ANZ Bank chief executive Mike Smith has called for Australians to embrace a relationship with China that goes beyond trade, saying that after the mining boom the Chinese economy will grow for many decades.
Mr Smith told an Australia China Business Council function in Sydney that while China was now Australia's biggest trading partner and largest source of university students and tourists, most Australians were challenged by the evolution of the relationship with China from an economic-based one to one based more on "people connections".
"My own observation is that, over the last decade during the most dramatic phase of Chinese urbanisation and industrialisation ... we haven't been as active as we might have been in taking an over-arching view of the Australia-China relationship and its long-term health," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said that, with the "shockwave that marked the onset of the resources boom" now passed, it was clear that the growth of the Chinese economy would endure for "many decades".
Beyond the demand for minerals, energy and agricultural commodities, Australia's relationship with China was now also about the movement of people, he said, in the form of skilled migrants, students and tourists.
Australia also has large capital requirements while, globally, capital was "an increasingly scarce commodity".
He said the Australian government needed to develop a clear policy framework to respond to the rise of China in the "Asian century" and warned that concerns about foreign investment could be given disproportionate attention.
Such a framework would be critical to fostering public support and acceptance of Australia's place in Asia, he said.
Mr Smith also dismissed speculation that he might leave ANZ to become CEO of UK bank Barclays, where CEO Bob Diamond quit after revelations bank staff sought to manipulate the Libor global interest rate benchmark.
Mr Smith said his job of creating "a super-regional bank" at ANZ was not done.
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