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New Zealand and China: Looking ahead, what China's comprehensive reform means for New Zealand

Commentary


HE Ambassador Wang Lutong.


Full text of the speech by Ambassador Wang Lutong at Victoria University. 


Dear Mr. Neil Quigley, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington,
Mr. Tony Browne, Chairman of Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington,
Mr. Peter Harris, Acting Director of New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Please allow me to express my gratitude to the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre and the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs for inviting me here to discuss with you China's development and China-NZ relations.


Victoria University of Wellington has a long history over one hundred years and developed a large number of talented graduates. This year is the 5th anniversary of the China Centre, the first specialized agency on China study in New Zealand, and the 80th Anniversary of the Institute. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations and my respect to people here for your long-term interest in China and your unremitting efforts for bilateral relations and cooperation.


Today is my first public address after taking my post in Wellington. It's not because I have no intention or lack of proper podium, but because I always believe we Chinese say that "No investigation, no say." As an envoy of communicating two countries, I believe, a comprehensive understanding of homeland and host country as well as the development of bilateral relations is the foundation of carrying out duties.


Five months since my arrival, I have met almost every cabinet minister and other parliament and business leaders, and some of them even more than once. When took interview by New Zealand Herald, I said that New Zealand is not only about Wellington, that I plan to visit every corner of New Zealand. I well received by the public and resulted in a number of invitations, which embodies the kiwi hospitality and the importance you attached to the bilateral relations.


I visited several other cities as Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, and made full use of every opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. The field study gives me intuitive understanding of New Zealand and kiwis, from which I can draw conclusions that the sound development of bilateral relations has brought tangible benefits to two countries and two peoples, that both sides have strong consensus to deepen the relationship and closer people-to-people ties. My confidence in the future development of bilateral relations and the execution of my duty as a qualified Ambassador is notably raised.


This has been further confirmed during my accompanying Prime Minister John Key in his fourth visit to China. The visit attracted extensive attention. According to my observation, "success", "partners", "pioneering", "exemplary" are the key words of the media coverage. As a participant, I believe the success could be observed from two aspects.


Firstly, the visit is at the right moment. The visit took place at a time when "two sessions" (CPC and CPPCC) just concluded, making a series of specific deployment for the comprehensively deepened reform adopted at the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee last November. Prime Minister John Key therefore became the first foreign prime minister received by Chinese top leaders after "two sessions", learning face to face their thoughts on China's future development and bilateral relations. At the same period last year, Prime Minister John Key was one of the first invited world leaders to meet the new Chinese leadership, ensuring that leaders of both countries quickly established a good working relationship. The two new "firsts" specified importance both sides attach and the leading role that high-level exchanges played.


The visit took place at the time when China-NZ relations entered a critical stage. For the last 5 years after the signing and implementation of the FTA , the bilateral cooperations have grown at a very fast pace, the institutional advantage of the FTA becomes more and more obvious. In 2012, New Zealand Government released first "NZ Inc China Strategy" with five key goals. According to the mid-point review published before Prime Minister's visit, the Strategy is generally positive, especially China has grown to become New Zealand's largest trading partner in 2013, the first time in history. What's the next step of our relations? Should we set new goals? These questions are on the table of two governments. Meanwhile, due to the rapid development of economic and trade relations, food safety and specific economic and trade problems happened from time to time, raising a new question how could the rapid development satisfy the expectation of all sides.


The visit also took place at the time when multilateral agenda are extremely busy. After wrapping up his visit to China, Prime Minister John Key and President Xi Jinping joined together with other world leaders for the Third Nuclear Security Summit. In May and November this year, China will host CICA and APEC meetings respectively, which are highlights of China's diplomacy this year. G20 Summit will be held in November in Australia, giving New Zealand a rare chance to attend for the first time. New Zealand is busy with its campaign for the Non-Permanent seat of the UN Security Council 2015-2016 and the result will be known in October. Both sides share broad common interests in maintaining regional peace and promoting common development in the complex and volatile international situation, it is necessary for us to strengthen coordination and cooperation.


Secondly, the visit yielded fruitful result. Since both sides stick to the principle of developing our bilateral relations from a long term and strategic prospect and viewing each other positively and constructively, we can make sure that our goals and policies are in tune and avoid negative influence by individual issues. All these lead to the success of the visit.
Politically, the visit enhances already deep mutual trust. Chinese President Xi Jinping's invitation to Prime Minister John Key for a private dinner is the first one between China's top leader with New Zealand Prime Minister for over twenty years. The move itself sent a strong message. Just as the comment by Fran O'Sullivan in New Zealand Herald says, "Presidential invitation is a sign that China sees NZ not just as a trading partner but as a member of the family". Cooperation makes China and New Zealand being members of one family. In his speech to China Agricultural University, Prime Minister John Key said that "We see China as much more than a place to sell our product, we see China as a partner". Both leaders also discussed future development of bilateral relations as well as major international and regional issues and reached broad consensus. They pointed out direction and provided new impetus for healthy and stable development of bilateral relations. New Zealand side also announced its decisions on increasing diplomatic resources in China.


