Address by Ambassador MA Zhaoxu
at the Canberra Retreat of the Asialink Leaders Program
(1 September 2014, Canberra)
Ms Jenny McGregor,
Professor Anthony Milner, AM
First of all, I wish to thank Ms McGregor for inviting me here. The Asialink Leaders Program has been held successfully for 18 years, serving as a bridge of understanding, friendship and cooperation.
The theme of today's event is "the Role of Government in Foreign Relations". With China-Australia relations in mind, I wish to share with you some of my observations.
I have been the Chinese Ambassador to Australia for one year. Over the past year, I traveled to many places of Australia and felt the warmth and friendship of the Australian people wherever I went. As Ambassador, I have been personally engaged in important bilateral affairs, the experience of which gave me more faith in China-Australia relations.
My faith comes from the win-win nature of bilateral ties. China has been Australia's largest trading partner, largest source of import, largest export market and largest source of trade surplus. Last year, two-way trade between China and Australia exceeded AUD150 billion, among which Australian export to China reached AUD100 billion, benefiting the average Australian household by AUD13,400 annually, equivalent to earning a new car by each household every year. It is estimated that one out of every three dollars of Australian export goes to China. More than half of China's imported iron ore and beef come from Australia. Australian diary, food and wool are very popular among Chinese consumers.
The two countries established strategic partnership, leaders' annual meeting mechanism and important frameworks such as the diplomatic and strategic dialogue and strategic economic dialogue. The frequent contacts and interactions at the top and other levels have helped deepen mutual trust and boosted cooperation in all areas.
As the ancient Chinese saying goes, "Amity between people holds the key to sound relations between countries". A recent poll shows that Australia has become the favorite destination of Chinese tourists. Last year, a total of more than 1.5 million visits were made between China and Australia, equivalent to 10 flights of Boeing 747 traveling to and fro every day, making China Australia's second largest source of overseas tourists. Australia is also the most sought-after destination for Chinese students. Last year, 220,000 Chinese students were studying in Australia and over 3000 Australian students in China.
China and Australia are both pushing forward reform agendas, which will unleash more potential in bilateral economic cooperation. In the next few years, China is going to import more than USD10 trillion worth of goods and services while invest USD500 billion overseas. Over 100 million visits will be made by people travelling in and out of China every year and there will be a huge urbanization process in China involving a population of 300 million, all of which are great opportunities to Australia. On the other hand, as we know, Australia is also pushing forward its plans of infrastructure, financial services, information technology, energy saving and environmental protection. These are also areas of great interest to Chinese businesses.
While the government plays a leading role in promoting relations with other countries, I believe people from different communities have an increasingly important role to play as well. If we compare country-to-country relations to a symphony orchestra, then the government could be seen as the conductor, and people from different communities as members of the orchestra. Together, they could play a beautiful symphony.
China-Australia relationship is a perfect epitome. In July 1971, Mr. Gough Whitlam resolutely and determinedly paid a historic visit to China as leader of opposition despite enormous pressure. The visit is not an official one, but bridged China and Australia from then on and laid the groundwork for the establishment of diplomatic relations on 21 December 1972. In October the following year, Mr. Whitlam paid an official visit to China as Prime Minister, launching formal government-to-government relations and setting off the trend of bilateral cooperation.
Nowadays, interactions by the top leadership have become even more robust. In the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370, leaders of the two countries talked over the phone quite a few times, which ensured the smooth progress of the search. In November, President Xi Jinping will come to Australia for the G20 Brisbane Summit and visit Australia, which I am sure will give a big boost to bilateral ties.
A pressing task for bilateral cooperation at the government level is to complete the FTA talks. Launched in 2005, the talks have gone through dozens of rounds and made significant progress. Teams from both countries have been doubling their efforts for an early conclusion, so as to create more space of cooperation. In addition, other projects of cooperation are unfolding, such as the "new Colombo Plan" by the Australian government, which aims at providing Australian students with more opportunities to study in China.
Globalization and information technology are bringing China and Australia ever closer. The bilateral ties can not develop without the full participation of the business, academic and local communities.
The business community is a heavy weight in promoting economic cooperation and trade. Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited China last April accompanied by the largest ever business delegation. Chinese investment actively contributes to local employment, infrastructure building and community development. Last year, I accompanied the then Governor-General Quentin Bryce on her visit to China. We went to the newly built facility of Bluecope in Xi'an, the tenth of its kind and also China's first three-star green industrial building. By supplying high-quality building solutions to Midwest China, it is enjoying great prospects.
Cultural interactions are highlights of bilateral ties. With different history and culture, the two countries have a lot to offer each other. This year, the "Australian Culture Week" was held and warmly received in five major cities of China. Activities such as the Chinese New Year Twilight Parade have become an important element of culture of Australian cities. Recently, the Chinese Cultural Center in Sydney was completed. It will soon open and become a window to the Chinese culture for Australian citizens. "Beijing Garden", the gift to Canberra by its sister city Beijing, will be completed at the end of this year. Located by Lake Griffin, this beautiful and elegant garden in traditional Chinese style will form a unique landscape in the capital, marking China-Australia friendship.
In May this year, a Chinese student from Hunan University of Science and Technology donated blood stem cells to a leukemia child patient in Australia, giving the kid precious chances to live again. Such stories of friendship could go on and on.
We have come a long way in China-Australia friendship and still need to go further. "More hands produce a stronger flame". All of you present today are leaders and elite members of different communities in Australia. I hope you could continue to care for and support China-Australia friendship and cooperation.