Building the Future Together: 50 Years of Australia China Relations

From Left to Right: Professor Mark Wang, Mr Chunming Gup, Ms Martine Letts, Professor Duncan Maskell, Consul-General Jianhua Zeng, Professor Michael Wesley, Professor Sarah Biddulph

From Left to Right: Professor Mark Wang, Mr Chunming Guo, Ms Martine Letts, Professor Duncan Maskell, Consul-General Jianhua Zeng, Professor Michael Wesley, Professor Sarah Biddulph

To mark the occasion of 50 years of Australia-China diplomatic relations, the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies, Chancellery International and Asialink partnered to host a highly successful “Building the Future Together” forum. 50 years on, we looked back at a relationship that, despite its tensions, has helped bring prosperity to both countries.

This forum looked to the coming era of Australia-China relations – as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new Australian government – and explored the many avenues for collaboration, innovation, and deeper understanding between our nations.

We were delighted to hear from University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell and enjoyed recorded addresses from Chinese Ambassador H.E. Xiao Qian and Assistant Foreign Minister The Hon Tim Watts MP with Acting Consul-General of the People's Republic of China in Melbourne Zeng Jianhua in attendance at the opening of the full day forum on 2 December.

The event, held under the Chatham House Rule, began with a welcoming dinner on the evening of Thursday 1 December followed by a full-day forum on 2 December. The dinner featured a keynote speech by Managing Director of HHK Advisory and former President of the Australia China Business Council, Kevin Hobgood-Brown and a panel of business experts to discuss private sector engagement between Australia and China.

The forum on the following day brought together more than 40 experts across key fields of cooperation, including the environment, water, health, innovation, trade, business, arts and culture, diplomacy and diaspora voices, to share perspectives on the opportunities for expanded engagement, and how Australia and China can work constructively together on global and regional challenges. These discussions provided a fuller understanding of the potential of the relationship between Australia and China as we work together to build a

Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts MP and Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China Xiao Qian addressed the Forum via video, to reflect on the vast changes in our countries since Gough Whitlam announced the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in December 1972, and to look ahead to the opportunities for the next 50 years of the relationship.

Reflecting on the forum’s theme of future collaboration, Ambassador Xiao confirmed that “China is ready to work with Australia to build on past achievements, look ahead to the future, uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, and further advance the China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Assistant Minister Tim Watts affirmed that “building the future together…as we head into our 51st year of diplomatic relations….is exactly what we must now turn to…even when we have differences, by working together, and with mutual respect, we can help ensure our people – as well as those of the countries in our region and the wider world - enjoy the stability, peace, and prosperity we have been privileged to share over the past fifty years”.

As we look to the next 50 years, Asialink, Chancellery International and the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies will continue to facilitate opportunities for collaboration in the Australia China relationship to build the future together, including with practical initiatives such as the recently released report on Opportunities for Australian SMEs in China and the Australia-China Digital Economy Academy and Sonic Bridge and the University of Melbourne’s Engaging with China 2020-2024.

You can read the transcripts of the speeches of Assistant Minister Watts, Ambassador Xiao,  Kevin Hobgood-Brown, and Professor Duncan Maskell.

A report on the conference if forthcoming

Sarah Biddulph

Professor Sarah Biddulph, Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor - International (China)

Business Panel

Business Panellists: Jene Jing Liu, Professor On Kit Tam, Virginia Birrell, Kevin Hobgood Brown

Environment Panel

Environment Panellists: Dr Sarah Rogers, Professor Brett Bryan,  Professor QJ Wang, Professor Jennifer Day

Health Panel

Health Panellists: David Anderson PhD, Professor Irene Blackberry, Jason Sun FCHSM GAICD, Dr Charis Teh

Victoria Panel

Victorian Trade Panellists: Jason Fitts and Justin Pan

Creativity Panel

Creativity Panellists: Professor Claire Roberts,  Xiaoping Zhou, Yashian Schauble, Wenona Lok

Regional Panel

Regional Panellists: Colin Heseltine, Consul-General Kuncoro Giri Waseso, Michelle Lam, Dr Dan (Diane) Hu

Diaspora Panel

Diaspora Panellists: Professor Jia Gao, Julia Gong, Deborah Zhang, Councillor Philip Le Liu

Mark Wang

Professor Mark Wang, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies