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China country brief

Bilateral relations

After establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1972, Australia established an embassy in Beijing in 1973.

The Australia-China bilateral relationship is based on strong economic and trade complementarities and longstanding community and cultural links.

In 2014, the Australian Prime Minister and Chinese President agreed to describe the relationship as a "comprehensive strategic partnership", reflecting its breadth.

Bilateral engagement has generated benefits for both countries. While we have many shared interests, we also have big differences to manage. Australia will cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in the national interest.

Both sides acknowledge that Australia and China have different histories, societies and political systems, as well as differences of view on some important issues. In our engagement with China, we work in support of the welfare of our citizens, the rights and freedoms of those who live in Australia, and our strategic, security and trade interests.

Australia adheres to its one-China policy, which means we do not recognize Taiwan as a country. We maintain unofficial contacts with Taiwan promoting economic, trade and cultural interests.

Australia raises a wide range of human rights issues with China including freedom of expression, freedom of religion, treatment of political prisoners and ethnic minorities (including abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet), torture, the death penalty, and the rights of legal practitioners and civil rights activists. Where appropriate, we also raise our concerns at multilateral fora such as the Human Rights Council.

Australia's diplomatic network in China includes the embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Hong Kong. There are also eight Austrade offices across China, assisting Australian businesses to enter markets and promote Australia as an investment, tourism and education destination. Most Australian state governments are represented in China's leading commercial centres. Australia and China share around 100 sister-state/province and sister-city relationships.

Trade and investment

China is Australia's largest two-way trading partner, accounting for 26 per cent of our goods and services trade with the world in FY2022-23. Two-way trade with China increased 12 per cent in FY2022-23, totalling $316.9 billion. Our goods and services exports to China totalled $203.5 billion in 2022-23, up 13 per cent compared to FY2021-22. Services exports were up 27 per cent in the same period, largely due to the return of tourists and students. Increased engagement between Australia and China has led to positive developments in the trade relationship, including the removal of many Chinese trade impediments that had affected Australian exports since 2019. Detailed trade statistics can be found via the China Fact Sheet.

The China–Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) entered into force on 20 December 2015. ChAFTA is an historic agreement that is delivering enormous benefits to Australia, enhancing our competitive position in the Chinese market, boosting economic growth and creating jobs. Businesses have taken advantage of lower tariffs under the agreement, with a utilisation rate of over 90 per cent in both directions. Australia and China are also both parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).

Australia's foreign investment review framework is open, transparent and non-discriminatory. Chinese investment in Australia is a highly valued part of the bilateral relationship. China is the sixth-largest foreign direct investor in Australia (investment stock worth $44.8 billion in 2022), accounting for 4.0 per cent of total foreign direct investment (FDI). In recent years, Chinese investment has broadened from mainly mining to sectors such as infrastructure, services and agriculture. Australian FDI in China totalled $3.7 billion in 2022.

Strong economic complementarities continue to underpin our mutually beneficial trade and Australian businesses continue to successfully enter the Chinese market. However—as with all cross border commercial activities—there are risks. Austrade has developed a range of resources to assist Australian companies in navigating this market, including its China market profile and advice on doing business in China.

Chinese tourism to Australia is supported through access for Chinese nationals to Australia's SmartGate, online lodgement for visitor visas and an additional online lodgement service in simplified Chinese language through the Australian Visa Application Centres (AVACs) in China. Visa fast track services (priority processing within 48 hours) and a 10-year visitor visa option are available for Chinese applicants for business and tourist streams.

Australians are increasingly purchasing products from China through online shopping sites. There are risks buying products from an overseas-based online seller and difficulties exist in obtaining a remedy from them. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides information regarding shopping online.

People-to-people links

Community and cultural links continue to develop strongly and play a vital role in the Australia-China relationship. Australians of Chinese heritage have contributed significantly to the development of Australia and also foster people-to-people links with China. In addition to immigration, education, trade and tourism also bolster these links.

Australia-China engagement in education, science, business and culture brings significant economic, social and cultural dividends to both countries and adds value to the bilateral relationship. Established in 2020, the National Foundation for Australia China Relations is a national platform that works across business, government and communities to strengthen constructive engagement with China and build links. It provides practical support and expertise, facilitates connections, and coordinates training and exchange programs. Through its annual grants program the Foundation supports Australian individuals and organisations to develop, promote and strengthen understanding and engagement between Australia and China, consistent with Australia's national interests.

Australia remains one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students wishing to study overseas. China continues to be Australia's largest source of overseas students.

In the other direction, China was the largest destination for Australians studying overseas and for Australia's New Colombo Plan before COVID-19. As China's border begin opening, the initiative will continue helping to lift knowledge of China in Australia and strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships, through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students in China.

