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Chinese foreign minister welcomes New Zealand’s ‘rational' policy towards China

17:46 19/3/2024
Christopher Luxon meets with Wang Yi

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon greets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Wellington on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has highlighted the importance of diplomatic, economic and social ties between New Zealand and China on his first visit to these shores since 2017.

Wang met Prime Minister Christopher Luxon for a courtesy call on Monday evening, having sat down with his New Zealand counterpart, Winston Peters, earlier in the day for bilateral talks.

The visit is Wang's third to New Zealand after also visiting in 2014, a year after becoming foreign minister.

Luxon said New Zealand's work with China was "critical" to the country's relationship across the region, noting that his government was committed to increasing New Zealand's prosperity and security.

"It has been 51 years now of a very strong relationship, a very good diplomatic relationship between China and New Zealand, and we look to continue to build on that relationship," Luxon said, referring to the fact that the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in late 1972.

Luxon highlighted the economic ties between the two countries, which includes bilateral trade worth some $38 billion.

New Zealand upgraded its 2008 free-trade agreement with China in 2022, giving exports greater access to the Chinese market.

"We also believe we have strong people-to-people connections, and certainly we have a strong passionate, vibrant Chinese community in New Zealand, which makes it a much richer and much better place, and also, we have decades of engagement at a leadership level to talk about things of mutual interest to both countries," Luxon said.

Wang said he welcomed New Zealand's "rational ... and positive policy" towards China.

"You have just made very positive statements about our bilateral ties, which I will convey to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang," Wang said through an interpreter.

He noted that this year marked the 10th anniversary of Xi's first visit to New Zealand as well as the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

"In the spirit of mutual respect, inclusiveness, mutually beneficial cooperation and working together for the benefits of the people, our two sides have jointly created a lot of firsts in China-NZ relations," Wang said. "Our bilateral relationship has always been the pacesetter in China's relations with developed countries.

"This bilateral relationship is a precious asset that should be very much cherished by our two sides and be further carried forward, and I trust that within your term the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between our two countries will be taken to the next level."

Wang said China and New Zealand can jointly contribute to the peace and development of the region.

Wang Yi and Winston Peters

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters greets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Wellington on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Peters said his discussions with Wang were broad, touching on many facets of New Zealand's relationship with China, including trade, business and people-to-people links.

"Alongside areas of cooperation, it was important to acknowledge areas of difference such as human rights, including the situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet," Peters said.

The ministers also discussed regional and international issues and looked forward to further high-level visits between the two countries.

"New Zealand follows developments in the Pacific closely and emphasises the importance of engaging through existing regional institutions and arrangements, in particular on regional security matters," Peters said.

"We also highlighted New Zealand and China's shared interest in a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and raised concerns over increased tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait."

Peters also noted the constructive role China can play in responding to regional and international security challenges such as the Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts and deescalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In his opening remarks upon meeting Peters, Wang said the visit had two goals: to promote cooperation and deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries, as well as enhance communication with New Zealand on international and regional issues.

"Since the two countries established diplomatic ties, no matter how the international landscape evolves, China-New Zealand relations have enjoyed sound and steady growth, setting a fine example of win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems," Wang said.

"With our dialogue today, I believe both sides will reach a new consensus and inject new impetus to the further development of our bilateral relationship in the next 10 years."

Wang also met Trade Minister Todd McClay on Monday.

The New Zealand Defence Policy Strategy Statement last year said China wanted "to grow its political, economic and security influence in the Pacific at the expense of New Zealand and Australia."

In an interview with RNZ's Morning Report, Canterbury University professor of political science and China expert Anne-Marie Brady said New Zealand has become increasingly aware of Beijing's influence in recent years.

She also noted that New Zealand has been adjusting its economic and trade policies to avoid being overly dependent on one market.

Brady said China had adopted a foreign policy of "looking for common points and setting aside differences", whereas New Zealand had adopted an approach of "looking for common points and facing up to differences".

"That was very much the narrative of Winston Peters, emphasising particularly that NZ wanted China to work within the existing architecture in the Pacific," Brady said. "In other words, please don't set up your own independent China-centred order in our region."

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