Since the first contribution of Chinese settlers in the 19th century following the gold rush in Ballarat, Australia’s Chinese community has continued to contribute to the growing developments of Australia. The Chinese community plays an important role in Australia’s multicultural community with its enriching culture and enthusiasm. As an Chinese-Australian, I wish to express my overwhelming congratulations on the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China.
Australia was among the first to recognise the reality and importance of internationally oriented growth in China and the opportunities that it would open. With such a short history of political engagement, both countries have now developed a high level of mutual understanding, which has further strengthened the relationship between the two nations.
Economic and technical co-operation between Australia and China is developing more steadily in breadth and depth. Exchanges on education and culture are becoming richer and more varied in content, while contacts between the two peoples have increased rapidly as the hospitality of the Australian people has attracted large numbers of Chinese tourists visiting Australia every year.
High level visits between the two are so frequent that they have become regular events; it is particularly auspicious that leaders from both sides meet and talk directly and better understand each other’s circumstances.
Economic and trade relations between the two countries have escalated to a new level with the agenda and the negotiations of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Both countries agreed to start negotiations on establishing a FTA following Australia’s recognition of China’s “full market economy status”. Proposed talks between China and Australia have concluded with the understanding that the agreement would indeed strongly benefit and strengthen an already evolving and extensive trade and economic relationship.
Australia’s economic growth is currently underpinned by record commodity prices and its best terms of trade for 50 years. This is largely a result of China’s insatiable demand for our resource exports. For example, in 1995, China accounted for 5 per cent of world steel imports, by 2004 it had doubled to 10 per cent.
Consistent with that, Australia’s exports of iron ore to China increased by 41 per cent in 2004 along with significant increases in our exports of coal, copper, nickel and other ores. In 2004, China overtook the United States as Australia’s second largest export market and it is also now our third largest trading partner.
This celebration and commemoration should not just focus on our economic and political relationships; it should also include remembering the contribution of Chinese migrants to Australia. The Chinese community is an important part of our nation’s history and multicultural society, being one of the first migrant groups to come to Australia during the 19th century. According to the 2006 Census, 669,890 or 3.4 per cent of the Australian population identified themselves as having Chinese ancestry. In Victoria alone, Mandarin and Cantonese represent about 4 per cent of the languages spoken at home.
The 2006 Census also stated that Cantonese and Mandarin is mounting a challenge to the more traditional migrant language groups in Australia. Chinese languages are spoken by more than 500,000 people, which represents an increase of nearly 100,000 since the 2001 census.
I couldn’t possibly imagine the reaction of my great great grandfather, who arrived in the gold rush days in the 1850s.
Australia’s multicultural society has enabled ethnic communities to share and celebrate their traditions and heritage. As the child of Chinese migrants, I have had the opportunity to learn about my heritage and culture from my parents. I was raised in a very traditional Chinese family in Australia and my values and ethics are a convergence of the two cultures. I consider this as a privilege that has provided me with both personal fulfilment and development.
Beginning from our modest beginnings as gold miners, traders and labourers, we have developed into successful leaders in business, law, medicine and science. Perhaps one of the key achievements was the election of John So as the first ethnic Chinese Lord Mayor in Australia. Other notable representatives elected into State and Federal Parliaments include Hong Lim, Michael Choi, Penny Wong and Tsebin Tchen.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.