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Connection to China in the Age of Pandemic

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Since Covid-19 placed severe limitations to travel from February this year, connection with our friends, colleagues and partnerships has continued. The use of zoom meetings, webinars and regular chats through Wechat has, if anything, increased contact, albeit of a different nature. The fellowship through meals together is certainly not there right now!

One example is participation in the bi-annual Beijing International Forum on People to People Friendship, organised by Beijing Youxie (BPAFFC). There were around 200 participants, and seventeen international contributors from every continent. I delivered a speech in the sub-heading ‘Cooperation’, in the field of people’s livelihood in the Belt and Road Initiative. I briefly presented a project proposal being promoted with SBS (now Bailie Vocational College) and other partnerships in China, in the context of historical activity from Rewi Alley to the present:

Since Covid-19 placed severe limitations to travel from February this year, connection with our friends, colleagues and partnerships has continued. The use of zoom meetings, webinars and regular chats through wechat has, if anything, increased contact, albeit of a different nature. The fellowship through meals together is certainly not there right now!

One example is participation in the bi-annual Beijing International Forum on People to People Friendship, organised by Beijing Youxie (BPAFFC). There were around 200 participants, and seventeen international contributors from every continent. I delivered a speech in the sub-heading Cooperation in the field of people’s livelihood in the Belt and Road Initiative . I briefly presented a project proposal being promoted with SBS (now Bailie Vocational College) and other partnerships in China, in the context of historical activity from Rewi Alley to the present.

Cooperation in the field of people’s livelihood in the Belt and Road Initiative.

I would like to present a specific project with a goal to significantly contribute to the economic development in North West China through application of sustainable innovative technologies.
Firstly, however, I would like to set some historic context for this. In the mid-1930s to 1950s, the New Zealander Rewi Alley was very active in community development issues in China, and in particular in the North-west, establishing vocational training colleges and promoting cooperatives with international support.

Professor Pauline Keating, in her paper International Visionaries, Builders of the Indusco Movement in Wartime China, 1938 to 1950, states “The Chinese Industrial Cooperative Movement, commonly referred to as ‘Indusco’ or ‘Gung Ho’, is one of the most striking examples of internationalism to be found in Republican China. The Indusco programme grew out of a cross fertilisation of Chinese and Western ideas. In this respect it belongs to the silk road tradition of cross-cultural fusions and cosmopolitanism and, as such, is one of the precursors of the BRI project.”

Rewi Alley went on to encourage NZ friends to establish the New Zealand China Friendship Society, which was achieved in 1952. Through friends in New Zealand he organised the export of sheep from New Zealand to reach Shandan in the Hexi corridor on the old silk road to add to the gene pool of local sheep breeds. The outcome of this work of international cooperation are still evident today, with the genetic traits of the New Zealand Corriedale sheep continuing to add value to Animal Husbandry in Gansu.

When based in Beijing, Rewi Alley went on to play a significant role in training technicians for the developing oil industry in the 1950s at the Lanzhou Bailie Oil School. This has now merged with Lanzhou City University, where a Rewi Alley Research Institute and Rewi Alley Memorial Hall are a firm reminder and continuation of Rewi’s earlier work.

Today, NZCFS continues strong relationships with Gansu, especially at Shandan and Lanzhou. The opportunity for a technology innovation of significant impact both to rural community and economic development, as well as being environmentally sustainable, is being promoted through NZCFS and Chinese partners. This fits very well into the modern BRI programme, as well as the central government policy to develop the West. I suggest that this is a modern day extension of the foundations for cooperation established all those decades ago by Rewi Alley and International friends.

Rewi Alley spent the last thirty years of his life living in the Old Italian Legation in Beijing, which then became the National Youxie Compound, he delivered his work from this base. I would like to request the support of Beijing Youxie to assist with seeking backing for this new project, both through government institutions and the private sector.
In August 2019, Xi Jinping visited Shandan Bailie School, in the process of being upgraded to Bailie Vocational College, and Lanzhou City University. In Shandan he praised the role of Shandan Bailie School for its contribution to training for the development of the North-west of China.

The project I am promoting, titled “Comprehensive Development Model of New Energy and Ecological Agriculture In North-west China”, is planned to be set up as a demonstration base at Bailie Vocational College, Shandan, Gansu Province. It fits very well with Chinese government policy to develop the western regions, and with the Chinese initiative to establish an Eco-civilisation.
The rationale for this project fits easily into this concept of establishing an eco-civilsation.

The economy of the northwest region, especially the vast rural areas, is relatively underdeveloped. The time suitable for crop growth throughout the year is short plus there is a serious shortage of water, and agricultural development is restricted. However, the solar energy resources are rich and the quality of agricultural products is very good. Giving full play to the advantages of natural resources in the northwest region, developing energy-efficient, water-saving and organic ecological agriculture, and adopting intensive production models, processing high-quality agricultural products is an important measure to develop the local economy, solve employment and achieve prosperity.

II. Technology Innovations
The technology innovations combine several sustainable approaches. By using an aquaponics agriculture methodology, which involves a fish pond that recycles water through a hydroponic agriculture growing system in an enclosed plastic house, using solar generated energy that pumps water and powers air source heat pump for air and water temperature control and for drying products, this project meets diverse criteria for sustainable food production.

III. Project Objectives
1. Establish a comprehensive development model of new energy and ecological agriculture to provide demonstration and reference for wide application in Northwest China;
2. Establish an ecological, sustainable energy and water saving cultivation standard system of high-quality agricultural products;
3. Provide support for the future construction of related majors in Gansu Bailie Vocational College in terms of teacher training and student learning.

The project has already seen collaboration between Bailie Vocational College in Shandan and NZCFS, with high value technology support from Shunde Polytechnic College, Foshan, Guangdong; VKIN Environment Technology Company, a national technology enterprise; and Hexi College, Zhangye.

Through my role with NZCFS, I have had long term association with the development programmes based at the Bailie College. NZCFS has been working to assist with the provision of technical expertise, innovative technologies, and social development programmes, in the establishment phase of this new college, as well ongoing delivery of research, development and teaching. This project is the result of collaboration between the partners involved.
Research and Development funding support is being sought from government or private enterprise to further this project and promote sustainable economic and community development in North-west China.