It has always been believed that humor is exclusive to Western politicians. But Premier Li Keqiang changed that with his humor and wisdom in an impromptu speech at the welcome ceremony hosted by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in Canberra on March 23.
In Australia’s soccer, there is a “man of the match” in each game, and Premier Li was the “man of the match” at the welcome ceremony, according to Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Detail 1: preparation and impromptu
At the welcome ceremony, Turnbull showed he was fully prepared to welcome Premier Li by displaying his knowledge about the Premier’s background.
He said that Premier Li was China’s first premier with a legal background, while he was just the 14th Australian prime minister with a legal background.
The Premier’s professional background in economics and law, according to Turnbull, also makes the Premier aware how strong the mutual benefits are between the two countries.
“Mr. Turnbull and I were law graduates, and all of the guests today respect the rule of law. I hope we will promote bilateral cooperation based on the consensus of human society,” the Premier responded, which received warm applause.
Detail 2: food and wit
The food served at the welcome ceremony included a salad, chicken, dessert, and bread. Premier Li showed his humor by speaking about the dish.
“I saw a copy of The Australian on the table in my room when I checked in yesterday. The headline of a report covering my visit said I came here ‘for the beef market’. So I asked the waiter just now if there is beef on the menu today, and he said no beef, only chicken.”
The hall burst into laughter. Then he said that both countries pursue fair trade and stressed that his visit is not only for beef and chicken but also for bilateral cooperation and communication in many sectors.
“I come for free trade, regional peace and stability, and cultural diversity,” he said.
Detail 3: clouds and friendship
In his speech, Turnbull mentioned the progress made by the two countries in innovation, culture, education, and tourism. The opposition leader Shorten then reviewed the history of diplomatic relations between China and Australia.
Premier Li showed his expectation of China-Australia relations by speaking about his flight.
“The plane passed through thick clouds and lightning when my wife and I arrived in Canberra, but we kept moving forward. So we have firm belief that the friendship between China and Australia will move onward and forward,” he said.
Detail 4: trade deficit and opening-up
In his speech, Turnbull listed a set of data regarding economic cooperation between China and Australia.
One year after the China-Australia free trade agreement took effect, Australia’s wine exports to China grew 38 percent, oranges 36 percent, and skin care products 82 percent. Furthermore, Australia’s abalone exports to China doubled and lobster exports even quadrupled. All this helped to boost bilateral trade to $100 billion.
Turnbull said that a wine businessman told him that the China-Australia free trade agreement is the most important policy to happen in his 39 years in business.
The Premier then added another set of data.
In 2016, China’s deficit against Australia reached nearly $50 billion.
“Of course, we don’t want to see trade imbalance, but I firmly believe that instead of closing the door, expanding trade is the way to solve the trade imbalance,” he said.
He then announced that China and Australia will keep expanding free trade cooperation in service and investment.
“Even though I didn’t have the Australian beef today, I still firmly believe that we will expand opening-up.”
Amid laughter and applause, the Premier then said that Chinese consumers should be given more choices and China’s agriculture can be improved through competition and cooperation.
Detail 5: reform and opening-up and free trade
Speaking of opening up, Turnbull said that China’s former leader Deng Xiaoping once said that a country can only thrive through opening-up, and such a comment also suits Australia.
He said that China’s transformation in the last 40 years is one of the most important and exciting developments, and joint efforts should be made to fight protectionism. China can make great contributions to global peace and prosperity in this changing era.
“Currently, protectionism and voices against globalization are on the rise. We don’t deny problems in globalization, but such problems are not from globalization and tree trade itself, but our methods to cope with them,” Premier Li said.
The cooperation between China and Australia shows our strong determination to safeguard free trade, he stressed.
Detail 6: Zheng He’s expedition West and peaceful development
Turnbull mentioned Zheng He’s expedition to the West during China’s Ming Dynasty.
Several hundred years ago, Zheng He asked the emperor about his role in the expedition. The emperor answered that Zheng’s role was to promote peace and friendship, Premier Li said.
“China has a tradition of cherishing peace, and our peaceful development is not only the inheritance of such traditions but also the consideration about the reality and future interests of China, as well as development of human civilization,” he said.
Detail 7: Aborigines’ dance and cultural diversity
When he entered the banquet hall, Premier Li received a warm welcome from Australia’s Aborigines, who put on a performance of traditional dance and music.
The local elder extended a warm welcome to Premier Li and wished complete success on his official visit.
During the banquet, both Turnbull and Shorten expressed thanks to local Aborigines and Australian Chinese for their contributions to Australia’s development.
Premier Li said that the world is diversified, and his visit is also for cultural diversity and mutual respect.
Detail 8: Australian football and picking sides
Premier Li stressed that the efforts to enhance China-Australia cooperation is based on mutual respect and China adheres to independent foreign policies and a development path fitting national conditions. China also respects Australia’s decisions in foreign policies.
“We don’t want to see the Cold War style of picking sides. We are willing to solve problems based on rules, consensus and the UN charter,” he said.
Shorten mentioned in his speech that there will be an Australian football match held for Chinese and Australian prime ministers in Sydney.
Premier Li told Shorten that he will not “pick sides” and will cheer for the winner, no matter who wins.
The Premier’s speech received a warm extended applause.
“This is the best speech I have heard in two years,” said one senior Australian official.