28 Jun 2023

PM Chris Hipkins meets with China's Premier Li Qiang

5:42 pm on 28 June 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has met with China's Premier Li Qiang for a one-on-one discussion as part of Hipkins trip.

The meeting followed Hipkins meeting with China's President Xi Jinping overnight (NZ time) at the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Summer Davos event in Tianjin.

Ahead of their meeting, Li extended a "warm welcome" to Hipkins, and said he was inspired by the points he had shared during the WEF event where they had dinner together.

"Mr prime minister, you are a young and capable stateman of New Zealand and you led the people of New Zealand to successfully respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a great achievement," Li's translated words said.

Li, who took over the role in March from Li Keqiang, said he appreciated Hipkins stressing the importance of the relationship between the two countries, and making a visit to China within six months of becoming prime minister.

Chris Hipkins with China's Premier Li Qiang

New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins shakes hands with China's Premier Li Qiang. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

"The people of our two countries have a traditional friendship," he said.

Li also spoke of the influence of Rewi Alley, a New Zealand-born writer and political activist who joined the Chinese Communist Party and set up the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives in the 1930s.

"Chinese people of my age are very familiar with the stories of Rewi Alley," Premier Li said. "I worked in Shanghai for five years and Shanghai has a memorial for Rewi Alley, the place where he lived for more than 10 years, and people of Shanghai are very familiar with him. He was an old friend of China together with revolutionaries of the old generation of China."

He said the committee had made a major contribution to China's socialist endeavours and revolution, and Alley's work was a "precious legacy" for the New Zealand-China relationship, which was at the forefront of China's relations with Western countries.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is at the World Economic Forum, where he has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping

Hipkins speaking with President Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

"Our relationship's become a fine example of win-win cooperation between countries with different social systems, history, culture, level of development and economic size. Next year we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of our comprehensive strategic partnership. China is prepared to work with New Zealand to further deepen our traditional friendship, promote our cooperation across the board, so as to deliver more benefits to our people and more benefits to the Asia Pacific and the world."

Hipkins responded in kind.

"Ni hao, kia ora, Premier Li. Thank you for your very warm welcome. I'm honored to have this opportunity to visit Beijing for my first time as the prime minister of New Zealand," he said.

He said he had been pleased to visit China in 2018 as Education Minister and was delighted to return, and the World Economic Forum event had been a great opportunity to reflect on economic challenges and opportunties.

"And I enjoyed our conversation over dinner at the welcome ceremony there. Premier Li, our bilateral realtionship is wide-ranging, it encompasses significant economic, people-to-people and cultural connections. My large delegation is a reflection of the breadth, the diversity and the significance of our comprehensive relationship."

He said the particular presence of senior Māori representatives and the winning kapa haka group signified the importance of Māori to the connection to China through trade and culture, and said he was looking forward to discussing "a range of bilateral relationship issues and other matters of mutual interests".

Chris Hipkins with China's Premier Li Qiang

Hipkins with Li at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Speaking from China, Hipkins said he had just returned from a "warm, candid and constructive" lunch with Premier Li Qiang.

The pair were able to "discuss a range of issues of mutual interest to both of our countries".

"Clearly we had a conversation about the economic situation on both sides, following the global pandemic and the challenges that we've experienced over the last three years in dealing with that."

They spoke about a range of international issues, Hipkins said, "including a more extensive conversation on human rights where I was specifically able to raise New Zealand's concerns about the situation in Xinjiang and in Hong Kong".

The dialogue between China and the US was also discussed, with Hipkins saying he indicated again New Zealand's position that we welcome dialogue between the two countries.

"We were able to talk about a number of issues in the trade space, particularly issues around new and emerging areas of trade and the need to make sure that we are working together to identify and to address any regulatory issues that might flow from that. That includes in areas such as digital technology for example, in some emerging areas of export for New Zealand such as cosmetics - we want to make sure that we're working together to identify and address any regulatory barriers that may exist on wither side, that may inhibit a good flowing free trade between both countries."

Tourism and the return of international students to New Zealand were discussed, he said, as was the size and strength of the Māori economy "and its importance in the relationship between New Zealand and China, recognising that it's a very large part of the Māori economy domestically in New Zealand is exporting to China".

Hipkins said if you lookedt New Zealand's statistics, half of our fisheries, a significant section of the red meat sector, a growing part of the dairy sector, and in things like kiwifruit growing, there was a strong Māori presence.

There was a strong Māori delegation on the trip, he said.

Asked why he mentioned this today, Hipkins said; "The Māori economy is something that I think even New Zealanders back home would underestimate the size and the value of, it is a really important and growing part of our economy and the health of the Māori economy is going to play an increasing role in the health of of our overall economy and that's good for all New Zealanders."

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