Message from the Australian Ambassador to China

In his annual address to readers of Australia China Connections, Australian Ambassador to China, Dr Geoff Raby, recaps the past 12 months and discusses the outlook for Australia-China relations going into 2011.

Happy New Year to readers of Australia China Connections.

As Christmas and New Year festivities come to an end and we face another chilly winter in China, it is opportune to reflect on what is in store for the Australia-China relationship in 2011 and beyond. This promises to be another big year for the Australia-China relationship. China will celebrate key anniversaries and events, including the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Republic of China, and the launch of the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia in June 2011.

But first, to review.

For Australia-China relations, 2010 was a significant year. We saw frequent high-level visits to both countries, including visits to Beijing and Shanghai by the Governor-General Quentin Bryce in June, shortly followed by Vice President Xi Jinping’s five-day multi-state tour of Australia.

Trade and economics are at the heart of the bilateral relationship, and I was very pleased to see China cement its position as Australia’s largest export market. In 2009-10, China took over 20 percent of all Australia’s export (some $52 billion), an amount equal to our exports to our third, fourth and fifth largest export markets combined. Primarily resources trade. I expect this strong export relationship to continue in 2011 and beyond. Resources are no doubt central to bilateral trade, but it is worth mentioning that this year China overtook the United States to become Australia’s largest services export market. We have also seen strong investment flows continue this year. Chinese investment into Australia is coming off a low base, but over the last three years in particular has risen rapidly, with over 200 Chinese investment applications being approved, at a combined value of over $60 billion.

In my conversations with the Australian business community in China, I often emphasise the need to continue our push into regional China. China’s second and third tier cities are developing at a remarkable rate and we ignore them at our peril. I travel frequently in regional and Western China and have seen for myself the incredibly fast development, business growth and entrepreneurial spirit that prevails in these areas. I am pleased to see so many Australian businesses engaging outside the major metropolitan centres and can only encourage others to do the same.

China’s economic profile and consumer habits will change dramatically over the next decade. Australia must anticipate those changes and be at the forefront to benefit most from China’s rapid expansion. Our advantage is our strong and friendly relationship with China, built over many years of solid trade but also a commitment to cultural and personal partnerships. The Australia-China relationship will benefit from this multi-faceted approach, and from working together towards sustainable, long-term goals.

We also saw, in June, the launch of Imagine Australia, the Year of Australian Culture in China, with well-attended launch events at China’s premier venues including the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the National Art Museum of China. Launched by the Governor-General during her visit to Beijing, the Imagine Australia program has, in its first six months, presented some 100 events across over 20 Chinese cities. Millions of Chinese people have enjoyed live performances, attended exhibitions or watched Australian cultural content on television or on public screens. The Australian Pavilion at Shanghai Expo was also incredibly successful, with over eight million Chinese visitors making it the fifth most popular pavilion at Expo. I congratulate all those involved in the Expo program.

2011 will bring further high-quality Australian cultural initiatives as part of Imagine Australia. I encourage you all to tune into Beijing Television’s Spring Festival Global Gala in February to see Australian Indigenous dance sensations the Chooky Dancers perform for over 30 million television viewers. In March the Embassy will host the fourth Australian Writers Week, incorporating events in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, with some of Australia’s top authors and publishers. In April we’ll see the launch of a major Indigenous travelling art exhibition from the Warburton Ranges. With visual arts, new media, music and stage performances, fashion, opera and puppetry rounding out the program all around the country, we’re set for another exciting six months of Australian culture in China. See our website at www.imagineaustralia.net.

Lastly, I wish all members of the Australian community a safe and enjoyable Spring Festival period.

If travelling, remember to check the Smartraveller website at www.smartraveller.gov.au.

HE Geoff Raby,
Australian Ambassador to China 

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