I quote in part Shane Maloney's take of Gough Whitlam and Zhou Enlai's first meeting, as reported in his column "Encounters" in The Monthly, June 2006:
Early in 1971, the Australian Wheat Board was worried that politics were getting in the way of business. To the Coalition government in Canberra, Red China was a downward-thrusting threat to be contained and isolated. To the AWB, it was a market at risk.
Enter Gough Whitlam, leader of an ALP that hadn't seen power for twenty years. Staking his electoral chances on his supreme self-assurance, he sent a message to the Chinese premier. Could they, he wondered, meet to discuss "matters of mutual concern"?
Zhou was a busy man. CEO of a nation mired in the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, he was hatching a scheme of world-changing audacity. Come in July, he cabled.
They met at midnight in the Great Hall of the People. To Whitlam's astonishment, the Australian press contingent was also invited ...
As the meeting ended, Zhou dispensed with his interpreter. In perfect English, the elegant 73-year-old remarked on Whitlam's comparative youth. Whitlam replied that he was about to turn 55, the age at which Zhou represented China at the Geneva Conference …
Two days later, in Shanghai, Zhou sent Whitlam a birthday cake … By the time Whitlam returned to Australia, the Labor leader's high-risk gamble seemed like an act of sublime prescience.
Eighteen months later he went back to China as Australia's prime minister. This time, there were bands and banquets and fulsome toasts.
Thus was the beginning of a flourishing Australia-China diplomatic relationship that we now celebrate four decades later. It was also the beginning of a trade relationship that grew our economy and helped us leap over the hurdles of the global financial crisis. In the foreword to the Australia-China Business Insight journal, the Hon. Julia Gillard, MP, Prime Minister of Australia said:
The Australia-China relationship is stronger and more broadly-based than ever before. China is now Australia's largest trading partner, and our commercial and investment relationship continues to go from strength to strength.
The two-way trade between China and Australia is reported to have exceeded $100 billion, predominantly in Australia's favour. The strength of our relationship is not only about trade and business but also about people, with nearly 500,000 Chinese visiting Australia last year and more than 126,000 Chinese students choosing to study in Australia. Today's China is shifting into a higher gear, with a new generation of leaders focused on maintaining the delicate balance between national and international politics and a domestic and competitive global market. Australia's engagement with China will require continued open dialogue on all levels to avoid any adverse shifts in the way we treat or perceive one another.
Celebrating 40 years since our diplomatic relationship should not simply be a time for fanfare but a time where we can all reflect on the past with a view to improving our future in all facets of human endeavour. It is no secret that I have developed a special admiration for the Peoples Republic of China and the lifting of its people from poor rural to a first world economy. I express my deepest respect to all Chinese people around the world for their warmth, their hospitality and their friendship. I am therefore keen to ensure that we remain alert and maintain a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.
Last week I attended two Chinese events celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relationships between our two nations, and I am proud of the significant friendships that I have forged with our Australian-Chinese community. This fortieth anniversary also invites us to reflect on the leaders who initiated the relationship we have today. I want to express my personal love and respect for Gough Whitlam, a true blue Australian icon. Gough is now 96 years old. He is frail and without Margret. He is and always will be a giant of a statesman, a forever shining light on the hill. As Malcolm Fraser said at the Gough Whitlam oration in June 2012:
By any standards Gough Whitlam is a formidable political warrior. He has inspired an undying loyalty amongst his supporters. He is an historic figure who has made a significant impact on the life of Australia. He had grand ideas, many of which left their mark on Australia…
I salute you, Gough, and wish you well, and I look forward to a stronger more vibrant and trusting Sino-Australian future.

The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane MLC.
Level 11, Room 1116.
Parliament of New South Wales
Parliament House
Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia



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