miles away". Try to be humble a bit. You can speak loudly and show off your wealth inside your house. But this country is very different to your home in terms of value and habbit. If you want to be looked up by foreigners no matter where you are, this kind of self-respect is necessary.
* To the Government. Here you are. Your failed immigration policy has stirred a great debate in local Kiwi communities. If you continue this unplanned and fluctuated immigration policy, there will be a lot more conflicts and unsettlement in the society. And this does not bear a good name to this country in the world stage. What we need is a thoroughly planned and stable policy. We need to have better infrastructure to cope with the influx of new migrants if you prefer to sustain the number of migrants accepting into the country. Better roading, public transport, educational and health systems. This will also do good to your own economy, not just to the immigrants. Immigrants are here to help to build up the economy but we need a clear and strong leadership.
* To fellow Kiwis. There are many types of people in the world. Please do not generalize and judge a person all because how he/she looks like. We are already isolated geographically. If we continue to isolate ourselves by not accepting others' culture, we are definitely not going to break it to the world. We are living in a world of globalization. Kiwis go to Asia or Australia to earn a living and we have people from Asia try to settle in this heaven of the earth as well. Imagine your son or daughter who has the once in a life time opportunity going to a foreign country and try to do their best. But somehow the locals reluctant to accept the new comer and even unfairly treat to him/her. Would you be happy to see this? If you eat Chinese takeaways and drive a Japanese car, but hate to see people from these countries just trying to make a living here. Would that be a bit contradicting?
- Kenneth Ng, NZ

Thursday April 20, 2006:

I read your series with great interest. I would like to thank Herald for opening such a window to allow more Kiwis to understand Chinese and Chinese culture. However your story has only painted one piture of Chinese. we need more of the stories on how Chinese have tried very hard to integrate into the society. At least Sean and Susan have a purpose (ie for clean, green and better life) and done some research before they came to NZ. My experience of immigrating to NZ can be summed up as "being trapped" to this place. The reason I used the word "trapped" being two: 1. The decision to move here was made after we were shown a video of NZ's beautiful sceneries and talked to by an Immigration agent.(This is like while doing window shopping, suddendly your eyes were caught by a fasionable, beautiful looking shoes. You bought a pair and found out later that they don't suit you.) 2. The requirement of English level (for immigrating to NZ) was too low at that time (as NZ was anxiously to get people in to boost its economy in 94-95). We became the victims of the then unmature immigration policy. In our first year while struggling in NZ, sometimes we did wish we had not passed the interview. Ever since then our Long March started in NZ. We experienced lots of difficulties, from languages to culture shock, from being humilated while driving on the road to bad job hunting experieces. We have overcome lots of difficulties and learned heaps. Some Kiwi asked, "why don't you return back to China". They won't understand this is not that easy. The main problem is with child (my daughter immigrated with us at the age of 5). After one or two years in NZ, her mandarin level is not able to cope with the competetive study environment in China. She will fall behind in class and this will destroy her confidence. We don't want that happen. For us immigrating to NZ is a path that has no returning road. Thanks to our good education background and unique Chinese hard working character, we have survived in NZ and both my husband and I now work for Kiwi companies. We learn Kiwi culture and custom through Kiwi colleague and Kiwi friends. My daughter is doing great in high school. Based on my personal experience, I should say:
1. NZ do need to have a reasonable requirements for migrants' English levels. This will avoid those who didn't understand fully the difficulties caused by the language barrier from coming into this country and sufferring subsquently from those difficulities. This will also ensure those overseas experiences can be readily used in NZ.
2. For migrants who don't speak good English, we must try very hard to learn the language (persistency is key to success). Don't complain if you are refused job for not being able to speak English. We must try harder to prove our worth.
3. For Kiwi employers, you are blessed if you have Chinese employees, as most of them are diligent, disciplined and easy to get along with. Be prepared to allow a few months to one year for your migrant (Chinese) employee to be "slow in taking instrutions and responding and looking dull (because of learning the new environment, not to mention about the language barrier)". After the initial period, his/her talent will show up and contribute greatly to your company.
4. Blessed are those young generation because of migrants. Because multicultural nation has opened their eyes to the world and their experiences of living in harmony with people from different backgrounds, experiences of competition at school and at work, experiences of winning and being defeated will make them stronger. They will be well equipped to compete in the world stage. And this is what NZ needs--a competetive workforce and nation to build a prosperous NZ in future.
5. For those who have not been able to travel around the world and who tend to look back to the old good days, I must say to them, too bad. The gay old time (without TV etc) are gone forever. In China people say "the wheel of history will not return". So stop moaning and begin to embrace the new society by contributing yourself to it. If you do so, I am sure you will be happier than before.
Therefore my experience with the immigration thing is: there is no use complaining. The only thing we can do is to face it and see how we can help with each other to contribute to the society. One Christmas Eve while driving on the road, I heard an old Kiwi lady was talking on the talkback program. She said she felt very lonely because she had got no one she could talk to, she had low self-esteem and was scared to be refused by others so she had got no friends. Her sobbing voice from the radio, especially on the Christmas Eve, made my eyes filled with tears. I had an impulsion to call back and said to her: "I understand how you felt, you can talk to me. I'll be listening patiently to you as your English tone and pronounciaion are so much better than my university teacher in China. You are a treasure to people who want to improve their English". The point I would like to make in here is: there are many ways we can help migrants with little English. What we need are volunteers! It doesn't matter whether you have had education before as long as you speak English and are kind hearted, you are a worth to new migrants. I wish there is an agency that builds up a bridge between Kiwis who would like to have listeners and new migrants who want to improve their English and understand more of NZ culture. Maybe I should set up this agency some day, who knows.
- Caina, NZ

