Strive to Bring China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Back on the Right Track
— Address by H.E. XIAO Qian, Chinese Ambassador to Australia at the National Press Club of Australia
2022-08-10 21:12

Friends from the press,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

It’s my great pleasure indeed to address the National Press Club. Thank you all for your presence. My special thanks to Peter Phillips, we talked about addressing the NPC last month in Sydney, and thank you for your advice. Thanks to Maurice Reilly, CEO of NPC, for writing to me to extend your kind invitation, which gives me an opportunity to share my views on the much discussed China-Australia relations.

I feel very much honoured to be Chinese ambassador to Australia. Both China and Australia are great countries, our peoples are industrious and intelligent, and have always cherished friendly sentiments toward each other. During the past  six months, I have been having extensive contacts and exchanges of views with the federal and state governments, as well as friends and colleagues from different walks of life. I felt strongly about the hospitality and kindness of the Australian people towards China and towards Chinese people, as well as their expectations for a sound, stable, friendly and cooperative relationship between our two countries, and I have been deeply encouraged.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year happens to be the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and Australia. If we look back at the past 5 decades, we have made great achievements in developing our bilateral relations. Contacts and exchanges at all levels and in all fields have been very frequent, friendship and mutual trust have been constantly enhanced.

The progress in practical cooperation has been incredibly outstanding. China has been Australia’s largest trading partner since 2009. Our trade volume has surged from less than 100 million US dollars in 1972 to over 207 billion US dollars in 2021, accounting for 34.2% of Australia’s total import and export in 2021, and Australia’s trade surplus with China has reached 60 billion US dollars in that year alone. China is Australia’s top export destination, with exports to China accounting for 38.8% of Australia’s total export in goods in 2021. China is also Australia’s largest source of imports, with imports from China taking up 28.1% of Australia’s total imports of goods in 2021.

Starting from 2018, China became Australia’s largest source country of international tourists and tourist spending, as over one million Chinese tourists spent over 10 billion Australian dollars annually during their stay in Australia. Despite the impact of COVID-19, China continues to be the largest source of international students for Australia. As of May this year, there are 131,400 Chinese students studying in Australia, accounting for 28% of Australia’s total international students. These figures are telling us clearly that the cooperation between China-Australia is important to both sides, and mutually beneficial in nature.

In the past couple of years, the relationship between China and Australia was caught in difficult situation due to reasons known to all. This has greatly impacted the bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields, and severely damaged the friendship between our two peoples. This is something we don’t want to see, and it goes against the shared interests of our two countries and our two peoples.

With the recent federal election, we have a new Australian government. It’s the domestic affair of this country, and choice of the Australian people. Nevertheless, it has provided a possible opportunity to reset the China-Australia relationship. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent his congratulatory message to the new Prime Minister of Australia, and Prime Minister Albanese replied with a letter of thanks. Defence ministers and foreign ministers from our two countries held their bilateral meetings. We also have seen ministerial communications between the two sides on education, economy and trade.

The meeting between the two foreign ministers was productive. Important consensuses were reached. The two sides reaffirmed their comprehensive strategic partnership, and expressed willingness to strengthen engagements, enhance mutual trust, properly handle differences, remove obstacles, and promote practical cooperation in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit. These consensuses are significant for the future development of China-Australia relations.

The positive progress in China-Australia relations is an encouraging start and there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s very important for both sides to make further efforts to keep the momentum, take actions for substantive progress and strive to bring our bilateral relations back on the right track. In this connection, State Councillor Wang Yi put forward proposals from the Chinese side, which were released briefly. I would like to share with you my views on the following points.

First, to reshape the perception on China, and regard China as a partner rather than a rival.

