Valuable Impetus for Sino-Australian Cooperation
Andrews’ engagements with key Chinese officials arrive at a time when a climate of diplomatic rapprochement is well set and follow their top diplomats having already contemplated opportunities to scale economic cooperation into various fields.
Daniel Andrews, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, recently embarked on a successful four-day trip to China. The visit should be seen as a conscious advancement of shared interests between Beijing and Canberra, given valuable discussions spanning investment and education that backed up the two countries’ high-level diplomatic agreements.
As the first Australian state or federal leader to visit China since the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrews’ productive exchanges with key Chinese officials yielded significant optimism for strengthening education ties, prioritizing complimentary trade interests, and meeting China “halfway” to bring significant relations to more stable shores. “We hope Australia will work with China in line with the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, and seeking common ground while shelving differences to properly handle issues we disagree on,” China’s foreign ministry said in response to Andrews’ visit. Several important takeaways merit attention.
First, Andrews’ visit to China carries valuable symbolism for expanding future cooperation, given his track record of endorsing practical economic and trade interests with China. The Victorian premier, a key proponent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, has characterized his trip as central to endorsing his state’s interests with its largest and most significant trading partner. On a national level, these factors illuminate productive prospects for Australia to further consolidate its diplomatic trust with China. Sino-Australian ties can also profoundly benefit from Andrews’ sense of time-tested symbolism, given high praise for his visit by Li Xikui, vice president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
It is also important to note that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reportedly backed Andrews’ in-person visit to China, sending a welcome signal on future cooperation priorities. Australia’s wide-ranging trade engagements with China stand to benefit from an upward trajectory if the Victorian premier’s diplomatic symbolism is followed up in the spirit of strategic guidance agreed between the two countries last year.
Furthermore, the extension of Andrews’ cooperation intent with regard to China’s Jiangsu province, and his deep focus on cultivating educational and people-to-people links, collectively underscore the premium his state attaches to trust-building with China.
Similarly, the emphasis placed on unlocking more investment pathways for Victoria is an acknowledgment that China-Australia business ties have even more to gain. The timing says it all: Andrews’ engagements with key Chinese officials arrive at a time when a climate of diplomatic rapprochement is well set and follow their top diplomats having already contemplated opportunities to scale economic cooperation into various fields. China continues to serve as Australia’s largest trade partner, a potent source of investment and has consistently backed market opportunities that are informed by fair and equal treatment of businesses and industries.
It is here that Andrews’ latest trip to China aims to strengthen bilateral convergence, evidenced by his own view that the trip is a “very important opportunity to impress our Chinese partners.” Approaching their five-decade-long relationship in a way that is consistent with commitments made during the establishment of Sino-Australian ties is chief to promoting favorable mutual perceptions. Not only is the Victorian premier’s trip an endorsement of that pursuit, it is also a cause for further optimism in China-Australia cooperation, especially in the face of a changing regional environment.
As a result, heeding the right lessons from Andrews’ China visit is chief to accelerating high-level engagements between Canberra and Beijing as a whole. The visit carries high promise for cultivating new growth points in business, trade, and cultural interests between both sides, offering welcome signs for sustainable Sino-Australian cooperation in the long term.
Hannan R. Hussain is a foreign affairs commentator, author and recipient of the Fulbright Award.