National MP Jian Yang delivered his valedictory statement:
Dr JIAN YANG (National): The 8th of August, just three days from now, will mark the ninth anniversary of my political career. Number eight is considered a lucky number by many Chinese. I’m supposed to be doubly lucky because the anniversary has double eights. I do think I have been lucky, but I’m not sure but I have been doubly lucky. On 8 August 2011, I received an unexpected call from National Party president Peter Goodfellow inviting me to stand in the upcoming general election. The first sentence I said to Peter was, “Thank you, but I have no interest.” Peter was somewhat taken aback but suggested that we should have a chat, and I agreed. My wife Jane was horrified when I told her about Peter’s invitation that evening. At that time, I was associate dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. Jane was very much satisfied with our life and would hate being the wife of a politician. Her position was very clear: I would have to choose between her and politics. To me, the choice was obvious, so I was quite sure what my position was when I met Peter a few days later. Peter was very genuine and explained to me the importance of a Chinese MP to the National Party. In the end, I said politely to Peter that I would consider his invitation. I briefed Jane about my meeting with Peter, and that was it—I declined the party’s invitation.
However, Peter did not give up. I subsequently had two more meetings with the party’s leadership. I was touched by the sincerity of the party. I then consulted with a small circle of my friends and colleagues. My former head of department, who was a New Zealand politics expert, said to me, “If I were you, I would grab it with both hands.”
I realised that my military academy background in China could be an issue, so I brought up the issue with the party leadership in my meetings with them. I also clearly named Air Force Engineering University and the People’s Liberation Army Luoyang foreign language institute in my list candidate application form. I have been transparent to the party from the very beginning. As I said in my maiden speech nine years ago, I am a Kiwi made in China. I came to New Zealand in late February 1999. In 2004, I received my New Zealand citizenship and gave up my Chinese citizenship. I filled out my citizenship application form as required. Unlike it was being reported, I actually did not put down the civilian or partner universities in my citizenship application form.
However, I was not sure to what extent I had been accepted as a New Zealander until 2008. I joined a Track 1.5 security dialogue delegation to Tokyo and Beijing from late July to early August 2008. The delegation was organised by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, or NZIIA. I joined the delegation as chair of the Auckland branch of the NZIIA and as an international relations scholar. Other members of the delegation included academics and retired senior diplomats. At a meeting with our Japanese counterparts, the head of delegation asked me to introduce New Zealand foreign policy. I was puzzled and said, “I don’t think I’m the right person to do this. I’m Chinese, and we have a few former New Zealand diplomats here.” A retired senior New Zealand diplomat immediately said to our Japanese counterparts, “Jian is the new face of New Zealand.”
A few days later, the New Zealand embassy in Beijing hosted the delegation and invited some Chinese experts to the function. Again, I was asked to introduce New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese guests. I said, “I have an identity problem. You are inviting a Chinese to talk about New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese experts in front of senior New Zealand diplomats.” The New Zealand ambassador then said, “Jian, I’ll ask you one question: what passport do you hold?” “New Zealand passport”, I said. “Then you are a New Zealander”, said the ambassador. From then on, I have never been troubled by my identity. I am a New Zealander.
Nevertheless, there have been speculations about my loyalty to New Zealand, and we have seen various conspiracy stories. Last September, I accompanied the then National leader Simon Bridges to visit China. We told our Chinese host that we would like to meet a Politburo member in Beijing. A few days before the meeting, we were told that Mr Guo Shengkun would meet the delegation. I did not really know Mr Guo’s portfolios. So I did a quick search online and discovered that he was in charge of justice and law and order. Back in New Zealand, conspiracy theories, however, claimed that I had organised a meeting between the National Party leader and the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s secret police. Simon, I’m sorry that you had to defend yourself—things went slightly off the plan.
Recently, it is claimed that I have not talked to English media for two years and that I only talk to Chinese media. The truth is, as the National spokesperson for statistics, I have talked to Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, Stuff, Newshub, and other English media well over 10 times in the past 18 months or so, more than many backbenchers in this House. I only declined the media requests—English or Chinese—whose sole purpose was to question my loyalty to New Zealand. I have made it very clear that I have been loyal to New Zealand. I do not need to explain again.
It has been a great honour to represent New Zealand’s Chinese community as a National MP. I have put heart and soul into serving the community. I am pleased that I have been able to assist numerous Chinese constituents. I am proud that I have set up the Blue Dragons to better engage the Chinese community to support the National Party. I am also proud that I have enabled the Chinese community to better understand and participate in New Zealand’s democratic politics. It has been tremendously rewarding to be warmly received wherever I go in the Chinese community, and I am deeply grateful to the Chinese community for its consistent support to me.
