CHINA / DIPLOMACY
New Zealand expected to 'regain popularity among Chinese students, tourists' after borders fully open
Published: Aug 01, 2022 10:23 PM
Performers from Dragon Dance Troupe of Wellington Chinese Sports and Cultural Centre stage a dragon dance during the Parliamentary Chinese Dragon Boat Festival Celebration at Wellington, New Zealand, June 21, 2021. The parliamentary celebration on China's traditional Dragon Boat Festival held in New Zealand has been expected to boost the understandings and cultural exchanges between the two countries.(Photo: Xinhua)

Performers from Dragon Dance Troupe of Wellington Chinese Sports and Cultural Centre stage a dragon dance during the Parliamentary Chinese Dragon Boat Festival Celebration at Wellington, New Zealand, June 21, 2021. The parliamentary celebration on China's traditional Dragon Boat Festival held in New Zealand has been expected to boost the understandings and cultural exchanges between the two countries.(Photo: Xinhua)



New Zealand welcomes tourists, students and investors including those from China, with its borders fully reopening on Monday, which analysts say is a positive sign that the country is expected to regain its popularity among Chinese and promote its ties with China in various fields.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday that the final staged opening of borders had been an enormous moment, while expressing a strong will to further bilateral cooperation with China.

"…we open our arms to tourists and students including from China - which prior to 2020 was New Zealand's largest source of international students and second largest source of tourists. To those looking to make the journey… we welcome you," Ardern noted.

Ardern also expressed hopes to resume in-person ministerial visits and to lead a business delegation to China to renew and refresh in-person connections. 

Responding to Ardern, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a regular press briefing on Monday that China and New Zealand are important cooperation partners. 

"Over the past 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties, our relations have made great progress and become the first of many between China and a developed country, delivering tangible benefits to our two peoples," Zhao noted.

China-New Zealand ties have also become a model for relations between countries with different endowments of resources, socio-economic systems and stages of development, Zhao said.

China is ready to work with New Zealand to seize the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties to enhance mutual trust, advance practical cooperation, properly handle differences and push for more results in the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries, the spokesperson stated.

Ardern's speech stands out from the anti-China atmosphere in the US-led Western world, Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Chen called on New Zealand to continue keeping a clear mind in strategy and adhere to its independent diplomatic policy while resisting mounting pressure from the US and other Western countries and regions.

An expert surnamed Ma with EIC Education, a Beijing-based educational consulting agency, who is in charge of overseas study applications in Australian and New Zealand, predicted that the number of Chinese students studying in New Zealand is expected to see a significant rise in the first semester of next year around February and March 2023. But in the short term, it is difficult for New Zealand to attract as many Chinese students as it did before the pandemic, Ma told the Global Times on Monday.

Another expert at Beijing New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting Co. said that despite New Zealand's full reopening of its borders, he has not received more inquiries. New Zealand started reopening its borders in stages earlier this year, which had already allowed some students to go back to the nation, so this time the borders' full reopening is unlikely to boost the number of Chinese students going there, the expert said.

The expert noted that at present, New Zealand is extremely short of workers, which could be good news for Chinese students who wish to work there after graduation.

An employee at the publicity department of major Chinese online travel agency Qunar told the Global Times on Monday that in the short term, New Zealand's latest move would not have a big effect on Chinese tourists, given China's strict border restrictions.

But considering that New Zealand has long been a magnet for Chinese tourists, students and investors, the island nation is expected to regain its popularity among them in the long term, said Chen.

Fully reopening its borders is a positive sign, although the move may not immediately lead to a full recovery in people-to-people communications with China, Chen said.

Meanwhile, the expert warned that rising anti-Asian cases in the island nation recently have caused concern among the Chinese community there, and urged the country to take concrete actions to enhance a sense of security among Asians in New Zealand.