New Zealand PM tries sports diplomacy in China

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has long been a fan of sports diplomacy, having taken international rugby and cricket players with him on previous trips around the Asia-Pacific region. On his current trip to China, rugby was once again at the fore.

Photo credit: NZ Herald

After being treated to a rendition of the haka – the famous warlike dance performed by Pacific rugby players before each match – by students at the China Agricultural University, he swapped jerseys with University President Ke Bingsheng and said the All Blacks should visit China:

“It’s the same thing we see happen in a number of other countries, they play exhibition games and I know the Rugby Football Union have thought and are thinking a lot about this market.”

Photo credit: NZ Herald

He also invited the Chinese students to travel to New Zealand to play New Zealand universities:

“I think those guys were good. They were big and strong and young and fit.”

And then there was the golf game…

stone_shi_john_key_oravida_1200Pictured here with John Key is Stone Shi, chairman of Oravida, a company established in 2011 that exports milk and other food products to China and elsewhere. It’s a story that’s been grabbing headlines in New Zealand. Here’s why:

  • Shi paid NZ $56,600 (US $48,300) for a round of golf with Key in what Key called a “charity auction”, but turned out to be a political fundraiser
  • Oravida executives had a series of dinners with NZ Justice Minister Judith Collins last year on her trip to China, one of which included Shi and a senior Chinese official
  • Collins refuses to say who paid for the dinner(s)
  • Collins’ husband David Wong-Tung is an Oravida director
Photo credit: Newstalk ZB

Shi – a “proud Kiwi” who speaks “limited English” – was pictured again with Key this week at a function. No golf was played this time, but it’s now emerged that Key and Shi played a second time (very entertaining video report by 3NewsNZ’s Patrick Gower here).

Who said sports and politics don’t mix?


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