NZ China Council internship 'above and beyond expectations'

Currently in his fourth year at Otago University studying law, politics, and Mandarin, Stephen Jannink is committed to fostering positive global change through collaboration, cooperation, and diplomacy. With a focus on strengthening New Zealand-Asia relations, Stephen's recent internship at the New Zealand China Council provided valuable insights into the dynamics of the NZ-China relationship and its significance for this country.

Stephen Jannink: "The internship went above and beyond my expectations."

I have been interested in Chinese foreign policy ever since living and going to high school in China and learning about Chinese culture, their history and language.

Once back in New Zealand, I wanted to build on my experience and discover and understand the relationship between New Zealand and China, particularly the commercial side of the relationship. The New Zealand China Council (NZCC) internship helped me achieve that and so much more.  

The NZCC itself provides a vital role in facilitating a space between business, government and the general public, which in turn enhances the significant relationship that New Zealand and China share. 

With the complexity and rapidly growing nature of China, further understanding the country is incredibly important for New Zealand commercially and politically.

Being the 50th year of China-New Zealand relations, the New Zealand China Council had plenty of events and opportunities for me to explore.

The largest of these events was a lunch celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China, co-hosted by the New Zealand China Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

A group photo of about 30 people, including former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, in a foyer

Stephen: "Being the 50th year of China-New Zealand relations, the New Zealand China Council had plenty of events and opportunities for me to explore."

The lunch hosted some of the biggest names in business and government, including then-Prime Minister Jacinder Ardern. I was extremely honoured to not only attend the lunch but also to be able to attend a closed-door meeting between the Council members and the Prime Minister, where I learnt about the contemporary realities of geopolitics in China and the wider Asia Pacific region. 

The event gave me a rare insight into the world of diplomacy as it demonstrates how New Zealand and China maintain a mature and robust relationship built on trust and mutual respect.  

As part of the internship, I was assigned research projects. My main project was investigating the possibility of a future food working group.

While investigating this topic, I met and listened to numerous experts from government agencies, start-ups and advisors within China.

I learnt about benefits the sector provides in terms of sustainability and health, as well as, the challenges the industry must overcome. These insights informed me of how the working group could add the most value for participants, members and firms. 

 The internship allowed me to attend the Council’s annual meeting, as well as attend meetings with firms such as Auckland Airport. I was able to gauge their perspectives on the China market and its evolution to the current day.

These sorts of meetings were valuable not only for their content but also in demonstrating the formalities of working in this sector, especially when having meetings or events involving diplomats,  ambassadors or government officials.  

A photo of a boardroom with 30-40 people in it aound a large table

Stephen: " ...the internship has excited and inspired me to pursue a career involved in trade and business around the ever-changing landscape of the Asia Pacific."

Outside of the office, the internship provided exciting career-building opportunities and events, hosted by both the Asia New Zealand Foundation and the NZCC.

To further our knowledge of Asia and New Zealand's Asian diaspora, the Asia New Zealand Foundation invited us (the other NZCC intern, Grace, and myself) to attend an inspiring sitcom that discussed the diversity of Asian communities and the discrimination they face.  

We also attended the premiere of I am what I am,  a visually stunning co-created film between New Zealand and Chinese firms, and attend the China Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand Vision 2023 conference where we heard from China trade experts. From this, we became aware of a wide range of fields from agriculture to video games with the added bonus of meeting former-Prime Minister John Key.

The internship has definitely enhanced my Mandarin skills by having to navigate Chinese legislation, with help from NZCC staff. It has further deepened not only my understanding of the commercial benefits the Chinese market can provide but also  how the legislative environment permits it. 

The internship went above and beyond my expectations.

Although it was very difficult for me to say goodbye to all the amazing people at NZCC, the internship has excited and inspired me to pursue a career involved in trade and business around the ever-changing landscape of the Asia Pacific.

Our business programme supports New Zealand companies to better understand Asia so they can make the most of opportunities in the region. We are also focussed on growing the next generation of Asia-savvy business leaders.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation provides opportunities for young New Zealanders to intern with companies in Asia and New Zealand companies and organisations working extensively in the region. The internship programme aims to help interns build a better understanding of the people, place and culture of their Asian host country, while developing industry-specific skills that will benefit them as they progress in their careers.