CANBERRA, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- The former Lord Mayor of Australia's second largest city Melbourne has said the country's relationship with China will continue to grow 50 years on from establishing diplomatic ties.
In an interview with Xinhua, John So said he believes that ties between the nations can "grow to a new level" in the coming years.
So, born in China's Hong Kong, served as the 102nd Lord Mayor of Melbourne between 2001 and 2008.
He told Xinhua that the relationship between Australia and China has gone from "strength to strength" since he migrated to Australia in the 1960s and that he expects it to continue to flourish.
"I think for the years to come we will see that relations will continue to grow, continue to grow to a new level. That's the wish of the people," So said.
So's tenure as Lord Mayor coincided with a boom in migration from China to Australia. He said his Chinese cultural background helped him work with the people together.
"I came here as a young man. I was brought up in the environment that I understand I have a strong Chinese cultural background," he said.
"Chinese people are very peace-loving people and we want to work together and help one another. This is the spirit of a family base. In Australia, it also has a mateship culture and gives everyone a fair go."
Ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius also inspired So's work.
"With my Chinese philosophy thinking, I integrated my way of working with people. I've always said that I am a mayor for all the people, no one left behind. This is my strong belief," said So.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia.
In 1971, Gough Whitlam, leader of the opposition at the time and prime minister of Australia one year later, visited China.
Whitlam's decision has since been praised as one of the most important in modern Australian history, paving the way for strong economic and cultural ties between the two countries.
So, who was working as a teacher in Melbourne at the time, recalled being "very excited" about Whitlam's visit to China.
In the past five decades, great achievements have been made in the bilateral relations.
More than 100 pairs of sister provinces/states and cities between China and Australia have been established.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were nearly 200 flights between the two countries every week, carrying nearly 2 million passengers every year.
China has been Australia's largest trading partner since 2009. The trade volume has surged from less than 100 million U.S. dollars in 1972 to over 207 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, accounting for 34.2 percent of Australia's total import and export in 2021.
On top of the economic ties, So said cultural factors, such as both countries' status as former Olympic hosts, were key to the relationship.
"What's most important is the people-to-people exchanges in all fields," he said.
"In sport, Melbourne is an Olympic city and Beijing hosted the 2008 Games and I'm happy to see that now, particularly students, education, knowledge, this is forming the foundation of a modern relationship." ■