As a first generation immigrant, I feel extremely privileged to be able to participate in the making of national policies and laws, and to chair two important select committees, the Education and Science Committee and the Governance and Administration Committee. I also had the opportunity to meet numerous outstanding New Zealanders, including those from the Chinese community. As a member of Parliament with Chinese heritage, I made my contribution to New Zealand – China relations. My trips to China with Rt Hon Sir John Key and various Ministers and colleagues are some highlights of my political career. I enjoyed each of these trips. There are many memorable moments, from meeting the Chinese President and Chinese Premier to seeing Paul Goldsmith’s facial expression when he was served a whole sea cucumber.
In March 2012, I accompanied Trade Minister Tim Groser to visit China. I helped organise a Chinese press conference before we left. Minister Groser happily announced to the Chinese media, “We will pay a visit to our old friend, Mr Bo Xilai.”, who signed the New Zealand – China free trade agreement when he was China’s Minister of Commerce. A few minutes later he received a message saying that Mr Bo had just been dismissed.
I am particularly grateful to Tim for his trust. While in China, Tim said that I could speak Chinese without being translated just to save time. “I trust you, and I want you to talk about your story to highlight the diversity of New Zealand society.”, Tim said. It didn’t work very well. New Zealand, as a nation, should have an informed debate about China. Superficial, ill-informed, and biased reports and commentaries about China will not serve our national interest well. As Professor Paul Clark concludes in his article published in the New Zealand Herald just a week ago, “Scaremongering is not the way to get real about China.” We do have some outstanding China experts in New Zealand with the academic integrity of being evidence-based, fair, and honest.
China experienced some turbulent and chaotic times in its contemporary history. Like many Chinese, my grandparents and parents suffered. As I mentioned in my maiden speech, my grandfather was a general of the Chinese Nationalist Party, China’s ruling party at that time. He was arrested and put into prison with the change of Government in 1949. My parents were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants during the great cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. I myself would not be where I am had China not opened up and started its reforms in 1978. I am certainly not an exceptional case. A simple fact is that tens of millions of Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty since 1978.
It is time for me to thank those who have helped me in the past nine years. I cannot mention all of them. I thank all National Party board members, in particular, National Party President Peter Goodfellow for his support at every step. I thank my colleagues, particularly the year 2011 classmates. They have given me unfailing support over these years. I thank all Blue Dragons. Representatives from Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, and Queenstown branches are here today. In particular, I thank Frank, Chris, and James. I thank the vibrant Chinese community, which has made a great contribution to this country. Some representatives are here today.
[Mandarin text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
I acknowledge my youth MP, Sally, who is here. She is following in my path and is doing her BA majoring in international relations. I also thank my friends Tony, Phil, and Ambassador Brown. I thank in my two assistants, Shu Kim and Shan. Not many MPs have not changed their staff for nine years. Shu Kim and Shan have been my loyal colleagues and most trustworthy advisers. I also thank Shan’s wife, Susu, and Shu Kim’s husband, Blair, and daughter Isabel. They have become our close family friends.
My parents and brothers who still live in China have always been supportive of me. My father is 90 years old with dementia and my mother is in a wheelchair. I have not joined them for Chinese New Year for nine years. Hopefully I will be able to do so for the coming Chinese New Year. Finally, I thank my wife Jane and two daughters, Suzie and Evelyn. My two girls have got used to me not being around. Evelyn just made it today. Apparently her biological sciences lab is more important than my ridiculous speech.
My wife, Jane, has been my strongest supporter during the most difficult time. This does not necessarily mean she liked my political life. She has always been a private person and values her privacy. I once told a shop owner that my wife often came to her shop. The shop owner later figured out who my wife was and asked Jane. Jane was so stressed that she stopped shopping there, and the shop closed down before long. Jane has come to Wellington only twice in nine years. Nine years ago, she was here for my maiden speech saying, “Take care.” Nine years later, she’s back for my valedictory speech, saying “Welcome home.”
Before I conclude, I would like to wish the National Party all the best. In terms of values, the Chinese community is very close to the National Party, and the National Party has been firmly supportive of the Chinese community. To our new leader, the Hon Judith Collins, I’m here to say you have my full support, Judith.
I’m proud of my Chinese heritage. I feel fortunate to have had the life-changing opportunity to study in Australia. Most importantly, I am privileged to be able to live in New Zealand, a truly great country, and one I call my home. It’s time for me to put down politics and enjoy life with my family. History will be the best judge of my nine years in the New Zealand Parliament. Thank you. Xiexie.