Remarks at New Zealand Chinese Business Club/Auckland Business Chamber
Gala Dinner & Awards Ceremony
Auckland, November 3, 2023
Members of Parliament, Mr. McClay, Mr. Goldsmith, Melissa, Carlos
Deputy Mayor Simpson, President Goodfellow,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
Good evening. Let me first thank the New Zealand Chinese Business Club and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to tonight’s event. I would also like to congratulate all the awardees and acknowledge everyone here for your support for and contribution to China-New Zealand economic relations.
From an economic perspective, if there is anything other than the recent election that has received most attention here in New Zealand, it is probably the state of the Chinese economy, which is only natural given the close linkages between the two countries.
While people are of course entitled to their own opinions, which may or may not be the same, my advice to friends, particularly those stakeholders in the relationship, has always been: look at the big picture and look at the long run, rather than losing sight of the mountain for one single leaf, or allowing economic sensibility to be warped by the false, often self-fulfilling and probably self-defeating geopolitical narrative.
Since the beginning of the year, China’s economy has met with headwinds from risks and challenges abroad and at home, but has however maintained a reasonably strong momentum, remaining a major engine for global economic growth. The economy grew by 4.9% year-on-year between July and September, and expanded by 5.2% in the first three quarters, outpacing most other major economies both in terms of year-on-year growth and cumulative growth. Looking into the full year, most international institutions such as the World Bank have forecast global growth at 2% while 5% or higher for China, which is a bright spot in the gathering clouds on the global economic horizon.
On top of that, solid progress is being made as China’s economy pivots from high-speed growth to high-quality development. Despite signs of softening in a few sectors, more economic indicators augur well for the improvement of the country’s economic structure and better quality of development. Domestic consumption has driven the lion’s share of the rise of China’s economy this year, contributing to 83.2% of growth and lifting GDP by 4.4 percentage points. Meanwhile, the country’s efforts to deliver high-quality development have given birth to fresh, innovation-based growth drivers in line with future trends. China’s green industry, known for electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar batteries, has maintained a rapid growth momentum. Exports of these products increased 41.7% in the first nine months. This is among the many examples showcasing China’s contribution to the global transition towards greener and lower-carbon development pathways.
Post-COVID recovery does not follow a linear trajectory. Inevitably, there will be twists and turns as well as ups and downs. Given the mounting downward pressure on the global economy, China still faces many challenges in pursuing high-quality economic development, with some sectors undergoing major shifts. We do not shy away from these problems. Rather, we address them head-on. Our measures to help businesses get through the tough times and reinvigorate the market are gradually paying off. The Chinese government has an ample policy toolkit, which gives us confidence to address difficulties and forestall systemic risks.
We believe that these difficulties, while real and in some cases significant, are surmountable and thus transitory. Besides, every difficulty we overcome opens a new path to bigger opportunities for high-quality development. Looking ahead, the fundamentals of China’s long-term sound economic growth, characterized by strong resilience, enormous potential and great vitality, remain unchanged.
In the words of Stephan Jacobi, ED of New Zealand International Business Forum, China is still China.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As a key measure to advance further opening up of China, the BRI has its roots in the country, and its benefits are shared across the world. Over the past decade, based on the principle of “planning together, building together, and benefiting together”, the BRI promotes connectivity, facilitates the effort of partner countries and regions to better integrate into global supply, industrial and value chains, and creates greater opportunities for common development. Many countries have seized the momentum of the BRI and got on board the train of China’s development, making the initiative a highly popular global public good and cooperation platform.
Not long ago, China successfully hosted the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and welcomed participants from more than 150 countries and 40 international organizations to celebrate fruitful results and plan for its next stage. President Xi announced eight major steps China will take to support our joint pursuit of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. Among others, China will establish pilot zones for Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, enter into free trade agreements and investment protection treaties with more countries, and remove all restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector. China will also further advance high-standard opening up in cross-border service trade and investment, expand market access for digital and other products, and deepen reform in areas including the state-owned enterprises, digital economy, intellectual property and government procurement.
The eight steps chart the course for the next phase of Belt and Road cooperation, and will open up new vistas for the common prosperity of BRI partners and global growth. We would like to encourage more Kiwi friends and businesses to seize the opportunities offered by high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, so as to help China-New Zealand economic cooperation to bear even more fruits for both sides and the wider region.
