Hon. Minister Jenny Salesa,
Hon. Mayor Phil Golf,
Respected Members of Parliament Mellisa Lee, Raymond Huo,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is my great pleasure and honor to be here today, joining so many distinguished guests and friends to celebrate the 2018 Auckland Lantern Festival. In Chinese traditions, the Lantern Festival is the last day of the Chinese Spring Festival celebration, a time for families and friends to worship the moon and lanterns together and pray for good fortune for the New Year. So at this auspicious occasion, please allow me to extend on behalf of the Chinese Consulate General in Auckland, my best wishes to all of you for a very happy and prosperous new year, a year of good fortune.
Over the past several weeks, numerous events have been held in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand in celebration of Chinese New Year, among which today's lantern festival is crowned to be the highlight and pushes the serials of spring festival celebrations into a new high. Started 19 years ago, Auckland Lantern Festival has been growing fast and become more and more attractive year by year. It turned out to be the largest and longest-lasting one out of China in the whole world, attended annually by close to 300,000 people from different ethnic groups and all walks of life in New Zealand in recent years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fast growing Auckland Lantern Festival is a strong reflection of the following points:
First, it fully demonstrates the true love of the Chinese culture not only by our Chinese compatriots but also by our Kiwi friends in New Zealand. Through enjoying Chinese acrobats, Chinese food, folk arts, performances, martial arts, etc, the participants are experiencing the richness of Chinese fine culture, fascinated by Chinese civilization which I am so proud of. Chinese civilization has been the only civilization in the whole world uninterrupted for more than 5000 years. The lantern festival has become a very important part of multi-culture in New Zealand and has brought so much joy and happiness to the people of New Zealand.
Secondly, it reflects the fast growing development of Auckland in various areas because of its openness and inclusiveness. Auckland is not only the commercial and innovative center of New Zealand but also a great melting pot which absorbs merits of different civilizations and cultures from the whole world. It provides a very attractive environment for different ethnic groups to mingle with each other and learn from each other. The lantern festival not only greatly enriched the cultural life of people of Auckland and New Zealand, but also brought the economic prosperity to this city.
Thirdly, it also reflects the extensiveness and depth of fast growing communication, cooperation and friendship between China and New Zealand as well as our two peoples. Along with the fast growing cultural exchanges, I am so glad to say that China-New Zealand cooperation and communication have been increased quickly in all other areas as well. As New Zealand's largest trading partner, China's trade with New Zealand grew at an annual rate of 17 %, serving as a major driving force of New Zealand's economic growth. As the largest source of international students, Chinese students in New Zealand rose to over 50,000, greatly enhanced the educational communication and exchanges of our two countries. As New Zealand's second largest source of tourists, Chinese tourists brought 1.5 billion US dollars to New Zealand last year. In our consulate district particularly, the One Belt and One Road constructions have yielded early harvest, such as the direct flights between China's major cities and Auckland back and forth having exceeded more than 150 per week, which greatly foster the connectivity and facilitate the communication of our two peoples and increase the diversity of the cultures in New Zealand.
Looking forward to the new year of 2018, we are faced with great opportunities to develop our co-operations and communication. We look forward to working together with our New Zealand friends to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries based on mutual respect, equality and win-win cooperation. A sound and good China New Zealand relationship benefits not only the two countries and two peoples, but also the Asia-Pacific as well as the whole world.
At this special occasion, I would like to express my appreciation to the Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) and many other institutions, partners and sponsors for your contribution to making this fantastic event possible. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our friends in New Zealand for their support in strengthening the bilateral relationship between our two countries and two peoples.
Once again, my warmest greetings and best wishes to all the guests present and friends in New Zealand, for a very happy and prosperous New Year! Wish China-New Zealand relations a greater success and our two peoples an ever-lasting friendship! Now I declare the opening of this lantern festival!