On trade and economic area, the direct currency trading was announced, making NZ Dollar the sixth currency to be traded directly with RMB. This is a highlight of the visit and another significant step after FTA. It opens a new chapter in investment and financial cooperation between two sides and will greatly facilitate bilateral trade and investment. Based on the comprehensive assessment of bilateral trade relations, New Zealand proposed ambitious new trade goals that is $30 billion by 2020, which got a positive response from Chinese sides. The new direction set by our leaders is a significant guidance to further strengthen economic, trade and investment cooperation. Both sides also reached concrete results on renegotiating the 1986 Double Tax Agreement, food safety cooperation, etc, and reached broad consensus on giving full play of FTA, promoting cooperation on agriculture, husbandry, green economy, energy conservation and emissions reduction. We also agreed to enhance exchanges on culture, education and tourism.


The rapid and comprehensive development of bilateral relations is the result of our active response to the profound changes of international and regional situations and the successful implementation of domestic economic and social reform. New Zealand welcomes the Asian century and deepened its all-round relationship with Asia. Meanwhile, NZ continues to push forward its internal economic and social reform and made great efforts to improve its national competitiveness. Last November, Prime Minister John Key launched "New Zealand Story" with "open spaces, open hearts, and open minds" as the main element, made a vivid interpretation of NZ current developments by creating an inclusive, open and innovative national image.
China's development directly benefits from consistent reform and opening-up policy for over 30 years. China's reform and opening up is a tireless pursuit for a new path of modernization and peaceful development. This benefits not only the people of China but also the people of the world. There is no reason for the Chinese people not to stick to this path and build on it for even greater progress.
The new season of China's reform, one of better quality and higher efficiency, is unveiled. As Chinese President Xi Jinping said, the tasty meat has been eaten up, what's left are the tough bones that are hard to chew. Facing enormous challenges, the Chinese government made a decision to deepen reform to release greater development potentials. Premier Li Keqiang used an old saying of "we should have the determination to cut the wrist like brave warriors, we should practice what we preach and cannot afford to dwell on the trivial."


Last November, the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee made a decision on comprehensively deepening the reform, attracting widespread interests of the international society. Many New Zealand friends told me, this is their first time to pay so much attention to CPC conference. This year's "two sessions" thoroughly reviewed the work of 2013 and made a specific deployment for comprehensively deepening the reform, with one main line and nine major tasks.


The main line, no doubt, is to reform. In carrying out reform, we need to focus on areas where the public call for reform is the strongest, the most pressing problems hindering economic and social development, and links on which there is extensive public consensus. We need to ensure that the market plays the decisive role in allocating resources and make the government better play its role, fully tap the creative potential in society, promote fairness and justice, and enable everyone to share the fruits of reform and development.
The nine major tasks involve many aspects. I will not enumerate all of them, they are in the Report on the Work of the Government. Here I would like to highlight some noteworthy aspects, which also contain great potentials of our bilateral cooperations.


The first is to emphasize on fulfilling three tasks of urbanization, each concerning 100 million people. China's urbanization is an ambitious project, which involves more than 20 groups of cities, 180 cities at prefecture level and above and ten thousand of towns. In his first Report on the Work of the Government since took office, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to fulfil the three tasks, which are construed by media as the most solid measures of the urbanization. The three tasks are to grant urban residency to around 100 million rural people who have moved to cities, to rebuild rundown city areas and villages inside cities where around 100 million people live, and to guide the urbanization of around 100 million rural residents of the central and western regions in cities there. The three tasks are not only challenges, but also opportunities, which will strengthen the momentum of development in the central and western regions and improve the structure of cities and towns in the eastern region.


The second is to get our development back to the track of respecting nature. With the frequent occurrence of smog, inhalable particle has become a difficult issue that tests China's economic development. The Chinese government announces that we will declare war against pollution and fight it with the same determination we battled poverty. We will take strong measures to strengthen pollution prevention and control, change the way energy is produced and consumed, move forward with ecological protection and development, return the blue sky to Chinese citizens and act more vigorously to protect the land our lives depend on. This year, we aim to cut energy intensity by more than 3.9%. The emissions of sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand will both be reduced by 2%. This year, 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces will be shut down, six million old high-emission vehicles will be removed from the roads. We will continue to carry out the project to convert marginal farmland back to forests and grassland, with this year's target being 300,000 hectares.


The third is to usher in a new phase of China's opening to the outside world and ensure its high standard performance. We will open China wider to the outside world in all areas, open up more service sectors to foreign capital, and level the playing field for domestic and foreign enterprises to compete on fair terms so as to ensure that China remains a top choice for foreign investment. We will ensure the successful building and management of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone so that this model can be copied and promoted, and we will launch a number of new trials. We will implement policies to encourage imports, and import more products in short supply in China. We will carry out reform of the management of outbound investment so that such investment is mainly reported for the record, and delegate much of the review and approval power over such investment to lower-level governments. We will actively participate in developing high-standard free trade areas and continue to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.


