Message from the Australian Ambassador to China: Celebrating 40 years

2012 was another busy year in the Australia China relationship, marked by a number of events to celebrate the 40-year anniversary, writes Australian Ambassador to China, Frances Adamson.

Happy New Year to readers of Australia-China Connections!
2012 was a big year for the Australia-China relationship, as we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Two major events capped off the year, both held in December – one a gala dinner in Canberra, hosted by Prime Minister Gillard, where Australia was delighted to have Politburo member and State Councillor Liu Yandong as the senior Chinese guest. In that same week, in China, Regional Development and Arts Minister, the Hon Simon Crean MP, joined Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Ismail Tiliwaldi, at a banquet to mark the 40th anniversary in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
40th anniversary events were held throughout the year across a range of areas.  For example, Australia-China youth engagement continued to expand, with the third annual Australia-China Youth Dialogue being held in Beijing and Chengdu in October. Additionally, in December, 2012 Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng, visited Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Tianjin and Beijing as part of her efforts – under the banner of her organisation “Robogals” – to boost female participation in engineering studies across the globe.  The 40th anniversary also provided an opportunity for universities and academics to reflect on the relationship, and this saw a series of thoughtful and thought-provoking joint publications and conferences in both countries to consider the current state and future directions of the Australia-China relationship.
Better business links and growing trade and investment relationships, closer science and research ties, andaustralian_ambassador_simon_crean_ismail_tiliwaldi_2012 enhanced collaboration in the arts and media were also notable developments. For example, in November, leaders from 50 Chinese universities travelled to Australia to attend the Australia China University Leaders Forum, to discuss relationship building and science and research with their Australian counterparts. Elsewhere, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra undertook a successful six-city tour of China in the latter part of the year, further building its links in China and strengthening its partnerships with the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou and the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing.
*Pictured above: Australian Ambassador, Frances Adamson (fourth from right) with Regional Development and Arts Minister, Simon Crean and Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Ismail Tiliwaldi, at a banquet to mark the 40th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic ties in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

On the official front, there continued to be a strong tempo of visits. Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan MP, hosted a Gala 40th anniversary dinner event in Beijing in July, and had a series of successful meetings with counterparts, including advancing discussions on bilateral currency trading. Our defence engagement with China continues to strengthen. Australia’s Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, conducted a successful visit to China in June. HMAS Ballarat visited Shanghai in May, and three Chinese Navy ships reciprocated with a visit to Australia in December. Australia hosted Chinese and New Zealand military medicine specialists at a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise in Brisbane in November, following on from the first of these held in Chengdu in late 2011. Numerous other visits, including by the Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, and Trade Minister, the Hon Craig Emerson MP, boosted bilateral links across a broad range of areas. Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson also visited Shanghai to launch the second phase of Tourism Australia’s ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ Campaign – the first time a campaign has been launched outside Australia, a recognition of the significance of the Chinese market to Australia’s tourism industry. In the opposite direction, we also saw China’s Ministers for Education, Commerce, and Land and Resources visit Australia, plus Guangdong Party Secretary Wang Yang – all underlining the growing substance in official ties.

At the same time as our government, business, academic and cultural ties have been flourishing, our people-to-people links continue to blossom.  There are around 100 000 Chinese students studying in Australia, and over 3000 Australians studying in China.  Similarly, if current trends are maintained, annual total tourist flows in both directions will shortly cross the one million mark.  Such figures highlight the quality and breadth of engagement each country is building with the other. Such large movements of people not only signify a willingness to meet and learn from each other, but also point to a degree of respect and growing understanding that bodes well for the Australia-China relationship.
So as we begin 2013, we do so building from a very solid base across the relationship. Prime Minister Gillard recently released the Asian Century White Paper to set out a roadmap for future engagement with the region, including China. The White Paper was unambiguous when it came to China, saying that Australia “welcome[s] China’s rise, not just because of the economic and social benefits it has brought China’s people and the region (including Australia), but because it deepens and strengthens the entire international system.”  This thinking underpins our relationship with China, and, as we move into our fifth decade of formal diplomatic links, we look forward to the further development of our comprehensive, constructive and cooperative relationship.
Lastly, allow me to wish your readers a safe and enjoyable Spring Festival period. I look forward to staying in touch in 2013. 

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