Australia’s ties with China look set to strengthen even more, with Australia-China research collaborations to receive an addition $18 million under a new government-funded initiative.
The Australia-China Science and Research Fund will operate for three financial years, from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
The Australian Government is committing $9 million to the fund from 2011-12, matched by the Chinese Government.
This is in addition to recent reforms to assist Australian researchers to collaborate with international partners generally.
According to Innovation Minister Kim Carr, the fund is focused on achieving enduring partnerships between the two countries, and critical mass in areas of “mutual research priority”.
“Both Australia and China are keen to see partnerships develop between research and industry, to accelerate the development of technologies,” Senator Carr said in a statement.
“We have crafted this program to include scope for industry participation to benefit from our strong existing science and research relationship with China.”
“This is already an area of intense growth, with the rate of joint research publications increasing faster than total national output for either country.”
The fund will support Australia-China joint research centres and “group missions” whereby Australian groups visit China, and vice versa, to achieve specific purposes related to R&D-driven innovation.
The Australian Government will provide up to $1 million for each joint research centre, matched by the Chinese Government.
Meanwhile, it will contribute a maximum of $45,000 funding for each group mission, which must have at least two personnel from one or more organisations.
Applications for funding from joint research centres close on February 27, 2012, while group mission applications will be assessed as they are received.
The fund will also support an annual exchange program for young researchers, and an annual symposium between Australian and Chinese science and engineering academies.
While Australia’s economic interests lie heavily with China, its military interests continue to be dictated by the United States, as seen this week by US President Barack Obama’s visit.
China has reproached Canberra over strengthened US ties, warning it may be “caught in the crossfire” if the US uses new Australian-based military forces to threaten its interests.
According to an editorial in the state-owned People’s Daily, a new Australian-US defence pact poses a security threat to Australia.
“Australia surely cannot play China for a fool. It is impossible for China to remain detached, no matter what Australia does to undermine its security,” it said.
“If Australia uses its military bases to help the US harm Chinese interests, then Australia itself will be caught in the crossfire.”
The editorial admonished Australia for relying on China for its economic interests while turning to the US for political and security purposes.
“Gillard may be ignoring something – their economic co-operation with China does not pose any threat to the US, whereas the Australia-US military alliance serves to counter China,” it said.