China's opening-up and reform policies -- inspired by the late leader Deng Xiaoping -- have improved Australia-China relations as well as benefiting the Chinese people, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said.
"Australia and the international community have watched with great admiration China's progress in economic reform over the past 20 years," Howard said in an interview with Xinhua on the eve of the 100th birthday anniversary of Deng, who is known as the Chief Architect of China's reform, opening and modernization, on August 22. "This progress has benefited greatly from the reform agenda initiated by Deng Xiaoping.
"Ultimately, those historic reforms have enabled the Chinese people to realize greater prosperity and the benefits of modern living.
"The greater openness that Deng Xiaoping's policies encouraged has paved the way for the close trade and economic relationships China now shares with the international community, including a flourishing economic relationship with Australia," the prime minister said.
China is now Australia's third largest merchandise trading partner, export market and source of imports, with two-way trade in 2003 worth more than A$23 billion (US$16 billion).
Howard said the Trade and Economic Framework, concluded during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Australia last October, is a "bold and important step forward" for bilateral economic relations and trade.
A detailed joint study into the feasibility and benefits of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China is already under way, according to the framework, he noted.
Australia warmly welcomed China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001 and has already seen China's ongoing implementation of these commitments improving transparency and strengthening the rule of law, he said. "Australia looks forward to continuing to work with China in the WTO," he said.
People-to-people ties and high-level exchanges between the two countries have also increased.
Howard said that during his eight and a half years as Australia's prime minister, he has visited China four times, the greatest number of visits by any Australian prime minister in office.
"My visit to Beijing in August 2003 was an excellent opportunity to meet China's new leadership team and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to welcome visits by two successive Chinese presidents, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, to Australia," he said.
Hu's visit was "a resounding success and an important milestone in the ongoing development of Australia-China relations," he said. "I am confident that under the impressive leadership of President Hu, Australian-Chinese relations will continue to expand and intensify."
Howard also valued China's greater role in world affairs since the policy of opening up and reform was put into effect. "China has emerged as the world's fourth largest merchandise trader and the primary recipient of foreign direct investment," he said.
"Politically and strategically, China now plays a larger role in world affairs than at any time in the last century.
"With strong parliamentary and community support in Australia, and the shared commitment of the Australian and Chinese governments, I look forward to a future in which we will see an even stronger and more expansive Australia-China relationship," he concluded.
(China Daily August 17, 2004)