On July 22, the Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai made a speech titled as "Develop China-Australia relations from a strategic perspective" at Business/Higher Education Round Table (B-HERT) function in Melbourne.
Ambassador said that as China's Ambassador to Australia, he has been always thinking about how to best achieve the win-win outcome in China-Australia relations, for the benefit of the fundamental interests of our two peoples, and best position ourselves in the incoming Asia-Pacific century when the world is undergoing major changes and adjustments.
He spoke highly of the bilateral relations, saying that China and Australia are far away from each other geographically. China is a fast developing country with a long history, while Australia is a young and developed country. It is true we differ in national conditions, development stages and cultural traditions. But since we established diplomatic ties 36 years ago, our bilateral relations have been maintaining good momentum of development in general. Our two peoples have friendly feeling toward each other, understand and support each other on issues concerning our major interests. The reason that our bilateral relations have been able to develop so well, is that the two countries have always looked at and treated our bilateral relations from a strategic perspective, constantly expand our common interests while address our differences properly.
We regard each other's development as opportunity. The two countries have no geographical conflicts, no historical issues, nor differences on fundamental interests. Australia sees China's development as an opportunity, while China regards Australia as a partner for peace and development.
Our two governments attach great importance to the bilateral relations. There are frequent exchanges of visits between the leaders of our two countries, which have enhanced mutual trust. Since 2005, at least one of the Chinese leaders visited Australia each year. Last September, Chinese President Mr. HU Jintao paid his second state visit to Australia. Last April, Prime Minster Mr. Kevin Rudd visited China.
This relationship goes beyond bilateral significance. For many years, we have maintained close cooperation in international and regional organizations and made joint efforts in promoting regional cooperation.
We constantly expand our common interests. Complementarity is a key feature in our economic cooperation. Australia has rich resources, developed economy and advanced technology, while China has a large population, a huge market and enormous development potential. The high complementarity of the two countries has provided huge space for bilateral economic cooperation.
China is now Australia's No. 1 trading partner, while Australia is China's 9th largest trading partner. Last year, China-Australia trade volume reached 43.8 billion US dollars. In the first five months of this year, the bilateral trade volume reached 22.25 billion US dollars, registering an increase of 39.4% over the same period last year. I am optimistic that our trade could exceed 50 billion US dollars this year, breaking a new record.
Our economic and trade cooperation have brought tangible benefits to the two peoples. According to an Australian newspaper report, the demand from China, especially Chinese import of energy and resources, brought every Australian an extra 3000 Au dollars.
We value cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Both China and Australia respect cultural diversity and advocate the harmonious co-existence of civilizations. Australia is proud of its multi-cultural society, while in China, its 56 ethnic groups live in harmony. It is diversity and difference in our culture, which has become the endless stream for cultural and people-to-people exchanges. In 2007, 357,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia and 607,000 Australians visited China. Numerous cultural exchanges have taken place between our two countries in recent years, which have been warmly received.
Education cooperation is another highlight in our bilateral relations. China now is the biggest source of overseas students for Australia. According to Australia's Department of Education, by the end of 2007, the number of the students from Chinese mainland registered in Australia is 107,000, accounting for 23.5% of all the international students here.
Meanwhile, more and more Australians are interested in Chinese culture and language. The statistics show that, 569 Australian primary and high school have set up Chinese language courses and there are more than 100,000 Australians learning Chinese.
A lot of Australian universities and colleges have good relations with their Chinese counterparts. At present, Confucius Institutes have been set up in the University of Western Australia, the University of Melbourne, the University of Adelaide and the University of Sydney, while the University of Queensland, the Queensland University of Technology and the University of New South Wales are making such efforts.
The universities and colleges of our two countries also have close cooperation the field of scientific research. A lot of achievements have been made. All these exchanges and cooperation have greatly enhanced mutual understanding between the two peoples and brought them ever closer.
We work closely in dealing with common challenges. There is increasing coordination and cooperation between us on new security challenges that are critical to mankind, such as counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, environmental protection, energy security, and the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases. The climate change issue is a good example of such cooperation. The two countries joined the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, set up the Australia-China Joint Coordination Group on Clean Coal Technology, and established the bilateral climate change partnership.
During Prime Minister Mr. Kevin Rudd's visit to China, the two countries issued a joint statement on closer cooperation on climate change. Both agreed, based on existing mechanisms on climate change, to meet at Ministerial level on an annual basis and to strengthen our regular policy dialogue, cooperation and coordination on climate change.
The Ambassador concluded that the mankind is faced with new opportunities and challenges in the 21st century, and China and Australia shares extensively both common interests and common responsibilities. It is important for us to continue to work together to build a more solid, harmonious and win-win China-Australia relations.