Sino-Australian relations refers to the relations between the Commonwealth of Australia and the People's Republic of China. The relationship between China and Australia have grown considerably over the years. Both countries are actively engaged economically, cultural and politically which spans numerous organizations such as APEC, East Asia Summit and the G20. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 21 December 1972. Today, China is Australia's largest trading partner. China has one of the largest foreign reserves in the world, and has invested in Australian mining companies to help meet the needs of their growing economy.
Diplomatic relations between Australia and the People's Republic of China began in December 1972, after Gough Whitlam followed President of the United States Richard Nixon's lead in ceasing to recognize the government of Chiang Kai-shek. Since imperial times, Chinese people from mainly Guangdong province in southern China have migrated to Australia since the late 1700s and boomed in the Victorian gold rush era. Australia during the 18th to the early 20th century were colonies later dominion of the United Kingdom and focused her attention towards Europe and America.
Australia's ties to China include those of Hong Kong which date back to when it was under British rule.
Since the Chinese economic reforms initiated by the late Deng Xiaoping, Australia has benefited from the Chinese appetite for natural resources to modernise its economy, infrastructure and meet its growing energy demands. In 2009, it is estimated the trade and investment with China brings benefits under $4000 per Australian household, in 2011, this is estimated to be A$10,500 per household per year.
Australia is one of the few countries in the world during the Global financial crisis that was not in recession and experienced economic growth due to large demand and long term strong fundamentals from China and fiscal stimulus from the Rudd Government.
Australia has been a haven for Chinese migrants for centuries who have, in the modern day, established themselves as a significant minority group in Australian society. There are now large numbers of Australian-born Chinese and Chinese-born migrants/Australian Citizens in the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane with small Chinese communities in regional centres, particularly in Victoria, and New South Wales. There are also Chinatowns in every Australian capital city, including Darwin and large, public Chinese New Year Celebrations in Melbourne and Sydney. The former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd also has strong connections with Chinese culture having studied Chinese at the Australian National University in Canberra. He also speaks fluent Mandarin.
Australia began accepting Chinese students for tertiary education in 1986 in English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS). Several thousands Chinese were studying in Australia in 1987. In the aftermath of Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Australian government granted protection for many Chinese students in Australia. Since then, Australia has become one of the biggest market for Chinese students for tertiary education. In early 2011, there were over 126,000 Chinese students in Australia and they made up 26 percent of the total foreign students. As of September 2011, there were 150,000 Chinese students studying at Australia tertiary institutions. The Australian education export market was worth 2009/10 A$19 billion dollars.
China is Australia's biggest trading partner mainly due to China's strong demand for iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas. Exports to China helped Australia escape the worst effects of the global economic meltdown over the past two years.
Many major Australian mining companies rely heavily on China and other growing big economies such as India for exports. These companies include Fortescue Metals Group, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata who have major Australian operations.
China exports mainly clothing, telecommunications equipment and components, computers, toys, prams and sporting equipment.
The bilateral trade between the two countries is worth A$105 billion in 2010/2011. Australia's exports to China totaled A$64.8 billion, while China's export to Australia was worth A$41.1 billion in 2010-2011 period.
There are direct flights from a number of cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong SAR and Guangzhou to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Recently, China Southern Airlines have commenced scheduled commercial flights to Perth from Guangzhou in early November 2011. China Southern has its pilot training facilities in Australia for many years. They are in Jandakot and Merredin which were established in 1993.
There were initial fears of Chinese investment in the resource sector similar to the sentiments on Japanese investments in Australia in the 1980s, but that has somewhat heated up and dissipated depending on the investments which were scrutinized by the Foreign Investment Review Board and politicians. Australia is focused on investments which have a win win situations with participation of local companies participation and jobs growth.
Australia has been a vital source of the high technology needed for China to enforce its claims to vast reaches of the western Pacific, including the base technology for the design of the Houbei class missile boat.
On 8 April 2013, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the deal that the Australian dollar is set to become only the third currency after the US dollar an the Japanese Yen to trade directly with the Chinese yuan during a trip to Shanghai.
Whilst economic relations between China and Australia have increased significantly to the benefit of both nations, Australia under the previous Howard Government has appeared reluctant to pursue closer political/military ties with China and has maintained the role of George W. Bush controversially dubbed "America's Deputy" in the Asia-Pacific Region.
China is emerging as a political and economic power in the Asia Pacific region which is traditionally anchored by the United States. Australia is a Middle power country like many Asian countries which have security arrangements with the United States but growing economic ties with China.
The election of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia was seen as favorable to Sino-Australian relations, notably in view of the fact that he was not only the first Australian Prime Minister but the first leader in major western countries who speaks fluent Mandarin, and that closer engagement with Asia was one of the "Three Pillars" of his foreign policy.
In 2004, Rudd, who at the time was Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, delivered a speech in Beijing entitled "Australia and China: A Strong and Stable Partnership for the 21st Century".
In February 2008, Australia reportedly "chastised Taiwan for its renewed push for independence" and "reiterated its support for a one-China policy". In April, however, Rudd addressed Chinese students at Peking University, and, speaking in Mandarin, referred to "significant human rights problems in Tibet". Rudd also raised the issue in talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in a context of "simmering diplomatic tension" according to TV3.
In July 2009, following the arrest in China of Australian mining executive Stern Hu, accused of spying, Rudd intervened to "remind our Chinese friends that China [...] has significant economic interests at stake in its relationship with Australia and with its other commercial partners around the world". Later in August 2009, the PRC government protested against the Australian government after Rebiya Kadeer was granted a visa to visit Australia to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival. Along with the Rio Tinto espionage case and the failed bid for Chinalco to purchase a higher stake in the Rio Tinto Group, such events are generally considered as lowest ever points in Sino-Australian relations for the past few years. China has also effectively banned visits by senior Australian officials, in protest against the events in question.
Despite the souring of relations within 2009, on 19 August 2009, Chinese petroleum company PetroChina signed an A$50 billion deal with ExxonMobil to purchase liquefied natural gas from the Gorgon field in Western Australia, considered the largest contract ever signed between China and Australia, which ensures China a steady supply of LPG fuel for the next 20 years, and also forms as China's largest supply of relatively "clean energy".
The Gillard government has maintained strong economic ties with China through agreements to explore clean energy and to make sure Australia remains a longstanding and reliable supplier of energy and natural resources. Australia under Prime Minister Julia Gillard has stated will continue positive and constructive engagement with China but maintaining security ties with the United States based on shared values.
Gillard government's action to station US troops in Australia has been strongly criticised and viewed with suspicion by China and Indonesia as the US is trying to encircle China and questioned why it would want to alienate its largest trading partner.
In April 2013, Gillard went to China and met with the new Chinese President Xi Jinping with Foreign minister Bob Carr and Trade minister Craig Emerson to secure closer ties with China and economic relations.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Relations of Australia and China|
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