It is quite interesting how much stereotyping is going on here. As a previous reader pointed out, there are many migrants who come here and form their own little communities and NZ does not need people like that. It is true that some of the migrants are like that but I also know many others who make friends with the local and try to adapt to the Kiwi lifestyle. The same reader who also stated that NZ needs "people who would give anything, including their lives, for the country of Aotearoa New Zealand." Well, as a migrant (I am not a Chinese) I spent most of my teenage years in NZ, I have always loved this country and consider myself as a Kiwi who will give anything for this country. But I have had many comments from the locals like "you are an asian and you will never be a kiwi" or "Go back to your own country"! Comments like those and "Personally I think NZ will rue the day when immigration restrictions were eased in the 70s" by a previous reader, really make me wonder how can I love and give everything to this country when this is how some of the locals feel this way? I mean I am a NZ citizen, have a kiwi life style and have more kiwi friends than asian friends, and yet I still get comments like those. No wonder new commers struggle in this country and withdraw to their own little circles because they are afraid to be hurt, criticed and discriminated against. People should really think about this thoroughly before making offensive comments such as the earlier statement by Mr Russell Orr.
- Joe

Wednesday April 19, 2006:

It seems to me that this issue is a debate that New Zealanders need to have among themselves in a sensible manner, and until that happens we will be left with an unsatisfactory system that suits neither the interests of New Zealanders nor those who migrate here. Most of the correspondents have good and sensible points to make but I bet that many wouldn't do so outside the relative anonymity of a forum like this and it's easy to see why. It doesn't take long for the extremists on both sides to come out and using the word "racist" is a great way to silence anyone you don't agree with. Russell Orr's views are not representative of the bulk of opinion in this column but saying it makes "me and a lot of other good Kiwis feel shame" is guaranteed to polarise the debate and silence the sensible voices. Unfortunately the loudest voices are then the extreme views and those whose main interest is their own financial benefit. There are definite benefits from accepting immigrants but anyone who doubts that there are also downsides should go and live in Auckland for a while. I'd say this would be a great topic for a referendum!
- Dan, NZ

I personally have a lot of experience with Asian people, especially Chinese so I feel that I can say what I must to this paper to try to help people on both sides of the Chinese invasion debate. Firstly I have to say this to a fellow Kiwi, to Mr Russell Orr. You sir make me and a lot of other good Kiwis feel shame, it is your type of thinking pattern that we open minded and well traveled Kiwis are trying to eliminate. Russell if you only new what there lives were really like, you can not even imagine the pressure these people are under to survive, if you did my friend you would welcome them in here with open arms, Chinese call this place "Heaven on Earth", lets prove to them that this is true. To the Chinese people waiting to come here or the ones already here, I say this to you all. Speak English. If you don't the two things that follow will happen to you.
1/ You won't get a good Job.
2/ Your own countrymen will take advantage of you (I have personally witnessed this many times).
But I think most importantly you must "Report all Corruption", as Kiwis hate this part of Chinese Culture, we realize it is only a small portion of Chinese people that do this, but it gives your entire race a bad reputation, this action causes your race not to be not trusted, even by your own people, Which again means "No one will hire you". Good Luck all of you.
- Eddie Toia

