CANBERRA — Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Australia will add strong impetus to China-Australia ties and lift the comprehensive strategic partnership between both countries to a higher level to better benefit the two peoples, a Chinese diplomat said.
Premier Li starts an official visit to Australia on March 22, during which he will attend the fifth annual meeting between Chinese and Australian prime ministers.
In an article published prior to Premier Li’s visit, Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye spoke highly of the increasingly close China-Australia relationship.
China and Australia have seen leapfrog development of bilateral ties since they established diplomatic ties 45 years ago, especially since the start of the new century, Cheng said, adding that bilateral communication and cooperation have become unprecedentedly deep and broad.
Mutual political trust between the two countries has been gradually strengthened, boosted by frequent high-level contacts, the ambassador said.
In 2014, President Xi Jinping attended the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Brisbane, Australia, and paid a historic visit to the country. Two years later, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited China and attended the G20 Hangzhou summit.
So far the two sides have established more than 40 channels for bilateral talks, including the annual dialogue between the prime ministers, diplomatic and strategic talks, an economic dialogue and defence consultations, according to Cheng.
China-Australia relations have been upgraded from a comprehensive cooperative relationship to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership, laying a solid foundation for the long-term and overall development of bilateral ties, Cheng said.
Facing the current challenges of trade protectionism, both China and Australia advocate a continuous push for globalization, and take a clear stand to support the facilitation of trade and investment and regional economic integration, he added.
The Chinese ambassador also said that the economic and trade ties between the two countries have become increasingly close.
Since the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force in December 2015, the two countries have witnessed robust trade in agricultural products and services as well as investment, bringing significant benefits to businesses and consumers.
Bilateral trade value reached 712.4 billion yuan ($103.5 billion) in 2016, making China Australia’s largest trading partner for the eighth year in a row. Australia ranked as China’s eighth largest trading partner in 2016, Cheng said.
In recent years, China’s investment in Australia has increased rapidly over the years. Areas such as finance, services, agriculture and infrastructure have turned into new growth points of cooperation between the two countries, the diplomat said.
The two sides are also actively working to align Australia’s ambitious development plan for its north with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Cheng said, adding that an increasing number of Australians have realized the importance of China for their country’s own economic prosperity.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
People-to-people exchanges between the two sides have also deepened, said Cheng.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Australia reached a new high in 2016. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics pegged the number at 1.2 million, making China Australia’s most valuable source of foreign tourists.
By the end of 2016, there were about 196,300 registered Chinese students studying in Australia, accounting for 27.5 percent of all foreign students.
Meanwhile, China has become the most attractive destination under the Australian government-initiated New Colombo Plan which offers Australian students opportunities to study abroad.
During the Chinese New Year, Sydney’s biggest landmarks, including the Harbor Bridge and Opera House, lit up in red, the color of fortune in China, Cheng noted.
Vigorous people-to-people exchanges could further enhance bilateral relations in other areas, he added.
Cheng also said that China and Australia have cooperated in anti-corruption work and national defense. The two sides are expected to expand cooperation in marine exploration, anti-terrorism and cybersecurity.
Despite differences in social system and culture, China and Australia can achieve further progress in bilateral ties as long as they uphold the spirit of win-win cooperation and mutual trust, the ambassador said.