Art exhibition celebrates history of Australian-Chinese relations

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Since Gough Whitlam first made Australian history by stepping on Chinese soil in 1972, Australia-China relations have grown stronger. Now with Chinese President Xi Jingping due here for the G20, a photo exhibition marks the milestones in that vital 40 year relationship.

Photographs from former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's 1972 visit to China form part of a new art exhibition in Sydney.

Gough Whitlam's son, Nicholas, said his father made history through that visit.

"It was critical.  He was the first Prime Minister, in fact he was the first leader of the opposition as well, to go to China, the new China if you will, and he opened the doors that we know now," said Nicholas Whitlam.

They were doors to cultural, political and economic benefits, especially a trade relationship that's now worth more than 100 billion dollars annually.

Since then, every Australian Prime Minister since Gough Whitlam has made it a priority to visit Beijing.

The exhibition, in the heart of Sydney's chinese community of Chatswood,  has been organised in the lead-up to President Xi Jingping's arrival for the G20 Summit in Brisbane

Nicholas Whitlam described it as a memory trigger for Sino-phile Australians.

"There are some pictures in there of the ping pong diplomacy, you know the table tennis teams going in. You know at the time they came here I don't think anyone realised that they were the best in the world at ping pong, table tennis. And that was an important door opener, if you will, from the Chinese side.  You see exhibitions which are important because they record something," Nicholas Whitlam said.

Sydney based heart surgeon Doctor Alan Farnsworth has spent the past 30 years training and working with Chinese doctors at Tian Jin Chest Hospital. He says the modernisation of hospitals and medical procedures in China has been astonishing to watch.

"There has been a dramatic change, the expertise, they are very excellent operators and communicators, and the whole thing is totally different from when I first went there it's startling really.  Certainly amongst the college of surgeons here there is a very big interest in maintaining and fostering an ongoing relationship with surgery in China.  It's an important area.  I also think it's also important to have good personal relationships.  It just builds on a nice foundation for our two countries."

The highest Chinese official in Australia - Consul General Li Huxin - is optimistic about the future and that a Free Trade Agreement will be signed with Australia by the end of this year.

"We are negotiating now about the FTA agreement.  I think if we succeed in this agreement, this will be a very very strong push for our bilateral relations.  So yes we have now a very very excellent relationship between the two countries, we are confident that we have a very bright future."

Source SBS

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