Whitlam and China


The establishment of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China was the end of a long journey for Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. It was the culmination of decades of advocacy and persuasion. It marked a profound shift in Australia's attitude toward China - a shift that Whitlam's own bold decision to visit China as Opposition Leader had helped bring about. This online exhibition tells the story of just how this shift came about, and Gough Whitlam's role in it.  





  • Before Recognition
  • Advocacy for Recognition
  • A Moment of Opportunity
  • 1971 Labor Delegation
  • Joint Communiqué and Recognition
  • 1973 Prime Ministerial Visit
  • Enduring Effects and Personal Connections
  • References and Further Reading
  • Teaching Resources













To mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People's Republic of China, the Whitlam Institute has published two special publications. The first, The Coup that Laid the Fear of China is a paper written by Dr Stephen FitzGerald, who accompanied Gough Whitlam and the Labor Party delegation to China in 1971. Dr Fitzgerald tells this fascinating story from an insider's perspective. The second, For the Record: Gough Whitlam's mission to China, 1971 presents a collection of historical documents from this period - including the three articles penned by Whitlam for The Australian in exchange for airfares to China for a number of those in the delegation. It also includes a transcript of the discussions between Whitlam and Zhou Enlai during the visit, and Whitlam's reflections on the significance of the visit. To read these publications, click the links below.


The Coup that Laid the Fear of China            For the record: Gough Whitlam's Mission to China, 1971





The project ‘Gough Whitlam and the road to establishing formal relations with the People's Republic of China: the significance for contemporary Australian-Chinese relations’ is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is a part of the program to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Images courtesy of the National Archives of Australia.

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