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Premier Wen Jiabao's Visit and China Australia Relations
Speech at the China-Australia Media Industry Leaders' Meeting
2006/04/14

Joint Press Conference after fruitful talks between Premier Wen Jiabao and Primer Minister John Howard

Visiting Woodside Hydrocarbon Research Facility, Perth

Fu Ying Sydney 2006-4-11

Thank you Mark Toohey (the Chair),

Minister Cai Wu,

Michel Johnson,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

First I want to join Mr. Mark Toohey in thanking all those people who have worked very hard to make this forum possible.

I also want to express our appreciation to the co-organizers of the Forum: Australia-China Business Council and Global Televisions Limited.

Our appreciations also go to the Hong Yang Industry, Omnilab Group, Pheonix TV and Intercontinental Hotel, which are our sponsors

For today's topic, I want to focus on the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's successful visit to Australia last week.

In his 53 hours in Australia, he had 19 official functions, including substantive talks with federal and state leaders, and visiting industry and research projects.

My feeling is that this visit will be recorded in both countries as an important political dialogue, at a key juncture of our relations, on how we understand each other, and where our relations is heading for.

As was observed by Prime Minister John Howard: of all the important relationships Australia has with other countries, none has undergone a greater transformation over the last decade or more, as has the relationship with China.

Many feel the changes. Our trade, tourists and students have all grown by three folds in 6 years. The transformation is not only reflected in the traffic of exchanges, but also in our views of each other.

Premier Wen took an interview with the Australian before coming here. It was a very comprehensive talk by a Chinese leader on relations with Australia. Many are encouraged when he said: together our two nations have a prosperous future.

It was very clear during the visit that, there is also consensus on both sides of the Australian political spectrum that the fast growth of China is seen as a positive development for Australia and for the world.

This gives the two countries a high degree of comfort in deciding where our relations should go.

Premier Wen proposed for the two countries: to build cooperation partnership in the 21 century.

He also suggested for the two sides to have regular leaders meeting, to speed up FTA negotiations, to expand exchanges in science & research, education and culture, and to have closer coordination on regional and international affairs.

Prime Minister Howard responded positively and added his ideas about how to move our relations forward.

Their fruitful discussions were reflected in the 8 documents signed during the visit.

Among them, the one on the peaceful use of nuclear energy seem to have got most of the media coverage.

For China, the signing of the two documents has opened the way for commercial negotiations, which will take place at some later stage. Australia has a good legal environment and rich reserves. It is therefore one of the options for China when considering uranium import.

According to our 11th Five Year Guidelines, nuclear power will grow from 2 to 4% in the national energy mix, which would probably need 30 new nuclear power plants in the next 10-15 years and the import of uranium will be arranged accordingly. We have not yet made any plan to invest in Australia's uranium mines.

As this is a strategic trading, when making a decision, we have to carefully examine both the hard and soft environment for the purchase, taking into account the acceptance level of the local government and people.

Premier Wen emphasized on quite a few occasions that the uranium we import would be used only for peaceful purposes and that we will keep to our commitments and international obligations.

Premier Wen was also interested in look for partnership with Australia on other renewable energies.

The 6 economic documents signed at the meeting between Minister Vaile and Makai are of no less importance. They cover wide areas and the total value involved amounts to 5.4 billion Aus $.

For example, one of the documents was on the purchase by China National Chemical Corporation (CNCC) of Qenos producing polyethylene, which I visited in March.

It is interesting to observe the psychological atmosphere around China mergers in the world. Should it be a good deal, there would be political obstacles and if China got it, it maybe a worthless project.

But I found this is a sound purchase. Apart from making profit, it is a well-managed plant. Its 1237 days of no casually record on the day of my visit was impressive. Its equipments and technology spread from 1960s to 1990s, and all of them are functioning well. Its environmental standard is high too.

By purchasing the plant, CNCC not only will make profit, but also learn and copy its management skills in CNCC plants in China.

The reason they won over many other bidders is because it wanted to run the plant not to resell it, which was important for the plant and its 900 workers.