The essence of the point is the relationship between China and the international order. Is China a champion or a challenger? The fact of the matter is, China is a participant, builder and contributor to the existing international system. China is a founding member of the United Nations, and the first country to sign the UN Charter. China is a member of almost all universal intergovernmental organizations in the world. China is the largest troops-contributing country among the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and the second largest budget contributor to the UN peacekeeping. China attained the poverty reduction goal of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule, contributing more than 70% to the global poverty reduction efforts.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “In the decades since, China has become an increasingly important contributor to the work of the Organization and a major pillar of international cooperation.”

In the past more than 40 years of reform and opening up to the outside world, tremendous changes have indeed happened in China. China’s comprehensive national strength has been significantly enhanced. But China’s diplomatic philosophy and foreign policy remain unchanged. China supports necessary reform and improvement to the current international order and system, but China never seeks to start a new one. China firmly upholds the international system with the UN at its core, the international order based on international law, and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It serves the fundamental interests of China. China’s development is to achieve above and beyond, not to challenge or replace any country. No matter how China develops itself, China will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence.

The development of China-Australia relations is at a critical juncture. China’s policy of friendship and cooperation towards Australia remains unchanged. An objective and rational perception of Australia on China, and a positive and pragmatic policy towards China are fundamentally significant for a long-term stable and predictable partnership between China and Australia.

Second, to create a favourable atmosphere, and consolidate collaborative relations of mutual benefit.

Practical cooperation has been the backbone for China-Australia relations, making great contributions to the development of China-Australia relations for the past 50 years. Even in times of difficulties and fluctuations as we experienced in the past few years, extensive and in-depth practical cooperation between our two countries had played a special role of a stabilizer and ballast, without which our bilateral relations could have been even worse.

China and Australia are economically highly complementary towards each other. Australia has been a long-term stable supplier of mineral and energy resources for China. China has been a competitive commodity supplier for Australia. Such practical cooperation has fostered a close partnership between our two countries, when we cooperate, we both win, when we don’t, we both lose.

It is imperative for the governments of the two countries to adopt positive policies towards each other, take concrete measures to improve the atmosphere of cooperation, solve differences through consultation, create favourable conditions to better serve our mutually beneficial cooperation.

At present, the world economy is facing difficulties such as high inflation, weak recovery, and tight supply chains. The World Bank forecasts that global growth will slow down, and economic recession will be hard to avoid. Maintaining practical cooperation between China and Australia is not only conducive to the stable economic development of our two countries, but also has special significance for China and Australia to deal with the current global economic challenges.

Third, to respect each other, seek common ground, properly handle differences.

There are many areas where China and Australia share common interests. There are many issues on which China and Australia have common grounds. These are the areas we have been cooperating and should continue to cooperate to the interests of both sides. For example, economy development, people’s livelihood improvement, environment protection, regional cooperation, climate change, combating cross-border crimes, free trade, multilateralism among others. At the same time, no two leaves are alike. China and Australia are different in history, culture, religion, development stage and political system. Different as we are, there are no areas where we have fundamental conflicts of interest. It is very important for both sides to take constructive approach towards these differences, narrow down differences through communication and dialogue in the spirit of mutual respect. The least thing we should do is to allow these differences to obstruct even hijack the overall relationship and cooperation between our two countries.

The world is diversified and political system is taking different forms in different countries. Whether certain country has chosen a good political system or not, its for the people of that country to have the say. Only the wearer of the shoes knows if they fit or not. The  key question is whether the system could help its people to live a better life.

The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, has achieved remarkable success, it fits China, it’s good for China, and has won the heartfelt support of 1.4 billion Chinese people. After 40 years of reform and opening up from 1978 to 2018, China’s economy has grown 225-fold; per capita GDP has increased from 155 US dollars to 8,800 US dollars; per capita income has grown 22.8-fold. China has contributed over 30% of the world economic growth, and has become the world’s leading economic powerhouse. China has successfully built up a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Chinese people have been lifted out of absolute poverty in a complete way. The efficiency of China’s whole-process people’s democracy speaks for itself. It took China decades to go through the development journey that took developed countries centuries to complete.

