We’ve heard it in the news again as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has signed a further agreement this week in China to deepen cooperation between Victoria and China in the key areas of infrastructure, innovation, ageing and trade development. He’s encouraging other states to follow.
Victoria’s ongoing, deep relationship with China was also on display recently in Melbourne as we celebrated 40 years of Sister State/Province relationship with a senior group visiting from Jiangsu Province.
It may not be obvious to readers that there is much positive news about China-Australia relations when every day we are bombarded with suspicions and conjecture. Our team at Chin has been working for three decades supporting successful engagement and telling the stories about China which has, in turn, benefitted all Australians through our economic ‘miracle’.
In fact, a great deal of interaction and activity has been going on across multiple departments, sectors, states and territories all to the benefit of Australia as relationships are developed, deals signed and programs fostered. Just last week, for example, the $4 million Victoria Jiangsu technology commercialisation agreement was renewed.
At state and territory level, business goes on because of the strong relationships that have been cultivated between the governments. Frequent two-way visits mean subjects of mutual interest are brought to the table and benefits flow; also difficult topics can be raised and solutions found – all of which is an important foundation for the future.
Here in Victoria, the Victorian Premier has insisted that all his ministers visit China every four years, and he himself will have visited China five times in as many years; in the last three years there have been 100 organised state visits. Between 2005 and 2017 China’s total goods and services imports from Victoria grew by 241% and Victoria remains the only state to have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative, giving opportunities to Australian businesses through investment and trade. Victoria has outstripped targets on Chinese investment (they’ve tripled) and in the last four years exports have doubled (Canberra Times April 2019).
During the recent Jiangsu celebrations, the Premier hosted the Victoria Jiangsu Executive Leadership Exchange and Jiangsu officials met with Victorian counterparts to discuss science and technology, transport, health, education, finance, social security and more. The Leadership Exchange is, we believe, the first of its kind anywhere in the world where department heads from China have visited Victoria and met with department heads here and vice versa, as one of the executives said: “It helps us get to know each other and establish a relationship of trust.”
With a focus on understanding, translation underpins this successful interaction, so translators were on hand for the many faces of the exchange: site visits, presentations, tours and meetings, as well as formal celebrations. At a time when those daily headlines about our most important trading partner cloud opinions, it is very fulfilling to see the practical results of positive interactions with China first hand.
The recent visit was also a personal thrill for Chin’s Julia Jiang, Chinese interpreter, to meet with some old colleagues in the Jiangsu Government. Julia was one of our team of Mandarin Interpreters and another example of successful collaboration.
The States and Territories’ Activity Brings Business Opportunities
Meanwhile, around Australia, the Northern Territory Government is visiting China with two delegations of business people, including another 40 year milestone with Friendship City Jinan, the Chief Minister will be leading one group. At the same time, the Chinese Embassy is holding a 70th anniversary reception for the first time ever in Darwin.
Not to be outdone, NSW is hosting its Sister Province Guangdong for a range of activities and putting a great deal of thought into the program and how to arrange it (including Mandarin interpreters, of course!): another 40 year anniversary between states. Regular visits to China are a feature of the NSW calendar as well with targeted inbound and outbound missions.
While their Federal counterparts are finding relations at a low ebb, the states are doing their bit to spruik the positive nature of our relationship with China and keep the wheels oiled. Forty years of close engagement in just three of our territories are just the tip of the China iceberg. According to Australia’s Consulate-General in Chengdu, there are over 100 ‘sister-city’ relationships with China and we, at Chin, have worked with many municipalities as they have successfully built these partnerships, led by the City of Melbourne which had the first one in 1980. “As Chinese culture highly values relationships and trust, having sister city pairings can give Australian cities and towns a foot in the door to take advantage of increased business, tourism and education opportunities,” the Consulate-General indicated.
We can all see there is, in fact, a lot of positive engagement and business being done which does not get reported in the media. All of this is of benefit to Australia and all Australians with our economy, employment, technology, research, health, the arts, sport and even defence showing us how to be a good partner with China. Balanced reporting is vital and what we are seeing in Australia now is only in one direction. It is important to get the good news out– we must not underestimate the importance of Australia’s relationship with China and how it improves our lives in many ways.