Remarks by Ambassador Xiao Qian at the New Year Reception of Chinese and Australian Media

2023-01-11 19:22

Friends from the media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon! On behalf of the Chinese Embassy, I would like to extend my New Year greetings and best wishes to all of you. Thank you for coming to the reception, and for your attention and support to the friendly relations between China and Australia.

2022 was an extraordinary year for China-Australia relations. Thanks to the efforts from both sides, China-Australia relations have gone through difficulties and regained positive momentum, which could be described with four keywords.

The first keyword is the Labor government. As soon as the Labor government came to power last May, the both sides took the opportunity, and reached or reconfirmed some of the consensus. We saw a change of situation, like exchange of messages and letters from leaders of China and Australia, bilateral meetings between the defence ministers, bilateral meetings between the two foreign ministers, and of course, contacts through diplomatic channels at various levels. Through all these contacts, both sides have reconfirmed or reaffirmed some of the important points, which have been guiding the relationship of our two countries for the past several decades. It's very important for us to reconfirm that these are still the consensus. Both sides agree that the consensus include, for example, comprehensive strategic partnership. This is how we define the relationship. They include that both sides are ready to work constructively, to cooperate, wherever, in the areas where we have common ground. They include that both sides agree to handle differences appropriately. We do have differences, in certain respects. We even have disputes. It's just in specific areas, like trade disputes. But both sides agreed to address these differences in a constructive manner. By that I mean, we can address the differences in a way that will not allow the differences to hijack the overall relationship with our two countries, not to hijack the cooperation with our two countries. The consensus also includes jointly celebrating the 50th Anniversary of establishment of our diplomatic relations. Of course, we also have common points in many other areas, in regional issues, international issues, multilateralism, et cetera.

The second keyword, I would like to say, is the leaders' meeting. Based on the consensus reached between the two sides, after a couple of months of communication, we had a very successful bilateral meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Albanese on the sideline of the G20 Summit in Bali of Indonesia. It was positive, constructive and effective. It set up the tone for the relationship between our two countries. It set up the directions for the future relationship. As President Xi put it during his meeting with Prime Minister Albanese, "This is a relationship important for both sides, and both sides should work together to improve, to uphold and to develop the relationship."

My understanding is that, by improvement, we understand that we have been going through some difficult periods of time. We need to do something to make up for those issues. There are a couple of issues, we can compare notes and see how we can continue to work on. By upholding, we understand there are differences and we should talk about how to manage our differences while at the same time develop our relationship. By development, my understanding is that we shall not be complacent when we are here. We should look into the future. Not only are we going to resume the existing cooperations in wherever possible areas we have been working on, we should also explore the new frontiers, for example, climate change. Both governments have commitment to climate change or dealing with climate change. These are the areas we can collaborate or explore with the cooperation. For example, green energy. There's a strong momentum. There's a strong potential for China and Australia to collaborate. For example, Lithium-based batteries, electric cars, on EV, and EV cars. There's such strong complementarity between our two countries. This is an area where I believe we could be exploring some new frontiers of cooperation, like green infrastructure. Australia is a developed country, where it will go, I think, is very marvelous at the wonderful facility we are having, in all respects. But people are looking forward to an even better life, an even better environment, even better infrastructure. Together China and Australia, we can cooperate in this area.

The third keyword, I would like to say, is the foreign ministers' meeting. Senator Penny Wong paid a successful visit to Beijing, before Christmas, and we're grateful that she did make the visit. And the Chinese side also showed our hospitality to welcome her, even though we were in a little bit difficulty in dealing with our new wave of pandemic in Beijing, during that particular period of time. But the visit went very successfully. They conducted the sixth round of China/Australia Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. That is something of the mechanism between the two foreign ministries. It had been there for several years and then stopped for a couple of years because of the reasons known to all.

This round of dialogue turned out to be very successful. The Politburo member, State councilor, and then Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi and Senator Penny Wong had a wide range of discussions on many issues, and they reached a lot of consensus, and they publicized a joint outcome statement. Very short, very brief, very important. Basically, it's a paper to lay out a roadmap for both sides to implement the consensus reached by President Xi and Prime Minister Albanese during the Bali meeting. And specifically, we will commence or restart many of the bilateral dialogues, mechanisms, consultations, covering a wide range of areas, bilateral relationship, trade, economics, investment, climate change, regional issues, global issues, et cetera. This visit is very important. It's the guideline for the future of our relationship.

The fourth keyword is the 50th Anniversary, as I mentioned. There is an agreement between the two sides to jointly celebrate that, and we did. The Australian side held a very successful reception, grand reception, in Sydney. Many of my colleagues and five Chinese Consul-generals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth attended. It was a very successful celebration. Prime Minister Albanese gracefully attended, by delivering a great video speech. Senator Penny Wong attended and delivered a wonderful speech, sending out very strong, very positive messages to the Australian public, and to the Chinese public. The Chinese side, here in the Embassy, I myself also hosted a reception in this beautiful compound, immediately, in early December. There was a plan to hold the reception in Beijing, to be attended by senior leaders from the Chinese side, but unfortunately, they had to be postponed because of the COVID situation in Beijing. But, during the visit by Senator Penny Wong, there was a joint publication of commemorative cover celebrating the 50 years. 

