research / Research reports

Whitlam and China

April 29 2015

Although Australia and China’s bilateral relations were formally established in 1972, Gough Whitlam initiated the process in 1971 as Opposition Leader. Mr Whitlam gathered a team and journeyed to China to be the first Australian delegation received by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai.

It was a political risk in the face of staunch anti-Communist sentiments and the McMahon Government’s unwillingness to recognise China, ut Gough Whitlam had the foresight to envision the mutual benefits that would ensue.

In this special ACRI event Graham Freudenberg, a long-term Whitlam adviser and friend who was part of the historic delegation to China in 1971, recreated the tension around the visit. Associate Professor James Curran, an historian and expert in Australian foreign policy and US-China relations, assisted in putting the Whitlam visit in the geostrategic context.

This publication includes the transcript of what was a lively and insightful discussion, a timeline of Gough Whitlam’s commitment to the normalization of relations with China and a personal letter from Graham Freudenberg to Bob Carr on the question of Taiwan.