The breadth of the Australia-China relationship is the result of a long history of collaboration and exchange between the Australian and Chinese governments and our nations’ people.
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.
Official bilateral relations
Australia and the People’s Republic of China established diplomatic ties in 1972. Since then, both governments have been committed to 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.
Trade and investment
Our economic and trade complementarities, underpinned by our world-class free trade agreement, have driven prosperity in both countries. 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 the fifth largest foreign direct investor in Australia accounting for approximately four per cent of total foreign direct investment. Australian businesses have also invested in 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 is having a serious impact on trade and investment flows and is strongly impacting global and domestic economic outlook.
Tourism and international education
Prior to the need for travel restrictions, which COVID-19 has made necessary around the world, 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 in 2020 and the effects on Australia’s international education sector have been severe. Australia is enjoying world leading success in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 and, when the health advice allows, we look 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. The strength of these relationships has underpinned economic ties as well as built trust and understanding.
Australia and China’s long-standing science and research cooperation reflects our mutual desire to work together on important challenges facing our societies - from the FAST telescope in Guizhou to water management, marine protection, future dairy manufacturing and wheat improvement. The Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF) bolsters global partnerships and encourages progress and innovation in scientific research between Australia and China.
Cultural exchange is broad and varied with recent 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.
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, for Newcastle player Joel Griffiths, still now mobbed by fans when travelling to China, after his days playing for Beijing Guoan, and Zhou Qi who signed with the NBL’s South East Melbourne Phoenix in 2021.