New chapter for China-New Zealand exchanges

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A pioneering cultural exchange will begin when one of China's brightest young authors takes up an inaugural New Zealand-China writing fellowship in Auckland later this month.

Huo Yan, 23, will take up the first Rewi Alley Writing Fellowship, in what the New Zealand China Friendship Association hopes will become a permanent event on the bilateral cultural calendar.

New Zealand writer, educator and activist Rewi Alley [File photo]

New Zealand writer, educator and activist Rewi Alley [File photo]

The fellowship was created after Liao Hui, then president of the China-Oceania Friendship Association and Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, last year announced funding of 1 million yuan (about 162,000 U.S. dollars or 191,300 NZ dollars) to sponsor cultural exchanges to commemorate New Zealand writer, educator and activist Rewi Alley, who lived in China from 1927 to his death in 1987.

The New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS) organized the fellowship to allow a Chinese writer to spend two months in New Zealand every second year, while a New Zealand writer stays in Shanghai every other year.

"This is an adventure for Huo Yan and an adventure for us. We'd like to build a reciprocal arrangement between our writers here and those in China," NZCFS Auckland branch president George Andrews told Xinhua in a phone interview.

"New Zealand and China are becoming increasingly interrelated. It's really important that we learn to understand each China by reading their literature and studying their culture."

Huo, a doctoral student at Beijing Normal University with a track record of prize-winning short stories, presented the clearest and most impressive application of six put forward by the Chinese Writers Association.

Andrews said she presented a story about a married man who is forced to shelter from a hail storm on his way home in Beijing, which the judging panel found "edgy" and contemporary.

Huo had wanted to complete her novel, "The Library," a key work for the Chinese Writers Association, while in New Zealand, and study "the globalization of Chinese youth; whether it's possible living in a foreign country to maintain aspects of their culture," said Andrews.

"The deal is she gets to do her best effort and we get a report on her experience and copies of her book," Andrews said.

"These writers have to be young so that we can constantly rejuvenate our organization."

Liao made the funding announcement on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NZCFS, which began links with China in the 1950s, long before diplomatic relations were established in 1972.

"Our long connections with China give us access to all sorts of people. We had our feet on the ground first and they've been happy with us," he said.

Huo will stay at the Michael King Writers Center, named after one of New Zealand's most eminent historians, in Auckland after she arrives on April 29.

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