The Harbin Power Engineering Company's agreement with HRL is on IDGCC power plant in Melbourne. It is a commercial test plant with the technology of cleaner use of brown coal. Its success will enable the partners to reproduce it in China and other parts of the world.

The Weppa Aurukun bauxite project will be the largest resources investment from China.

The significance of these deals is that they herald a new era for our relations. I will not be surprise if investments grow in both directions in the coming years.

One issue often raised with China is the status of state owned enterprises. Maybe I should explain a bit about why many years after reform the state owned enterprises remain a big part of our economy.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there was consistent effort to reform the state owned enterprises and their management and financial responsibility are completely reversed to follow the rules of market economy.

However, the ownership transfer has been a point of debate. The reality is that there are simply not enough private assets to purchase them. In some cases when overseas or private buyers took over, the workers were sacked without sufficient compensation, thus causing social instability.

One of the reasons that some spiritual cult prospered in China in the late 90s was because some people who fell to the peripheries in the reform turned towards "super-force" as possible savior.

In recent years, strong efforts have been made to help those people and the enterprise ownership reform has also to take into account the human element and to take pace while allowing the social safety nets to be built.

But the state owned enterprises have little privilege except that their managers can't treat the companies as their own property.

 A wide media coverage on Premier Wen Jiabao's visit

When Premier Wen was here, there was wide media coverage on the visit. I read many of them and had over 40 articles translated as excerpt for the Premier and his party. The coverage touched on almost every aspect of China and our relations. It is a good opportunity for us to know how Australian media and the public view China.

I should thank you as your extensive comments offered the Premier a good information base for his dialogue both at the political and public level. The coverage also broadened the awareness among the Australians of China.  

Jogging with Prime Minister John Howard in the early morning

Of all the events, what I enjoyed the most was the jogging in the early mornings. In Canberra Premier Wen and Prime Minister Howard had a jogging diplomacy. They talked about many things including each other's families. The Prime Minister was obviously very proud of his daughter and two sons. Premier Wen also talked about his children and his pride all over the face at the mentioning of his three grandchildren.

Before parting, Prime Minister Howard said Premier Wen that he was the first foreign leader he walked with in the early morning and that it was a major breakthrough in the Australian China relations.

Some media also mentioned the personal aspect of Premier Wen. Indeed he is widely esteemed in China. I wonder if you noticed that on most occasions when he talked, he started from a personal angle.

He told the students in Perth about how he was hiding in the arms of his mother watching the family house and the school his grandpa opened in flame during the war. He told the Chinese community how he visited all the 2000 and more townships in China, trying to understand what the people needed and wanted from the government.

I understand that he wanted to bring himself down to earth and to be able to talk with people on equal footing.

The Premier's efforts to be close to the people reflects the approach of the Party and the Government to better serve the interest of the people.

In China, for any political system to last, it has to be rooted in the heart of the people and it has to be able to respond to the need of the people.

President Bush who has developed good relations with President Hu and Premier Wen remarked once that he was impressed when listening to the Chinese leaders whose main concern was the well being of its over a billion people.

Now coming back to our relations with Australia, we all agree that China and Australia are partners in economic development, but what is China's political intention for Australia? Is China trying to alienate Australia from US or changing Australia to serve China's interest? As some have claimed.

First I do not think Australia would change in anyway just because other countries what it to.

Second I do not know what kind of Australia there could be other than the one it is now.

When I was Ambassador in the Philippines in the late 90s, the South China Sea dispute was very hot. Some reporters speculated that China's intention was to use those islands as stepping-stone for invading and occupying the Philippines.

In one of the press conferences, I said: why would China need to do that? We have enough of our own poverty and traffic jams.

For a country of over a billion people with thousands of problems propping up everyday, it is very hard to spare the attention to develop an ambition for other countries.

As Premier Wen said, the most important thing we want for the world is peace in which we can develop our economy and raise the living standard of the people. That is why we focus our relations with all countries on cooperation.

