ADDRESS TO THE BEIJING FOREIGN STUDIES UNIVERSITY

THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP.
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11 months ago
ADDRESS TO THE BEIJING FOREIGN STUDIES UNIVERSITY
THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP
It’s a genuine pleasure to be back here in Beijing, this in my third visit to you remarkable country.
 
And at such a momentous time, the 70th Anniversary represents a huge achievement for the People’s Republic of China and asks us all to reflect in amazement at how far China has come.
 
The last time I was here was in July 2013 as Trade Minister, continuing negotiations on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement finally signed and ratified by the Abbott Government in 2015.
 
I remember – back then – hearing all kinds of predictions about China’s future growth and prosperity.
 
Six years later, such is the scale and speed of China’s transformation, all those predictions have turned out to be underestimates.
 
And I understand that there are people in this room who have helped write that success story.
 
Now, on Friday I did what around 700,000 Australians do each year, I packed a bag and boarded a flight to China. I left Sydney at 1pm and was in Beijing by 11pm that same day.
 
In 1971, when Labor Leader Gough Whitlam took the momentous decision to lead an Australian delegation here to China to discuss trade and diplomatic relations, the first vital step was for Whitlam to send a cable to Premier Zhou Enlai.
 
Gough and his team summoned up their courage, held their breath and sent that fateful message.
 
Days passed without a reply… the days turned into weeks.
 
After three anxious weeks, the would-be travelling party realized that none of them actually knew anyone in China who they could ask to follow-up their inquiry.
 
Eventually, as the legendary Stephen Fitzgerald recounts, it was left to an Australian at Harvard to have a quiet word with the French Ambassador to China and – four weeks to the day of Gough’s request – the reply arrived.
 
From there it was a plane to Hong Kong, a five-day wait, a slow train to Guangzhou and a wobbly flight in a soviet-made Illuyshin aircraft.
 
This was the vast distance between our countries – unimaginable now.
 
A gulf measured not just by trains and planes and travel time – but a cultural, diplomatic, intellectual and commercial distance that diminished and impoverished both our nations.
 
For Gough – in an Australia that viewed Asia with suspicion – leading that 1971 delegation to China was a leap of faith.
 
But the decision which elevated Whitlam’s visit from a courageous gesture, to a moment of lasting regional and global significance, came when Zhou Enlai asked the journalists of the world to stay in the Great Hall of the People, surround the horseshow of cane
chairs seating the officials and advisers, and cover the full meeting between the two leaders. Not just the handshakes and the pleasantries but the full gamut of geopolitical discussion, trade and economic negotiations and the bold promise from Whitlam that a
new Labor Government would move to formally recognize China and the he – as Prime Minister – would return to Beijing.
 
“We will welcome it!” Zhou said. “All things develop from small beginnings.”

Often, in Australian accounts, Whitlam’s visit to China is portrayed as a domestic political triumph.

Eye-catching, tangible evidence of a new, confident, modern Australian Labor Party, a stark contrast with a 22 year old Liberal-National Government befuddled, adrift and ill-equipped to lead Australia in a changing world.

But in my party, the Labor Party – then and now – we do not revere and remember Whitlam’s visit to China merely as a sharp piece of political judgment or a smart reading of the national mood.

We celebrate that first visit because it spoke for a new Australian confidence, a new sense of China’s emerging significance, a new ambition for the success of the region we share.

Above all, we celebrate that first visit because of the great things that came from the small beginnings, the moment when two leaders showed a new spirit of openness.

In the past half-century both of our countries changed for the better, on those occasions when both of our nations were prepared to open ourselves up to the world.

The story of China’s economic transformation is all around us: from a city of horse-drawn carts with rubber-tyres something still within living memory, to an extraordinary metropolis.

A scattered agrarian economy, to a manufacturing and skills and service powerhouse.

850 million people lifted out of extreme poverty, in less than two generations.

And Australia has been so much more than an admiring witness to this change, although we have been that.

We’ve been a partner, a supplier and provider.