Great article! Thank you for this wonderful article you wrote and God bless you for your influence and good impact in the lives of all the immigrants of this country. You made my day, it feels so good to see that there are people that really appriciate the immigrants and all what they do for New Zealand.
- Donika Kasneci

I loved your "long march to New Zealand". On the contrary,there are more Chinese migrants are heading back to china after sruggling several years in NZ. I call it "long march back to china". Some of them went to Australia. I (as a Chinese migrant in NZ) would love to see more migrants can settle well in NZ. And also hope NZ has the capability to provide enough opportunities to the new migrants.
- Peter, NZ

As a Kiwi who returned to NZ from Taiwan, I too got the "you don't have enough NZ experience", "We could use someone who speaks Chinese, but you don't have enough experience (and we are not willing to train you)", "We can't pay you what you got overseas", etc etc. In addition I found that 10 years abroad meant that I had to work really hard at reestablishing my connections and making friends since one little fact that is seldom mentioned to immigrants is that the small size of our population means that most people in any field know most others in that field and many jobs are filled entirely by word of mouth and personal introductions (funnily enough just like the best jobs I got in Taiwan). I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for immigrants who have no experience of the country at all. We really should not be perpetuating the myth that NZ is some kind of land of milk and honey with jobs going begging. That does no-one any favors. I also agree with the previous letter writers who mention corruption and crime. It seems to me that while we are saying that immigrants should research NZ more before they come, it also behooves NZ to research more the countries the immigrants come from. While a say UK migrant 'non police record' certificate may mean something, one from China or Taiwan isn't necessarily worth the paper it is written on. Ironically, as has also been obliquely pointed out, those who have the money to migrate and invest are also those more likely to have obtained their money from illicit means or from use of very sharp business practices and 'guanxi' connections. Frankly, I think sometimes that NZ has this endearing notion that everyone else will play fair. Time we got over it, or at least realised that many others don't feel the same way. From my personal experience as a long-term migrant, there are very few countries that feel any obligation to be welcoming to foreign migrants, NZ should stop flaggellating itself over this. As for would be immigrants who don't speak English, I understand their difficulty, but if they really want to live a full life in NZ, then a good level of English is absolutely essential. I have lived in one foreign country where I didn't speak the language well, and one where I did. The difference was like night and day.
John Morrison

