Simon Draper's July 2022 Update

As many of you know, the Foundation recently released our annual Perceptions of Asia survey – a survey of New Zealanders’ views about Asia and our connection to the region that the Foundation has been conducting for 25 years. It provides unique insights to this country’s changing attitudes towards Asia.
A slide from Perceptions of Asia showing New Zealanders Asia- related interests

A slide from Perceptions of Asia (released last month) showing New Zealanders Asia- related interests

I won’t go into too much detail about this year’s findings as you can read all about them in the media release and the report itself, linked to here.

The report was well picked up by New Zealand media, with good coverage on online news sites, radio, television and print. I hope this reflects New Zealanders’ increasing interest and engagement with the region and how we as a nation are feeling more connected to Asia than ever before. Indeed, a key finding from this year was that more New Zealanders see Asia as ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them’; that’s quite a key shift.

While the survey was largely positive, we don’t choose the angles media organisations highlight – with the drop in the number of people who feel warmly about China and the correlating increase in those who view the country as a threat leading many articles.

This negative perception of China was most noticeable in the mini-poll (a follow-up poll we conducted in June this year) and was likely due to security concerns and extensive coverage of China’s increasing role in the Pacific and its tacit support of Russia during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As I write in my latest Stuff column, published this week, negative perceptions of China are worrying for a range of reasons, particularly when you consider that “China” is the first word that people associate with Asia (see the word cloud below) .  

A word map showing the words New Zealanders think of when they think of Asia. China was the most mentioned word.

The size of the word indicates the frequency with which respondents mentioned it when asked what words they associate with Asia

Seriously Asia Revisited taking to the road

While on the topic of notable anniversaries and New Zealand’s engagement with Asia, we are excited to be launching our Seriously Asia Revisited programme of activities, which updates programme of work we conducted almost 20 years ago, in 2003.

We will be taking to the road with a series of hui around the motu, bringing together informed voices on New Zealand-Asia relations to discuss how best to position New Zealand to make the most of our relationships in the region in years ahead.

The first hui will be held in Auckland at the end of this month and will focus on Society and Culture, with subsequent hui in Wellington (Politics and Security) in August, and Christchurch (Trade, Tourism and Investment) and Queenstown (Innovation and Sustainable Development) in September.

We will use these hui to generate a series of recommendations and a suggested roadmap for New Zealand’s engagement with Asia. I’ll report back on the first hui in next month’s newsletter.

China Business Summit

In a busy month, we also have the China Business Summit coming up in Auckland on 1 August, which I will be attending as a panelist. This year’s summit is subtitled “a balancing act” and will look at ways for New Zealand to navigate our complex relationship with our largest trading partner.

No doubt the finding’s of our Perceptions of Asia research will come up as a topic of conversation. The Foundation’s other contribution to the summit is sponsoring keynote speaker Allan Gyngell, national president Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Intensive te reo course another step in Foundation's journey 

Foundation staff members and Victoria University staff holding certificates of completion for their te reo  Māori course

Foundation staff receiving their te reo Māori certificates

For most of June, six staff members (myself included) and trustee Lyn Lim attended a full-time te reo Māori course through Victoria University. A first cohort of staff undertook the course earlier this year.  

Over the years, I’ve studied Korean, Italian and French, but it’s been a while since I last sat down to make a concerted effort to learn a language. It was a humbling but immensely rewarding experience – rewarding for me not only for what I personally learned over the duration of the course, but it was also inspiring seeing others in the group flourish in their language-learning journey.

It reminded me how even the smallest bit of language acquisition can open up insights and windows into new worlds.

Upskilling staff in their understanding of te reo is the latest step in the Foundation’s commitment to incorporating te reo and te ao Māori in our Kaupapa. It is a journey we embarked on in July 2017 at Taheke Marae in Rotorua where we discussed how the Foundation can further embed Māori engagement into our work, with a vision to weaving it into our everyday practice.  

The latest from the Leadership Network

Finally, it was great to see a number of Leadership Network members at the networking event the network held with Fonterra last week. We got to hear from, and pick the brains of, some of Fonterra’s top Asia-focused minds about doing business in the region. The clear message was with the EU FTA underdelivering for Fonterra, their focus was now very much on Asia.

And while on the topic of the Leadership Network, I’d like to acknowledge the work of Adam McConnochie, who was director of Leadership and Entrepreneurship for a number of years and most recently took on the role of acting director Business.

Adam worked at the Foundation for ten years, over which period he did an exemplary job developing both the Entrepreneurship and Leadership programmes. He has left to focus on his family and business SOLID Oral Care. It’s been sad to see him go, but we all wish him well on his adventure ahead.

 Mā te wā

Simon Draper