The Guardian • Issue #2037

For peace and development

On the China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Photo: Michael Lieu – (CC BY 2.0)

The 21st December marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Commonwealth of Australia. On behalf of the Consulate General, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and warm greetings to all of those who value, support and have made contributions to the healthy and stable development of the China-Australia friendly relationship.

At this historic moment, I would like to pay tribute to the founders of China-Australia diplomatic relations, then Chinese and Australian leaders, Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The statesmen of the elder generation in China and Australia acted in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and made the political decision of historic significance with their exceptional strategic vision and political courage to rise above the differences in ideology and social systems.

They have planted trees for the coming generations to rest in the cool shade. The establishment of diplomatic relations was a turning point in our bilateral relationship and paved the way for the comprehensive, constructive and cooperative relationship we have today.

As the statement marking the 50th anniversary of China-Australia diplomatic relations released by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong goes, trade between China and Australia, as well as strong people-to-people, cultural and business links have delivered significant benefits to both our countries.

Over the past five decades, our practical cooperation across the board has maintained a momentum of rapid growth. China overtook Japan as Australia’s biggest trading partner in 2007. Our trade volume has surged from less than 100 million US dollars in 1972 to over 207 billion US dollars in 2021, accounting for 34.2 per cent of Australia’s total import and export in 2021.

China is Australia’s top export destination, largest source of imports, largest agricultural goods market and a major source of foreign direct investment, with Australia’s exports to and imports from China respectively accounting for 38.8 per cent and 28.1 per cent of Australia’s total exports and imports of goods in 2021.

China is the sixth largest foreign direct investor in Australia with 44 billion AUD in 2020, accounting for about four per cent of Australia’s total foreign direct investment. In recent years, Chinese investment has broadened from mainly mining to sectors such as infrastructure, services and agriculture.

Australia is an important trading partner and source of foreign investment for China too.

Our friendship and mutual trust have been constantly enhanced. During President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Australia in 2014, our bilateral relations were elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. And President Xi is one of the few world leaders who has visited every state and territory in Australia.

People-to-people and cultural links continue to develop strongly and play a vital role in the China-Australia relationship.

There are more than 1.2 million people of Chinese heritage living in Australia today, and Mandarin is now the second most spoken language in Australia after English. The Chinese communities in Australia have been making outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social development and the thriving of multiculturalism as well as fostering comprehensive and deep people-to-people links with China.

In 1972, we had no student exchanges. Now, China has been Australia’s largest source of international students for seven consecutive years since 2015. In the other direction, China is a key destination for Australia’s New Colombo Plan which helps to improve knowledge of China in Australia through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students in China.

Prior to the imposition of restrictions on international travel due to the outbreak of COVID-19 epidemic, China was Australia’s largest inbound market in terms of visitor arrivals and total visitor spend. In 2019-20, there were over 4.6 million visitor arrivals from China.

At the local government level, China and Australia have been fortifying the foundation of our bilateral ties by building up around 100 sister state/province and sister city relationships.

Of course, the development of our bilateral relationship is not always plain sailing. In recent years, there have been some difficulties. And the assumption of office of the new Australian federal government has provided a good opportunity to reset China-Australia relations.

We are delighted to see that the Albanese Labor government has conducted some fruitful high-level exchanges with China. And the constructive meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Albanese in Bali, Indonesia, was an important landmark, charting the course for the future development of our bilateral relations.

As President Xi Jinping pointed out in the meeting, China and Australia are both important countries in the Asia-Pacific region and we need to improve, uphold and further develop our relationship, which not only serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples but also helps promote peace and development in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

We hope that both sides can take concrete actions and work in the same direction based on the principle of respecting each other and seeking mutual benefit and win-win results to bring China-Australia relations back onto the right track in the near future.

This October [2022], the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was successfully convened, which is an epoch-making event held at a critical time as China embarks on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects and advances towards the Second Centenary Goal. The most important achievement of the Congress is the election of a new central leadership with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, which reflects the common will of the entire Party and the people of the whole country.

China will continue to follow unswervingly the path of peaceful development, uphold world peace and promote common development, and is dedicated to building a human community with a shared future. China will remain committed to opening to the outside world and will steadily expand institutional opening-up with regard to rules, regulations, management and standards.

We will upgrade trade in goods, develop new mechanisms for trade in services and foster a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and internationalised, which will provide new development opportunities for Australia and other countries.

Battered by domestic challenges and disruptive external headwinds, the Chinese economy has coped with a tough 2022 with a GDP growth rate of three percent in the first three quarters. Though the growth rate falls short of the target set at the beginning of this year, the fundamentals of China’s economy remain sound. As pointed out by President Xi Jinping at the annual Central Economic Work Conference concluded on 16th December, China’s economy has strong resilience, great potential and robust vitality.

China’s GDP in 2022 is estimated to reach 120 trillion Chinese yuan [AU$25.6tr] (the number is 114 trillion yuan in 2021). The production, sales and export volume of new energy vehicles in China ranks the first in the world. And China’s total grain production in 2022 will remain above 1.3 trillion jin (650 billion kilograms), which is for the eighth consecutive year.

China will better coordinate epidemic prevention and control with economic and social development and ensure high-quality and reasonable growth in the coming 2023.

As the powerhouse of Australia’s economic development, Western Australia has always been playing a leading role in pressing forward friendly relationships with China. And under the strong leadership of Premier McGowan, WA’s ties with China in trade, investment as well as people-to-people and culture exchange have been constantly strengthened.

China has been WA’s top trading partner for many years. In the financial year of 2021/2022, 80 per cent of Australia’s goods exported to China came from WA. Besides iron ore, China is also the biggest buyer of WA’s gold, lithium, wheat and mineral sands.

Encountered by common challenges like climate change and COVID-19 pandemic, China and WA shall look for new fields to continue deepening our cooperation and collaboration, such as clean energy and digital economy.

WA has established Sister State relations with Chinese Zhejing Province and they celebrated their 35th anniversary last year. Presently there are over 20 pairs of Sister Cities between China and WA, and the City of Perth celebrated with Chengdu their 10 years of sistership last September.

There are around 130,000 people in WA with Chinese heritage, and the Chinese communities have been playing increasingly important parts in strengthening WA multicultural society and promoting the China-WA relationship.

As the ballast of China-WA friendship, the business community over the years has played active roles in promoting trade and investment cooperation and the overall relationship between our two sides. The Gala Dinner organised by the China Chamber of Commerce in Australia (Perth Branch) and Australia China Business Council WA in celebration of our 50th anniversary once again demonstrates their sincere aspiration and firm confidence in China and Australia’s everlasting friendship.

The 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia is of special significance to both countries, which provides valuable opportunities for us to reflect upon the past and look into the future.

Fifty years ago, the leaders of our two countries, with their vision and statesmanship, took the historically decisive joint steps to open our diplomatic relations. Now the baton has been passed onto our hands.

Upholding the principle of respecting each other and seeking mutual benefit and win-win results, China is ready to work with Australia to build on past achievements and further advance the China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

With strong determination and unremitting efforts, we will carry our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership forward into a brighter future.

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