New Zealand

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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Not for the first nor the last time, I regret the long-ago death of Rewi Alley, the New Zealander who is one of China’s acclaimed heroes.

He devoted 60 years to setting up schools and thousands of industrial co-operatives there. He wrote of them “fitting into the vast landscape of rural China”. His slogan was: “Yo Banfa!” – “There is a way.” He retained independent views in a country where such attitudes were suspect – and still are. His mana was unquestioned.

In particular, I remember a long conversation with him in Beijing in 1983, when he talked gloomily of his deep misgivings about China’s dogmatic one-child family policy. He feared for the effects on the domestic and family life of the nation he loved, a doubt amounting to communist heresy.

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Napoleon was right. Okay, so he was tragically wrong deciding to go on his long march to Moscow. But over China he was spot on.

The actual words and the timing of his quote vary but they all match. Example: Historians say that in 1803 he once pointed on a map to China, then a distant and little-known place, and said: “Here lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep, for when he wakes he will shock the world.”

No question Napoleon was basing his concerns on the reports of Jesuit missionaries who had then been in China for two centuries, some of them with the ear of the emperor as confidantes in the Forbidden City.

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