Xi calls Sydney forum a 'milestone'

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the Australia-China State/Provincial Leaders Forum in Sydney, Nov 19, 2014. [Photo: Xinhua]

The development of ties between China and Australia relies on cooperation at the local level, President Xi Jinping said at a forum in Sydney on Wednesday.

Speaking to the first China-Australia State/Provincial Leaders Forum, Xi said that the experience of working in Chinese provinces allowed him to appreciate the importance of local cooperation.

Xi described the forum, where leaders of the countries' provinces and states will be able to meet on a regular basis, as "a milestone" for the two countries' cooperation.

The forum closely followed Xi's meeting with New South Wales Premier Mike Baird on Wednesday.

New South Wales and Guangdong province established the first official sister-state relationship between China and Australia in 1979, when Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, was a leader of Guangdong. There are now 94 sister-state and sister-city relationships.

Xi also made a one-day visit to Australia's southern state of Tasmania, making him the first Chinese president to have visited every state and territory of the country.

During a speech to the Australian Federal Parliament on Monday, Xi joked that he should receive a certificate for his travels across the country.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said Xi's visit to Tasmania "is the culmination of a 30-year sister-state relationship with Mr Xi's Fujian province. It is a connection that has seen numerous spinoffs for industry, education and tourism".

Tasmania has been nurturing links with China since 1981, when it became the sister state of Fujian province, where Xi would later become governor.

Hua Junduo, former Chinese ambassador to Australia, said local cooperation between China and Australia started early, and mutual visits by local leaders have never stopped over the past decades.

The new forum signaled Australian enterprises' strong willingness to tap China's market, Hua said.

Tasmania signed four agreements with China in Canberra on Monday, which will increase the state's links with the China Development Bank as well as Fujian and Shaanxi provinces, and will see the establishment of a major wind farm.

China is Tasmania's largest export trading partner, and the largest source of international visitors.

Sydney is the last stop of Xi's visit to Australia. He arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday evening to continue his South Pacific trip, which will also take him to Fiji.

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