In China-New Zealand relations, trade and broader economic cooperation is a key pillar, serving as both a ballast and a propeller of the overall bilateral partnership. Indeed, our trade relations face challenges from shrinking global demand, falling commodity prices, greater competition and changing consumer preferences. In spite of all these, they have proved to be remarkably resilient. According to the latest statistics, China received 27% of the total value of New Zealand’s goods exports in the year ending September 2023, remaining New Zealand’s largest trading partner, exporting destination and importing source. As China steadily advances high-quality development and opens up further, it will offer more market opportunities to New Zealand businesses. Let me share some of my suggestions on how New Zealand businesses, standing at the start of the second 50 years of China-New Zealand relations, could strengthen cooperation with China.
First, consolidate what we have achieved. China and New Zealand have built up complementary economic relations featuring structural synergy and compatible demands. Over the past five decades, our bilateral trade rose from NZ$7 million when the diplomatic relations were established to over NZ$40 billion in 2022, and brought tangible benefits to the two peoples. Building on the deep roots we have struck in each other’s market, we should work to unlock the full potentials in traditional, established sectors of cooperation such as dairy, meat, wood, tourism and education.
Second, upgrade what we are working on, by extending the value chains, by better targeting the new and growing consumer communities to meet their evolving and upgrading needs, and by expanding into new markets as China seeks to balance inter-regional and urban-rural development, empowering previous economic hinterlands in the country to grow and open up.
In my recent conversations here in New Zealand, a friend observed: where else can you find a market for New Zealand’s premium products which will add another mid-sized developed economy with a growing mid-income community EACH YEAR in the foreseeable future? In other words, the next China will be in China.
Third, forge new drivers for growth. I understand that for the incoming Government and the wider New Zealand body politic, making up for the infrastructure deficit and promoting a sustainable transition to meet climate change commitments are among the top policy priorities. We share those commitments in China, and see huge room for the two countries to cooperate in that space, for example, on infrastructure development, EVs, and renewable energy, which will not only create new opportunities for our bilateral economic cooperation but also contribute to the long-term development of this country.
In this connection, I wish to emphasize that as China continues to reform and open up, the Chinese market will inevitably become more competitive. New Zealand was the first western developed country that entered into a bilateral FTA with China, imparting important first-mover advantage to New Zealand. Over the years, Kiwi businesses have worked hard to cultivate the Chinese Market and built up a reputation for themselves as being green, clean and state-of-the-art. As long as they take a long-term view and carefully protect and wisely use their advantages, not least the valuable national branding among them, I am confident they will continue to enjoy success in generating mutually beneficial results on the Chinese market.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Win-win cooperation has always been the mainstream of China-New Zealand relations. Though divergent in size, history, culture and political system, both China and New Zealand are committed to ensuring growth and delivering a better life to our people, while each has its own strengths that are highly complementary. These coalesce to constitute the solid foundation for a mutually beneficial partnership centered on practical cooperation, which has grown remarkably over the past 50 plus years in all areas, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples, and in the meantime, contributing to peace, stability and prosperity in our region and around the world.
Practical cooperation does not take place in a vacuum, though. The sound overall relationship has been a key underlying factor. While practical cooperation based on mutual interests constitutes arguably the staunchest of all pillars for the growing China-New Zealand relationship, the former has no doubt benefited enormously from the healthy and stable development of the latter.
In addition, both China and New Zealand have benefited from peace and stability as well as open and inclusive intra-regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific over the decades. Given what transpires in some of the other parts of the world, this has acquired added importance. It is in our common interest to keep it that way.
For China, no matter how the international and our respective domestic situations evolve, we remain committed to working with New Zealand to collaborate constructively in regional and global affairs, and to promote the sound development of our bilateral relations, make the pie of common interests bigger, and deliver greater benefits to the two peoples. I am encouraged to see that the relationship enjoys broad-based support from successive Governments, across all major political parties and from all walks of life here in New Zealand. I want to thank the Labor government for its efforts, and look forward to working closely with the incoming National-led government to take the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between our two countries, which by the way will mark its 10th anniversary, to new heights.
In closing, I wish tonight’s event a full success. May China-New Zealand cooperation continue to grow. May our peoples enjoy greater and lasting prosperity. Thank you.