Internship sheds light on NZ-China relations

Grace Piddington's online internship with the New Zealand China Council opened her eyes to the depth and breadth of New Zealand's ties to China. In this article, Grace talks about the experience and how it helped her develop her Asia knowledge and her professional skills.
A portrait photo of Grace Piddington

Grace: "The experience was incredibly valuable to me both on a working and personal level."

Last year while on the hunt for internships, I came across the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the variety of internships they offered.

I was lucky enough to be selected for an internship at the New Zealand China Council (NZCC) so relocated from Dunedin to Auckland for two months. The NZCC operates as a cross-sector organisation advocating for the New Zealand-China relationship.

The other intern, Stephen Jannink, and I were welcomed to the NZCC team and jumped into a wide variety of work straight away.

In the first week, this included reading through and helping edit a report on the services trade between New Zealand and China. By the second week, I was into my personal projects, which covered a range of areas that allowed me to draw on my legal and research skills, but also gave me the chance to learn more about the trading relationship and other sector links between New Zealand and China.

My projects included investigating science and technology collaborations between New Zealand and China, developing a programme of work for a possible leadership-style programme, and looking into the effects of the new Incorporated Societies Act 2022. 

Grace and fellow intern Stephen Jannink sitting on either side of a desk in an office

Grace interned at NZCC alongside fellow Foundation intern Stephen Jannink

My tasks also included taking notes in meetings with representatives from a wide range of organisations, groups and companies – from  the Chinese Consulate in Auckland to the Auckland Business Chamber.

As part of the celebrations for 50 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China, the NZCC combined with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the New Zealand China Trade Association to hold a lunch at Weta Workshop Unleashed, which is an incredible venue within SkyCity. I attended meetings planning the event and was able to attend the lunch itself.

The lunch included speeches from then Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand HE Ambassador Wang Xiaolong, and Sir Richard Taylor.

This lunch was followed up by a full NZCC meeting where the New Zealand-China relationship was, naturally, front and centre. Attending this meeting and listening to what the speakers had to say was incredibly useful for the internship projects I was undertaking and also served to further fuel my own personal interest in China and its relationship with the Pacific.

A man standing on a stage with a large pink sign behind him marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China

Weta's Richard Taylor talking at the NZCC lunch marking 50 years of the NZ-China diplomatic relationship

The Asia New Zealand Foundation also gave me opportunities to build deeper connections and understanding of Asia.

This included attending ‘The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom’ written by Nahyeon Lee, a performance that began with hitting all the nostalgic notes of a typical sitcom and then devolved into a clever, dark look at how comedy and subversion can play into the very stereotypes they seek to avoid. 

I also was selected to sit in on the 8+8 Shanghai-NZ Young Leaders Dialogue, an online exchange between 16 young people (eight from China and eight from New Zealand) to mark the 50 year anniversary of diplomatic relations and to discuss key issues facing the two countries.

The dialogue only deepened my interest in the New Zealand-China relationship. It allowed me to speak to and connect with a range of people from different backgrounds and sectors on what the future of the relationship looks like in the areas of tangata (people), aorangi (the wellbeing of the earth) and tōnuitanga (prosperity).

The team at NZCC made every effort to ensure Stephen and I got the most out of our internships. When it came to our work, the team was open to my questions and ideas. I was introduced to experts working in the legal and policy sectors who provided me with insights into possible careers I could enter once I finished my studies.

The chance to engage in work at the NZCC built my knowledge and understanding of the relationship between New Zealand and China, in both the public and private spheres. The experience was incredibly valuable to me both on a working and personal level.