Deep and enduring links

Australia’s relationship with China is multifaceted and underpinned by deep and enduring institutional, business, cultural and community links. 

Chinese migration to Australia began in significant numbers in the middle of the 19th Century, but for more than 200 years Chinese-Australians have been making substantial contributions in all fields of Australian life. Their contributions have enriched us as a country, and Australia is a better and stronger nation for it. Today, Australia proudly counts over 1 million citizens as Australians with Chinese heritage and Mandarin is the second most spoken language in Australia after English.

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Alma Quon and her Joybelles, an all-woman professional jazz band founded by Alma Quon and her sister, Lorna, in Melbourne during the Second World War. Photo: Donated by Daisy Quon, Museum of Chinese Australian History Collection (P00785).
Alma Quon and her Joybelles, an all-woman professional jazz band founded by Alma Quon and her sister, Lorna, in Melbourne during the Second World War. Photo: Donated by Daisy Quon, Museum of Chinese Australian History Collection (P00785).
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Official bilateral relations

Australia established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China in 1972. Since then, both governments have been building relations and strengthening cooperation on important shared interests.

In 2014, Australia and China agreed to elevate the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In 2015, they signed the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, paving the way for the strong commercial relationship that continues to benefit both countries today.

Despite differences in politics, cultures, societies and histories, the relationship has delivered significant benefits to both countries. Today, the Australia-China relationship covers a broad spectrum of cooperation and collaboration across government, business and between our two peoples.

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Trade and investment

Our economic and trade complementarities, underpinned by the World Trade Organisation and our free trade agreement, have driven prosperity in both countries. Even amidst current challenges, China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner in goods and services, accounting for over 25 per cent of our global trade.

China is one of the top ten largest foreign direct investors in Australia. Australian businesses have also invested in greater China, with a number of notable successes. Our expertise in banking and wealth management services has seen financial institutions become some of the largest Australian investors in China.

COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, a serious impact on bilateral trade and investment and the global economy.

 

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2.	Tourists take photos at the bathing boxes on Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Victoria. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Tourists take photos at the bathing boxes on Brighton Beach in Melbourne, Victoria. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
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Students enjoy Kings Park in Perth, Western Australia Photo: StudyPerth
Students enjoy Kings Park in Perth, Western Australia Photo: StudyPerth

Tourism and international education

Prior to the need for COVID-19 travel restrictions, millions of Chinese tourists regularly demonstrated their confidence in Australia as a safe and welcoming destination by visiting each year, often returning multiple times. Around 600,000 Australians travelled to China annually – a figure that more than doubled in the last decade.  

Australia is also one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students wishing to study overseas. In 2019, Australia hosted more than 203,000 Chinese students, a five per cent increase over 2018. COVID-19 has, of course, affected the ability of all countries to offer and receive international education services.

Australia looks forward to again welcoming visitors and students from China to our safe and hospitable nation and to resuming our popularity as a wonderful holiday and education destination.

 

Collaboration and exchange

Australia’s state and local governments enjoy sister state and sister city relationships with more than 100 Chinese provinces and townships. These relationships can help to support economic ties and people-to-people linkages, as well as build understanding.

Australia and China’s long-standing science and research cooperation reflects our mutual desire to work together on important challenges facing our societies and the world. The Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF) bolsters global partnerships and encourages progress and innovation in scientific research between Australia and China. The National Foundation for Australia-China Relations also supports science and health collaboration. For example, our first ad hoc grant was to the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

Cultural exchange is broad and varied with pre-COVID tours including the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria, the Bark Masters artworks of Central Australia at the National Museum of China and musical collaborations such as between the Kam women of Guizhou and Anmatyerr women of central Australia. The Foundation looks forward to supporting more.

Two sport-mad countries have created a common language in our love of basketball, football and other sports. This is shown in the celebrity status of football star Tim Cahill, who has played for both Shanghai Shenhua and Hangzhou Greentown, and for Newcastle player Joel Griffiths, still now mobbed by fans when travelling to China, after his days playing for Beijing Guoan.

 

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