Australia: Penguins and Pandas – Victoria's partnership strategy with China

On 19 April 2016, Victorian Premier, the Honourable Daniel Andrews MP, launched the Victorian Government's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/china-strategy/) (China Strategy) at a gala lunch at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Victoria.

The China Strategy outlines how the Victorian Government plans to build on its existing relationship with China by pursuing a vision of "...Victoria [becoming] China's gateway to Australia based on the strength of our connections and the depth of our understanding of each other's people, culture and economic needs".1 The Victorian Government has built this vision on a set of three guiding principles - deeper understanding, genuine connections and mutual prosperity - which will involve Victoria:

  • working with China to promote a deeper understanding of each other's people, culture and economic needs
  • building genuine connections at the government, business, community and individual level with China
  • working with China to ensure that the economic relationship between the parties is mutually prosperous.2

The Victorian Government aims to achieve its vision through the implementation of six directions, which are summarised as follows:

  1. Strengthen government alliances within China's economic developmental zones – due to the significant role that the government plays in business in China, the strengthening of the relationship between the Victorian and Chinese Governments is of fundamental importance to the success of the China Strategy. As part of this direction, the Victorian Government aims to enhance the Victoria-China government relationship through the Victorian Premier making annual trips to China, Victorian Government Cabinet Ministers visiting China during each term of government, improving the Victoria-Jiangsu sister state relationship by enabling greater collaboration between government officials, and formalising the Victoria-Sichuan sister state relationship. 3
  2. Establish Victoria as Australia's centre of excellence for Asia insights and capabilities – under this direction, the Victorian Government is looking to make Victoria "Australia's preeminent state for understanding and engaging with Asia" through a revised Victorian education curriculum which incorporates Asian studies and "other critical skills for engaging with China and Asia".4 Further, the Victorian Government is also seeking to improve the "Asia literacy" of the Victorian workforce by continuing to provide Hamer Scholarships, which enable eligible residents of Victoria to study at certain educational institutions in Jiangsu, and through exchange opportunities for members of the Victorian and Jiangsu public services.5
  3. Build connections through reciprocal partnerships and by establishing new platforms for people-to-people engagement – the Victorian Government has recognised the importance of guanxi (relationships) in the Chinese culture, and aims to develop its relationship with China through activities that are focussed on the development of cultural understanding, interests and connections between China and Victoria. One very visible example of this is the Sister Park Agreement between the Phillip Island Nature Park (home of Victoria's fairy penguin parade) and the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Centre in the Sichuan province. This will also be achieved through China and Victoria sharing cultural activities focussed on the arts, sport and design, and the promotion of outreach programs which are aimed at increasing Victoria's understanding of Chinese culture.6
  4. Attract investment to support Victoria's continued economic growth – Victoria (and more broadly, Australia) has been a popular location for Chinese investment for some time, with Chinese investment in Australia increasing by over 2,700% between 2004 and 2014.7 The Victorian Government is seeking to further promote Chinese investment in Victoria using a number of different means, including its own investment promotion agency 'Invest Victoria' - which "provides a range of confidential business facilitation services to assist businesses" with their entry into the Australian market. However, at the individual level, the Victorian Government wants to continue to attract high net-worth individuals who are looking to participate in Australia's Significant Investor Visa (SIV) program, through the provision of support services (including visa nomination services) to SIV program participants.8 The SIV program has been particularly popular amongst high net-worth Chinese individuals with 95% of the SIV holders in Victoria being Chinese.9 In short, the SIV program enables eligible high net-worth individuals who have satisfied the relevant criteria, which includes making a series of 'complying investments' totalling $5million, to obtain a provisional Australian visa before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residency in Australia.
  5. Support successful business engagement with China – following on from the economic advantages that the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement is likely to bring, and in preparation for China being a significant driver of Asia's future economic output (which is expected to produce half of the world's total economic output by 2025), the Victorian Government is taking a number of measures to support Victorian businesses who wish to compete in the competitive Chinese market.10 These measures include hosting a number of targeted trade missions (both inbound and outbound), offering training programs which are aimed at equipping Victorian businesses with skills to operate their business in China, using Victoria's "logistical strengths and reputation for high quality goods and services" to connect Chinese e-commerce platforms and Victorian exporters, and building on the pre-existing Victoria-Jiangsu Regional City Alliance which seeks to produce economic and trade benefits for regional Victoria and the Jiangsu Province. 11
  6. Target trade activity according to Victoria's competitive advantages and identified market opportunities in China – the Victorian Government seeks to develop strategies which encourage the growth of Victorian exports to China through the support of its major export sectors – which include the food and fibre, international education, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, professional services, transport, defence and construction technology and new energy technology sectors. Examples include the Victorian Government identifying new opportunities for Victorian businesses in the food and fibre sectors, supporting Victorian education providers in their delivery of educational courses in China, and encouraging Chinese investment in new energy generation projects that are being built in response to the Victorian Government's focus on increasing its renewable energy generation.12 Victoria's tourism and creative industry sectors will also form part of the Victorian Government's focus under this direction. This will occur through initiatives such as the expansion of the 'Open Up To More – Melbourne' tourism campaign to an increased number of Chinese cities, in order to attract more Chinese tourists to Melbourne.

Collectively, the Victorian Government's vision, guiding principles and directions concerning its China Strategy demonstrates the great value Victoria places on its developing relationship with China, and highlights the range of mutual benefits that can be enjoyed by both parties through the continued and increasing collaboration of the Victorian and Chinese Governments. It is an exciting time for both China and Victoria, and the launch of the China Strategy is an important development in what looks to be an exciting future of co-operation for both parties.

Footnotes

1 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 9.
2Ibid.
3 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 16-17.
4 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 22.
5 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 22-23.
6 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 24.
7 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 26.
8 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 26-27.
9 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 27.
10 Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 30.
11Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 30-31.
12Victorian Government, Victoria's new China Strategy – Partnerships for Prosperity (State of Victoria, 2016), 35-36.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

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Authors
Timothy Whiting
 
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