Winston Peters Deliver Speech To New Zealand China Council

Published: Fri 3 May 2024 10:01 AM
Thank you, John McKinnon and the New Zealand China Council for the invitation to speak to you today.
Thank you too, all members of the China Council. Your effort has played an essential role in helping to build, shape, and grow a balanced and resilient relationship between our two countries.
Two of the China Council’s key missions are to ‘inform New Zealanders about our bilateral relationship with China’, and to ‘Catalyse, or rather, focus long-term thinking’. These are excellent starting points for today.
We also recognise that this year is the 10th anniversary of New Zealand’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China. This makes it a good time to reflect on where the relationship has come from, and where it is going.
It is over 50 years since we established diplomatic relations with China, and our global order, and China’s place in it, is markedly different from back then.
Globally, just in the last quarter-of-a- century we have witnessed a rolling back of democracy, increasingly restrictive market barriers as protectionism has taken grip, and a sharp increase in conflict and instability.
We are undoubtedly living in a more fractious world and that is the wider context for understanding our complex relationship with China and how we navigate it.Why China matters to New Zealand
John, as Chair of the New Zealand China Council you recently gave a speech in which you talked about just how consequential China is to New Zealand’s interests. Such a point may seem self-evident, but it is worth dwelling on.
China’s significance on the world stage is undeniable. As one of only two countries with over one billion people, and the world’s second largest economy, China plays a pivotal role in shaping global affairs and global trends.
Its remarkable economic growth story has lifted millions out of poverty, as China has transformed into a major player in international trade, supply chains, technological innovation, and investment.
And given its size, its economic clout, and its strategic ambitions, China’s actions reverberate worldwide making it a focal point for anyone traversing the complexities of the 21st century’s increasingly fractured geopolitical landscape.
China’s global significance, influence, and its actions and achievements in the world, bring both opportunity and challenge.
In this context, and in line with the China Council’s mission, successfully navigating a course requires long-term thinking. For New Zealand, this means being clear-eyed and focused on our goals and in our engagement with this significant partner and global player.How we engage
As with any relationship, a lot comes down to how we engage with each other.
For New Zealand, consistent and predictable engagement with China provides us a platform for open communication to air concerns, clarify intentions, deepen understanding, and explore potential areas of cooperation.
Investing heavily in our relationship ensures that we can maintain this platform.
Our relationship benefits from strong bilateral architecture built up over many years, including regular contact between Ministers and discussions between officials.
The conversations we have are not always easy, but they are essential. Political visits in both directions are important too. Recently, we welcomed China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, to New Zealand. The Minister of Trade has recently visited China, and we look forward to further high-level exchanges this year.
We firmly believe that dialogue and engagement must remain at the forefront of our diplomatic efforts.Cooperation where in national interests
When Minister Wang visited Wellington recently, we canvassed the important areas of cooperation between New Zealand and China.
China is a vital economic partner for New Zealand, offering opportunities for trade, investment, and cooperation that benefits both sides. We value a productive, stable, and complementary trading relationship with China. China has been New Zealand’s largest trading partner since 2017.
Two-way trade amounted to nearly NZ$38 billion in the year ending December 2023. It remains an important destination for New Zealand’s products and accounted for nearly 22 per cent of our total goods and services exports last year.
New Zealand continues to be a trusted and reliable supplier not just of dairy, meat and wood products to China, but also of innovative goods across health and nutrition, fitness and other sectors. This trade is supported by a highly successful bilateral free trade agreement, concluded in 2008 and further upgraded in 2022.
Beyond trade links, we continue to work closely on combatting climate change, with technical exchanges on our respective emissions trading schemes, green finance, and other topics.
We work closely with China on agreed science priorities: food, environment, and health and biomedical sciences. The primary industries represent another area of long-standing cooperation in the relationship.
People-to-people connections also continue to represent an important bridge between us. From the earliest days of migration from China, arriving on our shores seeking gold and fortune, to today where New Zealand’s rich and diverse Chinese community enriches the cultural fabric of our country.
Prior to the pandemic, China was New Zealand’s second largest international visitor market. We are now seeing a rebound in Chinese tourism to New Zealand, serviced by a return to 58 regular flights a week between New Zealand and China.
Education links are also steadily recovering. More than 21,000 Chinese students were enrolled to study in New Zealand in the first eight months of 2023. We continue to work together on early childhood education, vocational education, and research collaboration.Acting to defend, promote, preserve our interests
Alongside these topics, during the visit to New Zealand of Minister Wang we also talked at length about the areas where New Zealand and China have different views. To be clear, it is neither surprising nor new for us to have to address differences.