Australian iron ore holds up many of the skyscrapers and infrastructure projects in China’s mighty cities.

Our universities have educated a new generation of Chinese engineers, doctors and scientists.

Our farmers and growers deliver beef, lamb and dairy that makes its way to plates across China. And at many restaurants and across many tables, people throughout China toast ‘Gambei’ with a glass or two of Australian shiraz.

And we have gained and grown so much from this partnership.

When the first Labor delegation came to China, two-way trade between our nations was less than $100 million dollars.

Today it’s around $194 billion. And China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner.

But this remarkable economic story started with a political act … with Whitlam’s vision and political bravery. And this is important to remember because the success of our partnership reaches deeper than economic ties, it always has - and we want this to
continue.

In our region, it involves contributing constructively to the development and welfare of our neighbors in the Pacific.
 
For three years, I was responsible for Australia’s relationships with our Pacific neighbors. This is a part of the world which has a special place in Australia’s world view. Indeed Australia’s constitution places a particular significance on our relations with the
Pacific which is separate and distinct from our relations with the rest of the world. There is a fraternity with the 10 million people of the Pacific which is felt very deeply in the Australian heart.
 
The Pacific is that part of the world where Australia focuses most of its development assistance program. We are proud of that.
 
But back in 2012 I was also very cognizant of the growing role that China was playing in providing development assistance in the Pacific. Let me be crystal clear: that was and has been a good thing. The Pacific needs help and Australia needs to welcome any
country willing to provide it. Certainly the Pacific Island Countries themselves do.
 
Of course the more the global community can work together in providing that help the better. We were always very keen to work with China on a tri-partite project. While that never happened in my time, in 2012, China and New Zealand did work together to deliver
a water security project in the Cook Islands.
 
And in about 2014 Australia and China also eventually worked together in a joint project to help combat malaria in Papua New Guinea, which we continue today.
 
So Australia and China working together to help the Pacific is extremely important.
 
It is also critical that Australia’s Pacific Step Up policy – which I welcome – is founded on the right motives. Australia does not have an exclusive right to engage with the Pacific. The basis of our interest in the Pacific cannot be about attempting to engage in the
strategic denial of others. This is not a foundation upon which to build better relations in the Pacific and in any event it will not work.
 
Our interest in the Pacific must be about the people of the Pacific. Our clarion call for action must be that the Pacific performed worst against the Millennium Development Goals of any region in the world. And so we need to change the trajectory of development in the Pacific; one that is acutely alert to the impact of development assistance and financing on local communities and local priorities. And any country, including China, which shares this awareness and is willing to help in this endeavor should enjoy Australia’s support.
 
In the world, it involves respecting the rules-based order and promoting peace and security.

And in the future, it involves facing up to the all-encompassing challenge of climate change.

Like the Australian and Chinese collaboration that has helped drive a revolution in the photovoltaic solar cell technology through a remarkable partnership between the University of New South Wales and Leadmicro, who are working together to develop the next generation of silicon solar cells, and importantly, the technology to mass produce them.

Our two nations can both do more to help lead the renewable energy revolution, solve the waste and storage crisis and drive sustainable farming, food production and design.

But beyond these fields of scientific cooperation it is important to note that already the scientific collaboration between China and Australia is massive and it is growing.

In recent times China has become Australia’s largest scientific partner- based on research collaboration-  overtaking the United States.

As we consider exactly how the Globe’s geo-strategic future will impact international technological co-operation, from the perspective of Australia’s national interest, it is well to remember this fact.

Of course, there is also a strategic dimension to the Australia-China relationship.

It’s well known that right through my many years in public life, including since I was elected to the Australian parliament in 2007, I and my party have been passionate supporters of Australia’s alliance with the United States.

Australia and the US share a friendship earthed in common values, democracy, investment and trade and a profound history of service and sacrifice in the defense of freedom around the world.

But my belief in the bedrock importance of the United States to Australia goes beyond ties of affection or history.

