An encouraged Xi Jinping shook hands with Australian prime minister Julia Gillard during their meeting at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan on Sunday, as the two countries moved to boost bilateral ties amid increasingly shared regional interests. From Xinhua News:
Xi said China and Australia have seen their ties expand and deepen since the establishment of diplomatic relations 40 years ago, and the two countries can become friendly partners pursuing common development, as they share an increasing amount of shared interests and responsibilities amid constantly changing international and regional dynamics.
“I hope the two countries can enhance communications, expand cooperation, accelerate negotiations on bilateral free trade agreements, and diversify trade and investments to push bilateral ties to a new height,” Xi said.
As stability and development are the top priorities for the Asia-Pacific region, China hopes related countries can cherish the current hard-won momentum and put the focus on development through mutual trust and cooperation, Xi said, adding that China and Australia should set a good example in this regard.
Gillard’s “high-octane charm offensive” will continue through Wednesday, according to The Canberra Times, with stops in Shanghai and Beijing as she meets China’s new leadership team. The two sides were expected to announce plans to hold regular high level strategic talks on Tuesday, after also reaching an agreement on direct currency trading. The Australian reported that she would promote broader links with China during a speech in Shanghai on Tuesday:
“Our shared interests in aid and development in the Pacific along with our growing naval co-operation and skills and experience in disaster relief and recovery will be a major asset to the region,” Ms Gillard will tell the China-Australia Chamber of Commerce function.
“In the coming decade, our cooperation will continue to grow – over time we would like to see this extend to tri-lateral exercises, including with the United States.”
While China is Australia’s largest trading partner, however, John Garnaut writes for The Sydney Morning Herald that military and security ties between the two sides have lagged behind. Specifically, the People’s Liberation Army claims that Australia has enabled the United States’ pivot towards Asia under president Barack Obama:
Air Force Colonel Dai Xu said Australia had long enjoyed a strong friendship with China but it was being tested by what he saw as the US-initiated move to state up to 2500 marines near Darwin.
”Australia is one of the links in America’s encirclement of China,” said Colonel Dai, an outspoken strategist at the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defence University.
”The first step of [America’s] strategic eastward move was to send troops to Australia,” said Colonel Dai.
Meanwhile, Gerald Henderson of The Sydney Institute claims that Australia should foster ties with China in a broad context and not just on economic terms:
The 19th century British politician Lord Palmerston once said words to the effect that a nation has neither eternal friends nor perpetual enemies but only eternal and perpetual interests. This is broadly correct and serves as a useful guide to the Australia/China relationship, which has grown enormously over the past four decades as China abandoned Maoism and embraced the market economy.
Australia’s political and business leaders are correct in pointing out the importance of China to Australia. However, this is very much a two-way relationship. Australia also happens to be important to China. The Chinese do not buy Australian mineral resources, in particular iron ore and coal, because they like us. Rather, China is attracted to Australia because we have fine products at competitive prices along with the commercial reliability that can only be found in efficient democracies with transparent legal systems.
Australia and China have mutual interests, of the economic kind. John Howard, then Rudd and now Gillard are correct in maintaining that Australia can have good relations with our traditional ally, the US, and with the rulers in Beijing.