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China-Australia Ties Bring Tangible Benefits
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By Zha Peixin

China and Australia established diplomatic relations 35 years ago. Since then, remarkable achievements have been made in various fields due to the joint efforts of our two governments and peoples, which have brought tangible benefits.

The past 35 years have witnessed frequent high-level visits between leaders of the two countries, as a result, mutual trust has been strengthened. This week, President Hu Jintao is paying a State visit to Australia for the second time while attending the APEC meeting. The high-level exchanges and contacts will definitely inject new vigor into our bilateral relationship.

Cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and investment has been developing rapidly. In the early 1970s, what we had was a limited amount of trade in wheat and wool. Today, China has become Australia's second largest trading partner, the fastest growing export market and the second largest export destination, while Australia ranks as China's ninth biggest trading partner and the biggest supplier of wool.

The total trade volume of the two sides increased to nearly US$33 billion last year, at a growth rate of 20.9 percent compared with the same period the year before. The negotiation on China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has entered a substantial stage. Mutual direct investment has reached a new high, and continues to gain new momentum. Cooperation in the fields of science and technology, education, culture, and tourism has also been developing steadily. In February, China-Australia Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Agreement on Transfer of Nuclear Material came into force.

Today, nearly 100,000 Chinese students are studying in Australia. Each year, about 800,000 people from both countries visit each other and China has become the country with the fastest growth in the number of foreign tourists visiting Australia.

Besides, the two countries have maintained good consultation and coordination on regional and international issues. Foreign ministers of the two countries have established very good working relations by holding meetings and exchanging views from time to time.

All these achievements indicate that there is still great potential to be tapped in the bilateral relations.

Firstly, China and Australia have neither historical grievances nor conflicts of fundamental interest. On the contrary, our common grounds have been increasing. For example, in the area of security, the post-Cold War era is characterized by a mixture of traditional and non-traditional security threats. Terrorism has become one of the biggest threats. No single country can deal with them successfully alone. They call for joint efforts and cooperation between countries.

As important countries in the Asia-Pacific region, both China and Australia have the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability and promoting prosperity in the region. We have all the reasons to frequently exchange views on important international and regional issues and coordinate and cooperate in whatever area where there is a possibility.

Secondly, our two economies are highly complementary to each other, and there exists great potential for further cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, energy and resources.

Though Sino-Australian economic and trade relations have been expanding rapidly, however, the trade volume between the two countries is still relatively small in comparison with the size and scale of the two economies. For instance, our two-way trade only takes up less than 2 percent of China's total foreign trade. Australia is rich in natural resources. Its iron ore, aluminum, grain products and wool have great market potential in China. Long-term, large-scale and stable cooperation could be reached in the fields of energy and resources.

Thirdly, there are many other areas where we can cooperate such as economic management, education, science and technology. Australia has sound macro-economic management and rich experience in continuous micro-economic reforms. It has adopted best international practices to raise productivity and has a sophisticated business and financial sector, a highly developed service industry, a strong scientific and technological research base.

All this is useful to China, a country in reform and development, to overcome its weak points and break the bottlenecks it encounters. Each country has its own strengths as well as weakness. It is highly appropriate to cooperate with each other toward a win-win outcome for both.

I believe now is the most opportune time for the further development of Sino-Australian relations.

First, economic globalization has deepened inter-dependence. In the era of economic globalization, what happens in one country is no longer irrelevant to the other. If one is doing well, the other will benefit, likewise, if one is doing poorly, the other will also suffer. It is of utmost importance to give full play to one's comparative advantages, cooperate with other countries to make a win-win situation for all. With the established links between China and Australia, economic globalization will draw the two countries even closer and open up new opportunities for the further development of all-round cooperation and exchanges.

Secondly, we are living in an era where science and technology are making rapid progress. International cooperation in science and technology has become a trend of our times. Australia is well advanced in quite a number of fields. Although China is still a developing country, it is also making huge progress in the development of science and technology. There are indeed many areas where our two countries can cooperate.

Thirdly, the fast emergence of Asia on the world economic scene has provided good opportunities for China-Australia relations. Australia, as a country in the Asia-Pacific region, is closely connected with Asia. Its economy is complimentary to that of Asia. So the future prospect of Australia is undoubtedly closely connected with Asia.

Last but not least, China's industrialization, urbanization, marketization and integration to the world economy have created enormous opportunities for the development of our bilateral relations.

The author is a former Chinese ambassador to Australia.

(China Daily September 3, 2007)

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