Ninety years ago, the New Zealand writer, educator and social reformer Rewi Alley travelled across the ocean to China and lived among the Chinese people for 60 years through thick and thin. Alley devoted his whole life to the cause of China's national independence and state construction, writing a historical chapter on friendly exchanges between the two peoples.
Since China and New Zealand opened the door for comprehensive exchanges 45 years ago, bilateral relations have made a leap-forward development resulting in remarkable achievements. The relationship between China and New Zealand has become a model of harmonious coexistence and win-win co-operation between countries of different social systems, different cultures and different stages of development.
New Zealand people are industrious and courageous with a pioneering spirit. New Zealand is a leader among developed countries in terms of building relationships with China.
Since the 1990s, New Zealand has created multiple "Firsts", including the conclusion of bilateral negotiations with China for China's WTO accession; the recognition of China's full market economy status; the conclusion of a bilateral free trade agreement with China; and its accession to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
This year, China and New Zealand will start the first round of FTA upgrading negotiations, creating another "First". These groundbreaking "Firsts" are good examples of bilateral relations, which fully demonstrate the vision of the leaders and the governments of China and New Zealand, and are completely in line with the fundamental and long-term interests of the two peoples, leaving a string of remarkable footprints in the history of China - New Zealand relations.
New Zealand has a developed economy with distinctive characteristics. The flourishing development of economic and trade co-operation between China and New Zealand has truly realised complementary advantages and win-win results. Bilateral trade has increased to over NZ$20 billion in 2016 from NZ$7 million at the beginning of the establishment of diplomatic relations. At present, the trade volume is growing steadily towards the NZ$30b target set by the leaders of the two countries for 2020. Bilateral trade has gained a double-digit growth rate per annum with increasing numbers of Chinese companies investing in New Zealand especially after the implementation of the China-New Zealand FTA in 2008. The investment from China has played a positive role in New Zealand responding successfully to the 2008 international financial crisis, helping it become the "star of economic growth" among OECD countries. At present, China has become New Zealand's largest trading partner, the largest export market and the largest source of imports. Bilateral trade has developed from single trading into economic co-operation in various fields at multiple levels, taking various forms. The future development potential for bilateral trade and economic co-operation is significant, with bright prospects.
New Zealand has a stable economy and society combined with exquisite scenery, attracting a large number of Chinese students and tourists. For more than a decade, China has been the largest source of overseas students for New Zealand. In 2016, a total of 31,000 Chinese students and scholars studied in New Zealand's educational institutions. According to New Zealand statistics, the number of Chinese tourists visiting New Zealand is increasing by 30 per cent each year and exceeded 400,000 in 2016. Personnel flows have led to cultural exchanges. A series of Chinese brand activities have emerged in New Zealand, including the Lantern Festival celebration, the Spring Festival celebrations and the Chinese Language Week. With the increasing interest of New Zealanders in Chinese learning, three Confucius Institutes and 30 Confucius Classrooms have been established in New Zealand, and more than 300 primary and secondary schools have commenced Chinese language courses. Today, more than 40,000 New Zealanders are learning Chinese language. Personnel exchanges have also promoted the development of the transportation industry. Currently, there are over 70 flights between the two countries' major cities every week.
New Zealand is a shining pearl on the vast Pacific Ocean. Its economic development is highly dependent on foreign trade and a stable regional situation. China and New Zealand are at different stages of development, but both countries are firm advocates and practitioners of free trade. China and New Zealand are firmly committed to a global free trade system, opposing trade protectionism and working to build an open world economy. China and New Zealand have different national conditions, but both are defenders of world peace and promoters of prosperity and development. The two countries share common aspirations for peace and development, have common interests in safeguarding regional and world peace, stability and prosperity, and are working closely within multilateral frameworks of the United Nations, Apec and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The ship of history rides the wind and waves to bring China-New Zealand relations to a new stage. This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand. The bilateral relations have entered an important stage of inheriting the past and forging ahead into the future. At the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, Premier Li Keqiang is paying an official visit to New Zealand (March 26-29). This is the first time a Chinese Premier has visited New Zealand since 2005. It is also the first visit to New Zealand by Li since he took office as Chinese Premier. During the visit, Li has been meeting with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Prime Minister Bill English to exchange in-depth views on China-New Zealand relations and major issues of common concern.
The two sides will announce or sign a series of co-operation agreements in the fields of economy, trade, culture, science and technology, creating more "Firsts".
The sessions of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (NPC and CPPCC) that successfully concluded not long ago, have set the directions for the further implementation of the "13th Five-year Plan" and the advancement of the "Opening and Reform" policy in a comprehensive manner, creating a broader space for China's future development. China's economy has registered a slower but stable performance with good momentum for growth, which will bring great opportunities for practical co-operation between China and New Zealand in various fields. "Even mountains and seas cannot distance people with common aspirations".
It is after the NPC and CPPCC that Li embarks on a new trip, which is of great significance to the promotion of high-level exchanges between the two governments, the deepening of strategic mutual trust and integration of interests, the strengthening of synergy between development strategies, and the expanding of pragmatic cooperation in various fields. In the context of a complex and volatile international situation, this visit will also send a positive signal that China and New Zealand are committed to opening, co-operation and win-win results, which has an international significance beyond bilateral influence.
We firmly believe that Premier Li's visit will write a new chapter in the history of China-New Zealand relations and have a profound impact on the prosperity and development of the region.
Taking the opportunity of his visit and the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, China is willing to work with New Zealand through the storms, cutting through wind and waves to lead the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries into a new era.