Australia is diversified in many aspects, and diversity is an important contributor to Australia’s success. The past five decades have shown, that China and Australia can be friends and partners in spite of our differences in political system and development stage.

Fourth, to develop an inclusive relationship based on the interests of our two countries.

As independent sovereign countries, China and Australia each has its own national interests, each conducts exchanges with other countries in the world and builds various partnerships. China and Australia share mutual interests with each other, while at the same time each shares mutual interests with other countries as well. One’s interests are sometimes the same or similar with the others’, and sometimes not, which is quite normal. China respects Australia’s normal exchanges and cooperation with other countries. China has no intention to interfere in or undermine Australia’s relations with a third party. At the same time, it is our strong belief that China and Australia should make independent judgments and decisions to develop our bilateral relations based on the interests of the Chinese people and Australian people, free from interference from a third party.

Fifty years ago, Prime Minister Whitlam overcame tremendous difficulties and made the decision to establish diplomatic relations between Australia and China. The initiation of cooperation with China and engagement with Asia has proven that Australia is fully capable of playing its due role independently in international affairs. As an important major country in the Asia-Pacific and a founding member of APEC, Australia has its unique geographical and cultural advantages. Australia could play an even bigger role to promote exchanges and cooperation between the East and the West, and could make even greater contribution to the prosperity and stability of the Asia-Pacific.

Fifth, to promote mutual understanding between our two peoples, lay down a solid foundation of mutual friendship.

Amity between their peoples holds the key to sound relations between two different countries. Over the past 50 years, there have been established more than 100 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities between China and Australia. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were nearly 200 flights between our two countries every week, carrying nearly 2 million passengers visiting each other each year. China has been Australia’s largest source of international students for 7 consecutive years since 2015. There are more than 1.2 million overseas Chinese working and living in different parts of Australia, making outstanding contributions to Australia’s economic, social and multicultural prosperity, and to the friendship, exchanges and cooperation between our two countries.

Everyone is entitled to his views. Yet unarguably, the policy adopted and the information released by the government have direct influence on the attitude of the public. If the governments of our two countries adopt positive policies and measures towards each other, protect and encourage the friendship between our people, it would be highly conducive to the healthy and stable development of our bilateral relationship.

Media has a special role to play in the forming of public opinion. Allow me to put it frankly, here in this country, the media coverage on China are mostly negative, and it is simply difficult to find news about China that is positive. No country is perfect. But a coverage on a country that is always in a negative perspective is nowhere near to telling the truth. Coverage on China of such kind is misleading and harming the friendship between our two peoples. To take an objective perspective on China, tell stories about China in all dimension, will be helpful for the Australian public to know what China truly is today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Taiwan question has received much attention recently. On August 2, the US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited China’s Taiwan region. This is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués. It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for “Taiwan independence”.

Speaker Pelosi insisted on visiting Taiwan in disregard of China’s strong opposition, making it clear to the world that it was the US who first took provocative actions to change and undermine the status quo. And it is the US that should and must take full responsibility for the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. China is compelled to take countermeasures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is legitimate and justified.

Australian government has reaffirmed on several occasions its commitment to the one-China principle. As is clearly stated in the 1972 Joint Communiqué Between China and Australia, I quote ‘the Australian Government recognizes the Government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China, acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of the People's Republic of China’, end quote. The one-China principle is a solemn commitment by successive Australian governments. It should be strictly abide by and fully honoured. It should not be misinterpreted or compromised in practice. We hope the Australian side could take China-Australia relations with serious attitude, handle the Taiwan question with caution, but without discount.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The coming December 21 marks the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and Australia. It’s perfect time for both sides to review the past, look into the future, take concrete actions in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit, strive to bring China-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership back on the right track.

Thank you.

Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Commonwealth of Australia
Address: 15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Tel: 0061-2-62283999, Fax: 0061-2-62283836
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Commonwealth of Australia All Rights Reserved