Relations between China and Australia are strong enough to withstand rain and storms like Uluru and the Great Wall, Chinese president Xi Jinping believes.
Mr Xi used a speech to federal parliament on Monday to outline his country’s plans for peace, stability and prosperity, based partly on a new strategic partnership and a new free trade agreement with Australia.
The speech came just days after key US ally President Barack Obama told a Brisbane audience that Asian territorial disputes “threaten to spiral into confrontation” and called on China to “adhere to the same rules as other nations, whether in trade or on the seas”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott released a joint statement with Mr Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday calling for “the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in accordance with international law”.
Mr Xi said it was natural for countries to disagree on some issues, especially as China was “like the big guy in the crowd”.
But what was important is talking candidly, seeking common ground despite differences and “meeting each other halfway”, he said.
“The friendship will withstand rain and storm, and be as everlasting as the majestic Uluru Rock in Australia and the Great Wall in northern China,” Mr Xi said.
Mr Abbott said Australia and China had different systems of government but had become a model of how two people and two countries could complement each other.
“We are testament to the saying that a wise man seeks harmony, not conformity,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Xi, only the second Chinese leader to address the parliament, said China was dedicated to upholding peace and improving the prosperity of the world.
“China will never develop itself at the expense of others,” he said.
The Chinese leader, who will visit Tasmania on Tuesday, joked he will be owed a certificate for having now visited every Australian state as a tourist and a politician.
He said China supported the development of northern Australia, just as it welcomed Australian companies working in China’s booming western region.
However, for the trade and investment relationship to flourish the two countries needed a greater exchange of students, workers and visitors.
“If a tree is to be forever lush and exuberant, its roots must be struck deep in the soil,” he said.