My support for Australia’s alliance with the US is driven by the recognition that the rules-based order the United States has helped secure for the global community after the Second World War has brought unprecedented peace, prosperity and opportunity to our region.

Take freedom of navigation. For Australia, as an island nation, a trading and exporting economy and a country which relies on the safe passage of vessels for the vast bulk of our trade and for our oil supplies…

…freedom of navigation and upholding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is fundamental to our national interest – and to the best economic and security interests of the region.

East Asia including China has been the beneficiary of the peace, stability and prosperity created by an international rules-based system.

Not just because it has opened new markets – but because it has created greater understanding and stronger friendships.

But from this place of affirming our alliance with the US, I deeply believe that we must build our relationship with China to the greatest possible extent and beyond our economic interaction.

I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital.

And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations. And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.

Right now our Prime Minister is in the United States. And I certainly hope this is a message that he passes on to President Trump.

The vital work of deepening our two countries’ engagement must also include the strategic dimension of our relationship.

Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defense co-operation.

To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant.

In 1942 a Labor Government in Australia made a choice to establish an alliance with the United States which has been fundamental to Australia’s strategic policy.

But in 1972 another Labor Government in Australia also made a choice to build an all-encompassing relationship with China. That too has been central to Australia’s fortunes.

And the value of this relationship is just as significant now as it has ever been.

Indeed it is more so because of the presence today of the 1.2 million strong Chinese–Australian community who want positive relations between Australia and China.

For those in the Australian commentariat who are shrill and fundamentalist about China; this may be easy but it is wrong.

The decision by Whitlam to engage with China means engaging with a society different to our own. And to do this properly we must engage with an open mind and a fair and balanced understanding of China.

Naturally, we will not always agree, with China, or with America, or indeed with any particular nation.

But we can all agree to bring a more open mind, to pursue a more honest conversation and to take a more co-operative and positive approach to contentious issues – including human rights.

Any discussion of this issue must begin with the acknowledgement and recognition that no other country in civilization has lifted more people out of poverty, more quickly, than modern China.

Freeing millions of families from hunger and poverty will stand as an achievement of historical global significance. And this is also an unbelievable human rights achievement.

As a nation that fiercely believes in freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law, Australia will argue for those principles in the councils of the world. We will promote them in multilateral forums, we will advocate for them in bilateral conversations.

But in doing so, we also submit ourselves and our own standards and our own record to global scrutiny – and not all of these critiques of and that commentary about us will be easy for Australia to hear.

It is my hope that Australia and China can forge a relationship which is resilient enough for us to raise issues of concern with each other, in a respectful way.

When necessary we will raise our concerns, as we have about the minority Uighur population in Xinjiang, or the situation in Hong Kong.

We do this on behalf of all Australians who believe people have a right to express their views through peaceful and lawful assembly.

So of course, at the same time, violence can never be condoned even in the form of protest, we look toward a peaceful resolution in Hong Kong.

A resolution that delivers the agreed promise of ‘One Country, Two Systems.’

What happens in Hong Kong matters to us, it matters to the world, and it is vital the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement in Hong Kong is maintained.

Coming to China as an Australian politician is not the history-making epic journey it was 48 years ago.

As I said at the beginning, hundreds of my fellow citizens catch flights here every day – and that’s good and important.

It should be, it must be, normal and familiar and common for Australian political leaders and business leaders and community leaders to be here in China, learning and engaging.

Just as your leaders and future leaders, should be part of the same conversations in Australia.

We must continue to the work at building trust and getting to know each other better.

Yet for all the visits I’ve made, for all that I read and try and learn about China, the thrill and excitement of visiting your country never fades.

I’m optimistic about the future of Australia, as a significant country within the region, as a constructive middle power with global strategic interests, as a provider of quality services and skills and products to the world’s largest middle class – and I find new hope for
that optimism here in China.

I believe the next decade can be the one in which the genius of humankind finds new cures for diseases, new solutions for energy insecurity and new answers to the threat of climate change – and I believe the road to those discoveries runs through China.

