Australia–China relations

Australia–China relations
Sino–Australian relations
Map indicating locations of Australia and China



Sino-Australian relations refers to the relations between the Australian Commonwealth and the People's Republic of China. The relationship between China and Australia have grown considerably over the years. Both countries are actively engaged economically, cultural and politically which spans different organizations such as APEC, East Asia Summit and the G20.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 21 December 1972.[1]

Today, China is Australia's largest trading partner.[2] China has one of the largest foreign reserves in the world and the financial capital which Australian mining companies has made used of to invest in energy and mineral exploration for exports to meet China's insatiable hunger for economic development, energy demands and infrastructure development.[3]



Sino-Australian official diplomatic relations only began in 1972 as Australia.[1] Since imperial times, Chinese people from mainly Guangdong province in southern China have migrated to Australia since the late 1700s and boomed in the Victorian gold rush era.[4] Australia during the 18th to the early 20th century were colonies later dominion of the United Kingdom and focused her attention towards Europe and America.

It was under the Whitlam Government that Australia began formal diplomatic ties with China in 1972 and downgraded its relationship with the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Australia's ties to China include those of Hong Kong dates back to when it was under British rule.

China and Australia were the final two bidders for the 2000 Olympics. Australia subsequently won and Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics. Eight years later, China hosted the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Australia began accepting Chinese students for tertiary education in 1986 in English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS). Several thousands Chinese were studying in Australia in 1987.[5] In the aftermath of Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Australian government granted protection for many Chinese students in Australia.[5] Since then, Australia has become one of the biggest market for Chinese students for tertiary education.[6] In early 2011, there were over 126 000 Chinese students in Australia[6] and they make up 26 percent of the total foreign students. [7][6] As of September 2011, there were 150000 Chinese students studying at Australia tertiary institutions.[8] The Australian education export market was worth 2009/10 A$19 billion dollars. [9]

Since the Chinese economic reforms initiated by the late Deng Xiaoping, Australia has benefited from the Chinese appetite for natural resources to modernise its economy, infrastructure and meet its growing energy demands.[10] In 2009, it is estimated the trade and investment with China brings benefits under $4000 per Australian household, in 2011, this is estimated to be A$10,500 per household per year.[10]

Australia is one of the few countries in the world during the Global financial crisis that was not in recession and experienced economic growth due to large demand and long term strong fundamentals from China and fiscal stimulus from the Rudd Government.

Cultural Relations

Australia has been a haven for Chinese migrants for centuries who have, in the modern day, established themselves as a significant minority group in Australian society. There are now large numbers of Australian-born Chinese and Chinese-born migrants/Australian Citizens in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with small Chinese communities in regional centers, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria. There are also Chinatowns in every Australian capital city, including Darwin and large, public Chinese New Year Celebrations in Melbourne and Sydney. The former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd also has strong connections with Chinese culture having studied Chinese at the Australian National University in Canberra. He also speaks fluent Mandarin.

China has established many Confucius Institute with Australia universities in major capital cities in Australia to foster better cultural ties. [11]

Economic relations

China is Australia's biggest trading partner mainly due to China's strong demand for iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas[12]. Exports to China helped Australia escape the worst effects of the global economic meltdown over the past two years.[13]

Many major Australian mining companies rely heavily on China and other growing big economies such as India for exports. These companies include Fortescue Metals Group, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata who has major Australian operations.

China exports mainly clothing, telecommunications equipment and components, computers, toys, prams and sporting equipment.[12]

The bilateral trade between the two countries is worth $A 105 billion in 2010/2011.[12] Australia's exports to China totaled A$64.8 billion, while China's export to Australia was worth A$41.1 billion in 2010-2011 period.[12]

There are direct flights from major cities in China such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to Brisbane[14], Melbourne and Sydney. Recently, China Southern Airlines have commenced scheduled commercial flights to Perth from Guangzhou in early November 2011. [15]China Southern has its pilot training facilities in Australia for many years. They are in Jandakot and Merredin established in 1993.[15]

