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Interview: Xi's visit to open new chapter of Australia-China ties

2014-11-14 15:38:27 (Beijing Time)        

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Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to the Australian island state of Tasmania will open a new chapter for relations between Australia and China, said state Premier Will Hodgman.

Having one of the world's most important leaders setting foot on Tasmania is of great significance to the long-standing cooperation and exchanges between the two countries, Hodgman told Xinhua.

"It will be the most powerful demonstration of the connection between us and China, our largest trading partner and a very important cultural partner as well," Hodgman said.

Xi's visit to Tasmania will present unparalleled opportunities to best showcase Tasmania to the world and further strengthen its economic and cultural ties with China, he said.

The Australian government confirmed in October that Xi will visit Tasmania after his attendance at a Group of 20 summit in Brisbane, ending speculations on the president's itinerary. The news has elated Tasmania and the premier himself.

"It's getting more exciting to consider a visit from the president and what will happen after that. I don't think we can fully imagine," said Hodgman.

Local political and business leaders widely believed that the impact of Xi's visit would be phenomenal for Tasmania.

China is Tasmania's top trading partner with 610 million Australian dollars (approximately 524 million US dollars) of merchandise and exports, and also a booming tourism market with nearly 20,000 arrivals last year.

Tasmania has seen Chinese arrivals more than double in recent months and that rate of growth continues week by week, according to the premier.

Hodgman noted the impact of President Xi's visit on tourism will pose challenges to Tasmania's logistical capacity.

"It's going to test us. We have only so many beds for our tourists and we only have so many wonderful Tasmanian businesses ready to throw their arms open to the Chinese people who are coming to Tasmania in greater numbers than ever before," he said.

Hodgman stressed that Tasmania is doing its best to get itself "China Ready" in order to provide good experience for the guests during their stay.

He said he has been working closely with the local Chinese community, which is becoming an important partner for the government in forging ties between China and Australia.

Having met Xi in person earlier this year during his trip to Beijing, Hodgman said it was an amazing honor and also a chance for him to speak briefly with the president about Tasmania and to extend a very warm invitation for a visit.

He voiced his belief that Xi's visit will put Tasmania in spotlight and lift it's relations with China to a new height.

"And we've got great opportunity to have the president take time out of his incredibly busy schedule to visit our state, it would be a great honor. But this will just be the start for a new chapter in our relations."

China has participated in several major projects in Tasmania, particularly in the mining sector.

Hodgman said there are areas and huge potential in Tasmania that are yet to be explored. A TasInvest Forum which coincides with Xi's visit, will showcase some of the best investment opportunities in fields such as agriculture, education, wood products and tourism, he said.

"TasInvest is to open up to international investors, especially to those from China."

The duty of forging links with China has been passed down through Tasmanian premiers. Doug Lowe was the first state leader to visit China in 1980 and he inked an agreement on sister relationship with Fujian province. Former Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon received an honorary citizenship from Xi, who was then the governor of Fujian.