Zhang Kun with other members of the senior media delegation on their tour of The Land.IF they ever give much considered thought to global agricultural production issues, average Chinese consumers tend to nominate two countries worthy of note – Australia and Israel.

Our widespread and varied agricultural operations don’t share a lot in common with Israel’s generally intensive farm businesses, but Australia and valued food production go hand in hand in many Chinese minds says influential Beijing-based media boss, Zhang Kun.

“Chinese people think of Australia as having a lot of abundant resources and a beautiful environment,” said the chief editor of the communist nation’s first “for profit” newspaper The China Youth Daily.

“It’s a developed country with high technology and good food.”

Interestingly New Zealand featured less strongly on the radar, despite being China’s biggest supplier of dairy products and a significant source of meat, horticulture produce and seafood.

Although Australian farmers have often been outsmarted by NZ’s global farm export successes, particularly since its free trade deal with Beijing in 2008, Mr Zhang, said Chinese consumers had a better understanding of what Australia was about.

“I’ve been to NZ. It is nice, however it is generally less well recognised,” he said.

In fact he rated milk products, particularly long-life and powdered milk, as among the most readily identifiable Australian food lines found in Chinese supermarkets.

Other media managers and senior editors travelling with Mr Zhang noted Australia’s capabilities in organic food production and its status as reputable supplier of quality and safe meat, fresh milk and horticultural lines.

“Australia is also one of the hottest tourism destinations for Chinese people,” he said, also noting rising Chinese migration and investment here.

“It is actually preferred (as a holiday destination) ahead of many other countries, but it (holidays) depends on the particular financial situation of people travelling.”

Mr Zhang’s 18-member delegation group is on a two week familiarisation program in Sydney and surrounding areas involving lectures on Australian life and industry, plus media company tours including a visit to The Land’s Hawkesbury Valley headquarters.

Also the president of the youth daily media business (which owns four newspapers, a consumer research company an advertising business) and secretary of the Communist Youth League leadership group, he is well attuned to the mood among younger Chinese and in government leadership circles.

The Youth Daily has a national readership of almost a million copies circulating primarily to the 25 to 40 age group and operates largely independently of central government news agencies.

Mr Zhang conceded China’s free trade agreement plans with Australia did not yet mean much to average Chinese but such relationships would strengthen understanding between communities, including media opportunities, in both countries.

“We’ve only seen the macro (FTA) picture. We are not sure what the importance will be to consumers at this stage.”

The media contingent’s Australian visit was supported by the University of Technology – Sydney Centre for Independent Journalism.

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