China's fourth ranked leader, Jia Qinglin, is visiting New Zealand to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations. In this contribution to the New Zealand Herald, he canvasses China's relationship with New Zealand, and China's relationship with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand. Over the past 40 years, thanks to concerted efforts of the Governments and people from across the sectors in both countries, China-New Zealand relations have come a long way.
The two countries have had frequent exchanges at the top and other levels, engaged in extensive and fruitful exchanges and co-operation in such areas as business, trade, science, technology, culture, education and tourism, and enjoyed closer co-ordination and co-operation in regional and international affairs.
The growth of China-New Zealand relations have brought tangible benefits to the two peoples and contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
In February, the New Zealand Government released the first edition of the China Strategy. It speaks highly of China's development achievements and the results of China-New Zealand practical co-operation in various fields.
It sets out strategic goals and measures for New Zealand to advance practical co-operation with China in the next five years based on New Zealand's reality and development strategy as well as China's 12th Five-Year Plan.
This fully demonstrates the importance the Government and different sectors of New Zealand place on relations with China and their desire to deepen mutually beneficial co-operation between the two countries. China appreciates this effort. The two countries should make the best of what their economic development strategies can offer each other and further deepen practical co-operation on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit.
Both China and New Zealand are important countries in the Asia-Pacific and share extensive common interests in maintaining regional peace and promoting common development. There are broad prospects in enhancing practical co-operation between the two countries.
China values its relations with New Zealand and sees in New Zealand a good friend and a good partner for win-win cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.
As the two countries celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations, China wants to work with New Zealand to continue the exchanges at all levels across the board, further enhance political trust, deepen practical cooperation and strengthen multilateral coordination.
By working together on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, we will make fresh and greater progress in the bilateral relationship and make this relationship an example of how countries of different social systems, cultural backgrounds and development stages can live in peace and work for win-win outcomes.
THE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
New Zealand leads the developed countries in growing business ties with China. It is the "first" or the "only" country in many ways in doing business with China. New Zealand was the first Western developed country to conclude bilateral negotiation with China on China's accession to the World Trade Organization, the first to recognize China's full Market Economy Status and the first to sign and implement a bilateral free trade agreement with China.
It was also the first country to sign and implement a free trade arrangement with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. This makes New Zealand the only country with free trade arrangements with both the mainland and Hong Kong of China.
Economic cooperation and trade has become the propeller and ballast of China-New Zealand relations.
The signing of the China-New Zealand FTA in 2008 brought about greater opportunities for growing our business ties. Thanks to the smooth implementation of the FTA, our bilateral trade has grown steadily despite continued uncertainties in the global economy. It has driven friendly exchanges and practical co-operation in various areas between the two countries and played an important role in facilitating economic and social progress and bringing benefits to people in our respective countries. Last year, the two-way trade reached $US8.723 billion, 970 times the figure at the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations 40 years ago.
China has become New Zealand's second largest trading partner and export market and biggest source of imports. China is also New Zealand's biggest export market of dairy products and logs.
In April last year, the two sides signed a bilateral local currency swap agreement, which has further facilitated two-way investment and trade.
Given the two countries' industrial structure, resource endowment and market demand, China and New Zealand have a lot to offer each other and enjoy huge potential for co-operation.
The two sides need to continue to make good use of the FTA, the currency swap agreement and other co-operation documents and seek to meet ahead of schedule the trade target of $NZ20 billion by 2015 set by the leaders of the two countries.
While deepening co-operation in such traditional fields as agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry, we should actively explore new areas of mutually beneficial co-operation and expand co-operation in food safety, clean energy and infrastructure development.
China welcomes New Zealand companies to invest in China and will continue to provide them with a sound investment environment.
China also encourages capable and credible Chinese companies to invest in New Zealand.
We hope New Zealand will provide them with an enabling policy environment and facilitate Chinese investment so as to scale up two-way investment and achieve all-round and balanced growth in our business ties.
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE RELATIONSHIPS
We have an old saying in China, that "amity among people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations". The development of bilateral relations would not have been possible without the enthusiastic participation and strong support of local governments and people of all sectors in the two countries.
The two peoples have always had warm feelings for each other. In recent years, people-to-people, cultural and non-governmental exchanges have intensified between the two countries.
I can give you some figures. In 2011, there were about 44,000 Chinese students studying in New Zealand, which means that out of every four international students in New Zealand, one was from China.
China has become the largest source of international students for New Zealand. In 2011, 108,000 Chinese chose New Zealand as the first stop of their travel abroad, an increase of 21.1% year on year, while 127,000 people from New Zealand visited China, an increase of 4.18% year on year. China has become the fourth largest and fastest-growing source of overseas tourists for New Zealand.
The three Confucius Institutes and eight Confucius classrooms in New Zealand provide a platform for the people of New Zealand, particularly youths to better understand the Chinese tradition and culture. Now there are 29 pairs of sister provinces/cities and twin cities between China and New Zealand. The exchanges at the local level are frequent and fruitful. Mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples have strengthened, giving a strong boost to the development of the bilateral relations.
China and New Zealand should build on the activities celebrating the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties this year, make full use of the platforms such as the Confucius Institutes and sister provinces/cities and twin cities to further expand exchanges and co-operation in education, science, technology, culture, sports, tourism and other fields.
The two countries should also encourage think tanks, media, social groups and different localities to have all forms of exchanges and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples, the youths in particular. This would build even stronger social and popular support for the development of the bilateral relations.
CO-OPERATION IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION
At present, the Asia-Pacific region enjoys overall stability and faces opportunities for even greater development. The pursuit of peace, development and co-operation has always dominated policies of the Asia-Pacific countries.
Given multiple challenges in the recovery of the world economy, it is all the more important for the region to maintain its stability and development. This serves the common interests of all parties.
The Asia-Pacific region is where China and the United States have the most converging interests and most dynamic interactions.
China and the United States share a common stake in and shoulder joint responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability and promoting regional development and prosperity.
Over the past one year and more, China and the United States have continued to step up co-ordination and co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region. China and the United States announced the establishment of the Consultation on the Asia-Pacific and held three rounds of consultation successfully.
This has helped to enhance mutual understanding, mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries. China and the United States have also maintained close communication on the Korean Peninsular situation, counter-terrorism and other issues and carried out effective coordination and co-operation on such multilateral occasions as APEC, the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Given the differences in social systems, ideology, cultural tradition and level of development, China and the United States may have some problems and friction with each other concerning the Asia-Pacific region. This is quite normal.
What is important is that the two countries should follow the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, truly respect each other's interests and concerns, appropriately handle friction and effectively manage differences to uphold the larger interests of co-operation.
What happened has proved and will continue to prove that mutually beneficial co-operation is the only right choice for China and the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.
The vast Pacific Ocean is big enough to accommodate the common development of China and the United States.
China pursues an open, inclusive and win-win Asia-Pacific policy and is ready to work with other countries in the region to promote enduring peace and common prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region in a spirit of mutual respect, equality, consultation and co-operation.
Jia Qinglin is the Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.