Simon Draper's Stuff articles


Read Simon Draper's fortnightly Stuff columns looking at some of the big issues connecting New Zealand and Asia.
Simon Draper

The Foundation's executive director Simon Draper

 

Asia's long-term planning is paying off; New Zealand must learn from it (2 December 2019)

While New Zealand stutters along playing catch up on infrastructure projects, some countries in Asia are surging ahead with ambitious projects – breath-taking infrastructure builds, clean energy initiatives, urban planning. Many of these projects anticipate needs that are decades in the future.

Southeast Asian tourism entrepreneurs learning from Māori-owned businesses (18 November)

It was with a real sense of pride that I met a group of Southeast Asia entrepreneurs we were hosting at the New Zealand Tourism Awards last month as they capped off a week of learning in Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch.

New Zealanders need to be willing to hear more Asian perspectives (4 November)

New Zealand, as an island nation, has certain characteristics. One is that we have the habit of looking inwards and talking to ourselves about business. Nothing gets us fired up like domestic angles on regulation, interest rates or infrastructure, and we talk until the cows come home (or are milked at least) about New Zealand's own economy.

The next generation is learning about Asia in different ways (21 October)

Today's young people are exposed to Asian influences several times a day, and while there's still a way to go on understanding Asian peoples and cultures at a deeper level, this exposure does give the next generation an advantage. 

Getting strategic about New Zealand's sister cities (7 October)

Every now and again, spending on sister city relationships is splashed across the front page of local papers. There's something about politicians' overseas jaunts that gets under ratepayers' skin. But while putting a dollar value on the relationships can be helpful, and accountability for public money is vital, the criticism can often miss the point.

NZ's relationship with Japan is strong but there is opportunity to grow (23 September)

New Zealand businesses and agencies have clearly recognised that Japan's hosting of the Rugby World Cup provides opportunities to raise the New Zealand brand.

Why Singapore holds such appeal for New Zealanders (9 September)

From a New Zealander's perspective, Asia can be overwhelming.That's perhaps why Singapore holds so much appeal to us. It's an island nation smaller than Lake Taupō where most people speak English, that's good for shopping and easy to do business in.

New Zealand and Sri Lanka share similarities across sport and business (26 August)

Whatever you recall about Sri Lanka, it is a relationship New Zealand has good reason to invest effort in.

China interference in Hong Kong protest in New Zealand unhelpful (12 August)

As an ex-diplomat, a key tenant of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is the principle that you don't interfere in the domestic affairs of your host state.

Sport an insight into the national psyche (29 Jul) 

 If there were ever any doubt that sport and business are inextricably linked, it's surely been put to bed after this month's world cups

Kiwis' knowledge about our global neighbours better than ever before (15 July)

We've just released the findings in our tracking survey New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia, our annual mood-check of how New Zealanders feel about Asia.

A China-US trade deal could be a threat to New Zealand's exports (1 July)

Almost a year ago today, I wrote in this column that New Zealand and Asia were living in the ominous shadow of a "trade war". In the months following, the United States-China trade war evolved into reality, amid successive tariff hikes by each country.

New Zealand's future leaders are going to look, think and behave differently (17 June)

The picture of what New Zealand leaders are is changing – and is only set to change more. At the Asia New Zealand Foundation, events we've held over the past couple of weeks have given us the opportunity to reflect on how New Zealand's leadership might look profoundly different in the future.

Asia's battle for democracy is a lesson for New Zealand (3 June)

Over the centuries, millions of people have fought and died for the right to even hold elections. Yet here in New Zealand, it is hard to get people to spare 15 minutes every three years to tick a couple of boxes. And it is easy to take for granted that this is all that is needed for a functioning democracy.

The tech sector won't wait for us to catch up (20 May)

I continue to be awed by the scale of enterprise and the innovation that's coming out of the technology sector in Asia. While I'm still waiting for the Jetson car and teleporter promised in my childhood, there's some fascinating developments in technology that Asia is at the centre of.  

Kiwi leaders blind to power and reach of Asian social media in New Zealand (4 May)

For a growing number of Kiwis, keeping in touch with friends and family, talking to business partners and keeping up with the news doesn't just involve Facebook or Twitter, but also the likes of WeChat, WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk. 

Let's export New Zealand fashion to Asia (22 April)

In years gone by when Asia was mentioned in the context of clothing and fashion, our minds immediately leapt to sweatshops in China, or polluted rivers outside factories, or Indian farmers poisoned by the pesticides used to make cotton.

Messages of condolence from Asia in the wake of the Christchurch attacks went unreported (25 March)

Friday 15 March started off much like any other at the Asia New Zealand Foundation. I met with colleagues to talk about upcoming events: an incoming delegation from Vietnam visiting for a dialogue, the possibility of new initiatives with Timor Leste.

Māori at an advantage in engagement with Asia trade (11 March)

I'm going to be unabashed in my promotion of a piece of good news this week. We now have the data to show that Māori can succeed in their engagement with Asia and Asian peoples – and already do

Asia turned out to be bigger than we all anticipated - NZ needs to get on board (25 February)

It's fair to say New Zealand's relationship with China feels a bit angsty at the moment. I'm not going to talk about that too much in this column – if there's anything good to come out of the last fortnight, it's that we've seen a wide range of voices discuss the issues from multiple perspectives. 

