Chinese president Xi Jinping has lauded Australia’s innovation and global influence during an address to federal parliament.
Australia was no longer just a country “on the sheep’s back” or sitting on mineral deposits.
“More importantly, Australia is a country of dynamism and innovation,” Mr Xi told MPs and senators on Monday.
“It has produced many world-renowned scientists and made outstanding contributions to the progress of human civilisation.”
Fresh from the G20 leaders’ meeting, Mr Xi is the second Chinese leader to be accorded the rare honour of addressing federal parliament.
He spoke fondly of his trips to Australia over the past few decades and the huge variety of the “ancient and dynamic continent”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott noted Mr Xi’s personal relationship to Australia – after he visits Tasmania on Tuesday he will have been to every state and territory.
“This president of China, in fact, is more widely travelled in our own country than most Australians,” Mr Abbott said to chuckles from MPs.
The Chinese leader, who will host the G20 in 2016, thanked Mr Abbott for a “fruitful and memorable” summit at the weekend.
“It demonstrates Australia’s important status and influence of international and regional affairs,” he said.
The partnership between the countries will be strengthened by a free trade agreement that Mr Xi and Mr Abbott will sign later on Monday.
China is Australia’s number-one trading partner, with the two-way flow of goods and services exceeding $150 billion last year.
Trade between the countries was worth just a quarter of that amount a decade ago.
Mr Abbott said it was a historic day with the conclusion of the trade deal.
“We have become a model of how two peoples and two countries can complement each other,” he told parliament.
He acknowledged the contributions of the one million Chinese-Australians and ways the countries have worked together, such as in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Both Mr Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten praised former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam for opening diplomatic channels between Australia and China.
“He ended a generation of lost contact and began a thriving partnership now in its fifth decade,” Mr Shorten said.
He congratulated China on its recent climate change deal with the United States, heralding President Xi’s vision on reducing carbon emissions.
China is aiming to peak its emissions by 2030.
“We look forward to building a clean energy future with China,” Mr Shorten said.
Mr Xi says he wants to “draw a more ambitious blueprint for advancing relations” between the two countries during his visit.
“We Chinese are striving to achieve the Chinese dream which is the great renewal of the Chinese nation,” he said.
“It is about enhancing the strength and prosperity of the nation and the wellbeing of the Chinese people.”
China had set two goals – to double the 2010 GDP and per capita income by 2020 and to turn the country into “a modern socialist country that is prosperous, democratic, culturally harmonious” by the middle of the century.
He said the rest of the world would be interested in how China achieves those goals.
“China’s like the big man in the crowd,” Mr Xi said.
“Others are naturally wondering how the big guy will move and act.”
Mr Xi said some countries have confidence in China’s ability, others have concerns and others “find fault with everything China does”.
But China needs a harmonious domestic and international environment to thrive.
“China needs peace,” he said.
“The Chinese are committed to pursuing peaceful development and we hope that all other countries will do the same.”
China remains an “unshaken bull” in it’s commitment to common development, Mr Xi said.