Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews returned from China this week (Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday April 2 the key outcomes from his scrutiny-riddled four-day trip to China that took place earlier this week.
Discussions in China involved long-held trade, cultural ties and the return of Chinese students to Victoria. Whilst in China, Andrews liaised with senior officials, including China’s Minister of Education Mr Haui Jinpeng and the Mayor of Beijing Dr Yin Yong.
The Premier faced mass criticism after his team announced the trip just days before his departure. No Australian journalists or media personnel were permitted to accompany him to China - Victoria’s leading trading partner.
Andrews, however, regarded the visit as successful, announcing multiple working groups set to build closer ties with China via strengthened tourism, trade, and international study linkages upon his return.
One working group announced will focus on post-graduate students, with hopes of encouraging further international student exchanges.
Another will be established between Victoria and the Chinese Province Sichuan to increase the bilateral relationship by building on existing trade ties and promoting cooperation in areas.
The areas Andrews highlighted for growth were in health and medical research, education links between the regions, and the exchange of important cultural artefacts.
A task force will also focus on the next phase of a long-term partnership with the Chinese Province Jiangsu, which is just north of Shanghai.
“Victoria is very highly regarded by parents and families who are thinking about sending their children overseas to study and learn, whether that be as undergraduate students, higher education or vocational education students and certainly those post-graduate pathways are critically important as well,” Andrews said.
Party Secretary of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee, Mr Wang Xiaohui, had also agreed to visit Victoria to discuss the standing working group, the upcoming World University Games in Sichuan and Victoria’s 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Though some regarded Andrews decision to not invite Australian journalists as an oversight, the premier defended the move.
He said that his trip to China did not lack transparency, affirming that he would stand by each of the trips he’s made with the Labor Government and as Premier of Victoria.
“The Premier of Victoria being able to visit with the most senior officials in our two sister provinces that are home to more than 170 million people, that on any measure is a good thing,” Andrews said.
“The message that we sent [to China] was that Victoria values our relationship, our partnership, and we want to see that grow.”
Some questioned his use of tax-payer money for the secretive trip but Andrews said that he “didn’t think it was appropriate” to involve the media.
“When you travel to China, I just want to be really clear about this, you don’t get to interview any of the people that I would meet with, that’s not how it works,” he said.
“You would have been talking to me about what I had just done, you would not have been in the room, and you would certainly not have been interviewing governors or mayors or education ministers.”
Andrews’ decision to disclude Australian media was exacerbated due to the fact that this was the first trip an Australian leader had made to China since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Age described his travels as “shrouded in mystery”.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan also announced on Sunday his own five-day trip to China which is scheduled for April 17.
McGowan confirmed he will - unlike Andrews - permit a press pack to join him.
The trip will be the WA premiers’ first trip to China in four years, and is set to promote the mutually beneficial relationships in trade and investment across energy, resources, science and innovation, international education and aviation.