It's not easy being Chinese in New Zealand. When were you last asked by a stranger where you were born? For me, it was last week, in a pub, watching the Hurricanes. It occurred to me to retort, "Why are you asking me?" Instead, politely, I provided the information.

Imagine watching the news on TV: people who look like you are at a house auction. This is the lead news item why? Because, well, look. It's not even an unspoken "Well, look". It's the headline. If I was in that auction room, I'd be lumped among them.

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Am I just being over-sensitive? And why should my insecurities matter when we're talking about the economy? Especially when I actually believe that non-resident foreigners shouldn't be allowed to buy houses in NZ?


Being Chinese in New Zealand always puts you on the back foot. We don't play the race card: we show up with it stuck to our face. So, when mainland Chinese house-buyers are accused of being the nation's problem, I can't help but feel attacked as well. Because I don't entirely buy it when you say it's not about being Chinese in the face. We know what you mean when you say foreign ownership. You don't mean state houses being sold to Australia. You don't mean Canadian pension funds. You don't mind the white: you don't see the white. White is how things should be.

There's a pattern. Historically, Chinese have never been welcome. From the gold miners and railway workers who weren't allowed to bring women, to the Poll Tax, we've always been singled out for worse treatment. And easily so: Well, look. The people who attack mainland Chinese house-buyers say they're not being racist - they say they're being economist. But I bet if a wave of white investors showed up and paid way over the odds for houses, you'd be thrilled.

Whatever the valuations now, I think we'll look back on today's million dollar prices as mere blankets and beads. You think mainland Chinese house-buyers are rich now? These ones are Communists. You think there's a lot of Chinese now? This is how many there are under a one-child policy. Imagine if we tried. We can't win. If Chinese buy houses and pay you too much - you don't like it. If Chinese in China buy houses over the phone, pay too much and don't even move here - you don't like it. What do Chinese people have to do?

Kan: "If I'm ever in Auckland and I feel depressed, I'll pop into a house auction, just for the hugs."

No wonder you see lots of Asians at Auckland house auctions. It's the only time in New Zealand that Asians get shown any love. In fact, if I'm ever in Auckland and feel depressed, I'll pop into a house auction, just for the hugs.

To repeat, it astonishes me that anyone without the right of residency can buy New Zealand houses. It's a glaring mistake. Land is power. Why would you give so much civic power to someone who's not even permitted to vote? But I'm certainly not surprised overseas people want to buy. Ask James Cameron: he thinks New Zealand is paradise, and he invented Pandora.

Look at us: time zones away from industrial smog and religious loonies, yet voluptuous with fresh produce. How safe are we? We literally couldn't be further away from Greece's economy. Only the easy-going pace of our internet prevents every Silicon Valley billionaire from moving here. New Zealand is a lifestyle block. We are that Instagram of Sunday brunch (#nofilter) - but better: with schools.

So try to put a price on that. What's it really worth to live in NZ? What would you pay? Now, ask some of the richest people in the world - people who think the sky on a clear day is dark beige. People who think drinkable water is a miracle. People who look at Auckland traffic and see a babbling river of motoring joy. Remember how, decades ago, New Zealanders didn't value beachside property - and how that's unbelievable now? That's how Auckland, even with deep traffic thrombosis, looks to mainland Chinese.

So good luck at that auction. Whatever New Zealand is worth to you, there are people - richer than you - enduring life overseas, who think it's worth more. You might see a Grammar Zone dream - they see a secluded island bomb shelter, or a fortress-and-income, complete with six-star luxuries like human rights. Quite simply, all these years, New Zealanders have been undervaluing New Zealand. And now mainland Chinese have shown up, and said: "I can't believe you didn't value it."


@RaybonKan on Twitter.
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