I am currently teaching English at a university located in the Northeast region of China called The Dalian Maritime University (DMU). I am an ex-pat from the US and have been living and working here in China for four years. I just came across the series of articles "The Long March to NZ" and found them quite fascinating. Just before writing you I finished reading your piece on "saving face" and guan xi. I must admit your overview of this topic painted a generalized picture. I have found that when someone is trying to understand guan xi the first thing is to look at it in all areas of life. For example, the guan xi between friends can be even more mysterious and even more frustrated than when it is applied in the professional life. Let me give you a personal example. I had become fairly close to some of my students from my first year here. A few of them I have stayed in contact with over the years and now they have graduated and still we communicate regularly. However, some of them I didn't get to know that well, but maintained a positive and cordial relationship. One day, I received a short message on my mobile from one of the students whom I haven't heard from over a year. He wanted to borrow my digital camera to take photos. I asked some of his classmates this type of occurrence was common what should I do. I was his teacher, and now he considers me a friend he hasn't talked with me for over a year and now the first time he contacts me he is asking to borrow my digital camera. He isn't asking me, "How are you doing?" He isn't asking me, "Would you like to get together and talk." He is asking me, "May I borrow your digital camera I want to take some photos." His classmates explained to me that his is normal. Guan xi, allows him to ask for favors even if you two haven't been communicating a lot lately, even a year. As long as you have a 'relationship' it doesn't matter the length of time. They advised me not to give him my digital camera for two reasons. First, they said that he isn't as trustworthy as he leads people to believe. But more importantly is that because I am a foreigner they think he was abusing our friendship and was unfair. Nevertheless, they did say to me, "If you were Chinese you would have to give him your camera." Another example of how guan xi can be misused on a personal level is between classmates. I have many students who do not like smoking and drinking a lot, however, when they go out to dinner with their classmates, they 'have to' smoke and drink. Drinking and smoking is sign of friendship and a true act of bonding. I ask them, "Do you really have to?" Their reply is a consistent, "Yes, it is too hard to say and no and if you do you lose face." In my opinion this goes far beyond the western understanding of "peer pressure," simply because this phenomenon is culturally accepted and not discouraged. I would also like to add that almost every, if not every, culture has a "face saving" and guan xi aspect to it. The Chinese do not hold a monopoly on this cultural characteristic, it is simply exaggerated and reinforced more than other cultures. Lastly, I would like to say that many of my students are realizing that guan xi is making things difficult and maintaining a sense of inequality. Some of them have verbally rejected guan xi completely or at least to some degree. In the end, nevertheless, they know when to "play ball," but many of them try to avoid getting into the game. In China this is almost impossible, which is too bad. But I see a great change happening here. Guan xi might be losing its edge of power, with Chinese discontent growing and pressure from foreign investment which demands efficiency over cultural characteristics. Thank you for writing such a thought provoking article and I hope more readers obtain a better understanding of China.
- Andrew James Jarrett, China

Tuesday April 18, 2006:

Here's my 5c worth of experience as a Kiwi who left for a 6 month OE in 1986 and ended up migrating to Germany (as one does!). None of my NZ experience, qualifications counted for anything in Germany. I didn't even speak the language. My desire was to stay with my German partner whom I had met in New Zealand and I decided to 'do what it takes' to make that happen. As an 'Auslander' (foreigner), I started at the bottom on an assembly line for a major IT company, even my girlfriend was surprised at me 'working in a factory' as she put it. With my first paycheque, I bought a computer and retrained her to double her salary in Germany with IT based office skills. I used my first 14 months to learn the language, mentality and generally put up with beaucratic nonsense that only migrants seem to get thrown their way. To cut a long story short, after 13 years of hard work, commitment, hard times, good times and an awful lot of business and private travel across Europe and North America, I left Germany and Europe behind me. I left having worked in 2 more IT corporations at European management level as well as country roles, widely traveled and more frequent flyer miles than I care to use. In Germany I was considered 'integrated', a German speaking Kiwi Bavarian who had a unique way of working with Europeans, North Germans, South Germans, someone who contributed and got on with the job without complaining or blaming. The subsequent easier 7 years in the Middle East were a breeze for my German wife and I as we both knew what to expect with living abroad. Coming home to New Zealand in 2006 after 20 years (the longest 6 months OE of my life!) will be much of the same I would imagine, low pay (relatively), lack of recognition of the wider experience and work roles across the globe. But you know, we do it for ourselves, we accept that the things we did or had before will not be things we get to experience in another country. In other words, we swap one set of values for another set of values and give, take and make the most of the new set of values. To sum up, nothing beats hard work, determination and perseverance, just the skills any country would love to have of an immigrant.
- Jeff Maslen

I migrated, with my family, to New Zealand last year from the UK. I have been captivated by this series, which was extremely well-written and researched. Apart from the language issues, we have experienced all the same stages of alternate euphoria and depression, and all the same issues, as the couples featured in the series. May I suggest that migration is such a major issue for New Zealand, which really does need both quality and numbers, that we should consider how best to attract and acquire migrants of the quality of both couples featured. It was just luck, in the event, which dictated that one couple should succeed and the other fail. I believe that New Zealand could do with both, and very many more similar applicants. We must realise that the international migration "market" is one in which New Zealand has to compete. Sudden swings in policy such as the increase in skilled migrant points requirements from 100 to 140 after 15 months of stability, and the draconian changes in investor immigration requirements last July, mean that when good applicants (the sort who can fill some of the high-quality job vacancies or build up the economy, are weighing up their choices, New Zealand can often be seen as too much of a risk.
- Derek Sendrove.