New Zealand and China’s histories, cultures, political systems diverge in significant ways, and it is no surprise that this leads to differences of opinion.
We strongly believe that in a mature relationship like ours it is possible to discuss differences openly, respectfully, and predictably. We will continue to share our concerns with China, where we have them.
Sometimes we do this in private, but there are also times when we communicate openly with the public and the international community about our concerns. This is an important part of our commitment to speaking openly and transparently about the foreign policy issues and challenges that affect New Zealanders.
Human rights are one such issue. We expect China to adhere to the principles and commitments that underpin internationally agreed human rights framework, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other core human rights treaties.
We have consistently made clear our serious concerns about human rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, and violations of human rights in Hong Kong, and in Tibet. We will continue to call on China to uphold its obligations.
When in Hong Kong in 1997 as Deputy Prime Minister, my delegation witnessed the historic transition and heard the commitment China made to retaining the ‘one country / two systems’ arrangement. That’s all we are asking – to honour the commitments made.
In recent weeks the Coalition Government has also raised examples of cyber-attacks and interference efforts that are intended to influence, disrupt, or subvert New Zealand’s national interests. These are deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. We remain vigilant to all such threats.
As a nation of traders, we seek a positive and stable region that is grounded in clear rules and established norms. Our prosperity is intrinsically linked to regional security and respect for international law. This is why we are deeply concerned to see stability tested in the South China Sea.
In recent days and months we have seen Chinese vessels use water cannons against Filipino vessels. A simple miscalculation or accident could lead to sudden and unpredictable escalation. This would have real implications for the stability and prosperity of the region.
After all, one third of all global shipping transits the South China Sea. We have made clear our expectation that all countries - including China – will comply with international law, particularly UNCLOS.
New Zealand has for five decades consistently adhered to our one China policy. We are concerned though by growing tensions, and hardening rhetoric across the Taiwan Strait. We strongly encourage the diplomatic and peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan strait issues – without the threat or use of force or coercion.
Our enduring and long-lasting Pacific partnerships have taught us that engagement in this region should advance Pacific priorities, be consistent with established regional practices, and support Pacific regional institutions – including the Pacific Islands Forum as the region’s pre-eminent regional body.
China has a long-standing presence in the Pacific, but we are seriously concerned by increased engagement in Pacific security sectors. We do not want to see developments that destabilise the institutions and arrangements that have long underpinned our region’s security.
With great power comes great responsibility, so we think that China has a responsibility to play a constructive role to address international security challenges, encourage de-escalation, and ease tensions, such as in ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and Israel and Hamas.
We have encouraged China to be clear, in line with its commitment to the UN Charter and its position as a P5 member, that it does not support Russia’s unlawful war in Ukraine, and we urge China to halt actions which help Russia to rebuild its war-fighting capability and prolong the conflict.
We have also encouraged China to do what it can to persuade Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programme and cease its export of arms to Russia. In the tinderbox of the Middle East, China can also play a vital role via its relationship with Iran in de-escalating tensions.
Now, we believe, is a time where China leadership and diplomacy would materially help to ease global tensions.Aligning and working with traditional and like-minded partners
This brings us to the final point, that we will continue to align and work with partners where this helps advance our common interests, all the while being steadfast in our independent assessment of our national interests.
This means that we assess issues on their merits, and that our partnerships take different forms, whether determined by our shared histories, shared values, shared interests, or our shared architecture.
Collaboration, however, does not imply uniformity of opinion. Like all sovereign nations, New Zealand will continue to make decisions based on our own assessment of our interests. Where we have shared priorities, and perspectives we will work with partners to advocate for outcomes that reflect our shared interest.Conclusion
To conclude, the New Zealand-China relationship is complex, and this means we need to be clear about what we seek to achieve through cooperation and engagement. By taking a long-term approach, we foster trust, understanding, and resilient ties that transcend the immediate and focus on the enduring.
But the accentuated nature of current conflicts and global challenges require all nations, large and small, to rededicate themselves to easing tensions where we can and acting responsibly where we must.
New Zealand can more clearly articulate our interests, and be clear about where these converge, and importantly, where these differ. This sets us up well to seize opportunities to advance our national interests and prosperity as they arise. And it helps us anticipate and address emerging challenges and risks.
Ultimately, we are not just managing the present, but also shaping the future.

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