Simon Draper's
May 2019 Update

Kia ora koutou,

Earlier this month I attended China’s second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, having attended the first forum in 2017. It was useful to see how the narrative and mood about the BRI has evolved during the intervening two years.

It was clear that while it may seem a theoretical construct for many in New Zealand, for many in the developing world the BRI is well underway. Our Chinese hosts made a point of assuring that some of the criticism about the BRI (e.g. it was leading to debt traps) was unintended and they wanted to fix that.

A view of the Beijing skyline from under an overpass

Simon Draper: "...Belt and Road provides both opportunities and risks for New Zealand"

As I wrote in my Stuff column before I left, the Belt and Road provides both opportunities and risks for New Zealand.  I remain of the view that any likely involvement by New Zealand will focus more on behind the border systems and processes (i.e. customs and phytosanitary clearance) that connect economies rather than infrastructure projects.  There is also talk of New Zealand being a ‘link’ between Asia and Latin America.

Spending time on the ground in Beijing, it was a salutary reminder of how little attention our part of the world gets, including in Belt and Road considerations. In all newspapers I read in Beijing, the Pacific was not mentioned once, let alone New Zealand.

The Foundation supports Māori Business Awards and Voyager Media Awards

Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be presenting the Outstanding Maori Business Leadership Award at the University of Auckland Aotearoa Māori Business Awards. Our recent research Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective identified the great strengths – and the leadership role – Māori have in engaging in Asia, including through business opportunities. Sponsoring this award is another small step in the Foundation’s journey to increase our engagement with Māori .

We’re also the sponsor of the best junior reporter category at next week’s Voyager Media Awards. The Foundation has been providing Asia travel grants and other professional development opportunities to New Zealand journalists since 1994, and we have added to this work in the past couple of years through investing in our Asia Media Centre.

It’s gratifying to see many of our previous media grantees and interns represented as finalists in the Voyager Media Awards – I counted 15 recent grantees in the finalist list. 

India Track II about relationship building

ICWA Deputy Director General, Shri Soumen Bagchi addressing the room

The Indian delegation was led by Deputy Director General, Shri Soumen Bagchi

The Foundation, in partnership with the New Zealand India Research Institute, co-hosted the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in Wellington in April. This year’s engagement with ICWA was led by its new Deputy Director General, Shri Soumen Bagchi.

The dialogue with ICWA was about learning from each other and building our people-to-people connections both at the institutional and personal level.  

Our visitors showed a good degree of familiarity with New Zealand policy, including the Pacific Reset and Strategic Defence Policy Statement.

The signing of an MOU, while formalising our think tank partnership, symbolised a refresh in our relationship. Bagchi confirmed that he would be the host of the 2020 talks in New Delhi. I look forward to a continuation of this positive trend of engagement.

Kiwi teachers make connections in Indonesia

Last month, our director of education, Sean O’Connor, took a group of primary and secondary teachers to Indonesia to learn about the country, its people and education system, as well as connect with local teachers. The programme was part of a collaboration between the Foundation and the Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence.

The teachers were there during the build up to Indonesia’s general election, which provided them with a fascinating insight into what has been described as the most complicated single-day election in history.  

One of the New Zealand teachers talking to a group of Indonesian students

The teachers got to visit Indonesian classrooms and chat with students and teachers

The idea behind the programme is that the Kiwi teachers and their Indonesian counterparts connect in Indonesia and develop ongoing online connections between their classes.

The ability for students to understand different cultures and feel comfortable and confident interacting with them will be hugely advantageous for today’s young people. I look forward to hearing about how this initiative develops over coming months.

Coming up in May

At the end of the month I’ll be in Thailand for a Track 1.5/2 dialogue with think tanks from the Mekong region and Japan. After this, I’ll be heading to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue – the foremost security and defence dialogue in the Asia-Pacific. I look forward to filling you in on how these two events went in next month’s update.

Photo competition 

Finally, if you have any great photos that portray the theme of ‘Asia in my life’, send them in to us and you could win one of several great prizes. If you don’t have any photos that fit the bill, grab your camera and go out and take some. You can find out more about the competition here