New Zealand’s future is Asian, above all Chinese‘ wrote Martin Jacques during his recent visit to New Zealand. Buttressing his case were what he saw as unique New Zealand attributes: its significant Maori and Polynesian cultures, the increasing numbers of Chinese Kiwis, New Zealand’s pure food and authentic tourism (it’s not for nothing that New Zealand’s tourism slogan is ‘100% Pure’), and its close political, economic and cultural connection with China.

Much of what Jacques said in New Zealand was not necessarily news. New Zealand’s population, as much as its economy, is reorienting to Asia. New Zealand, arguably, is much more aware of China’s rise and what it means for the world than is much of Europe, or even America. New Zealand’s officials and academics alike are spending hours analysing what China’s rise means for New Zealand.

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Making Mandarin a compulsory subject in primary schools will spur New Zealand’s economic growth, and will open up opportunities for deeper understanding of the Chinese culture.

“There couldn’t be a more important subject for New Zealand to be discussing,” said Dr Martin Jacques.

“There will be a new elite in New Zealand – they will be linked with China – and this new elite will be bilingual. You cannot get by just speaking English – you need to speak Mandarin – unless you want to operate with one hand tied behind your back.”

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A China expert is warning New Zealanders that they are ignoring the Chinese language at their own peril.

Dr Martin Jacques says despite an increase in numbers learning the language at school, New Zealand adults are still in the dark when it comes to knowing much at all about our giant neighbour to the north.

Tim Yen, Westlake Girls’ Chinese teacher, thinks learning Chinese is so much more than textbooks and practice.

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Working successfully with Chinese businesses will require changes that start in our schools, says visiting China specialist Dr Martin Jacques.

He is in New Zealand to deliver the keynote address at the new New Zealand Forum on October 16, presented by Massey University and Westpac.

“If you think China is going to be your major trading partner, you will need to have a good number of New Zealanders who can speak Mandarin,” Dr Jacques says.“It’s really important. While there are lots of educated young Chinese who can speak English in major cities, being able to speak a Chinese dialect is a sign of respect, and can give you valuable intel on what’s going on.”

Fonterra’s recent botulism scare in China brought home just how important our second-largest trade partner is to the New Zealand economy – and its increasing influence on the global economy.

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The Fonterra botulism scare will become a small blemish on New Zealand’s future relationship with China, according to the British author of a bestseller on the eastern superpower.

New Zealand will continue to be significant beneficiary of China’s growth said Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World.

“By a stroke of great geographical fortune [New Zealand] is in a position to develop a strong economic relationship with the Asian mainland. The effect of it will be economic, but in the long run will be intellectual, cultural, in some ways political,” said Jacques, who is the keynote speaker at a Massey University forum on New Zealand’s place in China’s historic growth.

The botulism scare has made a significant dent in New Zealand’s exports to China, but the damage will be short term and should not be overestimated, Jacques said.

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ROSS Terrill, one of Australia’s best known experts on China, who has been based at Harvard University in the US for most of the past 50 years, warns that for Canberra to align on security issues with Beijing “bristles with difficulties”.

He does not believe Australia is faced with a frightening choice between our great ally and our main trading partner. While commending Hugh White for instigating a lively debate with his book The China Choice, he says this thesis “underestimates Australia’s power to say yes or no in concrete diplomatic situations”.

Terrill, a visiting senior fellow at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute, says: “We can be economically open to China and still speak up for Australian values. I know some people think there is a contradiction there, but I think we have to do both. We should welcome the trade and investment with China but should never give the impression we are packing our values away in a trunk – China wouldn’t respect us for that.”

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ONE of the great evangelical hymns starts stirringly: “Blessed assurance”

Too often, that’s what businesspeople have been fed by presenters at conferences: simple answers to complex questions.

China is no exception. In the fairly recent past, business audiences in Australia have evinced remarkable ignorance about China, passively taking  in whatever the visiting expert has proclaimed.

But there has been a welcome turning of the tide. It’s no longer enough to say that China satisfies 99 per cent of global concrete gnome demand, or whatever. Every galah in every corner pet shop here knows how important China has become to our economy. Sadly, some conference organisers still churn out speakers who click on one PowerPoint slide after another that makes that point, over and over: bigger, better.

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Martin Jacques, a leading British academic who wrote a best-selling book called When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order believes, as you can probably tell from the title, that China will be the dominant power of this century. Predictions about when China becomes the largest economy in the world range from 2030 onwards to as early as 2018.

Those in the West, he says, have no idea what that will entail for we arrogantly presume that as China gets richer its citizens will become more like us. Jacques says that won’t happen. China has 1000 years of civilisation to draw upon where the state is the paramount force and is seen by the population as an extension of the family – the ultimate patriarch. He says that Chinese citizens won’t become like westerners, with our demands for individual rights and freedoms and our reliance on rules over relationships. Instead China will maintain its uniqueness.

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The scope and scale of the Chinese march is enormous. As the ever cerebral David Aaronovitch pointed out in The Australian recently, China is even making sure the march continues by buying up the world’s oil and gas reserves, spending almost $40 billion on energy assets last year.

In fact, in terms of both population and economic growth, what is happening in China is like trying to count the stars in the night sky. Seeking to understand what it all means has led to some fascinating theories.

A few years ago, Martin Jacques left his readers in no doubt: the title of his absorbing and provocative book was simply When China Rules The World. The West, he argued, is about to be challenged – economically and also morally, politically and ethically – by a non-Western superpower for the very first time. China has long regarded itself as being at the centre of the world and the West should be prepared as the Chinese seek tribute from others as acknowledgement of their inherent superiority.

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When the economist Jane Golley joined the federal Treasury in 1994, she was assigned to a single-person desk overseeing China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

It was only a few years after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The US was at the apex of its power and influence. Francis Fukuyama, a noted American scholar, confidently predicted the ”end of history” – a scenario where the entire world would embrace America’s brand of liberal democracy and capitalism.

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