There's reason to be optimistic about trade in 2019  (11 February)

New Zealand export businesses have had a period of relative certainty in recent years. We knew China would keep growing; that there were some clear, if imperfect, rules to rely on; and that if New Zealand came up with good products there would likely be willing buyers paying a good price.

Challenges and opportunity await in Asia for business people willing to learn (28 January)

While most of us have been enjoying long summer days and perhaps a slower pace to the working day, a group of hand-picked young New Zealanders have been settling into their internships at businesses across Asia. Each year the Asia New Zealand Foundation sends about 18 interns to get three months' work experience with some of Asia's leading companies.

2018 articles

South Korea is a friend, and we need friends - 10 December 2018

It's not every day the President of South Korea visits New Zealand, as he did last week. Indeed, the last time was nearly a decade ago.

Apec, CPTPP, RCEP: The alphabet soup nourishing NZ's economy - 26 November 2018 

Every profession has its own language: law, journalism, hospitality, medicine – and of course business. Often these acronyms can serve to keep people "out", or at least uninformed.

The Philippines: It's got a lot more to offer than that shoe collection - 29 Oct 2018

When asked to think of the Philippines, many Kiwis will recall former first lady Imelda Marcos' shoe collection. The Marcos' luxurious lifestyle of the 1980s was at odds with high levels of poverty, unemployment and inflation experienced by much of the population.  

New Zealand is finding its place in a quickly changing world - 15 Oct 2018

As a strong believer that New Zealand can often learn a lot from looking across the Tasman, just over a year ago I visited Australia to get a sense of how our neighbour sees its relationship with Asia.

Rugby World Cup boost to Japan-NZ special relationship - 30 Sept 2018

From a New Zealand perspective, the exploits of our All Blacks, Olympians and Paralympians in Japan will be at the heart of many conversations, and this increased profile will give us a unique opportunity to help Kiwis grow their knowledge and deepen their connections with Japan.

Kiwis be warned: the global jobs market demands polyglots - 17 Sept 2018

For some years now, the Foundation has been advocating for a more deliberate and sustainable approach to language learning in schools. We need a national languages policy.

China's mysterious Belt and Road Initiative - 20 Aug 2018

If you've hosted any visitors from China lately, you may have felt like they were talking a mysterious new language. Conversations with Chinese guests have been increasingly peppered with the phrase the "belt and road initiative", often shortened to BRI.

Exporters in the regions are getting to grips with Asia - 23 July 2018

It's all too easy to simply think of New Zealand's relationship with Asia as an Auckland story. Visiting other parts of the country is a good reminder of just how wrong that idea is.

NZ must not become casualty of US-China trade war - 9 July 2018
I'm writing this column under the shadow of an impending and uncertain United States and China trade war. Economies throughout the Asia-Pacific are grappling with the possible ramifications. 

International consumers have similar tastes but different motivations - 25 June 2018
More than 130,000 New Zealanders headed along to Fieldays this month, taking the opportunity to get a taste of the future of farming and the future of food.

Young leaders are building strong ties with Asia - 11 June 2018
The Foundation's Leadership Network is a snapshot of a new generation of leader – and they're helping change the way New Zealand sees itself in relationship to Asia. 

Selling NZ to India: It's not all about dairy - 14 May, 2018 
For us in New Zealand, we look around and see Australian and the Pacific. In India, looking west means looking to Pakistan and looking north means looking to China – countries that India generally sees as a threat in one way or another.

NZ-India relationship about more than cricket - 30 April, 2018
I write this week's column from Delhi in India, a bustling metropolis of 19 million people, and millions more if you take in the surrounding areas.

New Zealand must hedge its best to protect the economy - 20 April, 2018
Watching some of the certainties in the economic world come under strain – with the risks of a trade war between US and China being openly discussed – I've been reflecting on the value of hedging...

Tale of two presidents speaks volumes about New Zealand's attitude to Asia - 2 April, 2018
I couldn't help but be struck by the fact of the amazing amount of coverage given to someone who is an ex-president compared to a current president who visited New Zealand in the same week. That coverage speaks volumes about the real level of interest that New Zealand has in Asia.

New Zealand an honest broker with a big role in shaping Asia - 19 March, 2018
A recurring sentiment expressed by the Foundation's Honorary Advisers was that New Zealand is perceived in Asia as an 'honest broker'.

Asia relationship needs more than dairy - 19 February, 2018
As New Zealand starts to enter its peak arts and culture season, with festivals aplenty around the country, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how New Zealand's arts and culture engagement with Asia enriches our understanding of the region.

Big hopes for Asia trade deal - 5 February, 2018
Much of New Zealand's engagement with Asia is often seen through an economic lens. I have argued there is much more to the relationships than economics. But for many, the business side is what counts most.

