Speech by Consul General RUAN Ping at NZCTA
2021/03/24

RespectedMr. Martin Thomson, Chairman of NZCTA, Dear guests,

Good afternoon!

I am happy to see all of you again. It has been over a year since we last met, and there are many topics to catch up. Covid-19 has swept the world last year, with no country spared. China has experienced a more complicated situation than other countries in fighting on two fronts, one against the Covid-19 virus at home and the other against the "political virus" abroad. At home, China, after having stopped, controlled and eventually eliminated the spread of the virus quickly, fully resumed economic activities. With GDP growth of 2.3%, China became the only major economy with positive growth in 2020. Abroad, China resolutely defended itself against rounds of smearing attacks launched by western countries represented by the US and UK. These attacks are politically motivated to divert attention away from their incompetent response to the pandemic, and to disrupt China's rise. They groundlessly accused China of being responsible for and covering up the spread of COVID-19. Then they targeted Hong Kong national security legislation by blaming China for not honoring commitments under Sino-British Joint Declaration. Recently, they made baseless lies of "China committing genocide" in Xinjiang. In fact, more and more investigations and tests shows that as early as August 2019, Covid-19 had already been spreading in Europe and the US. This proves that China is not the place of origin but the first to have discovered cases and reported to the WHO. With little knowledge about the virus, China made a swift decision to close down Wuhan, a city of 20 million population. On the issue of Hong Kong, it is actually UK that have violated the Joint Declaration. The lies about "genocide" in Xinjiang, without any evidence, came from an Australian think-tank funded by the US State Department. China’s diplomacy is now facing a situation of "thieves calling out to catch thieves". We believe that time or facts can defeat lies, but there is also a risk of a lie becoming wrong fixed idea against truth after being repeated a hundred times. So, China’s diplomats around the world have to leave no stone unturned in debunking these continuous rumors.

Rumor ends with the wise. Present here today are friends who are wise and know China well. I won’t waste your time on those lies, but would like to take this opportunity to introduce China of the new era, especially some good news related to trade with China that are of particular interest to you but may not be in the New Zealand media.

First, what are China's major achievements in economic and social development by 2020? Despite the all-around attacks on China, we know development is the absolute priority. Once the direction is set, we will press ahead unswervingly. In 2020, China's overall economy remained stable, the economic structure was further improved. By deepening reform and law-based governance across the board, China's governance system and capacity improved at a faster pace. China's foreign trade developed steadily, FDI in China grew bucking the trend. We successfully accomplished the 13th Five-Year Plan, won the battle against poverty, and lifted over 50 million people out of poverty with their basic living needs met. They now have access to compulsory education, basic medical services, and housing. All these achievements have come at no ease as China’s poverty-alleviation was not simply giving welfare but "teaching people how to fish". The most difficult part of the process is changing people’s mindset. Chinese culture is not to keep arguing, but to identify problems and fix them fundamentally. For the Communist Party of China to remain in power with a long perspective, poverty-alleviation is top political priority. More than 20 years, resources and efforts have been pooled for poverty-alleviation. Central government agencies, the richest nine coastal provinces and state-owned enterprises have provided one-to-one assistance to poverty-stricken regions in building road and grid connection for all villages, developing sustainable local economy that later got integrated into the overall national economic development. For those regions with little resource to develop, residents are relocated out to settle in places that can bring them into social and economic development. Through recent years’ efforts, China has relocated and resettled 9.7 million poor people, twice the population of New Zealand. China's poverty eradication is major political as well as economic achievement. As more elements of economic development are absorbed into China's huge single market, more levels of consumption demand will further enrich this huge market and therefore lay a solid foundation for China's high-quality development in the new era.

Second, how to understand China’s entering into new development stage, applying new development philosophy, and new development paradigm? Late last year, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the CPC formulated the 14th Five-Year Plan for national economic and social development and the long-term goals for 2035. This is an outline for China to embark on a new journey to fully build a modern socialist country, and a guideline for China's economic and social development in the next five years and beyond. China's National People's Congress passed the Plan last week. The theme of the Plan focuses on the following three "new concepts". One, the new stage of development focuses on building a modern socialist country in an all-round way with high-quality development. Two, the new philosophy of development calls for innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development. Three, the new paradigm of development means accelerating the establishment of a "dual circulation" pattern where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other, with domestic market as the mainstay.