Prior to COVID-19, China was Australia's largest inbound market in terms of visitor arrivals and total visitor spend. In 2019, there were over 1.3 million visitor arrivals from China, which not only contributed to the Australian economy but also increased understanding of Australia in China.

In 2014, Australia and China established a 1.5 track leadership forum, the Australia‑China High-Level Dialogue. The Dialogue aims to enhance mutual understanding by bringing together senior representatives from industry, government, academia, media and the arts to exchange perspectives across the breadth of Australia and China's bilateral relationship. The Dialogue is an opportunity for constructive discussion between stakeholders on both sides of the bilateral relationship across a range of issues, including trade and investment, people-to-people links and regional and international security. The inaugural High‑Level Dialogue was held in December 2014 in Beijing. The seventh Dialogue was held in September 2023 in Beijing. Australia's delegation was led by former Trade Minister, the Hon Dr Craig Emerson.

High-level visits and meetings

  • In March 2024, Foreign Minister Wong met the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, in Canberra for the 7th Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. Minister Wang also met separately with the Prime Minister. 
  • In February 2024, Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao on the sidelines of the 13th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi. 
  • In December 2023, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Bowen met Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua in Dubai on the sidelines of COP28.
  • In November 2023, Foreign Minister Wong and Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell met the Minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party, Liu Jianchao, in Canberra.
  • In November 2023, Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell met Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao on the sidelines of the APEC Ministers' Meeting in San Francisco.
  • In November 2023, Treasurer Chalmers met Minister of Finance Lan Fo'an on the sidelines of the APEC Finance Ministers' Meeting in San Francisco.
  • In November 2023, Prime Minister Albanese met separately with President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Qiang, and National People's Congress Standing Committee Chair Zhao Leji in Beijing.
  • In November 2023, Foreign Minister Wong met the Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, in Beijing.
  • In November 2023, Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell met Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao in Shanghai.
  • In September 2023, Prime Minister Albanese held a bilateral meeting with Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • In August 2023, Education Minister Clare and Skills and Training Minister O'Connor met Minister of Education Huai Jinpeng in Sydney and Melbourne respectively.
  • In July 2023, Treasurer Chalmers met Minister of Finance Liu Kun on the sidelines of the G20 Finance Ministers' and Central Bank Governors' Meeting in Gandhinagar, India.
  • In July 2023, Foreign Minister Wong met Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi on the sidelines of ASEAN-related meetings in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • In July 2023, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Watt met Chinese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Tang Renjian on the sidelines of the 43rd Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
  • In June 2023, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Marles met Chinese Minister of National Defense General Li Shangfu at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
  • In May 2023, Minister for Trade and Tourism Farrell met Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao on the sidelines of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting in Detroit.
  • In May 2023, Minister for Trade and Tourism Farrell co-chaired the 16th Joint Ministerial Economic Commission with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao in Beijing.
  • In March 2023, Foreign Minister Wong held a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in New Delhi.
  • In February 2023, Minister for Trade and Tourism Farrell held a video teleconference with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao.
  • In December 2022, Foreign Minister Wong and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held the sixth Foreign and Strategic Dialogue in Beijing.
  • In December 2022, Minister for the Environment and Water Plibersek met Minister of Ecology and the Environment Huang Runqiu at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal.
  • In November 2022, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Marles met Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe in Siem Reap on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus.
  • In November 2022, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Bowen met Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua in Sharm El Sheikh on the sidelines of COP27.
  • In November 2022, Prime Minister Albanese held a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping in Bali on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.
  • In November 2022, Foreign Minister Wong held a phone call with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
  • In September 2022, Foreign Minister Wong held a bilateral meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
  • In July 2022, Foreign Minister Wong held a bilateral meeting with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bali.
  • In June 2022, Defence Minister Marles met with Chinese Minister for National Defence General Wei Fenghe at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
  • In January 2020, former prime minister the Hon John Howard OM AC co‑chaired the Australia China High-Level Dialogue in Sydney with Mr Li Zhaoxing, Honorary President of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • In November 2019, former prime minister the Hon Scott Morrison met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Bangkok for the Annual Leaders' Meeting.
  • In November 2019, former trade, investment and tourism minister the Hon Simon Birmingham visited Shanghai where he led Australia's delegation to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) and participated in ministerial discussions on World Trade Organisation (WTO) matters.
  • In October 2019, former prime minister the Hon Scott Morrison met Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan in Jakarta.
  • In August 2019, former foreign minister the Hon Marise Payne and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok.
  • In August 2019, former trade, investment and tourism minister the Hon Simon Birmingham visited Beijing for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.

Trade data current as of September 2023.

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