The forth is to firmly ensure the safety food. Food and safety come as the first in China since ancient times. Chinese netizens complain that large income will not bring happiness if we worry about food every day. The Chinese government attaches high importance to food safety and has announced that the strictest possible oversight, punishment and accountability will be applied to prevent and control food contamination and ensure that every bite of food we eat is safe.


Although the above-mentioned is only a small part of measures China will take for its comprehensively deepening reforms, it already speaks volumes of the potentials of cooperation.
China's path of peaceful development involves more than China itself. It needs understanding, support and cooperation of the international community. China's reform and opening-up cannot succeed without close cooperation with other countries. It has also created opportunities for other countries, including New Zealand.


With a full-fledged market mechanism and unique advantages in economy, New Zealand is leading the world in modern agriculture and animal husbandry, technical innovation, food safety and other areas. Despite the impact of international financial crisis, New Zealand keeps rapid economic growth, performing noticeably well among developed countries. This is inseparable with New Zealand's enhancement of all-round cooperation with China and New Zealand's unique advantages that highly match China's practical needs for reforms. Cooperation between the two countries faces unprecedented new opportunities. In my humble opinion, going forward, the two sides could place emphasis on the followings:
--To uplift political relationship. A lot of friends ask me how can China-New Zealand relationship achieve such sound development? In my opinion, the most important thing is to respect each other's core interests and major concerns. This basic norm governing international relations is much easier said than done, particularly for our two countries with huge differences in social system, history and culture, size of economy and stage of development. We should be keenly aware that the current bilateral relations would not have been possible without the joint efforts by all sectors of the two countries for years. We must maintain the sound state of bilateral relationship with all our strength, continuously strengthen and uplift political relationship to provide a political guarantee featuring stability and mutual-trust for bilateral cooperation.


--To deepen trade and investment cooperation. The two sides should give full play to the institutional advantages of the FTA and constantly build on it to make the FTA an important part of China's overall construction of free trade zone. We should specify the key areas and road map of cooperation in accordance with the trade goals set by our leaders, ensure the stable growth of two-way trade volume and make a bigger pie of cooperation. We should make efforts to strengthen two-way investment as China is opening wider to the outside world. China's low-level investment to New Zealand falls behind the overall development of economic and trade relations. We encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in New Zealand and participate in the infrastructure construction and hope that New Zealand side offer greater convenience to them. We also welcome the positive role played by New Zealand enterprises in China's urbanization.


--To focus on promoting cooperation in agriculture, animal husbandry and other key areas. New Zealand is welcome to export more high-quality agricultural products to China. We also hope that the New Zealand side can continue to be strict with food safety, and safeguard the rights and interests of Chinese consumers with practical measures. The two sides should keep overall cooperation in mind, manage challenging issues in a constructive and creative manner, strengthen exchanges on management system, food safety, agricultural technology and personnel training, and encourage stake holders in both countries to build up capacity so as to keep pace with the rapid development of our bilateral relations.


--To deepen cooperation on technology and environmental protection. Technical innovation and eco-environment protection are two engines that power the higher and further growth of China's economy. Recent years have seen fast development of scientific and technical exchanges and smooth progress of joint research programs. To further strengthen cooperation in the fields of green economy, energy conservation, emission reduction, and environmental management will give New Zealand green enterprises more access to Chinese market. Win-win cooperation on commercializing research findings should be our focus to underpin the sustainable development of bilateral relations.


--To strengthen local exchanges. Some New Zealand entrepreneurs pointed out that when doing business with China, attentions should not only be paid to China as one single country, but also to its components. The economic strength of China's provinces and cities is abundant. With the deepening of reform and opening up, the late-developing advantages of China's mid-west and northeast regions will emerge gradually. The willingness of New Zealand local governments to promote cooperation with China is strong. We hope the two sides enhance exchanges on local level, the two central governments can facilitate in building platforms to increase the dimensions of bilateral cooperation.


--To deepen cultural exchanges. China has been the largest country of origin of New Zealand's international students for over 10 consecutive years, and the second largest country of origin of overseas tourists. There exists broad prospects for cooperation on education and tourism between two sides. The New Zealand side recently released Tourism Strategy 2025, which vowed to increase tourism income from 24 billion dollars in 2013 to 41 billion dollars in 2025. There will be more than 400 million Chinese citizens travelling abroad in next 5 years. China is surely an indispensable partner for the implementation of this ambitious target. Furthermore, the interests of two peoples to learn the language and culture of each other is increasing as well. I am pleased to announce that our Embassy would offer two scholarships for study in China this year to VUW. We hope that the two sides may learn from each other and further deepen mutual understanding and friendship to lay solid foundation for in-depth exchanges and cooperation between two countries.


Dear friends, a composer cannot write enchanting melody with one note, and a painter cannot paint landscape with only one colour. The bright future of China-New Zealand cooperation will be jointly built by our two countries. Māori friends have a proverb which says "nothing can be achieved without a plan, a workforce and a way of doing things." I wish all friends here keep focusing on the development of China-New Zealand relationship, contributing more ideas, playing your roles and jointly push forward the development of China-New Zealand relations.

Thank you.