Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has extended an olive branch to Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying Australia welcomed China’s rapid growth and that the country would continue to embrace opportunities for economic collaboration, including possible participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Mr Turnbull, speaking at the University of New South Wales, described Australia’s relationship with China as one of great opportunity and potential which is growing stronger day by day.
“Modern Australia is unimaginable without the talented and dynamic contribution of Australians of Chinese descent,” Mr Turnbull said.
“They are a vital thread in the fabric of Australian society; the most successful multicultural society in the world.”
Mr Turnbull said Australia would continue to welcome students, tourists, researchers and investors from China, while his speech included no suggestions of Chinese interference in Australian education and politics, rhetoric which has strained relations between the two countries in recent months.
“We’re committed to working with China’s leaders to advance our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a great framework within which to advance our mutual and complementary interests,” Mr Turnbull said.
“And along with ChAFTA, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, another legacy of President Xi’s historic 2014 visit to Australia.
“We welcome China’s remarkable success and we have embraced its many opportunities.”
Mr Turnbull said while Australia would continue to pursue its own national interest, the need for collaboration with China had become more important than ever, particularly in the context of China’s rapid economic growth.
While referencing China’s 40-year journey from economic minnow to one of the world’s leading economies, Mr Turnbull underlined Australia’s commitment to free trade, distancing himself from the protectionist regime of United States President Donald Trump that threatens to upset the global trade order.
“When it comes to trade, we should never forget that protectionism is self-defeating, not a ladder to get you out of the low growth trap, but a shovel to dig it deeper,” the prime minister said.
“In trade, there will always be more winners, more growth and more jobs, on a level playing field. That’s why Australia seeks to advance free trade and open markets in every part of the world.
“In the midst of this rapid change, Australia continues to address its own interests by pursuing a relationship with China based on mutual respect and understanding.
“For our part we act to advance Australia’s prosperity, ensure the independence of our decision-making and secure the safety and freedom of our people.
“And in doing so, we support an international order based on the rule of law, where might is not right and the sovereignty of all nations is respected by others.”
Mr Turnbull also flagged Australia’s possible participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as long as projects were consistent with Australia’s objectives, standards and priorities.
“Generally, we welcome more investment in infrastructure in our region,” he said.
“Indeed, it would be hard to identify a country in our region more open to foreign investment, including Chinese investment, than is Australia.
“We want to work with China, the US, Japan and others, in the Pacific to ensure that our respective engagement, including lending, reinforces our common goals of supporting the sustainable economic development, freedom and wellbeing of the people and the nations of the Pacific.”