New Zealand through the eyes of an old Chinese immigrant

In five years’ time, I will have lived in New Zealand for as long as I lived in China. Experiencing the two cultures first hand has given me great understanding from both perspectives.

New Zealand as an immigration destination

Deciding to leave everything behind, move to a new place and start a new life, requires incentives to make it worthwhile. For Chinese, in earlier years – say, prior to 2000’s – the factors that pushed them out of China were better living standards, higher incomes and abundant supplies. In later years, it’s a better quality of life, pure environments, a good education system and a laid-back life style.

New Zealand does not have highly paid job opportunities in abundance, so won’t attract younger generations seeking advancement in their careers. Instead, New Zealand attracts the other end of the scale – those who have made enough to be financially independent and are seeking a better life style for their family.

That is why the investor categories in New Zealand’s immigration policy are doing so well amongst the Chinese over the past 30 years.

The Investor Visa (Investor 2 Category) is an option if you plan to invest a minimum of NZ$3 million over a four-year period. If you’re looking to invest $NZ10 million or more then the Investor Plus Visa (Investor 1 Category) could be a better option.

Our NZ$10 million category is, if not the most expensive, one of the most expensive categories, yet every year, there is a rush of applications and a queue for approvals. One factor that unfavourably affects New Zealand, is its lack of high quality tertiary education institutions. People also complain that New Zealand doctors lack experience generally due to exposure with a limited patient pool.

China as an immigration source country

With a population of 1.5 billion, China is naturally one of the biggest migration source countries. The overcrowding leads to lack of resources, especially premium resources in the education and healthcare sectors. The polluted environment and the distorted education system are also concerns.

Typical Chinese are not so adventurous, but we don’t lack curiosity either. After so many years of isolation from the rest of the world, we have a strong appetite to get out and explore. Popular poetry gives prime examples of this in their lyrics…

“Beyond the pots and pans in present life, there should be poetry and the far afield.”; or “Living in a house towards the sea, with spring blossoms.”

Chinese in general are hardworking, law abiding citizens. We pay great (or maybe too much) attention on the next generations education, hence if the second generation can stay in New Zealand, they will be a great force for our future labour market. Chinese culture also lays the liability of looking after the elderly to family members which eases the overall demand on the public healthcare system. And, as with any other strong cultures with long history, the Chinese take great pride in their culture and bring it with them wherever they go.

What impact does Chinese immigration have on New Zealand?

From what I can see, compared to 21 years ago, there are more Chinese restaurants representing the different cuisines found all over China; there are also more Chinese grocery shops where you can get any ingredients to make traditional Chinese dishes. Appliance shops are now stocked with Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Huawei, Haier and DaJiang and others that have gradually become household names in New Zealand. More than 10% of cranes in Auckland are working on projects funded by Chinese developers. Groups of elderly Chinese chatting actively on free buses post peak traffic, is a normal scene in daily Auckland life. I also encounter many Chinese groups on popular tramping trails. All badminton halls are fully booked in peak season. All of the above has greatly added to the way of New Zealand life.

What impact did New Zealand expatriates have on China?

21 years ago, New Zealand was a country not many Chinese could point out on a world map. Foreign countries were by default, the USA, England and Canada. Now, many Chinese know of our baby formulas, Manuka honey and kiwifruit. New Zealand scampi, lamb, beef and wines are sort after for Chinese banquets. First class celebrities like Yao Cheng, Fay Wong, Nicky Wu and Cecilia Liu show case the beautiful scenery and have made New Zealand one of the most desirable destinations. Many Chinese movies are now made in New Zealand. Chinese rich listers can often be spotted at New Zealand’s world renowned golf courses and their private jets land at the Auckland Airport more often than you think.

Going forward what we can expect?

The size difference between the two countries does not give New Zealand much power in the political playground. Each time China and the US come head to head on military or economic issues, NZ has to make a decision on which side to stand or how to circle the situation. To be a smart trader that cruises between super powers at ease, we require solid principals and great skills. The Prime Minister is trying her very best at the moment to play that role in Beijing.

If we follow the pattern established from the first immigration wave in the late1980s, of those who wanted to settle down, they either become part of a talent pool for hire or start their own business. Those who went back to China, became promoters for New Zealand and would actively think of a way to bring new ideas to our trade and innovation sectors. The second generation going forward will be an excellent source for the future labour market. Some of them with the help of their family wealth and with unique experience gained from mixed culture and education, will potentially contribute significantly in defining and shaping New Zealand’s future. In the next ten years, we can expect these talents to evolve in all fields, forming the backbone of the future in New Zealand.

For New Zealand to continue being a prosperous country, our upcoming generations from different backgrounds will have to work together to develop new competitive advantages and thus achieve far more than their parents did. What can we do to help them?

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