As China and US are keenly aware of the importance to the world for the two countries to maintain good relations, there is no reason that Australian, which is an ally of US, could not become our friend.

I find, generally speaking, China reporting in the western world is often torn between acknowledging China's tremendous progress on the one hand and the stereotyped ideological perception on the other.

Not many people may realize how China traversed through its tortuous path of developing democracy.

China adopted the term democracy (people/master) from the west and started democratic development over a hundred years ago, but the movement did not get very far because of the interruption by the war of foreign invasions and incessant civil wars.

In the recent 5 decades, there were important progress and serious setbacks, including the chaotic democracy of the Cultural Revolution.

Today democratic development in China is again picking up pace, this time with enhanced legal structure. While maintaining the leadership of the Communist Party supported by the multi Party consultation system, greater role is played by the people's congress at all levels in the policy making. Not only what delegates say is heard, all the major decisions are widely debated in the congress.

At this year National People's congress 100 000 resolutions were put forward which were documented into 120 subjects in 10 major areas concerning the governance and social development. They included for example, raising the pension level of retired workers, better control on medical advertisement, establishing ecological protection zone in Tibet etc.

Another important development is the practicing of direct elections at the village level for the past few years, which is the widest and unprecedented political education in rural China.

There is no denial that our system is not the same as yours, but it is important to understand that we are different for a reason. China's system is based on its own history and reality.

China is often referred to as a communist country and some would relate its image to ex-Soviet Union.

For us, Communism is a far away ideal society based on the distribution system of "to each according to the needs". We see ourselves as a socialist country with our own characteristics and what we practice is socialist market economy.

What is Australia? Is it a liberal country if the liberal party wins the elections or laborer's country when the ALP runs the government?

We used to refer to all the western developed countries as capitalist countries, but now we find the term not reflecting the full picture. Some western societies also have socialist elements.

Labels sometimes can be biased and misleading. It can also blur judgment and people who have other motives could capitalize on biased perceptions.

I am not saying that one can't criticize China. I understand criticizing is in the DNA of media and finding fault is your job. It is quite true in China tool.

Actually, if you ask any Chinese in the room, she or he could give you a long list of the things that they think are wrong and need to be reformed. Even a taxi driver in Beijing can give you a good lecture about the necessary reform steps.

Premier Wen gave a 2.5 hours press conference at the end of the National People's Congress in March. Before the press conference, many websites opened special windows under the title: What do you want to ask the Premier? In a few days time, quite a few hundred thousand questions were collected.

Many of them criticized the medical care system, complained about the high fees for education, environmental pollution, rural problems, corruption etc. The Premier at the start of the press conference referred to the public response and said, he could sense the people's expectations from these comments and proposals and also see the confidence and power of the general public from those comments.

The openness and sincerity of the government is an important condition for the success of reform in China.

No country could have achieved such a fundamental reform in such a short period of time without the ability of self-criticism and the determination to change. Of course there is still a long way to go on the road of reform.

In his conversation with the Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Wen said that he believed knowledge and contacts are important for understanding.

It is with the purpose of promoting understanding, that we initiated the program of "Chinese Culture in Australia 2006". Yesterday I accompanied Mr. Cai to the Olympic Exhibition held within the Royal Agricultural Show. I was very touched when watching parents taking their children around and telling them about Beijing.

The dazzling shows of the Chinese Music concert at Darling Harbor two days ago attracted over a thousand people. We also had the Chinese Central Ballet Raise the Red Lantern and China Modern Dance etc. and all of them are very warmly received.

I would like to thank Mr. Cai Wu and his office for sponsoring the program and thank the Cultural Ministry and the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles as well as the Beijing Municipal Government and China Olympic Committee for their strong support. I also want to thank the Australian business circle for their help.

This media dialogue is part of the Chinese Culture in Australia program. I am very glad that the media of the two countries are strongly represented at this forum. I look forward to seeing good results growing out of the dialogue.

There is a Chinese saying that those who are at the pavilion near the lake get the scene of the moon reflection first. I hope that this forum will get the Australian media to the Olympic pavilion earlier.

Thank you.

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