In Beijing at the end of last month a group of Australian government officials got together with some counterparts from the Chinese Department of Commerce to celebrate 25 years of cooperation.

Annmaree O’Keeffe, AusAID’s deputy director-general, and Yu Jianhua, director of the Ministry’s Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs toasted the $1 billion given in foreign aid to China since the first Aussie dollar was spent in 1981.

With China now having some trillion dollars in currency reserves and having become the largest lender to Africa, reportedly loaning at least $8 billion to the continent, it might have been an appropriate occasion to mark the end of this aid relationship, but it was not so.

On the future direction of Australia’s programs, Ms O’Keeffe told the happy gathering “our partnership will be focused on supporting equity in China’s development and addressing the factors that underpin poverty and less on direct poverty alleviation … The strategy is aligned with China’s economic reforms and supports China’s own agenda of balanced development”.

The AusAID website shows that in 2007-07 Australia is spending $41.8 million on aid to China. A new China-Australia Country Program Strategy agreed on 23 November 2005, provides what AusAID describes as “a framework for development cooperation from 2006 through to 2010”.

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