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Jo Coughlan: Language week builds bridges to China


Jo Coughlan is co-chair New Zealand Chinese Language week and managing director of public relations company Silvereye.


The popular Lantern Festivals are one way we strengthen our growing cultural ties with China. This week we celebrate New Zealand’s third Chinese Language Week. Established to underpin the growing relationship between China and New Zealand, the language week provides a focus across New Zealand schools, tertiary institutions, businesses, local and central government and media on the need for greater understanding of culture and language between our two countries.


A range of initiatives are underway all around New Zealand, from dumpling making to Mandarin tours, to school cultural days. A new “five days five phrases challenge” is intended to encourage all of us to try and say five simple things in Mandarin. We reason that if New Zealanders can say hello, thank you, and goodbye in Chinese, it is a step in the right direction. Listen out on radio and TV for some of our media presenters trying the challenge for themselves. Or if you’re flying internationally check out the Chinese-themed quiz on Air New Zealand planes.


As one of the founding co-chairs of the week, I am pleased to see increasing interest and support. As a business owner who has been working with Chinese companies – based in both New Zealand and China – for nearly five years, I am aware of the opportunities, challenges and complexities of the China market.


Statistics New Zealand figures show trade with China has more than tripled in the past 10 years from $8.2 billion for the year ended June 2007 to $23b in the June 2016 year.


China is our second-biggest export market – and third-largest for imports. Nearly 20 per cent of our exports now go to China, compared with 6 per cent 10 years ago; we import 16 per cent of goods and services from China compared with 10 per cent in 2007.


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