The President of China has praised New Zealand’s “courage and pioneering spirit” at a gala lunch on the final day of a major state visit. Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan were led into a conference room at the Sky City Grand, previously used for National Party conferences, by former Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples, where he was met with a Ngati Whatua kapa haka.
One of the world’s most powerful men, President Xi greeted the audience, saying “kia ora” and saying that while in New Zealand he felt the sense of “100 per cent pure”, the slogan of Tourism New Zealand. Xi praised the fame of movies such as the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and said the filming of an episode of a Chinese series made New Zealand the “most talked about destination” for the Chinese.
Xi highlighted the achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary for being the first to climb Chomolungma, the Chinese name for Everest, and Lord Ernest Rutherford, for splitting the atom. While in New Zealand the Chinese have signed up to 30 agreements covering trade, education and the environment. During his speech Xi also called for “greater cooperation” between the media of the two countries, without commenting further on China’s heavily censored press.
In both today’s speech, and yesterday’s speech by Xi at Government House in Wellington, the Chinese officials have released no English translation. Today’s comments were flashed up on screen. When Xi referred to some of the reforms his government had made the sentences were rushed through at almost unreadable speed, although Xi’s speaking did not appear to quicken.
Earlier, Prime Minister John Key said the relationship had become much broader in the 42 years since New Zealand established diplomatic relations with China. Back then, New Zealand offered three Chinese students scholarships to study here; now 25,000 Chinese study here.
“A good relationship is not defined by an absence of issues, but is one where both sides can work through those issues effectively and in a positive spirit.”
Guests were entertained with striking footage of New Zealand scenery and performers wearing costumes from the World of Wearable Arts show. Guests at the gala lunch dined on food produced in New Zealand but cooked in a Chinese style, with a starter of fresh oysters, ginger abalone and jellyfish salad.
After the lunch, Xi and the official delegation headed to Karaka for a series of events to celebrate investment between New Zealand and China.