On 9th September, I was invited to deliver a speech at the 2022 Beijing International Forum on People-to-People Friendship hosted by the Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (BPAFFC). I took the opportunity to review progress on our current Memorandum of Understanding and looked forward to a new beginning, with a resumption of face-to-face meetings. My speech is reproduced below.
President Yin Yong, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends,
We all know the economic impact that Covid-19 has had — and continues to have — on countries and communities. Restrictions on trade in goods and services and disruptions to international supply chains have made headlines around the world.
The cancellation of cultural and people-to people exchanges may not have been as newsworthy, but they have certainly made it more difficult for our Society to deliver on its mission. Like many other organisations, we have turned to electronic means of communication to maintain contact with our friends and continue our work of promoting friendship, understanding and goodwill between the peoples of New Zealand and China.
Last year, on July 29th, 2021, President Dave Bromwich signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
In that memorandum, we agreed that our joint intention would be to carry out exchanges and cooperation in culture, art, professional and youth development, and other areas over the four years through to 2025.
Cooperation Area 1: Professional themed exchanges
We had planned to organise professional delegation exchanges on the topics such as infrastructure, legal, technology, traditional medicine and other sectors by mutual agreement. We are keen to move forward on these delegations but, given restrictions on international travel, these are on hold for the moment.
Luckily, we have been able to participate in International People-to-People Friendship Forums organised by our friends in Beijing via Zoom.
Cooperation Area 2: Youth development and education
As public events have again become possible in New Zealand, we have been able to bring together young people from different backgrounds to promote friendship and understanding in our own communities. Anti-China talk in our media has unfortunately allowed an environment of suspicion and mistrust to develop in some work and social settings. We want local Chinese communities to know that they have friends who will support and stand up for them.
As part of our National Conference in June 2022 we held a youth forum, bringing together alumni of various youth tours to China over the past ten years to talk about what they had learned from their experiences. The event was well attended and many participants spoke of the need to welcome young people of mixed Chinese and European backgrounds into our communities.
We look forward to extending these engagements to include young people in New Zealand and China, building mutual understanding and promoting the spirit of international friendship. Development of youth strategies for engagement between our two countries is under discussion.
Cooperation Area 3: Commemoration activity
On 29th July 2021, we held an online webinar in commemoration of Kathleen Hall’s 125th birthday. As many of you will know, Kathleen Hall (He Ming Qing) was a New Zealand missionary nurse in China who worked in poor rural areas under extremely difficult conditions, and trained local nurses to work alongside her. During the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, Kathleen nursed the sick and wounded. She also smuggled medical supplies through the Japanese lines to Dr Norman Bethune, the Canadian surgeon who was in charge of medical services for the Chinese 8th Route Army.
The online webinar was jointly organised by the Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the New Zealand China Friendship Society, and the Chinese Bethune Spirit Research Association. Attendees included
- Executive Vice President of Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries Madame Zhang Qian and her colleagues
- New Zealand China Friendship Society Patron Sir David Carter, President Dave Bromwich, Youth Club representative Alex Fraser, and members from all our branches;
- Honorary President of the Chinese Bethune Spirit Research Association Mr Ma Guoqing and his colleagues;
- Chair of Gung Ho-ICCIC Michael Crook and his team; and
- Chair of Liaison Department of Shaanxi Women’s Federation Wu Shemei and her team.
Attendees also included representatives from Taihang Mountains where Kathleen worked, and Kathleen’s great niece, Christine Ross.
A highlight of the webinar was the sharing of a documentary on Kathleen Hall’s life and work, produced by the Hamilton Branch of our Society. The documentary has now been supplemented by an accompanying booklet. These resources were produced as part of the Kathleen Hall commemoration celebrations and are available from our website at www.nzchinasociety.org.nz.
Following the ceremony, the Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the New Zealand China Friendship Society signed a Memorandum of Understanding for friendship and cooperation between the two associations, as mentioned at the beginning of my speech.
2022 is another important year of commemoration for us, as it is the 125th anniversary of Rewi Alley’s birth. Rewi Alley needs no introduction to this audience, I’m sure. Rewi is an old friend of China, who devoted 60 years of his life to the cause of China’s national independence and construction.
Rewi Alley’s legacy falls into three areas: his educational philosophy; the Gung Ho cooperative movement; and his internationalism. The New Zealand China Friendship Society is a direct product of this third legacy area, and the work of the Society continues to be an expression of Rewi’s commitment to international friendship between the peoples of New Zealand and China.
We look forward to engaging further with the Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries as we plan a series of events around the country in the lead-up to Rewi Alley’s birthday on 2nd December.
Delegates from Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries were unfortunately unable to travel to our National Conference in June 2022 but we were delighted to have Executive Vice President Madam Zhang Qian join us via Zoom. This conference was an important event for us, as we celebrated not only Rewi Alley’s birthday, but also 70 years since the founding of our first branch in Auckland, and 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China.
Planning is underway for an educational tour that will focus on Rewi Alley and Kathleen Hall’s work in the Beijing and Hebei area. We look forward to advancing this and other China educational tours once international travel between New Zealand and China has resumed without restrictions.
Over the past year, Covid-19 has posed some challenges. Next year I hope will be a different story. I look forward to a new beginning, with face-to-face meetings between old friends and new.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa,
 “Our friend Rewi Alley of New Zealand travelled a far distance to China in 1927 and devoted his whole life to the cause of China’s national independence and construction” — President Xi Jinping.