And I am determined that the peace and prosperity for which previous generations have sacrificed so much will be preserved and upheld in our region – and I know that depends on continuing and building the strong ties between Australia and China.

Thank you very much.

ENDS
It’s a genuine pleasure to be back here in Beijing, this in my third visit to you remarkable country.

And at such a momentous time, the 70th Anniversary represents a huge achievement for the People’s Republic of China and asks us all to reflect in amazement at how far China has come.

The last time I was here was in July 2013 as Trade Minister, continuing negotiations on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement finally signed and ratified by the Abbott Government in 2015.

I remember – back then – hearing all kinds of predictions about China’s future growth and prosperity.

Six years later, such is the scale and speed of China’s transformation, all those predictions have turned out to be underestimates.

And I understand that there are people in this room who have helped write that success story.

Now, on Friday I did what around 700,000 Australians do each year, I packed a bag and boarded a flight to China. I left Sydney at 1pm and was in Beijing by 11pm that same day.

In 1971, when Labor Leader Gough Whitlam took the momentous decision to lead an Australian delegation here to China to discuss trade and diplomatic relations, the first vital step was for Whitlam to send a cable to Premier Zhou Enlai.

Gough and his team summoned up their courage, held their breath and sent that fateful message.

Days passed without a reply… the days turned into weeks.

After three anxious weeks, the would-be travelling party realized that none of them actually knew anyone in China who they could ask to follow-up their inquiry.

Eventually, as the legendary Stephen Fitzgerald recounts, it was left to an Australian at Harvard to have a quiet word with the French Ambassador to China and – four weeks to the day of Gough’s request – the reply arrived.

From there it was a plane to Hong Kong, a five-day wait, a slow train to Guangzhou and a wobbly flight in a soviet-made Illuyshin aircraft.

This was the vast distance between our countries – unimaginable now.

A gulf measured not just by trains and planes and travel time – but a cultural, diplomatic, intellectual and commercial distance that diminished and impoverished both our nations.

For Gough – in an Australia that viewed Asia with suspicion – leading that 1971 delegation to China was a leap of faith.

But the decision which elevated Whitlam’s visit from a courageous gesture, to a moment of lasting regional and global significance, came when Zhou Enlai asked the journalists of the world to stay in the Great Hall of the People, surround the horseshow of cane
chairs seating the officials and advisers, and cover the full meeting between the two leaders. Not just the handshakes and the pleasantries but the full gamut of geopolitical discussion, trade and economic negotiations and the bold promise from Whitlam that a
new Labor Government would move to formally recognize China and the he – as Prime Minister – would return to Beijing.

“We will welcome it!” Zhou said. “All things develop from small beginnings.”

Often, in Australian accounts, Whitlam’s visit to China is portrayed as a domestic political triumph.

Eye-catching, tangible evidence of a new, confident, modern Australian Labor Party, a stark contrast with a 22 year old Liberal-National Government befuddled, adrift and ill-equipped to lead Australia in a changing world.

But in my party, the Labor Party – then and now – we do not revere and remember Whitlam’s visit to China merely as a sharp piece of political judgment or a smart reading of the national mood.

We celebrate that first visit because it spoke for a new Australian confidence, a new sense of China’s emerging significance, a new ambition for the success of the region we share.

Above all, we celebrate that first visit because of the great things that came from the small beginnings, the moment when two leaders showed a new spirit of openness.

In the past half-century both of our countries changed for the better, on those occasions when both of our nations were prepared to open ourselves up to the world.

The story of China’s economic transformation is all around us: from a city of horse-drawn carts with rubber-tyres something still within living memory, to an extraordinary metropolis.

A scattered agrarian economy, to a manufacturing and skills and service powerhouse.

850 million people lifted out of extreme poverty, in less than two generations.

And Australia has been so much more than an admiring witness to this change, although we have been that.

We’ve been a partner, a supplier and provider.

Australian iron ore holds up many of the skyscrapers and infrastructure projects in China’s mighty cities.

Our universities have educated a new generation of Chinese engineers, doctors and scientists.

