2011-02-12 (China Military News cited from Rowan Callick and written by theaustralian.com.au) — CHINA is campaigning to intensify relations with Australia in this Year of the Rabbit, in the face of lobbying that Canberra should buy nuclear submarines as a defence against its military might.
Chen Yuming, China’s new ambassador to Australia, tells Focus during his first interview since his arrival that the “views of China as a threat are not new”. He has been watching the debate closely, he says.
“It is important to understand China’s development.”
This has been rapid, he says, but stresses China remains very weak in some areas, including its scarcity of resources and its average wealth, about 100th in the world even though the overall economy is second only to the US.
Says Chen: “Our defence budget is still only small compared with that of the US. China remains a developing country with a long way to go still and many challenges to address including the poverty of tens of millions.
“These will continue to take the top priority for China, it will focus on domestic issues. It seeks stability, and through this will contribute to world development.”
He says China has “always been a peaceful and friendly nation, with no history of hegemony or seeking dominance”.
Chen guarantees it will remain so. But, he says, some commentators respond that this doesn’t guarantee China won’t seek dominance as it becomes even stronger. And “it is natural for some people to have anxieties about China’s fast development” for which many have been unprepared. His task, he says, is to “help people come to a more objective and accurate understanding”.
And his answer is that, even when China’s gross domestic product comprised one-third of the world’s total, “China remained a peaceful country”. He talks of the great sea voyages 600 years ago led by admiral Zheng He, “who brought friendship and co-operation, instead of imposing a threat or making colonies”.
China has its legitimate defence needs too, he said, “like other countries. This is very normal, very natural.”
He launched on Thursday the Year of Chinese Culture in Australia, which will involve more than 100 events including performances, films and exhibitions all over the country.
After the election last year, he says, Beijing told Canberra that “it attaches great importance to continued close relations with the new Australian government”.
After Julia Gillard won the election, she met President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao at multilateral events. And they invited her to undertake her first visit to China, probably in April.
Chen highlights also the visit last year of Treasurer Wayne Swan, who is deepening relations with China. This includes creating a special China team within Treasury.
It is understood Beijing has become cautious about relations with Chinese-speaking Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, whom it regards as unpredictable, a view reinforced by US cables published by WikiLeaks.
Chen says that China is taking “a cool and calm approach to WikiLeaks”.
He reveals that Commerce Minister Chen Deming (no relation) will be visiting Australia this year, which may help kickstart the languishing free trade agreement negotiations, soon to enter their sixth year.
Wan Gang, Science and Technology Minister and the first minister for more than 30 years who is not a Communist Party member, will also be visiting Australia in the next few months.