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Report on NZCFS 70th Annual Conference

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In May 2012, the 60th Annual Conference of NZCFS was held in Auckland with a theme of ‘By honouring our past, we find our future.’ Ten years on, the 70th Annual Conference focused on the current environment in which NZCFS operates, asking ‘What do friends do? enhancing and renewing NZ-China friendship in difficult times’.

VIPs were welcomed into the meeting hall by our old friend Pat Tauroa, repeating the role she played in 2012, and her son Danny gave the welcome mihi. Keynote speakers gave presentations that took a deeper look at the issues facing the NZ-China relationship.

China Ambassador Dr Wang Xiaolong described a strong relationship, celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations and the establishment of several ‘firsts’ achieved between NZ and China. He acknowledged the healthy dialogue held between President Xi Jinping and PM Jacinda Ardern, then went on to capture the essence of Rewi Alley’s contribution to understanding China in five ‘C’s.

  1. Confidence in China’s future from early days;
  2. Consistency in lifelong love for China and support for China NZ relations;
  3. Cooperation in all endeavours of engagement;
  4. Creativity in initiating strategy to solve problems; and
  5. Commitment to maintaining the road to development and peace.

He suggested that in today’s world, with its various challenges and opportunities, New Zealand and NZCFS can take similar approaches to furthering our healthy relationship and dispel misunderstandings.

President Dave Bromwich gave an overview of the last 70 years, and suggested that in recent years NZ and the west have to some extent moved backwards in the appreciation of China. He said the youth forum at the conference provides investment for the future, while business provides stability. And the media have a responsibility to attain balance, rather than always viewing China from a western perspective.

NZCFS patron Sir David Carter delivered a hard hitting denunciation of the divisions that have arisen between NZCFS and Auckland Branch, and attacked the misrepresentation of China through media reports. As a farmer of some decades, he appreciated the opportunities that China brought, with a market hungry for our products.

We were pleased to have Ambassador Lin Songtian, President of Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, outline the relationship the NZCFS has had with them, the mutual support we have enjoyed, and their commitment to continuing that relationship. He noted that Rewi Alley’s last several decades were spent living in CPAFFC’s compound in Beijing.

A Youth Experiences forum followed, including breakout groups lead by youth panelists to explore strategies and actions that can make NZCFS more appealing to young people, and what approaches they could take to promote an interest in China and participation in NZCFS. The musical performance from Er Sha Dao was very moving to many attendees. We certainly look forward to hearing more of their personal and unique music.

The Business Insights forum brought a message of concern from both David Mahon and Trevor Johnson of the impact that adoption of misrepresentation of China could have on our currently positive engagement with the Chinese market.

Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries President Madam Zhang Qian showed that we can, and have, maintained a relationship digitally, and we together confirmed our commitment to returning to face-to-face engagement and activity when travel restrictions are uplifted.

The Media Perspectives panel brought a variety of perspectives, which clearly displayed the difference between Chinese and western interpretations of China. Andy Boreham was particularly good in explaining how on-the-ground investigation can be used to counteract rumour and suspicion. How western and Chinese journalists could partner was explored in question time.

Entertainment from the 100 Flowers Art Troupe included the ever-popular and fascinating face-changing performance, followed by an ensemble of musicians with traditional Chinese instruments.

MPs Naisi Chen and Melissa Lee brought their own personal perspectives on friendship in their usual enthusiastic and charming presentation styles.

In his closing address, John McKinnon summarised his career pathway with China from his days as a third secretary in the NZ Embassy in Beijing in 1972 through to today. He recalled his attendance at NZCFS 60th Anniversary in 2012, and his claim then that NZCFS’ most important work was ahead of us. He concurred with the vision in that statement again in his speech in 2022.

This was a consistent theme from all key note speakers: that NZCFS has an invaluable role to play in promoting goodwill, understanding and friendship between our two countries and two peoples. Overall, a very full and impressive conference that I am sure Rewi Alley would have appreciated in his 125th year!

Thanks to all sponsors, and to our venue hosts. I am sure we all appreciated the Rewi Alley Commemoration Hall keeping Rewi’s legacy alive with us throughout the conference.

Dave Bromwich,
Immediate Past President, June 23, 2022

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