xi's moments
Home | Asia Pacific

Australian 'panda hugger' wishes for better ties with Beijing

China Daily | Updated: 2022-04-19 09:16

The Chinese and Australian national flags in Sydney, Australia, on Sept 8, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

CANBERRA-Describing himself as a "panda hugger", Australian arts patron and former diplomat Carrillo Gantner has written his memories of China into a book.

"I wanted to express some frustration and disappointment that the excellent relationship that we had with China, which has been worked on and developed by so many good people on both sides for over 40 years… has collapsed in the last several years," he said.

A professional actor and director who had been the cultural counselor at the Australian Embassy in China in the 1980s, the 77-year-old Gantner was dearly known as Lao Gan by his Chinese friends.

During the past 50 years, Gantner witnessed many events marking the friendship between China and Australia. He was involved in negotiations to bring two pandas from China to Australia, and directed a play for the Shanghai People's Art Theater.

He said culture brings people more closely together.

"It teaches them about the other," he said. "When you know something about the other, people are less fearful. It reminds people that we share a common humanity, and a desire to live in peace and friendship."

Gantner does not attempt to hide his love for Chinese culture, as traditional Chinese painting scrolls and contemporary Chinese sculptures are prominently displayed in his Melbourne office. His wife Ziyin is the daughter of the late China National Theater for Children president Fang Jufen, and he has visited China almost every year.

He noted that cultural exchanges between China and Australia were seriously affected during the past several years not only by the pandemic, but also by the current relationship between the two countries.

He and his friends in China believed that China and Australia have to come to a new understanding, and he has offered such suggestions in this respect in his books.

"Firstly, we need to take a longer term view of the relationship," he said, before explaining that Australia worked through short electoral cycles. "So, governments take a short term view."

Secondly, he believed that "a level of courtesy and respect that is due between countries has not always been shown", and called for having discussions in more productive ways.

In his new book, he noted that Australian interests were sometimes not identical to those of the United States, and described Australia's current position as "America's shoeshine boy in the South Pacific".

"I personally would be much happier if Australia had a more independent foreign policy," Gantner said.

Also, he said if Australia was critical of China, it should be consistent-not just singling out one country for criticism.

His other suggestions include increasing financial support for academic scholarship in terms of studies on China.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Australia. "We should celebrate that in a big way," he said, regarding the anniversary as an opportunity to "reach new agreements and open new doors".


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349