Business leaders must speak up for Asia-competent workforce - 1 February
We know Asian cultures put a premium on relationships. With that in mind, I have advocated a more mature New Zealand approach — one that fosters building deep relationships and understanding over the long-term, rather than on short-term financial gains.

2017 articles

We need to talk about tourism - 18 December, 2017
To me, our tourism industry is like a goose that is metaphorically laying golden eggs for us. We know of course what happened to the goose in the fable — its owners got greedy and it was killed.

Singapore - an increasingly important, impressive trade partner for New Zealand - 4 December, 2017 
As a small country, it's tempting to use our size as an excuse for not being able to do things. Perhaps we can take a page from Singapore's book which tells us size doesn't always matter?

We aren't recognising Asian children's potential - 20 November, 2017
The findings of the Starting Strong: Nurturing the potential of our Asian under-fives report were a sobering reminder that we need to up our game if we don't want New Zealanders to miss out on the opportunities the rise of Asia brings.

Asia-Pacific challenges for Ardern's government - 6 November, 2017
Now that the election dust has settled and as new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her team buckle down to running the country, among the first things they will need to get their heads around are Asia-Pacific regional issues…

Diwali festival shows cultural diversity of modern NZ – 23 October, 2017  
Growing up in Auckland, the annual cultural highlight was the Easter Show or maybe the Santa parade. I thought about this when I attended the opening of the Auckland Diwali Festival last weekend and witnessed the amazing energy, vivid colours and dazzling performances of this annual celebration...

Diwali Auckland 2015 auck v2

The power of social enterprise – 9 October, 2017
One of the great things about this job at the Asia New Zealand Foundation is you get to meet interesting people and you learn new things. That is important because in the business world if you are not moving forward you are going backwards...

Why North Korea matters to New Zealanders – 11 September, 2017
In previous columns, I've talked about how our research shows that while most New Zealanders view Asia as important to New Zealand's future, two-thirds of us say we know little or nothing about the region. Our Perceptions of Asia survey also tells us that much of what New Zealanders do know about Asia comes from the media...

South Island visit offers different perspective on Asian business – 28 August, 2017
Last week I was in Christchurch for the South Island launch of our research on Asian investment in New Zealand…

Getting among it key to success in Asian markets – 11 August, 2017
Earlier this year, Auckland University student Jay Sinclair spent three months in Ho Chi Minh City, working for global professional services company KPMG through an Asia New Zealand Foundation internship…

School leavers are not Asia-ready- 31 July, 2017
A few weeks ago, Asia New Zealand Foundation staff travelled to Rotorua's Taheke Marae for a hui on our engagement with Maori. We were lucky enough to have three young people with us, the children of Josh Wharehinga, one of the members of our Leadership Network's Māori caucus...

 Australia's Asia debate worryingly polarising – 17 July, 2017
I'm often annoyed when I hear people claim "New Zealand is lucky.  It's as if we have somehow stumbled upon this fortunate lifestyle most New Zealanders enjoy, or that our success internationally in innovation, sport, arts and science is mere chance...

Twenty years on from the Hong Kong handover – 3 July, 2017
Remember the "Y2K" computer bug panic of 1999? The fear a coding problem in computer systems could create untold havoc as clocks ticked over into the new millennium?..

Be aware of uncertainty in Asia – 19 June, 2017
As part of the Asia New Zealand Foundation's education programme we've been trying to produce informative maps to help Kiwi school kids learn more about the countries of Asia. We've completed four of these so far. You might think it would be a simple enough task...

Why are we afraid of Asian investment? – 5 June, 2017
Back in the 1980s, Kiwi meat company Anzco Foods found itself facing an attempted takeover amid dramatic economic reforms...

Valued relationship with Japan needs rekindling – 22 May, 2017
I have returned from a visit to Japan as part of Prime Minister Bill English’s delegation. I was the only representative from an NGO to travel as part of the delegation – and the Japanese I met remarked how good it was to see the Asia New Zealand Foundation included...

More to Asia than immigration – 8 May, 2017
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with an old acquaintance I hadn't seen for a while. When I told him I worked at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, he replied: "Well, I'm not sure we need that. Seems like we already have enough Asians in New Zealand"...

sports japan

"...it's interesting to reflect that when we talk about Asia and New Zealand, immigration is often the first thing that pops into people's heads."

 Southeast Asia deserves our attention – 24 April, 2017
What do you think of when you think of Southeast Asia? Holidays in Bali or Lombok? Night markets, tropical fruits and cheap food?

Asia conversations must expand – 3 April, 2017
There's no way I could write this column without mentioning the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang…

Kiwis need more confidence with Asia – 20 March, 2017
In 1984 I kicked off my big OE with a trip to Hong Kong and China. I could speak only one Chinese phrase...The Asia New Zealand Foundation has just released the latest findings in its New Zealanders' Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey...

Asia - what are we missing out on? – 6 March, 2017
My father was in the exporting business. Just before my 10th birthday, he brought home a toy samurai helmet given to him by a Japanese businessman. My mother, then in her mid-forties, was less than enthused about this gift. She recalled her WWII childhood, lying awake at night worried about Japanese mini subs coming into the Waitemata Harbour.…