China Friendship Award recognises decade-long relationship

Professor Hugh Blair receives his award from Vice Premier Ma Kai

Massey University Professor of Animal Science, Hugh Blair, is one of two New Zealand scientists to recently receive a China Friendship Award in Beijing.

It is the highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress.

“It is a great honour to receive this prestigious award, and I am grateful to my colleagues Professors Steve Morris and Paul Kenyon for helping me achieve this award,” Professor Blair says.

The award was presented to Professor Blair by Vice Premier Ma Kai at a special ceremony in the Great Hall of the People. It was followed by a banquet for more than a thousand people hosted by the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang.

Professor Blair says his working relationship with China initially began with the first tripartite agreement in China between Massey University, Shihezi University and Peking University in 2005. His interest in increasing the production of red meat, predominantly from sheep, led to a friendship with Chinese colleagues that continues to this day.

“Since 2005 Massey University scientists have been making regular trips to Xinjiang, and Shihezi University and staff, led by Professor Gao Jianfeng, have made a number of visits to New Zealand. Our initial relationship has now expanded to include the Chinese Academy of Science, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the Xinjiang Academy of Animal Science, and the Hebei Agricultural University.”

“China and New Zealand have dissimilar sheep production systems, but the challenges we face are rather similar. The advantage of collaborative exchanges between the two countries is that we see these challenges in different ways, and we have developed our own means of dealing with the increased demand for red meat while limiting environmental damage,” Professor Blair says.

Animal science research is just the first step in a chain of events to achieve on-farm production changes, he says. “It is well-known that it takes at least a decade for science to be translated into a technology, and for that technology to eventually be used by farmers. By sharing our experiences, it will result in better solutions for both countries.”

The China Friendship Awards, presented by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) are presented to 50 experts from across the globe each year at the China National Day Celebrations. They were first presented in 1991.

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