China in My Eyes

50 years of continued friendship

Australian Friendship

Australia visits China in 1973

Professor Stephen Fitzgerald described the visit to China by Whitlam as one which ” nothing in Australian history to compare with that China visit” (Fitzgerald, 2012).

Stephen Fitzgerald and Gough Whitlam  meeting Mao Zedong 1972, Australia and China's first recognition of friendship since 1949.

Stephen Fitzgerald and Gough Whitlam meeting Mao Zedong 1972, Australia and China’s first recognition of friendship since 1949.

The official visit to China in 1973 by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was the official start of friendship between China and Australia. Both Australia and PRC China  had contrasting politics but have had diplomatic and trade friendship since this visit in 1972.  It is because of people such as Stephen Fitzgerald and Colin Mackerras that this friendship was able to begin and continue. Both have visited China prior to 1973 and have built careers around cultural exchange and understanding for Australians about Asia and China.  Fitzgerald described :

The images Australians had of Asia were of poverty, instability, revolution – and inferiority. The White Australia policy, despite some small modification by Harold Holt, remained largely in place when Whitlam came to power, and White Australia was an inescapable statement of what Australia thought about Asians. ….The most intense engagements we had had in Asia since 1945 had in fact been in war – Korea, Malaya, Vietnam – fighting communism, fighting someone else’s wars, fighting Asians” (Fitzgerald, 2012, p.16).

Through building education degree programs for Australians to learn about Asia, Colin Mackerras and Stephen Fitzgerald were one of the pioneers which has given many people in Australia their first understanding of the rich culture, history, language, customs, politics and people  found in Asia, particularly China.

Gough Whitlam visits China 1972

Gough Whitlam visits China 1973


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