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China-Australia Diplomatic and Strategic Dialogue Promotes Peace and Strengthens Ties
   2016-02-22 14:28:45    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Ranran

By Shafei M. Hali

Illustration by Robert Wiggin

Recent data illustrates that Sino-Australia relations are strengthening based upon robust trade bonds. The modern Sino-Australia relations started a little over four decades ago, more precisely on 21 December 1972 and over the last forty years this relationship has grown exponentially, China is Australia's largest two-way trading partner in goods and services which can be valued at more than $160 billion annually from 2013 onwards. China accepts Australia to be an important trade partner as it is part of a handful of countries with whom China has a free-trade agreement (known as ChAFTA) which was signed in June 2015. Back in 1972 when relations commenced the two way trade between Australia and China was less than $100 million and in 2010 it stood at more than $100 billion, and people to people exchanges is also very high, the traffic of Chinese People visiting Australia plus the Aussies visiting China is more than a whopping 1,000,000 people every year and growing. With China's Belt and Road initiative gaining ground and the successful launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank of which Australia is a key member, trade relations with Australia can only grow from here onwards.

Last week Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop concluded a successful visit to China, during the trip a range of aspects were discussed to strengthen Sino-Australian ties. The two Foreign Ministers co-chaired the third round of bilateral diplomatic and strategic dialogue on Wednesday in Beijing.

During the third round of bilateral diplomatic and strategic dialogue Mr. Wang Yi stated that the "China-Australia relationship is facing significant opportunities," he insisted the need to "further political mutual trust, expand mutual-beneficial cooperation, respect each other's core interests and add new content to bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership."

Wang Yi proposed five avenues of strengthening trade ties. At first he called upon aligning China's Belt and Road initiative with Australia's plans to develop its northern region, and by converging China's innovation-driven development strategy and Australia's National Innovation and Science Agenda. The second called for advancing economic cooperation through trade and investments by using the platform of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The third proposition aimed at expanding the people-to-people, cultural and local exchanges. The fourth proposition encompassed the deepening of cooperation in the fields of defense and law enforcement to jointly combat corruption and transnational crimes. The fifth proposition dwelled upon using international institutions like UN, G20, APEC and other multilateral occasions for deepening cooperation and coordination.

Julie Bishop also highlighted the importance of healthy and growing Australia-China relations. And she stated that, Sino-Australian relations are "one of the most important bilateral relations for Australia." Bishop acknowledged China's rise and the promise of the Belt and Road initiative and said, "Australia welcomes China's peaceful rise and is glad to see China playing an important role in line with its national strength." Owing to the fact that China is Australia's largest two-way trade partner she said, "Australia cherishes its comprehensive strategic partnership with China and views China as a key cooperative partner." Mr. Wang Yi's proposition of utilizing the FTA to intensify bi-lateral trade was shared by the Australian Foreign Minister and she said, "The FTA's coming into force serves as a milestone for the two countries and has benefited Australia a lot."

Julie Bishop acknowledged the importance of all the five points raised by Mr. Wang Yi and said that "Australia hopes to continue to be a reliable partner of China and work with China to keep high-level exchanges and dialogues, deepen and expand exchanges and cooperation in investment, trade, agriculture, service industry, infrastructure, education, tourism and other fields, and further enhance communication and cooperation in G20, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and other international affairs."

Judging from the Third Round of China-Australia Diplomatic and Strategic Dialogue the Sino-Australian relations are certainly moving in a prosperous direction and this visit has laid encouraging foundations for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's first official visit to China, which is scheduled to take place in April this year. The two Foreign Ministers also exchanged views on South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Bishop said, "Australia's position both publicly and privately is consistent. We do not take sides on the competing maritime claims." She reiterated that "We have an interest in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea." Preceding her visit some Western Media outlets tried to make news by highlighting that "China is militarizing the South-China Sea", "China is not explaining its activities in the South China Sea" and is giving vague answers like the purpose of building the islands is "provision of public goods", the "Australian Foreign Minister will surely seek the truth" about these Islands. The truth did come out, but in stark contrast to the reverberating connotations of the Western media outlets. It came out during the joint press conference of Julie Bishop and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when Mr. Wang Yi let the cat out of the bag and expressed that the Islands and reefs are built "in line with the self-preservation and self-defense rights of every sovereign country" to which every country is "entitled to under the international law" and Mr. Wang did elaborate on the public goods part when he explained that these public goods comprise of Chinese built lighthouses, weather observation and forecast stations, and fishing boats shelter and rescue facilities. Such activities are certainly public goods not just for Chinese vessels but for all those navigating the South China Sea. Though the western media tried to portray that the cat in the bag was a ferocious tiger but Mr. Wang Yi's revelations proved that it was merely a peaceful Siamese cat and this is what Chinese foreign policy is all about; promoting peace through creating a symbiotic environment beneficial for all.

The Author: Shafei Moiz Hali has a master's degree from George Mason University, Virginia, USA in the field of International Commerce and Public Policy. Mr. Hali has been working as an Assistant Professor at the National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad, Pakistan with the department of Government and Public Policy Since 2009. Currently he is pursuing his PhD from the College of Public Administration at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), China.

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