Next Meeting – 30th June 2016
June speakers: Autumn and Chris
Our speakers this month are Liang Shuang (Autumn) and Huang Xin (Chris), Mandarin Language Assistants (MLAs) at the Confucius Institute at the University of Canterbury. Shuang is a student from Huazhong University, and Xin comes from China University of Petroleum. They arrived in Christchurch at the beginning of 2016, and have gone to a number of schools to teach Kiwi students about the Chinese language and culture.
Autumn and Chris will talk about their experiences in teaching in New Zealand schools, and the difference they have found between the educational systems. They would also like to address the importance of learning the Chinese language, and will finish by talking about Modern China and Chinese culture.
Welcome to new members G F Lissaman, Daryl Manson, Shelley Sweet, Peter Simmonds, D Chilvers and Dr Pleayo Tovaranonte
Our Tauranga conference: Good Things Take Time!
Well, Tauranga didn’t turn on the good weather for us, but it certainly turned on everything else; great speakers, great friendship, great food! The theme of the conference was “Good things take time!” (好事多磨 – Hǎo shì duō mó).
Following the official opening by Mayor Stuart Crosby and branch president John Hodgson, we were entertained by the Tauranga Intermediate School Kapa Haka cultural group. They were brilliant, and ended with a Chinese song, accompanied by Chen Xiyao (Yao) on the guzheng; that was the climax! Treat yourself; have a look and listen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRYWwELREeA
Saturday dawned wet, but, no matter, everyone turned up on time for what proved to be a day of stimulating speakers and activities.
Tony Browne, our one time ambassador in Beijing and now Executive Chair of the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre and Chair of the Victoria University of Wellington Confucius Institute, gave a very good and thought-provoking address on the fact that we are one of the weakest countries of our time in terms of the focus we give to the teaching of foreign languages. We can take some comfort from the fact that Chinese learning is increasing, mainly through the Chinese government putting money into teaching Chinese in New Zealand. Auckland and Victoria Universities now both have about 40 Mandarin language assistants (MLAs), the largest programmes of MLAs in Australasia. They are going out to our schools to work with teachers. Over all though, the number studying language in our schools is rapidly declining.
Schools are responding, but mainly in primary schools only; at secondary school level there is nothing to be complacent about. That is the challenge we face. He has seen New Zealand companies lose business opportunities in China through an ignorance of what is expected, or how to behave. Tourism is our largest foreign exchange earner. 400,000 Chinese tourists are expected to come here next year, and there are currently nowhere near enough Chinese language people to welcome and engage these tourists. To address this problem, we have to start in the schools.
Tony’s excellent presentation was followed by two MLAs in Tauranga, giving us their at times amusing accounts of their time in New Zealand.
Zheng Lin, Cultural Attaché of the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand delivered a letter of congratulations from Ambassador Wang Lutong. Ambassador Wang said since its founding in 1952, the society has made a good contribution to mutual understanding and has always been a most welcome friend of the Chinese people. He sent his best wishes to the society and warm regards for our conference.
Simon Appleton, General Manager of Eastern Bridge, then spoke on his experience of going to China following a phone call from a man in Beijing who was about to open an English language school. Do you want to come to China? He certainly did! It was a rapid learning experience (Q: Have you drunk the water? A: yes. Reply: we are going to hospital). That was his introduction to China! At the time, he spoke some basic Chinese, and so began a seven year adventure. In 2003 he heard about the SARS panic; China closed down. He came back to New Zealand and returned to Beijing a few years later to attend university. He was amazed at the changes, both the environment and the people. His message: be open to meeting people, don’t be afraid. Mutual acceptance is very important; show respect.
This was followed by a visit to the nearby Incubator art precinct for the official opening by our national president of the Rewi Alley in China photographic exhibition, which was donated to our society in 2013 by the Shanghai Archives Museum. A number of you will I’m sure have seen it when it was displayed at the Canterbury Museum later that year. This superb collection will be toured around all branches over the next eighteen months, as part of the 2017 120th anniversary celebrations of the birth of Rewi Alley.
Gwenda Merriman, CEO of Jeffco International gave a very interesting talk on her company’s involvement with China from 1965 onwards, a lot of it around the livestock trade. In 1990 her father was invited to be part of a delegation to Tauranga’s sister city of Yantai, predominantly a very agricultural area. Her company recognised many business opportunities, including fruit growing and animal breeding. They concentrated on forestry and environmental projects; it wasn’t always easy. She stressed the importance of clearly understanding expectations both ways; very important.
Nick Kirton, Zespri’s External Relations Manager spoke on the challenges the kiwifruit industry faces. Being a long distance from markets, Zespri needs to be very clever at what it does. In spite of all the challenges, it experienced 20% growth last year. The PSA disease, which kills vines, has been a huge challenge. The entire gold kiwifruit crop was lost. However, a new variety was developed, which has proven to be very successful. They entered into China in 2002 in a very small way. This year China will be Zespri’s biggest market. In 2002 they had five staff in China which grew to 23 in 2015, 35 in 2016, to around 50 by late 2016, and will go to about 90 staff in China two years from now.
The challenges and journey followed in selling bottled water into China were explained by Adrian Toft of Interconnect Ltd.
John Hodgson then gave an introduction to the visit in April to the cities of Nanchang and Dongguan of four Tauranga economic and accountancy students from Bethlehem College to learn about international business and trade. Before they went, they organised with Export NZ in the Bay of Plenty who helped them to find a number of people in Tauranga involved in international trade. The students prepared questions and interviewed various business people, including Zespri. Their first site visit in China was to New Zealand Central in Shanghai, the base for New Zealand businesses, where they can establish business relationships, negotiate deals etc; the only one like it in Shanghai. In Nanchang and Dongguan, they visited several factories and talked to commerce people. The students also spoke on being home hosted, their observations on environmental issues and meeting with the Vice Mayor of Nanchang.
Funding from our society’s RAFE Fund helped make this project possible.
Karen Ye of the Chinese People’s Assn for Friendship with Foreign Countries (Youxie) gave us a very interesting talk on her role of promoting people to people exchanges with Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific countries. There are six people in her office, with around 300 others in their branch. She stressed how she and her colleagues are always focused on doing all they can to promote understanding between our countries, and in particular the importance of people actually coming to China to learn about it and not just relying on the internet.
Alena Woo, who was a NZCFS Youth Ambassador in 2015, spoke on her experiences in designing a resource she called Food Manners, a guide to understanding Chinese table etiquette. It was targeted at a New Zealand audience on meeting and dining etiquette in China, which included the Dos and Don’ts of using chopsticks, host and guest responsibility, food meaning etc. Its main objective was to encourage more respect and appreciation for the practices and philosophies of unfamiliar ethnicities.
The day ended with a workshop session, led by NZCFS Youth on challenges and project ideas for the society going forward, and the audience’s thoughts and views of these.
That evening we had a great banquet at the Tauranga Art Gallery. Guest of honour was our patron, the Hon Philip Burdon, who gave a very thought-provoking talk on the journey our society has taken since its founding in 1952, at which time it was regarded as a group of outsiders supporting a “pariah regime”, through to the society evolving into a mainstream organisation; a fascinating journey. He said it was a credit to the society to evolve and have the foresight and capacity to recognise and respect these changes. He stressed the important need to have the younger generation involved, and the afternoon’s presentations by young people showed that was happening.
The Annual General Meeting was held on Sunday morning. The new National Executive is as follows: President: Dave Bromwich (Hawkes Bay). Vice Presidents: George Andrews (Auckland), Luke Qin (Wellington) and Dave Adamson (Christchurch). Treasurer: Chris Goodwin (Christchurch). Secretary: Simon Appleton. Members: Heiko Lade (Hawkes Bay), Miao Fan (Hamilton), Deborah Rhode (Christchurch), John Hodgson (Tauranga), Ken Liu (Auckland), Kirk McDowall (Wellington) and Anna Lu (Christchurch). All branch presidents are also part of the National Executive.
Once that was over, it was time for us all to enjoy a very tasty lunch and a final catch up with everyone, before we all went on our way, with our heads full of challenging presentations, lots of laughs and feeling inspired for the year ahead.
A final comment: a big Thank You to Tauranga branch president John Hodgson for the sterling and untiring work he put into making the conference the success it was. Well done John!
For more conference photos, see https://www.facebook.com/NZCFSWellington/
New Zealand International Film Festival
This exciting festival will run in Christchurch 28 July – 14 August and will be screening a selection of Mandarin language films from China, as well as the documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, which follows the journey of renowned Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his selection of exceptionally talented international musicians. Keep an eye on the website http://www.nziff.co.nz/2016/ for screening details as they come to hand.
Canterbury’s Box and Book Schemes
In 1926 the Canterbury Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), in conjunction with Professor James Shelley of the University of Canterbury started an imaginative scheme whereby they took adult education to the small towns of rural Canterbury. This was done by converting a small truck into what you might call the first mobile library in Canterbury. On the truck were 24 wooden boxes, each of which contained an evening’s worth of study, covering a range of subjects. These were sent out to study groups which were formed in schools, public halls, churches etc in rural Canterbury. The idea behind it was to bring education and culture to the isolated towns on the plains, where libraries were few and far between.
This project proved to be a huge success, and in about 1930, Geoff Alley, a one time All Black and the brother of Rewi, was appointed as travelling tutor-librarian. This travelling library scheme went on to become part of the nationwide Country Library Service in 1938, the National Library Service in 1945 and the National Library of New Zealand in 1965, with Alley as the first national librarian. Anywhere you see the Alley name, you can be sure education is involved somewhere.
North West October 2017 Tour
A full pdf version of this newsletter is available at NZCFS-Newsletter-June-2016-2.pdf