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China General Interest

By Kefeng Chu, Chief China Adviser, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

I was excited when it was announced on 15 November that Mr Xi Jinping was elected the new head of the Chinese Communist Party. Around 25 years ago, he was the Party Secretary in my hometown of Ningde City for three years, and was also the Party Secretary of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, and governor of Fujian province where I lived and worked.

While in Fuzhou, I had the honour of interpreting for him on a few occasions, which included sitting 1 seat away from him at dinner when he hosted overseas guests.

My impression was that he was easygoing and people spoke highly of him. In fact, his wife Ms Peng Liyuan, the celebrity singer, was often seen shopping at vegetable markets in Ningde city, which is very unusual for a celebrity and a wife of the local Party Secretary.

Let me explain the Party’s National Congress and its implications on the transition of state leaders. The Party holds its National Congress every five years, deciding its new leadership team for up to two terms of five years each. The 18th Party National Congress was held last week (a day after the US election) and decided its new leadership including seven standing committee members.

Mr Xi was elected the Party’s General Secretary and Chairman for the Party’s Military Committee. Second in the Party ranking is Mr Li Keqiang, who is currently a Deputy Premier.

Following the National Congress, the Party also named Mr Xi as China’s next President with Mr Li as the new Premier. The transition of the state leaders will be confirmed by the National People’s Congress in March 2013.

Many New Zealanders were probably more interested in the US election and the leadership change in the world’s second biggest economy wasn’t widely covered by the media, so I had to turn to the BBC for the most up to date reports. However, consider this: China is our second largest trading partner; the largest source of imported goods; the second largest destination for exports; the largest source of fee-paying international students; the second largest source of tourists; and bilateral investment is building up momentum. The trade relationship with China has helped to offset the turmoil of the global financial crisis.

So maybe this leader will have more of an impact on New Zealand than President Obama.

New Zealand has strong links with the new leaders. Mr Xi visited New Zealand in 2010 as Vice President when he opened the Confucius Institute of Victoria University. A year earlier in 2009, Mr Li visited as Deputy Premier in charge of food safety and health and opened the Confucius Institute of Canterbury University. During their visits, both leaders proposed measures to further advance bilateral relations between the two countries. Recently, Mr Li said the relationship between New Zealand and China is “at its best ever”.

The fact that both leaders chose to visit New Zealand is quite significant for us. It shows our unique trade and political relations with China. I am sure the special relationship New Zealand has with China’s new leaders will further enhance our bilateral trade relations for the next decade, as Mr Xi and Mr Li in their term of office lead China to become, as projected, the world’s largest economy by 2025.

By the way, when you are next in China, go and visit my hometown of Ningde City and Fujian province if you can – it has good Feng Shui given it has produced the next Chinese President.

Read more about the new leadership team:

Mr Xi’s first public speech after he was elected the Party’s General Secretary:

Watch China’s next first lady signing:


To share your observations and experience working in China please contact Luke Qin at