Our farmers and growers deliver beef, lamb and dairy that makes its way to plates across China. And at many restaurants and across many tables, people throughout China toast ‘Gambei’ with a glass or two of Australian shiraz.

And we have gained and grown so much from this partnership.

When the first Labor delegation came to China, two-way trade between our nations was less than $100 million dollars.

Today it’s around $194 billion. And China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner.

But this remarkable economic story started with a political act … with Whitlam’s vision and political bravery. And this is important to remember because the success of our partnership reaches deeper than economic ties, it always has - and we want this to
continue.

In our region, it involves contributing constructively to the development and welfare of our neighbors in the Pacific.
 
For three years, I was responsible for Australia’s relationships with our Pacific neighbors. This is a part of the world which has a special place in Australia’s world view. Indeed Australia’s constitution places a particular significance on our relations with the
Pacific which is separate and distinct from our relations with the rest of the world. There is a fraternity with the 10 million people of the Pacific which is felt very deeply in the Australian heart.
 
The Pacific is that part of the world where Australia focuses most of its development assistance program. We are proud of that.
 
But back in 2012 I was also very cognizant of the growing role that China was playing in providing development assistance in the Pacific. Let me be crystal clear: that was and has been a good thing. The Pacific needs help and Australia needs to welcome any
country willing to provide it. Certainly the Pacific Island Countries themselves do.
 
Of course the more the global community can work together in providing that help the better. We were always very keen to work with China on a tri-partite project. While that never happened in my time, in 2012, China and New Zealand did work together to deliver
a water security project in the Cook Islands.
 
And in about 2014 Australia and China also eventually worked together in a joint project to help combat malaria in Papua New Guinea, which we continue today.
 
So Australia and China working together to help the Pacific is extremely important.
 
It is also critical that Australia’s Pacific Step Up policy – which I welcome – is founded on the right motives. Australia does not have an exclusive right to engage with the Pacific. The basis of our interest in the Pacific cannot be about attempting to engage in the
strategic denial of others. This is not a foundation upon which to build better relations in the Pacific and in any event it will not work.
 
Our interest in the Pacific must be about the people of the Pacific. Our clarion call for action must be that the Pacific performed worst against the Millennium Development Goals of any region in the world. And so we need to change the trajectory of development in the Pacific; one that is acutely alert to the impact of development assistance and financing on local communities and local priorities. And any country, including China, which shares this awareness and is willing to help in this endeavor should enjoy Australia’s support.
 
In the world, it involves respecting the rules-based order and promoting peace and security.

And in the future, it involves facing up to the all-encompassing challenge of climate change.

Like the Australian and Chinese collaboration that has helped drive a revolution in the photovoltaic solar cell technology through a remarkable partnership between the University of New South Wales and Leadmicro, who are working together to develop the next generation of silicon solar cells, and importantly, the technology to mass produce them.

Our two nations can both do more to help lead the renewable energy revolution, solve the waste and storage crisis and drive sustainable farming, food production and design.

But beyond these fields of scientific cooperation it is important to note that already the scientific collaboration between China and Australia is massive and it is growing.

In recent times China has become Australia’s largest scientific partner- based on research collaboration-  overtaking the United States.

As we consider exactly how the Globe’s geo-strategic future will impact international technological co-operation, from the perspective of Australia’s national interest, it is well to remember this fact.

Of course, there is also a strategic dimension to the Australia-China relationship.

It’s well known that right through my many years in public life, including since I was elected to the Australian parliament in 2007, I and my party have been passionate supporters of Australia’s alliance with the United States.

Australia and the US share a friendship earthed in common values, democracy, investment and trade and a profound history of service and sacrifice in the defense of freedom around the world.

But my belief in the bedrock importance of the United States to Australia goes beyond ties of affection or history.

My support for Australia’s alliance with the US is driven by the recognition that the rules-based order the United States has helped secure for the global community after the Second World War has brought unprecedented peace, prosperity and opportunity to our region.