They were initial fears of Chinese investment in the resource sector similar to the sentiments on Japanese investments in Australia in the 80s[3] but that has somewhat heated up and dissipated depending on the investments which were scrutinized by the Foreign Investment Review Board and politicians. [16][17][18][19] Australia is focused on investments which have a win win situations with participation of local companies participation and jobs growth.[17]

Political relations

Whilst economic relations between China and Australia have increased significantly to the benefit of both nations, Australia under the previous Howard Government has appeared reluctant to pursue closer political/military ties with China and has maintained the role of George W. Bush controversially dubbed "America's Deputy" in the Asia-Pacific Region.[20]

China is emerging as a political and economic power in the Asia Pacific region which is traditionally anchored by the United States. Australia is a Middle power country like many Asian countries which have security arrangements with the United States but growing economic ties with China.[21] The challenge for middle power countries is to work with the strategic rivalry between China and the United States for peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.[22]

Howard Government

When, on 15 June 2007, the Prime Minister John Howard received the Dalai Lama,[23] China protested, with official critics.[24]

Rudd Government

The election of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia was seen as favorable to Sino-Australian relations, notably in view of the fact that he was the first Australian Prime Minister to speak fluent Mandarin, and that closer engagement with Asia was one of the "Three Pillars" of his foreign policy.

In 2004, Rudd, who at the time was Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, had delivered a speech in Beijing entitled "Australia and China: A Strong and Stable Partnership for the 21st Century".[25]

In February 2008, Australia reportedly "chastised Taiwan for its renewed push for independence" and "reiterated its support for a one-China policy".[26] In April, however, Rudd addressed Chinese students at Peking University,[27] and, speaking in Mandarin, referred to "significant human rights problems in Tibet".[28][29] Rudd also raised the issue in talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in a context of "simmering diplomatic tension" according to TV3.[30]

Prime Minister Rudd received lukewarm response from China about his Zhengyou terminology used to describe Australia's relationship with China.[31][32]

In July 2009, following the arrest in China of Australian mining executive Stern Hu, accused of spying, Rudd intervened to "remind our Chinese friends that China [...] has significant economic interests at stake in its relationship with Australia and with its other commercial partners around the world".[33] Later in August 2009, the PRC government protested against the Australian government after Rebiya Kadeer was granted a visa to visit Australia to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival.[34] Along with the Rio Tinto espionage case and the failed bid for Chinalco to purchase a higher stake in the Rio Tinto Group, such events are generally considered as lowest ever points in Sino-Australian relations for the past few years.[35] China has also effectively banned visits by senior Australian officials, in protest against the events in question.[36]

Despite the souring of relations within 2009, on 19 August 2009, Chinese petroleum company PetroChina signed an A$50 billion deal with ExxonMobil to purchase liquefied natural gas from the Gorgon field in Western Australia,[37][38] considered the largest contract ever signed between China and Australia, which ensures China a steady supply of LPG fuel for 20 years, and also forms as China's largest supply of relatively "clean energy".[39][40][41]

Gillard Government

The Gillard government has maintained strong economic ties with China through agreements to explore clean energy and to make sure Australia remains a longstanding and reliable supplier of energy and natural resources. [42] Australia under Prime Minister Gillard has stated will continue positive and constructive engagement with China but maintaining security ties with the United States based on shared values.[43]

Gillard government's action to station US troops in Australia has been strongly criticised and viewed with suspicion by China and Indonesia as the US is trying to encircle China and questioned why it would want to alienate its largest trading partner.[44]

Diplomatic offices

The Chinese embassy is located in Canberra, ACT in Australia.[45] There are consular offices in major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

