Promoting the Society and increasing membership is top priority for new Auckland Branch President, Henry Acland.
The target, he says, is to at least double Auckland Branch’s membership in a year.
Henry returned to Auckland from Beijing three years ago, where he worked as a journalist for Xinhua News Agency.
“The Friendship Society doesn’t get the recognition it deserves,” he says. “People just don’t know how connected the organisation is to China and the incredible work it does.”
“Holding public debates about the importance of China to New Zealand is something that has proved successful,” he says.
Last year the Auckland Branch hosted a debate on China’s engagement in the Pacific that was adjudicated by the University of Auckland’s Professor Manying Ip and the Society’s patron Phillip Burdon.
“We’ve got to do more of the same, as well as find different ways of raising the profile of the Society. Most people don’t know anything about us. We’ve got to change this.”
Henry has long been interested in China. He began studying Mandarin at Victoria University in Wellington in 1998 while he was also tutoring a second-year paper in Asian Studies. This interest eventually took him to Beijing in 2008 after completing an MA in Political Studies at the University of Auckland.
“I wanted to see what the place was really like after studying it for so long. I arrived just before the Beijing Olympics. I witnessed so much unimaginable change in the six years that I was there. I also made some really good local friends.”
One of Henry’s good friends is now his wife Ling, who he married in Beijing.
Ling and Henry now live in Mt Albert and recently celebrated the birth of their first child, Will, on 29 June.