<HTML><HEAD> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19019"></HEAD> <BODY> <DIV id=content class=span-16> <H1 class="cN-headingPage prepend-5 span-11 last">Australia, Gillard - Economic ties ease tensions with China </H1> <DIV class="push-0 span-11 last"><!-- cT-storyDetails --> <DIV class="cT-storyDetails cfix"> <H5>John Garnaut </H5><CITE>April 27, 2011</CITE> <UL></UL></DIV> <DIV id=googleAds class="ad adSpot-textBox"></DIV><BOD> <DIV class=articleBody> <DIV id=video-player-content class="cT-imageMultimedia playerPlaying"> <DIV id=video-player-content-player class=videoWrap>&nbsp;BEIJING: The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has emerged from top-level talks to declare ''the relationship with China is in good shape'', despite pushing Australia's concerns about businessmen detained in Chinese jails.</DIV></DIV> <P>Ms Gillard squarely raised questions about the Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu and tourism entrepreneur Matthew Ng, who has been charged but not prosecuted in Guangzhou, and also won plaudits for stabilising the relationship and focusing on its economic strengths.</P> <P>''My argument today is that we can be positive about our relationship and that we should be ambitious for its future,'' Ms Gillard told business leaders in a speech last night. </P><!-- cT-imageLandscape --> <DIV class=cT-imageLandscape><IMG alt="Cordial relations... Ms Gillard and Mr Wen." src="ctsart_wen-420x0.jpg"> <P>Cordial relations... Ms Gillard and Mr Wen. <EM>Photo: AFP</EM></P></DIV> <P>Earlier she told reporters: ''Of course our economic relationship is a vital one for Australia's national interest and it's growing in leaps and bounds.'' </P> <P>Ms Gillard's first visit to China in a decade was seen as a crucial test of her diplomatic skills, partly because it is taking place in the midst of the largest crackdown on Chinese civil society in two decades and at a time of high tension between Washington and Beijing. </P> <P>But China has laid out the red carpet and showcased its immense economic contribution and potential to Australia.</P> <P>''We have always seen Australia as an important partner in win-win co-operation,'' the Premier, Wen Jiabao, told Ms Gillard, before signing an agreement to boost what is already Australia's most valuable tourism export market - and rolling out many of the biggest names in Chinese economic policy making.</P> <P>Guo Chunmei, an Australia specialist at China's top international relations think tank, told the <I>Herald</I> that China wanted to improve relations, and Ms Gillard has obliged.</P> <P>''Australian and Chinese people are becoming more mature on the relationship and Julia Gillard is a good communicator,'' said Dr Guo, of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. ''She deals with sensitive problems in a more acceptable manner.'' </P> <P>Until yesterday the Rudd and Gillard governments had avoided highlighting the extraordinary contribution that China has made to Australian living standards, preferring to focus on their own efforts. </P> <P>But last night Ms Gillard made the case in full, including: China buying one quarter of Australian exports; trade generating more than $10,000 per Australian household last year; 167,000 enrolments by Chinese students in Australia; nearly 450,000 arrivals from China in Australia last year; and mega-business deals including last week's $90 billion LNG export deal.</P> <P>Ms Gillard declined to raise individual human rights cases with Mr Wen but sought reassurances that ''China is not taking a backwards step'', to which Mr Wen replied that it was not.</P> <P>''I did express to Premier Wen my concern and Australia's concern about the treatment of ethnic minorities, about the question of religious freedom and about recent reports in relation to human rights activists,'' Ms Gillard told reporters. </P> <P>But she took the unusual step of raising two high-profile cases. ''I did take the opportunity with Premier Wen to indicate my concern and my interest and the Australian government's concern and interest in the matter involving Stern Hu and Matthew Ng, and they were the two cases I raised by name,'' she said.</P> <P>Mr Hu has served the first of a 10-year sentence for bribery and stealing commercial secrets in Shanghai. Mr Ng's case is said to be at a legal crossroads, with a decision to release, prosecute or rearrest him on different charges expected within days.</P> <P>Mainstream Chinese newspapers yesterday were generally positive about Ms Gillard's visit, with the exception of the state-owned nationalistic tabloid the <I>Global Times</I>. </P> <P>''Australia's extremely conflicted attitude to China,'' said its front-page story, which focused on Australian economic ambitions and a Lowy Institute poll suggesting Australians were willing to go to war to defend South Korea against North Korea even if China was on the other side. </P> <P>''A contrast has formed between the weakening curve of Australia's regional influence and the curve of rising China,'' said the story, citing Professor Su Hao of China Foreign Affairs University.</P> <P>Difficult military and security issues are expected to be discussed this afternoon when Ms Gillard meets President Hu Jintao. </P></DIV></BOD></DIV></DIV></BODY></HTML>