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Partnership with Asia key to New Zealand’s future: Survey


New Zealanders are connecting to Asia at an everyday level (Photo supplied)

Venu Menon
Wellington, July 8,2023

When New Zealanders think of Asia, China comes to mind.

Food is an immediate follow-up association.

But China also comes across as threatening, with 37% of New Zealanders sharing that perception.

China is viewed as friendly by 30% of New Zealanders.

These are among the key findings of a recent survey report published by the Asia New Zealand Foundation titled “New Zealanders’ Perception of Asia and Asian Peoples.”

The survey drew on a nationwide sample pool of 2,323 respondents aged 15 years and over, and was completed in November 2022.

New Zealanders were quizzed on a range of themes which included Asia’s importance to New Zealand’s future as well as on Asian regional politics, security and economies.

New Zealanders were tapped for their general knowledge of Asia on travel, cuisine, media and entertainment.

Predictably, China dominated the perceptions of those surveyed.

“Feelings towards China remain mixed,” noted Simon Draper, Executive Director, Asia New Zealand Foundation. He said New Zealanders were “fairly concerned” about the build-up of hostilities over the Taiwan Strait.

The survey looked broadly at “how New Zealanders are connecting to Asia at an everyday level through media consumption, travel, commerce, cuisine, and popular culture.”

“In addition to trade, the last few years have seen New Zealanders’ Asia interests grow in a range of other areas, (such as) entertainment, sports, innovation and culture,” Draper said, adding, “[This] trend is likely to continue as the global centre of gravity for these sectors moves increasingly towards Asia.”

Importance of Asia

Four in five New Zealanders (80%) believed it was important to develop political, economic and social ties with Asia.

Nine out of ten New Zealanders (90%) said it was important for New Zealand to “invest energy and resources into building partnerships with Asia.”

Building connections with Asia

Three-quarters of those surveyed supported the growth of New Zealand’s relationship with Asia through trade, while 71% of respondents favoured government-to-government exchanges.

A broad cross-section thought it was important to understand Asian protocols and etiquette, as well as languages.

A sizeable percentage of Kiwis evinced an interest in Asian politics, history and current affairs, while 59% were interested in music, arts and literature.

An overwhelming 87% of New Zealanders were drawn to Asian food.

Asia was a destination of choice for 78% of travellers from New Zealand.

Security and political developments in Asia

Most New Zealanders viewed climate, the impact of fake news and disinformation, and global economic instability as high-priority concerns. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that 63% were “somewhat concerned about the potential for military conflict over Taiwan,” the report observed.

How Asia will impact New Zealand

Asia was perceived to have a positive impact on New Zealand for the next two decades. However, there was also concern over the possible negative fallout for New Zealand from developments on the political and security fronts in Asia.

Friend and threat perceptions

Japan was viewed by New Zealanders as a friendly country, followed by Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines. There was a favourable shift of sentiment in favour of countries such as Pakistan, Vietnam and Indonesia since 2021, the report noted.

Forty-nine per cent of Kiwis viewed India as a friendly country, while 7% felt threatened.

But Russia and North Korea were viewed as threats by a significant number of New Zealanders, while 19 % saw Pakistan and 15 % Myanmar as “somewhat threatening.”

Knowledge of Asia

Fifty per cent of New Zealanders believed they had a “fair amount” of knowledge about Asia, which had remained largely the case since 2019.

But just 33% of New Zealanders thought they were knowledgeable about Asia back in 2013, the report pointed out.

Knowledge levels were higher with respect to North Asia than to Southeast Asia and South Asia.

News media and entertainment consumption

New Zealanders had mixed views on media coverage of Asia. While 12% believed Asia received too much coverage, 30% felt Asia was not covered enough by New Zealand media. Around half of those surveyed believed the coverage was balanced.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation, established in 1994, is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia. According to its website, the Foundation “provides experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build their knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in Asia.”

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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