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Australia and China

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Date 10 November 197THE HON. ANDREW PEACOCK fVI.P.


Attached is an extract from an address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, to the Annual General meeting , of the Australia-China Business Co-operation Committee in Canberra on . .

10 November 1977. . . . ·



. In statements over the last twelve months the

Government has emphasised its desire, to place our relations with Communist countries on a more, pragmatic, less ideological

basis. I think we have succeeded where China is concerned.

It now seems to be widely accepted by the Australian community

that to refuse to deal with another country because of that

country's political.system is a recipe for error, ignorance

and suspicion. . . ,

The political climate in China has changed in the last twelve months. China's wish to enter into more extensive

commerce with the outside world appears to be no longer .

fettered by ideological factors of a particular cast, such

as was represented by the so-called "Gang of Four". This .

has had the effect of removing mystery and unpredictability

from international dealings with China, including our own,

and providing an influence for growth in China’s links with

the international community.

Our relations are developing steadily and with an .

ease that, betokens a clear complementarity of interest. .

Slowly we are building a fabric of agreement and understanding

.that will endure, and will bring real benefits to both


It is to our advantage that a growing number of

Australians have a first hand knowledge of China. There has been a steady"flow of businessmen, scientists and education­

alists to China. We will reap dividends from this as Our

knowledge grows. The Government is strongly in favour of

these contacts. One area where they could be strengthened

is in the field of sport. Our sportsmen have long been

accustomed to making organised visits to other Asian countries

and also to Taiwan. Those who have never contemplated

visiting China could usefully do so. .

In the past year there have also been a number of

important visitors from China, and their visits are beginning .

to have consequences that could be important to us. I refer,

of course, to the. very promising trade prospects that are


• opening up. So far. this year there have been four Chinese .

trade missions in Australia, the most important having been

led by China's Vice-Minister for Foreign Trade. Only a few

weeks ago, the leader of the delegation from China's

National Peoples Congress, Mr Ulanfu, told the Prime Minister

and myself that, the long-term trade prospects look very good. His remark was certainly not an exaggeration. This year

the Government expects our total exports to China to be

worth around $470 million. This will mean that China is

amongst our top five export markets, along with Japan, the .

United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

China's plans for industrial expansion and economic

modernisation are ambitious. China's leaders appear confident( that the period of political consolidation upon which they

now seem to be embarked will make possible an improved rate

of economic growth, and they.acknowledge that political,

disruptions in the past have had significant effects on the

country's productive capacity.

The Government.believes, and the Chinese government

appears to share this belief, that Australia's resources can

make an important contribution to the growth of China’s

economy. It is too early yet to speak in terms of precise

figures, but the Government welcomes these developments, '

and will do whatever it can to assist them.

In deciding that some of its developmental needs . 1

can be met by Australia, it is likely that the Chinese .

government was influenced by its knowledge that Australia's

policy towards China enjoyed solid bipartisan support. The

Prime Minister's visit to Peking last year left no room .

for doubt about that. The long-term implications for our

relations with. China are important because the consistency

of Australian policy allows China's leaders to proceed on

the assumption that, when they make economic plans that .

depend in some way on commodities that Australia can supply,

there is little or no risk that political problems will

intervene in a disruptive manner. I do not think that we '

will have any difficulty in sustaining that bipartisanship,



and would welcome the extension of the same principle to

other areas of Australia's foreign relations.

By now there should be a measure of agreement

about what Australia can usefully contribute to world .

affairs, and what it wants in return. The example of our

relations with China highlights the fact that to have a .

consistent vocation as a nation makes it easier for.other

governments to view their relations with us in simple and

positive terms, and to facilitate the growth of those

relations. We do not see eye to eye with China in all matters. Far from it. The definition of areas of

disagreement is as essential to understanding as the

identification of areas of agreement; the. essence of

maintaining sound relations may well be the giving of

equal.weight to each. ■