The Australian embassy is located in Beijing.[46] Australia also have consular offices in major cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.[46]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Sino - Australia Relations", Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Australia
  2. ^ China Australia's top trading partner: data
  3. ^ a b Natasha Bita. "Land rush". The Australian. 
  4. ^ Wu, C. (2006, Apr 13). Let us work to bolster Sino-Australian ties. China Daily, pp. 4-4. Retrieved from
  5. ^ a b Gao, J. (2006). Organized international asylum-seeker networks: Formation and utilization by chinese Students1. The International Migration Review, 40(2), 294-317. Retrieved from
  6. ^ a b c Philipp Ivanov (26 July 2011 2:46PM). "Australia and China's higher education revolution". 
  7. ^
  8. ^ International Education Group Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. International Education Group Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations "Monthly Summary of International Student Enrolment Data1 – Australia – YTD September 2011"]. Australian Government. International Education Group Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations]. 
  9. ^ dfat (2011). [Dfat "Analysis of Australia’s Education exports"]. Dfat. Dfat. 
  10. ^ a b Sino-australian relations. (2011). Engineering and Mining Journal, (00958948), 59-62,64. Retrieved from
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d
  13. ^ Australia Signs Mammoth Gas Deal With China
  14. ^ China southern airlines launches flights to brisbane, australia. (2010, Oct 18). Asia Pulse, pp. n/a. Retrieved from
  15. ^ a b First direct flight from china to western australia lands. (2011, Nov 09). Asia Pulse, pp. n/a. Retrieved from
  16. ^ Rick Wallace (April 08, 2010 12:00AM). "Japanese investment in Australia slips under the radar". The Australian. 
  17. ^ a b Damon Kitney (October 26, 2011 12:00AM). "Foreign investment must be win-win: Gary Gray". The Australian. 
  18. ^ John Brumby (August 16, 2011 12:00AM). "Chinese investment an opportunity, not a threat". The Australian. 
  19. ^ Andrew Burrell (September 30, 2011 12:00AM). "Barnett's 'mixed signals' on Chinese investment". The Australian. 
  20. ^ Anger as US pins sheriff badge on Australia
  21. ^ ABC (14/11/2011). "Northern defence". ABC Newsline. 
  22. ^ China-US rivalry raising tensions in region - hong kong paper. (2010, Sep 30). BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific, pp. n/a. Retrieved from
  23. ^ John Howard meets Dalai Lama to talk Tibet
  24. ^ Ambassade de Chine en France, Conférence de presse du 12 juin 2007
  25. ^ "Australia and China: A Strong and Stable Partnership for the 21st Century", Kevin Rudd, 6 July 2004
  26. ^ "China, Australia hold strategic meeting", The Age, 5 February 2008
  27. ^ "China rejects Rudd advice",, 10 April 2008
  28. ^ "Australian PM Kevin Rudd warns China over human rights abuses in Tibet", Jane Macartney, The Times, 9 April 2008
  29. ^ "Aussie Rules", The Independent, 10 April 2008
  30. ^ "Kevin Rudd raises concerns over Tibet", TV3, 10 April 2008
  31. ^ Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor (December 07, 2010 12:00AM). "Rudd may come unstuck over China relations". The Australian. 
  32. ^ "Rudd rewrites the rules of engagement". April 12, 2008. 
  33. ^ "Australia warns China on spy case", BBC, 15 July 2009
  34. ^ Rowan Callick, 31 July 2009, Uighur Rebiya Kadeer gets visa despite China protest – The Australian
  35. ^ Aussie-China ties hit a low over visa to Kadeer
  36. ^ Greg Sheridan, Michael Sainsbury, 18 August 2009, Beijing bites back over Kadeer visa and iron ore prices – The Australian
  37. ^ Stephen McDonell, 19 August 2009, Record gas deal between China and Australia – AM – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  38. ^ Babs McHugh, 19 August 2009, Massive sale from Gorgon Gas Project – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  39. ^ David McLennan, 20 August 2009, Australia to be 'global supplier of clean energy' – The Canberra Times
  40. ^ 20 August 2009, CNPC to import 2.25m tons of LNG annually from Australia – ChinaDaily (Source: Xinhua)
  41. ^ Peter Ryan, 19 August 2009, Deal means 2.2 million tonnes exported per year – AM – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  42. ^ Matthew Franklin in Beijing (April 27, 2011 12:00AM). "Julia Gillard rejects need to contain China". The Australian. 
  43. ^ Matthew Franklin; Michael Sainsbury (April 26, 2011 12:00AM). "Julia Gillard's US-China balancing act". The Australian. 
  44. ^ Ben Packham (November 17, 2011 12:00AM). "China reproaches Australia over strengthened US defence ties". The Australian. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b

Further reading

External links

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