I read an article this morning in your current 'The Long March to New Zealand' series where there was an observation on the merits of living in relatively crime free NZ. You might be interested in checking out
I can't really believe these statistics. Maybe we are including traffic offences and small demeanours? I wont sell my property just yet as I consider the wisdom of Mark Twain: 'There are three kinds of liars....Liars, Damn Liars, and Statistics....' I was aware that we had a problem but did not realise the degree. This comparison (if factual) with the rest of the world puts the situation in perspective.
- Trevor Hughes, NZ

I am also an immigrant from China. I arrived in NZ in Feb 2003. After one and a half term's study in Unitec, I am now happily working in the Government. I want to say two things here:
 1. For an immigrant from a totally different society and culture like China, keep learning English and catching up with the local culture is the utmost important thing. New Zealand Herald is one of the best mediums.
 2. As far as I can see, it will be continually uneasy for Chinese to immigrate here. The reason is simple: China has a population of 1.3 billion. It is too huge for New Zealand. Actually it is too huge for any country, even USA. NZ has no choice but to tackle it cautiously.
- Minjie Sha, NZ

Immigrants from Red China based on several reasons, the first one is to keep away from the communinism: the second is looking for the promised land. Some rich immigrants are wealthy, but they are afraid of being into jail one day in China because the fortune may come from illegal ways. They could pass the money to their children abroad. Older parents came here under family tie. They can enjoy the social welfare system. The doles they got here is better than they could make in China through hardworking. No more people from Red China or Indian if the society could be better off.
- Steve, NZ

My experience is that many migrants from China come to New Zealand with high expectations and have done very little research about New Zealand. Had they done so they would see that NZ is a small country and we have graduates of our own. My experience with migrants has been positive and negative. Most migrants set up mini cultures of their own and dont contribute at all to New Zealand. Many Kiwis feel that we have too many people here who make little contribute to the betterment of NZ. There has defiitely been a rise in crime from certain sectors. Also migrants seem to think that the laws dont apply to them. Also NZ is seen as a back door to Australia.THe negative publicity with marriage scams. Fraud, kidnappings, murders are all negative aspects of Chinese culture. There needs to be more intergration and parcitipation instead of whinging and moaning about lacck of jobs etc. Many of the qualitifications are not relevant in NZ and as a smal country we need migrants to fill jobs that Kiwis dont have the qualifications for. JObs should always be filled by the residents of the country first and policies should reflect this. I think we need some migrants but not the amount that we have. Auckland is becoming a city full of people who dont care about the city and this is reflected in the traffic problems and the number of people who dont have licences and lack experience.
- Kate

The Herald is to be congratulated for its informative, in-depth articles about the aspirations of young Chinese couples wishing to emigrate to New Zealand. But I hope these people have not been influenced unduly by the information on, which claims this country does not have crime rates, the police don't carry guns and corruption is virtually unheard of. It states that we have no abject poverty or hunger, no pollution, congestion, health issues or cramped city living. On what planet are the compilers of this website living? If we have so little crime why are our jails crammed to bursting point? And although it is true the police do not wear side arms as a matter of routine, why not admit we have armed offenders squads for good reason? That corruption is virtually unheard of is debatable in the light of the leaky homes problem with its attendant sharp building practices. No congestion? The website compilers have obviously never driven in Auckland during peak traffic hours. We don't have cramped city living yet, but in Auckland the passage of time could make even that claim invalid.
- Grant Howard, Titirangi

Monday April 17, 2006:

An interesting article. Some mention was made of the fact that Chinese work experience is not counted as part of the immigration process. This is not because Chine is percieved to be a developing country but because it is a corrupt country. Gaining work experience in China is as simple as paying someone to provide you with a forged letter. I for one have noted the increased corruption in NZ that has arisen from increased Chinese immigration here. This is not from my imagination but from reading news reports in the Herald. From the scandal regarding sitting driving tests to the company owned by a Chinese that was producing forged University degree certificates the common factor in this corruption seems to be Chinese. Personally I think NZ will rue the day when immigration restrictions were eased in the 70s. The country's main export, agriculture, can only support a certain level of

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