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Luncheon in honour of His Excellency Mr Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic of China, The Great Hall, Parliament House, 8 September 1999: transcript of address.

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8 September 1999











President Jiang Zemin, Vice President Qian Qichen, Mr John Anderson the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Simon Crean the Deputy Leader of the Opposition representing the Leader of the Opposition, my many ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, former Prime Ministers, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.


This hall has hosted many important lunches and has had many important visitors but few could equal and certainly exceed the importance of today’s guest and the importance both in a symbolic sense and an actual sense in the visit to Australia of the President of China.


To you, Mr President, who I have had the opportunity and the privilege of meeting now on four or five occasions including a very memorable visit to your country at Easter in 1997 could I bid you and your Vice-Premier, your Ministers and your Party a very courteous and genuine welcome. Not only here in Canberra but amongst us the Australian people.


The visit is very important. It is the first visit to Australia by a President of China. It comes at a time when the relationship between our two countries is as strong and on as even a keel as I believe it has ever been.


There are special features of the relationship although I don’t call the relationship a special relationship. And I believe in a sense the fact that we have had a lot of success with the relationship over the past few years is that we have been careful to avoid unduly raising expectations about what can be achieved. It’s a relationship now which is characterised by a number of things. The first and foremost is to frankly recognise our differences. They are obvious. The difference in population size, the difference in cultures, the difference in history, the difference in political tradition, the difference in our views on some issues of the appropriate geo-political strategy for our respective countries to find.


And because we have been willing to recognise those differences, because we have been willing, as you put it this morning Mr President, in our bilateral discussion to a degree to disagree I believe our relationship has become all the more fruitful. Australia has a long democratic tradition. We have democratic values which we treasure, which we defend and which we propound. But we recognise that the choices that we have made as a nation and as a society are not necessarily choices that every society in the world would want to make or want to follow.


And over the past few years, we have worked with you, Mr President, and with the other leaders of your nation to build a relationship based on mutual respect, based on a recognition that there will be differences but also based on a very strong resolve on the part of both of our societies to focus on those things we have in common, those things that bring us together and those things that we can explore together as we move into the future.


Issues such as human rights are of concern to the Australian Government and to the Australian people. But we believe that in the context of our relations with China they are best addressed in the framework of a dialogue not through public hectoring but through the framework of a dialogue that through time and patient discussions produces results and improves outcomes. And that is the approach that we have followed. It doesn’t in any way signify a diminished interest in issues of human rights but it does signify a determination the part of both governments to pursue those issues in a mature and sensible fashion and one that is more likely than alternative approaches to produce results.


Inevitably, Mr President, our relationship has been heavily on the economic and the trade side. Australia and China enjoy a growing economic relationship. Relatively speaking, Chinese investment compared with its investment in other countries around the world is very high in Australia. And China is Australia’s fifth best customer. We have been a reliable supplier over the years of many commodities to China. And we look forward to the opportunity of being also a very reliable supplier in the years ahead in relation to things such as LNG.


We have much to offer China with our resources sector, our burgeoning technology industry, our service industries, the experience that we have had in providing government services. And as I speak, our Minister for Family Services, Jocelyn Newman, is in Ch ina discussing with various regional government and municipal authorities the structures that we might be able to explain and expound to the Chinese people which make the administration of social service systems in China all the more effective.


So we do have a great and important economic relationship to draw upon. We see China as continuing to enjoy, like Australia and in some senses we are together almost unique in the Asian-Pacific region, continued strong levels of economic growth through the adversity of the recent Asian economic downturn.


We acknowledge and respect the strides towards economic liberalisation which have occurred in China. Or as you so pithily put it at our joint press conference, Mr President, socialist market forces. It’s a relationship, Mr President, of course that is not just based upon economic and trade issues. It is also a relationship that recognises the importance that both of us have within the Asian-Pacific region. We are fellow members of APEC and we will go together to Auckland this weekend for the annual leaders’ meeting for APEC. We see great significance in the relationship between Japan and Australia, Australia and China, Japan and China, and very importantly China and the United States. As I indicated to you this morning Mr President, Australia will continue to pursue a one China policy. That has been the attitude of successive Australian governments since the 1970s.


Consistent with that relationship Australia will continue to maintain a commercial and economic dialogue and relationship with Taiwan. We see nothing inconsistent between the maintenance of that relationship and the pursuit of our one China policy. We hope that any differences that arise in relation to Taiwan and the People’s Republic, and the projection of that into American-Chinese relationships can be resolved in an amicable discussive and peaceful fashion because that is manifestly for the best interests of the region and for the best interests of relations between China and the United States.


Australia very strongly supports China’s aspirations on proper terms to become a member of the World Trade Organisation. And I express a gratitude of Australia for the very successful arrangement so far as bilateral trade is concerned that was concluded some months ago between our then Deputy Prime Minister and your government. On China’s accession, that arrangement will work to the joint benefit of our two communities and our two peoples. I hope that in the weeks ahead progress can be made towards resolving the outstanding problems that lie between the present and China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. And we will be hoping and in our own way doing what we can to secure progress in that department.


But of course the relationship between our two societies is not just economic. It is not just strategic, it is not just because we share a common membership of APEC and we are part of the Asian-Pacific region. It is also based very solidly on people to people links. The Chinese have been in Australia for more than 150 years. Australians of ethnic Chinese descent bulk large and importantly in modern Australian society. More than 300,000 Australians speak a dialect of Chinese..Chinese dialect at home. And it makes as I understand it 2nd only to Italian as the principal non-English language spoken within the Australian family home.


The contribution to the vibrancy and the modernity and the progress, and the essence of Australian life from Chinese people has been immense. It’s impossible to understand the character of modern Sydney and modern Melbourne without acknowledging the huge contribution that Chinese-Australians have made. They are welcome, they are a rich part of the modern Australia. They are in every sense part of our community. They bring a special culture, they add particular value, they retain their traditions, but they are above all loyal committed Australians who play a very important role in our modern life. They are to be found in the professions, in business, in politics, in the arts, in commerce, and indeed in every part of Australian life.


And your visit Mr President allows us on behalf of the rest of the Australian community to acknowledge the important links of a cultural and a human kind between our two societies. Yours is a very ancient culture. Your nation is the most populous on Earth . It is impossible to conceive of the next 100 years of the Earth’s existence without acknowledging the important role, the heavy influence and the significance of the contribution of China to the next century.


Whatever our differences may be, and characterised by the frankness of our exchanges this morning, we recognise them. We do have in common, Mr President, and our peoples have in common, a desire to live in harmony, in peace, and in cooperation to reap the benefits of a technological aid the world should scarcely conceive of a few years ago. And if we can, through whatever differences we may have, but focusing increasingly on those things that we have in common and they are many, if we can build an effective partnership, a partnership understanding its limitations and understanding differences, but nonetheless a partnership that believes that if there is good will on both sides, that if there is a commitment to political and commercial and economic and trade cooperation, and if there is a common belief that differences and arguments are best resolved peacefully and in a discussive fashion then there is a great deal that we our two societies can not only complement in each other but also achieve together.


It is an important visit Mr President. I thank you for the personal contribution that you have made to the building of the modern, sensible, and I think very fruitful relationship between our two countries. I welcome you and your wife. We are delighted that both of you have been able to come. We hope you are received well and courteously in all parts of Australia. And your visit is a very important token of the closeness between our two countries and the very practical and effective cooperation between our two governments. I now invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Crean to support my remarks. Thank you.



jy  1999-09-15  10:36