Mutual Benefit: the Main Theme of China-Australia Relations in the Past 50 Years
by Xiao Qian, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Commonwealth of Australia
2022-05-11 21:40

I took office as the Chinese Ambassador to Australia at a difficult time for the bilateral relations, and this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia. Confucius said, “At fifty, one knows the mandate of Heaven.” Reviewing the history will give us significant references for future development of China-Australia relations.

Looking back at the China-Australia relationship over the past half-century, despite many twists and turns, we have always managed to follow the general trend of history and seek common ground while resolving differences, which has promoted the bilateral relations to advance in the right direction. The cooperation achievements made by our two countries in wide-ranging areas have brought tremendous benefits to our two peoples. It is fair to say that the main theme throughout the development of China-Australia relations is mutual benefit.

Over the past 50 years, our two countries have achieved mutual benefit by adopting political mutual respect. In 1971, Mr. Gough Whitlam led a Labor Party delegation to China, and in 1972, diplomatic relations between our two countries was established, laying an important political foundation for China and Australia to engage in friendly cooperation as two countries with different political systems and in different development stages. After that, Australian leaders such as Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard have kept close contact and exchanges with the Chinese leaderships. With strategic vision and extraordinary wisdom, they have continuously enhanced our mutual understanding and trust, broadened and deepened our communication, coordination and cooperation in bilateral, regional and international affairs.

Over the past 50 years, our two countries have achieved mutual benefit by making full use of complementarity in areas of practical cooperation. The bilateral trade volume has jumped from less than 100 million USD at the beginning of our diplomatic relations in 1972 to 230 billion USD in 2021. China has remained for years Australia's largest trading partner, export market, source of imports, source of tourism revenues and source of international students. China-Australia practical cooperation has not only given a boost to China's reform and opening-up undertakings as well as economic and social development, but also brought prosperity to Australia's mining industry, agriculture, education, tourism and other sectors. Benefiting from such cooperation, Australia became the only OECD member that has maintained economic growth for 29 consecutive years, and smooth-sailed multiple global or regional economic and financial crises, with its people's living standards significantly improved.

Over the past 50 years, China and Australia have achieved mutual benefit by learning from each other in cultural and people-to-people exchanges. In the mid-19th century, hard-working Chinese immigrants came to Australia and participated in its country building. Now there are 1.2 million overseas Chinese living here, making important contributions to Australia's economic and social development and multiculturalism. China and Australia have established more than 100 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities. Prior to COVID-19, there were nearly 200 flights between China and Australia every week, carrying nearly 2 million passengers across the equator every year. At an event held by the Chinese Embassy not long ago, the touching stories of Police Officer Foster who sacrificed her life to save a Chinese citizen, of Professor O'Reilly who has devoted herself to China-Australia scientific and technological cooperation and exchanges for 40 years, and of Beijing Winter Paralympics medalist Tudhope have also left indelible impressions on the Chinese people.

Over the past 50 years, China and Australia have achieved mutual benefit by pursuing communication and coordination in regional and international affairs. China and Australia have engaged in close coordination under the frameworks of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit, APEC and G20 and as well as international organizations such as the UN. We have strengthened communication and cooperation on regional economic integration, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, combating cross-border crimes, disaster prevention and relief, poverty reduction and relevant regional hotspot issues, which safeguards and promotes peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific and the world at large. 

Both China and Australia are great countries. Our peoples have sincere feelings for each other and are eager to exchange ideas, engage in mutual-learning, deepen friendship and seek common development. History has proved that China and Australia are fully capable of achieving harmony in diversity, seeking common ground while resolving differences, and becoming an exemplary model of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different cultural traditions, political systems and development stages. A healthy and stable China-Australia relationship is in the fundamental interests of our two countries and two peoples. Mutual benefit is the imperative and only pathway for the development of China-Australia relations.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Commonwealth of Australia
Address: 15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
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