One of the most frequently asked questions is:What is the domestic cycle? Does that mean China is pursuing close-door development? My answer is that China will never close its door. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the current global economic development is fraught with uncertainty. The trade war launched by the US against China has spread to technological and political fields. Facing a severe and complex international environment, China must focus on its own path, unleash the potential of domestic economy and consumption through deepening reform. Since the 1998 Asian financial crisis, China has been transforming its economic development to be driven more by expanding domestic demand. In recent years, China’s economy growth, mainly driven by domestic demand, has entered into a new stage of growth from high-speed to high-quality. The advantage of the Chinese economy lies in its strong resilience and ample room for maneuver. On the one hand, we will promote integrated development of city clusters and metropolitan areas to stimulate investment and consumer demand. On the other hand, the combination of intellectual property rights protection, business environment improvement and access restriction reduction will attract multinational enterprises to keep their industrial chains, factories and stores in China and share the pie of the Chinese consumer market. One can imagine what will happen. China’s 5G network of the same standard will be designed and roll out simultaneously in both urban and rural areas. An additional 50 million population have just jumped out of poverty and joined the mainstream economy through various channels. These will further stimulate the economic vitality of a large consumer market of 1.4 billion population.

China will not stop its opening up. During this year's NPC and CPPCC sessions, President Xi Jinping called for unwavering efforts to make economic globalization more open, inclusive and balanced so that its benefits are shared by all, and to build an open world economy. China’s purpose of building a new development paradigm where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other, with domestic market as the mainstay, is to leverage the advantages of a massive domestic market and potential, and inject more impetus to world economic recovery and growth.

Third, about China's latest major development strategy and China-New Zealand cooperation. China is committed to all-round opening-up. Even during the pandemic period, China did not stop the process. In June 2020, the Master Plan for the Construction of Hainan Free Trade Port was launched. At the end of August last year, general plans for the three Pilot Free Trade Zones in Beijing, Hunan and Anhui, and the Extension of the Pilot Free Trade Zone in Zhejiang were issued. The Pilot Free Trade Zones gained greater autonomy for reform to optimize their institutions and systems. China is steadily pushing forward all the domestic economic development strategies, including the Yangtze River Economic Belt construction stressing ecological priority and green development, the Greater Bay Area Construction centered around Hong Kong International Finance Center incorporating with Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Center and Dongguan Manufacturing Center, and promoting integrated development of Shanghai, whose economy is one of the most open in China, with its surrounding areas. China’s stable economic development will bring valuable certainty to world economy in the post-COVID19 era, and instill vitality into economic recovery and growth of other countries including New Zealand.

China-NZ cooperation is mutually beneficial and of win-win nature. The upgraded FTA along with RCEP, will improve quality and efficacy of bilateral trade, further explore economic and trade potential, deepen pragmatic cooperation in all areas, and ensure post-COVID recovery and development for both sides. It should be pointed out that only bilateral relationship in a healthy manner can guarantee smooth cooperation of enterprises between the two sides. In this regard, I urge New Zealand small and medium-sized enterprises to take full advantage of opportunities created by China’s stable development to expand deeper into China’s market:

Firstly, to attach importance to e-commerce development. China has built Internet and physical infrastructure connecting sellers with buyers. Internet penetration is growing fast, logistics is convenient and cheap, online payment is safe and popular. In 2019, China's online retail sales reached 10.63 trillion Yuan, up 16.5 percent, among which cross-border e-commerce reached 186.2 billion Yuan, with an average annual growth rate of 50.8 percent from 2015 to 2019. JD.com and Tmall, two online platforms, saw more than 700 billion Yuan (about 100 billion US Dollar) of transactions on the Singles' Day in 2020, breaking the record once again. In 2019, the number of Chinese online shopper reached 710 million. NZ’s SMEs can break traditional constraints to get a fair opportunity to compete with large enterprises by leveraging e-commerce.

Secondly, to devote the limited resources to niche market. The middle class in China has accumulated a certain level of wealth and upgraded their consumption from necessities to elective purchases. Such consumption trend is brand-oriented and quality-oriented. NZ’s SMEs will find a unique way to thrive if they can explore a niche market, expand nationally starting from a regional market, utilize new business models and norms, give play to New Zealand's green, natural and innovative brand, and provide customized services.

Third, to open channels by participating in events such as China International Import Expo(CIIE)and build up branding name in China. China Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand and NZTE have jointly organized New Zealand enterprises to participate in CIIE for three consecutive years and achieved many good results. China has materialized all the commitments made at the CIIE to further opening up. For example, fresh milk from Milk New Zealand Dairy used to take more than eight days to reach shelves in China. Now it takes just 72 hours to move from New Zealand farms to Chinese consumers' table. Milk NZ’s export of fresh milk to China skyrocketed from 30,000 bottles per week to a maximum of 80,000 bottles per week after participating in CIIE.

2021 is the first year of China's 14th Five-Year Plan, and also the year celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC. China’s economy is projected to grow at double digits in the first quarter. China will stay committed to running its own affairs well, pressing ahead firmly in the direction of high-quality development, letting the fruits of development benefit its people, and promoting common development and prosperity of the world.

I hope that enterprises, businesses and local governments of both China and New Zealand will seize the good opportunity to push the bilateral practical cooperation to a higher level in all respects and deliver more tangible benefits to our two peoples. The Chinese Consulate-General in Auckland is ready to work together with NZCTA to make greater contribution to the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and New Zealand.

Thank you all!

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