Clare Fearnley became New Zealand’s ambassador to China in 2018, cross-accredited to Mongolia. She was previously ambassador in Seoul, where she also oversaw Pyongyang, consul-general in Shanghai and head of the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei.
She has also been posted to the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. While working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Wellington, she was director-general for north Asia, and has led international trade litigation, including cases at the WTO.
Ambassador Fearnley has arts and law degrees from the University of Canterbury. She is a Mandarin speaker, and studied at Beijing University and at the Beijing Languages Institute in the 1980s.
Clare joins NuVoices board member and Telegraph correspondent Sophia Yan to chat about New Zealand-China relations, how and why Asia piqued her interest early on, and New Zealand’s gender equality successes.
Clare: The Chinese poets Su Shi, Bai Juyi, and Li Bai (not just for the poetry, but the calligraphy as well!)
Sophia: Fellow journalist Anna Fifield’s book, The Great Successor, about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Anna hails from New Zealand and after 20 years as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, US and Asia (Beijing was her last posting), she returned home last year and is now editor of the Dominion Post in Wellington.
I read her book in 2019, shortly after it came out, in the middle of covering the protests in Hong Kong that summer. It was my way of taking a break, to allow my mind to focus on something else for a bit.
Clare: One thing I get huge energy from is having some connection with nature every day. I love to swim. In New Zealand, I swim in the ocean, and even in the winter sometimes I go in for a dip. Luckily, I have access to pools around Beijing.
Sophia: Prioritise unplugging, and find your way of doing it, whether that’s putting on a face mask or reading books about dictators. Or both at the same time (which I’ve done…)