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Long Day’s March for President Xi

Edition156 president Xi Jinping web

The President of China, Xi Jinping, spent only a day in Tasmania in November but the visit’s impacts will be felt for years.

Big-ticket items to flow from the visit and an earlier meeting with the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, in Canberra included 10 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs).

Among these agreements were:

  • An MoU that cements Hobart as an Antarctic gateway for Chinese ships and promotes collaboration in scientific research.
  • The establishment in north-western Tasmania of a joint-venture wind farm using newly developed Chinese technology.
  • A memorandum of understanding between Hydro Tasmania and the Shenhua Group Corporation on future collaboration in the Australian renewable energy market.
  • A 100-Year Australia Sino Agriculture and Food Safety Partnership.
  • The establishment by the University of Tasmania and Yunnan Normal University of a Tasmanian Asia Institute.
  • An agreement between Reid Fruits and the Jinshen Group that will lead to the doubling of Reid’s cherry production.

An over-arching new trade deal signed earlier in the week between China and Australia is also expected to bring long-term benefits to Tasmania’s seafood and dairy industries in particular.

The involvement of Chinese companies in the TasInvest event staged in Hobart to coincide with the visit is also promising.

And then there’s the inevitable but as yet immeasurable impact of Chinese media coverage of the visit on tourism and educational uptake in Tasmania.

A promotion of the visit by Tourism Australia on the Chinese website Weibo has attracted 120 million viewers.

Although Tasmania is the last Australian State or Territory to welcome the Chinese President, it has been on his bucket list for many years.

Tasmania has had a sister-state relationship with Fujian province, where President Xi was once Governor, for more than 30 years.

President Xi awarded honorary citizenship to the late Tasmanian Premier, Jim Bacon, during a visit to Fujian in 2001.

During their day in Hobart, the President and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, met school children, patted Tasmanian devils and enjoyed the views from kunanyi / Mount Wellington.

After stepping off a plane just after 11am, Madame Peng warmly embraced school students waiting to present the power couple with a Tasmanian-made lavender bear, a popular keepsake among Chinese tourists.

A highlight for Chinese media was seeing the President come face to face with six-month-old Tasmanian devils Bella, Possum and Lulu at Government House.

Wildlife advocate Greg Irons hopes the visit will boost efforts to save the species from a deadly facial tumour disease. “It’s great to have devils beaming across lounge rooms in China,” he said.

The Government House lunch featured:

  • A ceviche of Tasmanian seafood, including farmed Bicheno abalone.
  • Pinot and bay poached Longford fillet of beef.
  • Confit Atlantic salmon with apple, cold smoked ocean trout and Ashbolt olive oil.
  • A ballotine of Ranoch quail studded with truffles.
  • Hellyers Road peated whisky from Burnie, with local confections.

An interview with chef Ainstie Wagner was the most popular item in Tourism Australia’s Weibo exercise, attracting 30 million views and, no doubt, doing wonders for the reputation of Tasmania’s food.

The couple signed a visitor’s book and met members of the Bacon family.

In his lunch address, President Xi referred to the rapid growth in cooperation between Tasmania and China, the State’s largest trading partner.

China is also the State’s biggest source of international students and its fastest-growing tourism market.

President Xi said cooperation in the Antarctic was “a bright spot" in the relationship.

The party later toured the Chinese icebreaker, XueLong, and signed the Antarctic MoU.

Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said: “This Antarctic cooperation MoU is a coup for Tasmania; it’s a coup for Hobart.

“This is about a partnership with the world’s most populous country, this is about Hobart being a gateway to Antarctica and the world knowing it.”

Mining entrepreneur Twiggy Forrest, who is Co-Chair of the Australia Sino 100-Year Agriculture and Food Safety Partnership described that deal as “a huge opportunity for Tasmania.”

President Xi found time to plant a Yulan magnolia tree, the official flower of Shanghai, in the grounds of Government House.

Meanwhile, activists dressed as penguins took to the River Derwent in a peaceful protest against China’s recent refusal to sign an Antarctic conservation treaty.

10 December 2014, Edition 156

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