Australian-Chinese relations – 40 years on

Media release: Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Forty years after Australia and the People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations, the National Archives and the Chinese Ambassador, His Excellency Mr CHEN Yuming, have marked the occasion with an exchange of gifts today.

On 21 December 1972, ambassadors from both countries in Paris signed a joint communique on mutual recognition and establishing diplomatic relations.

The communique read, in part:

The two Governments agree to develop diplomatic relations, friendship and co-operation between the two countries on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.

Recognising China was one of the first moves by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, who had taken office on 5 December. He issued a statement on 22 December, saying, in part:

While it has long been recognised that Australia's geographical position gives it special interests in the Asian region, up until now we have not come to terms with one of the central facts of that region, the People's Republic of China. This serious distortion in our foreign policy has now been corrected.

Eight months later, on 24 July 1973, Australia and the People's Republic of China signed a three-year trade agreement in Canberra.

'The high value Australia places on its ongoing relationship with China indicates the importance of these initial agreements 40 years ago,' said National Archives Director-General David Fricker. 'We were honoured to receive His Excellency Mr Chen today and delighted to present him with facsimiles of the original documents.

'This exchange also highlights the importance of the Government's Australia in the Asian Century White Paper,' said Mr Fricker. 'This important policy announcement sets a clear objective for cultural diplomacy and exchange to drive a stronger, deeper and broader engagement with Asian nations. It provides a further imperative for the National Archives of Australia to deepen the ongoing positive relationships we share with many archival institutions across Asia."

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e
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