Judith Collins in China

June 26th, 2012

So my Baidu news alert for 新西兰 threw up three potentially interesting articles this morning, and once again I find myself better served by the Chinese media than the NZ Herald or Stuff. New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Affairs Judith Collins is in Beijing meeting State Councillor Meng Jianzhu, State Ethnic Affairs Commission chairman Yang Jing, and vice chairman of the State Council’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office Zhao Yang. A google.co.nz news search for “Minister of Ethnic Affairs” (yes, that ‘of’ should’ve been a ‘for’) gets a list of 7 articles about her impending visit here – but I notice it’s once again Chinese media at the top of the list, and of the NZ websites, there’s only one that I’ve heard of before (not that that is in anyway meaningful) – and 2 here – and once again, Chinese media at the top and I’ve never heard of the NZ site. There’s also a press release on the Beehive website, which was picked up by Scoop – the only NZ website in those two pages of google.co.nz results I recognised. No commentary or reporting. Changing the search to “Judith Collins” gets nothing about her visiting China on page 1. Nope, you have to go to page 2 to find this lonely and rather pathetic articlette, and page 3 reveals the Global Times’ piece.

I still find this frustrating. Stuff is the website of Fairfax’s NZ newspapers and represents many of NZ’s major dailies, while the Herald is the daily newspaper of NZ’s largest city – and a city with a huge Chinese population. This government seems to have sent an awful lot of ministers and officials to China this year. Well, this year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between NZ and the PRC, as every one of the Chinese articles about visiting NZ officials reminds us. But this government also seems pretty keen to continue building the relationship with China, including attracting more Chinese investment in NZ. Given the recent kerfuffles over attempted Chinese investment in NZ farmland, I would’ve thought the NZ public would want to know what its government ministers are up to in China. So why, yet again, such a lack of coverage on websites representing NZ’s largest, most important newspapers?

There may be a clue in this comment on this thread (which, in the grand PAS tradition, covers a variety of topics, including the legalities of NZ citizens, those ordinarily resident in NZ, and visitors to NZ making nuclear bombs, among other things), specifically:

Then there’s the very real added problem of producers/editors towing the populist line and telling their journalists the public wants gaga, one direction or whatever other crap over business, finance or other subjects with meat.

Well, forgive me, but the reemergence of Winston Peters and his old populist racist ranting and all the fuss made over Shanghai Pengxin’s purchase of the Crafar farms suggests to me that perhaps the producers/editors may need to rethink what the public wants.

But let me go back to that article on Collins meeting Zhao Yang of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, because that one was actually quite interesting. Firstly, it drops the usual template of introduction, long paragraph or two in which the Chinese official recites the usual political blether, shorter paragraph or perhaps two in which the foreign official recites the usual polite, meaningless words (to steal a phrase from Yeats and use it way out of context), then perhaps a few extra scraps of information and a conclusion. No, this one starts with Collins and actually makes her meeting with Zhao sound interesting. For example:



“Around 4% of New Zealand’s population is Chinese, and my husband has Chinese blood,” Collins said with a smile. In her view, the living conditions of New Zealand’s ethnic and overseas Chinese are closely connected with her own, it could be said she identifies with them.

Zhao Yang told this “family member of China” he completely welcomed her visit.

[Translation help most welcome, especially with Collins’ statements]

Now, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Chinese news article getting in any way personal about government officials. The pictures painted of officials are usually so staid and stodgy, like a cardboard cut out in a single shade of grey. But here we have just a tiny touch of colour and personality. It makes a nice change. Especially considering the “Crusher Collins” image the NZ media prefers.


Zhao Yang said frankly that China greatly welcomes entrepreneurs from New Zealand and the world to come to China to invest and develop, and hopes some outstanding Chinese enterprises can use overseas compatriots as a bridge to go overseas and develop. Also, he called for New Zealand ethnic and overseas Chinese to act as a bridge and a link in Sino-New Zealand friendly relations.

The Chinese are coming! Quick, somebody call Winston!

There’s also a lot of talk about cultural exchange, including Collins’ commenting on the number of her Chinese friends who send their children who grew up abroad back to China to learn Chinese culture, leading Zhao to introduce his office’s efforts to spread education in Chinese culture and that cultural exchange is a two way street, and:


He is fully aware that Chinese and foreign cultures all have their greatnesses, and communication and fusion of the two is absolutely essential. The Chinese and New Zealand governments should work hard together to strengthen cooperation and communication on the cultural front.

Yes, he does seem to set up ‘China’ and ‘foreign’ as a binary. It’s an attitude I find extremely frustrating, and something I do my best to stamp out in my students and family, but whatever, his basic point is pretty sound. Cultural exchange is fundamentally good (not to mention perhaps the only constant in human history), and a fusion of all the world’s cultures get right could be a beautiful thing.

The final paragraph offers up a few stats I found interesting:


Material from New Zealand’s 2010 census shows that there is already a total of 150,000 ethnic and overseas Chinese in New Zealand, making them New Zealand’s third largest ethnic minority. 80% of them live in New Zealand’s largest port city, Auckland, with the remainder living in the capital, Wellington, the South Island’s Christchurch and other small and mid-sized towns.

It’s mildly amusing that the author seems to be listing two of NZ’s larger urban areas among ‘small and mid-sized towns’, although from a Chinese point of view, they certainly are small, and I doubt the author intended to imply that they’re small or mid-sized anyway. It’s also interesting that the commonly used Chinese name for Christchurch, “基督城” (“Christ City”) was used instead of the apparently more official transliteration “克赖斯特彻奇” (kèlàisītèchèqí) that the media seemed to prefer in the aftermath of the Christchurch quakes.

But it’s still frustrating to find out more about the visits of NZ cabinet ministers to China from the Chinese media than from NZ’s English-language media. Perhaps NZ’s Chinese-language media does a better job – that would seem logical – but I’m running out of time and this blog’s prolonged silence has been due to all the end of semester stuff that needs to be done, and is a long way from being finished. So I should stop rambling, get my stuff together, brave the rain, and actually try and do something productive.

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