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Interview with The Australian

He Yafei
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
The People's Republic of China

On Oct. 28, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei had an interview with Michael Sainsbury, the accredited journalist of The Australian in Beijing. The following is the transcript.

Question: What is the purpose and agenda of Vice Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming trip to Australia?

Answer: At the invitation of the Australian Government, Vice Premier Li Keqiang will pay an official visit to Australia from 29 October to 1 November. The visit is a major event in China-Australia relations and has great significance for the sound and steady growth of the relationship.

During the visit, Vice Premier Li will have meetings and talks with Governor General Quentin Bryce, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and other Australian leaders. In addition to Canberra, he will also visit Sydney and Brisbane, where he will meet leaders of the two states of New South Wales and Queensland. While in Sydney, Vice Premier Li will deliver an important address to the business community. He and Australian leaders will also witness the signing of several cooperation agreements between relevant Chinese and Australian government departments and companies in the fields of forestry, protection of cultural relics, education and training, and telecommunications.

The Chinese side hopes that the visit will further contribute to maintaining the momentum of high-level contacts with Australia, deepen mutual understanding and trust, promote friendly exchanges and practical cooperation in political, economy and trade, energy, resources, science, education, culture, and other diverse areas, strengthen bilateral dialogue and coordination in international and regional affairs, and bring China-Australia relations to a new level. We are confident that with the concerted efforts of both sides, the visit will be a great success.

After concluding his visit to Australia, Vice Premier Li Keqiang will visit New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Question: How would you describe Australia's relationship with China? What is China's long-term perspective for the Sino-Australian relationship?

Answer: China and Australia are both important countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Our two economies have a lot to offer each other, and we have extensive common interests in promoting national economic development and safeguarding peace and stability in the region and beyond. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to developing friendly and cooperative relations with Australia. The China-Australia relationship now enjoys a good momentum of development. Our leaders have frequent contacts through mutual visits, meetings on multilateral occasions and exchange of letters. Economic, trade and investment cooperation between our two countries has been fruitful. Bilateral trade reached US$59.66 billion in 2008 and approached US$43 billion in the first nine months of 2009. According to Australian statistics, in the first eight months of this year, China has become Australia's largest trading partner. Our two countries also have frequent people-to-people exchanges, with friendly interactions and fruitful cooperation in science and technology, education, culture, tourism and so on. Around 130,000 Chinese students are studying in Australia, making China Australia's largest source of overseas students. Each year, over 400,000 Chinese tourists visit Australia, positioning China as the fastest growing tourist market for Australia. And 80 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities have been established between our two countries. On the international front, we have conducted good dialogue and cooperation in the United Nations, APEC, G-20, East Asia Summit, Pacific Islands Forum and other multilateral organizations and mechanisms. There is also good communication and coordination on climate change, the financial crisis, promotion of regional cooperation and other issues.

What has happened shows that long-term, steady and sound development of China-Australia relations not only brings tangible benefits to the people of the two countries, but also contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and the entire world. We have full confidence in the future of China-Australia relations. We will continue to work with the Australian side in a spirit of mutual respect and equality to increase contacts and exchanges at the top and other levels, strengthen dialogue and consultation, promote friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, economic and trade, cultural and other fields, respect and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns, and push forward the all-round cooperative relations of mutual benefit and win-win results between China and Australia.

Question: What is the attitude of China towards the China-Australia free trade negotiations?

Answer: It serves the common and long-term interests of both China and Australia to reach a bilateral free trade arrangement through negotiations. China has always had a positive attitude towards this. The two sides have had 13 rounds of negotiations and made progress. However, due to our different national conditions and development stages, some complex and sensitive issues are yet to be settled in the negotiations. As long as the two sides advance the negotiations in a positive, pragmatic, balanced and mutually beneficial manner, a comprehensive, high-quality and balanced agreement will be reached at an early date.

Question: What is China's overall policy towards Pacific island countries?

Answer: The relationship between China and Pacific island countries is an important component of that between China and other developing countries. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to developing friendly and cooperative relations with island countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. China respects their development paths chosen in accordance with their respective national conditions, supports their efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and independence, promote economic and social development and improve people's livelihood, and supports them in participating in international affairs on an equal footing and accelerating progress towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.

In recent years, great strides have been made in the relationship between China and Pacific island countries, as evidenced by frequent exchanges at the top and other levels and productive exchanges and cooperation in various sectors. The growth of such ties not only brings tangible benefits to the people of China and relevant island countries, but also contributes strongly to stability and prosperity of the Pacific islands region. Under the current international situation, China is ready to further develop friendly exchanges and practical cooperation with Pacific island countries and jointly promote the bilateral relations.

Question: Can you say something on China's policy on assistance to Pacific island countries?

Answer: China is a responsible, major developing country, not a wealthy nation. However, we persist in providing economic and technological assistance to the best of our capacity to other developing countries, including Pacific island countries. The assistance, different from development aid in North-South cooperation, is mutual help between developing countries in the context of South-South cooperation. In providing assistance to island countries, China fully respects their sovereignty and the will of their governments and peoples, and takes into account their national conditions and development needs. We follow the principles of equality, credibility, mutual benefit pragmatism and efficiency, never interfere in the internal affairs of the recipient countries, and our assistance has no political strings attached. Rather, we sincerely help the recipient countries develop their economies, improve people's livelihood and enhance capacity for self-development.

China has an open mind about providing assistance to island countries and carrying out cooperation in this regards. Our approach is open and non-exclusive and does not target any third party or affect their interests. On the basis of mutual respect and equality, we are ready to exchange views and experience with relevant countries on the issue of aiding island countries, and explore possibilities of joint assistance with the consent of the recipient countries.

Over the years, China has provided grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans to Pacific islands countries, implemented a large number of projects in agriculture, forestry and fishery, and conducted various forms of cooperation in technology and human resources development. China's assistance has yielded good results and is well received by the recipient countries and their people. Facts have proven that China's economic and technical assistance in various fields has not only contributed to sustainable economic and social development of island countries, expanded their revenues and employment opportunities and raised people's living standards, but created necessary conditions for the establishment of democracy and the rule of law in island countries.

Question: How would China and Australia conduct cooperation regarding Pacific island countries?

Answer: As a true friend of Pacific island countries and a dialogue partner of the Pacific Islands Forum, China sincerely hopes countries in this region will achieve social stability and economic development and the people will enjoy peaceful and prosperous lives. China supports Australia in playing an important and active role in the Pacific island region. In recent years, China has had good communication with Australia on issues related to Pacific island countries through high-level visits as well as dialogue and consultations at various levels. China stands ready to continue to strengthen dialogue, communication and cooperation on the issue of Pacific islands countries with Australia so as to jointly contribute to stability and development of the region.



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