Take freedom of navigation. For Australia, as an island nation, a trading and exporting economy and a country which relies on the safe passage of vessels for the vast bulk of our trade and for our oil supplies…

…freedom of navigation and upholding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is fundamental to our national interest – and to the best economic and security interests of the region.

East Asia including China has been the beneficiary of the peace, stability and prosperity created by an international rules-based system.

Not just because it has opened new markets – but because it has created greater understanding and stronger friendships.

But from this place of affirming our alliance with the US, I deeply believe that we must build our relationship with China to the greatest possible extent and beyond our economic interaction.

I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital.

And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations. And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.

Right now our Prime Minister is in the United States. And I certainly hope this is a message that he passes on to President Trump.

The vital work of deepening our two countries’ engagement must also include the strategic dimension of our relationship.

Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defense co-operation.

To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant.

In 1942 a Labor Government in Australia made a choice to establish an alliance with the United States which has been fundamental to Australia’s strategic policy.

But in 1972 another Labor Government in Australia also made a choice to build an all-encompassing relationship with China. That too has been central to Australia’s fortunes.

And the value of this relationship is just as significant now as it has ever been.

Indeed it is more so because of the presence today of the 1.2 million strong Chinese–Australian community who want positive relations between Australia and China.

For those in the Australian commentariat who are shrill and fundamentalist about China; this may be easy but it is wrong.

The decision by Whitlam to engage with China means engaging with a society different to our own. And to do this properly we must engage with an open mind and a fair and balanced understanding of China.

Naturally, we will not always agree, with China, or with America, or indeed with any particular nation.

But we can all agree to bring a more open mind, to pursue a more honest conversation and to take a more co-operative and positive approach to contentious issues – including human rights.

Any discussion of this issue must begin with the acknowledgement and recognition that no other country in civilization has lifted more people out of poverty, more quickly, than modern China.

Freeing millions of families from hunger and poverty will stand as an achievement of historical global significance. And this is also an unbelievable human rights achievement.

As a nation that fiercely believes in freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law, Australia will argue for those principles in the councils of the world. We will promote them in multilateral forums, we will advocate for them in bilateral conversations.

But in doing so, we also submit ourselves and our own standards and our own record to global scrutiny – and not all of these critiques of and that commentary about us will be easy for Australia to hear.

It is my hope that Australia and China can forge a relationship which is resilient enough for us to raise issues of concern with each other, in a respectful way.

When necessary we will raise our concerns, as we have about the minority Uighur population in Xinjiang, or the situation in Hong Kong.

We do this on behalf of all Australians who believe people have a right to express their views through peaceful and lawful assembly.

So of course, at the same time, violence can never be condoned even in the form of protest, we look toward a peaceful resolution in Hong Kong.

A resolution that delivers the agreed promise of ‘One Country, Two Systems.’

What happens in Hong Kong matters to us, it matters to the world, and it is vital the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ arrangement in Hong Kong is maintained.

Coming to China as an Australian politician is not the history-making epic journey it was 48 years ago.

As I said at the beginning, hundreds of my fellow citizens catch flights here every day – and that’s good and important.

It should be, it must be, normal and familiar and common for Australian political leaders and business leaders and community leaders to be here in China, learning and engaging.

Just as your leaders and future leaders, should be part of the same conversations in Australia.

We must continue to the work at building trust and getting to know each other better.

Yet for all the visits I’ve made, for all that I read and try and learn about China, the thrill and excitement of visiting your country never fades.

I’m optimistic about the future of Australia, as a significant country within the region, as a constructive middle power with global strategic interests, as a provider of quality services and skills and products to the world’s largest middle class – and I find new hope for
that optimism here in China.

I believe the next decade can be the one in which the genius of humankind finds new cures for diseases, new solutions for energy insecurity and new answers to the threat of climate change – and I believe the road to those discoveries runs through China.

And I am determined that the peace and prosperity for which previous generations have sacrificed so much will be preserved and upheld in our region – and I know that depends on continuing and building the strong ties between Australia and China.

Thank you very much.

ENDS
 
Labor Party