Australia is just beginning to gain a deep understanding of China, according to former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Significant Australia-China diplomatic and trade relations had been forged over recent decades, but there was no reason to think the work was done, Mr Hawke told the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences–UQ Asia Pacific Forum at The University of Queensland this week.
“Australia in a sense is just beginning the task of understanding and learning how to deal with this new partner,” he said.
“We are only beginning to understand China’s wealth and power, its ambitions, and to reach a sensible judgment about what sort of country China is.”
China’s meteoric rise to become the world’s biggest economy and the fact it was likely to become the richest nation would affect the distribution of power and the regional political order.
“The international politics of Asia are being transformed before our very eyes . . . the implications for us and our relations with China are momentous,” Mr Hawke said.
The inaugural CASS–UQ Asia Pacific Forum brought together leaders in business, government and education to discuss ways to strengthen the China-Australia relationship.
The forum discussed topics including economic growth, innovation in energy and environment, and building a culture of co-operation.
UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj read the forum a message from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, encouraging participants to build on the G20 deliberations in Brisbane and continue strengthening the Australia-China relationship.
“Collaboration between Australia and China in education and research goes back further than our more-than-40-years of diplomatic relations,” Mr Abbott’s message said.
“Early exchanges between the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences began in 1963 and laid the foundation for the decades ahead.”
Professor Høj urged participants to examine the challenges ahead for China as its economy transformed, and to consider the role Australia could play in the process, particularly through opportunities to broaden and deepen scholarly links to strengthen bilateral, regional and global co-operation.
The CASS-UQ Asia Pacific Forum will be held annually. CASS will host the next forum in Beijing in 2015.
Media: Deputy Director (UQ Global Engagement) Dr Jessica Gallagher, firstname.lastname@example.org, +61 7 334 67869.