Over the course of the week, he signed up to a major climate change pact – hailed by Australia’s foreign minister as an “enormous diplomatic breakthrough” – and held positive talks with American President George W. Bush on product safety. Bush called Hu “an easy man to talk to,” while Hu repaid the compliment, saying the talks were “candid and friendly.”
As the summit was winding up, PetroChina announced that it would buy US$37.2 billion worth of liquefied natural gas from Woodside Petroleum, making it Australia’s largest export contract ever. China’s hunger for natural resources and Australia’s abundance – aluminum is another popular commodity – have created a happy relationship between the two countries.
Indeed, China is now Australia’s largest trading partner, after ending Japan’s 36-year hold on the top spot in July. China’s trade with Australia was worth US$41.4 billion in the 12 months to July.
As a result, the APEC host preempted potential feelings of ill will by announcing new annual security dialogues with China before Australian Prime Minister John Howard sat down with his Japanese and US counterparts for exclusive three-way security talks that pointedly excluded the Chinese.
To cap a good week, Hu also managed to indulge in a bit of panda diplomacy, loaning two giant pandas, Wangwang and Funi, to the Adelaide Zoo.
The Americans may have felt slightly overshadowed at APEC as a result. The Financial Times noted that Bush “bristled” at suggestions that the meeting was dominated by China. “Is this a China summit? The answer is absolutely not,” he said.
Hu’s Japanese opposite number didn’t fare any better, of course. Shinzo Abe vacated his office due to domestic and personal pressures just days after flying back from Sydney. That leaves Hu to count his newfound diplomatic wealth. Not bad for a week’s work.