Chinese Premier Li Keqiang took a casual harbor walk and watched an exciting Australian football game with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull here on Saturday, extending his outdoor diplomacy to strengthen the ties between the two peoples.
Li’s ease with the public and his good sense of humor serve as yet another sign of China’s growing confidence in working with Western countries.
During a tie-less walk with Turnbull in the Royal Botanic Garden, Li chatted with local Australians in English, and cheerfully took selfies with Chinese tourists and his Australian counterpart.
Li and Turnbull also took pictures in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House after a casual morning walk along the Sydney Cove.
Private, informal talks in a casual, beautiful environment are an extension of traditional diplomacy, and often work well to cultivate personal friendship and help iron out differences.
Turnbull accompanied Li during his entire Australian tour, including flying with him from Canberra to Sydney. The two heads of government had a busy schedule in the past three days, including two meetings, three forums as well as many other bilateral events.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to free trade and agreed to deepen cooperation in such sectors as education, tourism, agriculture, innovation, anti-corruption and defense.
“I come here first for pushing free trade,” Li said. “We are willing to strengthen cooperation with Australia and jointly show the region and the world our resolve to push trade liberalization and economic globalization.”
On Saturday afternoon, Li arrived at Sydney Cricket Ground to watch an Australian football game played by two Australian Football League winners — Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide.
Before the game started, Li met with the players and practiced how to catch and pass a ball. He also accepted a gift scarf from each club and tied the two scarves together before wearing them on his neck.
“I wear both of them even though the weather is not cold at all to show my love and support for both teams,” said the Chinese premier. “I will cheer for you all no matter which side wins.”
“The two tied scarves also show the power of China-Australia cooperation as well as the colorfulness of diverse civilizations,” Li said.
He encouraged the players to go to China more often for training, games and communication to promote friendship between the two peoples.
The two countries, Li said, can also strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the sports industry, as China is developing the sports industry while Australia has an edge in football, swimming, racing and big sports events management.
The Chinese premier has advocated cultural and people-to-people exchanges in his personal diplomacy.
During his trip to Canada in September 2016, Li visited the renowned Canadian ice hockey team Montreal Canadiens, and dropped the first puck for a training match.
During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to China in May 2015, Li and Modi watched at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing a joint Taichi-Yoga exercise by over 400 Chinese and Indian Taichi and Yoga practitioners.
In February this year, the China-Australia Year of Tourism was launched in Sydney.
“People-to-people and cultural exchanges between the Chinese and Australian people are one of the important pillars supporting the development of bilateral relations,” Li said in a congratulatory message. Enditem