So, that was about the past one year of our bilateral relationship. You can see that we have achieved a lot. It's not a short time, it is not a long time, but we have achieved a lot in a good enough way to celebrate a very positive, constructive and effective year, the year of 2022.

The second layer, I want to express my gratitude to all of you, friends from the media. The media has been playing a role of a bridge, linking our two countries' transformations, and helping our two sides to understand each other better and build up more friendship. I noticed, ever since I came here, about a year ago, that the people in this country are very much following the situation of China, of the relations between China and Australia.

There's a wide range of consistent coverage of news about China, about China-Australia relations. Almost each and every day, we have something. Articles, newspapers, or television programs talking about China, about our relationship. Communication with the Australian media is high on my agenda. Shortly after I took office last year, my Embassy organized the Great Wall Commemorative Medal Presentation Ceremony, the China International Science and Technology Cooperation Award Ceremony, and an event to celebrate the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, and I was able to make many media friends. I paid visits to the headquarters of the Seven Group and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where I had in-depth exchanges with the head of the Seven Group and ABC management, editors and journalists. 

I tried to send out China’s voice and friendly messages to all sectors of Australia through the media. I have published many articles in newspapers such as The Australian Financial Review, expressing my views on China-Australia relations and the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The Australian, The Canberra Times and The Australian Chinese Daily also published special issues to celebrate the 50th anniversary of China-Australia diplomatic relations, sending congratulations and best wishes at the important moment in our relationship. We are working with the media to create a favourable public opinion atmosphere for the sound development of China-Australia relations. Last August, I was invited to address the National Press Club and answer questions from the media. I also had interviews with the ABC, Sky News, The Sydney Morning Herald, The West Australian and other Australian media, as well as Phoenix TV and People’s Daily Online. Reports on my visit to the Australian states by Xinhua, CGTN and People’s Daily were widely quoted and well received in the Australian and Western media. My Press Counsellor and the press team have also had extensive engagements with our media friends. Here I would like to thank our media friends for the support and cooperation you have accorded to me and my Embassy.

Currently, the China-Australia relationship is at a critical stage of turnaround, and our people’s interest to enhance mutual understanding is growing by the day. I hope the Australian media will continue to be objective, rational, balanced and impartial, and promote people-to-people exchanges between our two countries. Together we can tell the vivid stories of China-Australia friendship and win-win cooperation, and help push the bilateral relations forward.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2022 is also a critical year for China to build on past achievements and open up new prospects. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, has united and led the entire Party and the entire nation to coordinate pandemic response with economic and social development, and work for new achievements in the cause of the Party and the country. Particularly, the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held successfully. The Congress drew blueprints to build a modern socialist China and to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It has injected invaluable certainty and stability into a turbulent world. China will adhere to a foreign policy that maintains world peace and promotes common development. China is committed to building a community of share future for mankind, and will continue to develop friendly relations with countries in the world in the spirit of joint contribution, win-win cooperation and shared benefits.

China has embarked on a new journey toward a modern socialist country, building on its strong long-term economic fundamentals. In the first three quarters of 2022, China’s GDP grew by 3% year-on-year, and 3.9% for the 3rd quarter. China’s economy has shown positive signs of recovery. As China’s situation improves, the pent-up demand over the past 3 years will be fully released. Amplified by the recent policy measures, China’s economy is expected to gain stronger growth momentum this year. I am confident that with great resilience and potential, the Chinese economy will enjoy prosperity, bring opportunities and deliver major benefits to Australia and countries across the world.

In late 2022, the Chinese government refined its COVID-19 policy.  Over the past three years, China has effectively dealt with the impact of multiple COVID waves, and greatly reduced severe cases and deaths. At the same time, China has been actively engaged in international cooperation, and joined the international community in addressing the COVID challenges from the very beginning. While the Omicron variant is much less pathogenic, China’s capacities in treatment, testing and vaccination have steadily enhanced. In this context, China has taken the initiative to refine its COVID response measures, with an aim to protecting the lives and health of the people, and reducing the impact on economic and social development to a minimum. The focus of the response has shifted from stemming infection to preventing severe cases and caring for health. China has made the decision to manage COVID-19 with measures against Class-B instead of the more serious Class-A infectious diseases. Provisional measures on cross-border travel have been adopted. We will continue to adapt and adjust our response measures in light of the latest COVID situation, and better facilitate international exchange and cooperation.

Countries adjusting their COVID policies would invariably go through a period of adaptation. China is no exception as we “shift gear” in the COVID response. China’s COVID situation on the whole remains predictable and under control. China always believes that for all countries, response measures need to be science-based and proportionate. Entry restrictions targeting China are unnecessary. Response measures should not affect normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation. There should not be discriminatory measures, and still less should the measures be used for political manipulation. China stands ready to work with the international community in solidarity, tackle the COVID challenges more effectively, and better protect people’s lives and health. We are fully capable and confident that we will be able to finish the “last mile” and eventually prevail.

In 12 days, we will be celebrating the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. In Chinese culture, the Rabbit symbolizes agility and luck. The Year of the Rabbit is considered to be the year of jumping over obstacles and coming into luck. In the New Year, I hope China and Australia will continue to rise above differences, respect each other and work together for mutual benefit, so that our relationship can get back on the right track and move forward in a sustainable manner. 

To conclude, allow me to propose a toast to your good health and success, to China-Australia friendship!