He told a City of Joondalup business forum at Joondalup Resort on Monday that his role was a privilege “because I’m proudly Australian”.
“But China is my home and so when I’m in a taxi in China and people say ‘where you from’ I say China and they laugh out loud,” he said.
“I can take that because I’m passionate, passionate about the opportunities for Australians in China.
“Never in the history of Australia have we had such a good opportunity to engage with our friends in China.”
He said China remained the same “vibrant, dynamic economy” though it had dramatically changed from an import-export manufacturing environment to an “economy mostly run by services (51 per cent).
This presented opportunities for Australian businesses in online consumerism, food, agricultural production, education, health services, aged care, tourism, pollution solutions and friendship.
“Opportunity in China is first and foremost friendship,” he said.
“If you find the right Chinese business partner you will never be able to do more for them than they will do for you
“The Chinese give first; they are the best business partners you can get in the world.”
City of Joondalup chief executive Garry Hunt said he had noticed a change in China on his City delegation’s latest trip there last year.
“I’ve been to China four times,” he said.
“The last trip was mind-blowing. It was fundamentally different, the free trade agreement was in the process of being finalised… The formalities and protocols are there at the beginning for about 10 minutes then the questions are very direct ‘how can we do business, can you take 500 students?’. We think of taking 50… the numbers are mind-boggling.
“The potential is massive, it’s important we do something about it. Commercial services, education and tourism are the cornerstone industries of the City of Joondalup.
“Can I tell you they are also cornerstone industries of any developing country. We are in a fundamentally unique position.”