September is early spring in New Zealand and is "Golden Autumn" in China. This year it heralds a golden time for China-New Zealand relations, furthering cultural exchanges and deepening mutual understanding and co-operation to build a better future.
On September 3 China celebrated the 70th anniversary of victory in the Chinese people's war of resistance against Japanese aggression.
Representatives from 49 countries, including the New Zealand Prime Minister's special envoy, chairman of the New Zealand-China Council and former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Don McKinnon, went to the event to remember the history, cherish the martyrs, treasure peace and look to the future with the Chinese people.
On September 7, the inaugural session of the China-New Zealand Mayoral Forum began in Xiamen. Twelve Kiwi mayors are meeting their Chinese counterparts, discussing ways to further advance local exchanges and co-operation.
This week is Chinese Language Week in New Zealand, promoting the Chinese language through a series of engaging activities. This is a ground-breaking event, the first Chinese language week in a Western country.
On September 23, the second session of the China-New Zealand Partnership Forum will be held in China. This forum is co-sponsored by the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) and the New Zealand-China Council. Two New Zealand ministers will lead a delegation to the forum, which will provide suggestions for further advancing pragmatic co-operation between the two countries.
On September 26, China Eastern Airlines will begin a new four-weekly year-round service between Auckland and Shanghai. And just recently, China Southern Airlines' direct flight service between Guangzhou and Christchurch and the Air China-Air New Zealand alliance for the Beijing to Auckland route were announced to open in December this year. These flights were estimated to add an additional couple of hundred thousand seats plus huge air-freight capacity per year.
And there will be more than 10 important ministerial visits this month. The visits will cover a wide range of sectors including foreign affairs, the economy and trade, culture, education, finance, law enforcement and the military.
Last November, President Xi Jinping visited New Zealand and with Prime Minister John Key announced a comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries. This partnership has already progressed to the next level.
China and New Zealand are separated by a vast ocean and have significant differences.
China is a huge country with a population of 1.3 billion, while New Zealand has a population of just 4.6 million; China has a 5000-year history while New Zealand is a young, multicultural country of immigrants; China is a developing country with rapid economic growth, and New Zealand is a developed country known for its advanced agricultural sector.
Despite the significant differences, the two countries have walked together through thick and thin over the past 40 years. Through joint efforts, we have created multiple "firsts" in bilateral relations and continue to further advance co-operation, benefiting the people of both countries.
Understanding is the foundation of friendship, and language is the bridge for communication. China and New Zealand have worked together to advance mutual understanding and develop cultural exchanges. Now, more than ever, these exchanges are taking place.
In China, more than 300 million people are learning English. Chinese students of all ages come to New Zealand to study, and tens of thousands of fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are longing for Middle Earth.
In New Zealand, three Confucius Institutes and 18 Confucius Classrooms have been established with more than 30,000 students learning Chinese. Spring Festival, Lantern Festival and other Chinese traditions are now popular in New Zealand. Kiwis, from government agencies to the general public, are keen to learn more about China.
Recently Phase 1 of the "NZD 10 million Asian Language Teaching Programme", initiated by the New Zealand Government, was approved and the majority of New Zealand primary and secondary schools have chosen to add a Chinese-language course to their curriculum.
The large numbers of Chinese-language learners represent New Zealand's future and the future of China-New Zealand friendship.
This history demonstrates that the pace of co-operation and exchanges between China and New Zealand is not hindered by the vast distance between the two countries. Culture knows no borders and exchanges have no final point. There is an ancient saying in China, "many hands make light work". The Maori people have a similar proverb, "he rau ringa e oti ai" (with many hands the work will be done).
Let's join hands to add more fuel to the light of China-New Zealand people-to-people exchanges. And let us use the power of "Golden September" to illuminate the bright future for co-operation between our two countries.
Wang Lutong is Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand.