Australia-China Relationship 'On the Right Path': Xi Tells Albanese

Australia-China Relationship 'On the Right Path': Xi Tells Albanese - Two leaders discussed trade relations but didn't mention the AUKUS military pact.

Australia-China Relationship 'On the Right Path': Xi Tells Albanese


Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, the first talk between leaders of the two countries in seven years.

The two leaders shook hands on Monday night in the Great Hall of the People in China’s capital city, with Mr. Xi saying they had “worked” out some problems and claiming that a renewed relationship would “serve the common interests.”

He also told Mr. Albanese and the Australian delegation that Australia and China was "on the right path of improvement."

Mr. Xi said he was "heartened" at this, adding that it served the common interests of both countries to have a "healthy and stable" relationship.

However, debates surrounding the AUKUS security pact were left out during the meeting.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has strongly opposed the initiative, which helps Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and strengthen security in the region.

Neither the CCP list of 14 grievances with Australia nor Beijing's intention to join the trans-Pacific partnership came up.

Disputes that were raised included Australia’s position to support Taiwan, the detention of Australian citizens in China, the restrictions on Chinese companies in Australia, and the remaining economic sanctions on goods such as lobster and wine.

The meeting is a bid to thaw relationship between China-Australia, which became frosty after China imposed a series of punitive trade sanctions on Australian exports as a response to former PM Scott Morrison’s calls for an investigation into the origin of COVID-19 in 2020.

During the meeting, Mr. Albanese and Mr. Xi also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict in the global context but didn’t touch on the contrasting stance they take on those issues.

While Beijing has been a crucial supporter for Russia in its military invasion and didn’t shy from backing Hamas, the Australian government has been vocal in its support for Ukraine and condemnation of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation.

'Drink To Our Mutual Benefit'

The Chinese leader complimented Mr. Albanese for his work to “stabilise and improve relations with China” after taking office, saying that it “meets the common expectation of countries in our region.”

Mr. Xi referred to the Chinese saying that one shouldn't forget who dug the well when drinking the water, and described former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as the one "digging the well for us.”

Mr. Xi said the two countries were "embracing a new 50 year in China-Australia relations.”

Commenting on the talks, Mr. Albanese focused on the continuation of trade relations, describing the exchange as “warm” and “very positive.”

"Trade is flowing more freely to the benefit of both countries ... and the tempo of bilateral visits is increasing," Mr. Albanese said.

“As you said very well ... [Whitlam] dug the well from which the people of Australia and the people of China have been able to drink to our mutual benefit.”

Earlier in the day, the prime minister told reporters that his engagement with Mr. Xi has been "very positive."

"He has never said anything to me that has not been done," Mr. Albanese said.

Mr. Albanese was asked whether Mr. Xi would be someone to trust, to which the prime minister said they were “not going to be defined by our differences.”

“We have political systems that are different,” he said. “And we work in a way that understands that, that's clear about that, and work in a way where we are always looking for what is in Australia's national interest.”

However, Mr. Albanese stopped short of saying that he trusted the Chinese leader and the CCP.

It comes after President Joe Biden warned the prime minister to "trust but verify" when it came to the Chinese regime.

PM Neutral On Beijing's Move With The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Asked about the Beijing's attempt to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Mr. Albanese said the issue wasn’t raised but government’s position is that it “needs to be worked.”

This is a softer stance compared to what was stated by Trade Minister Don Farrell last year, who assured that China had no prospect of joining the CPTPP.

China needs the unanimous agreement of all countries part of the CPTPP to gain access to the trade bloc.

Japan is the bloc member most opposed to China's application.

Meanwhile, Mr. Albanese said he had raised the issue of Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was jailed for almost five years in China after he was accused of espionage.

He added that he would discuss the prospect of the resumption of the annual leaders' dialogue on Tuesday, when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Qiang back at the Great Hall of the People for a ceremonial welcome.

He was invited back to China at a later date, and he extended an invitation to Mr. Xi to visit Australia.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi earlier on Monday, where they spoke about trade and consular issues.

In a speech in April, Ms. Wong noted that China has “little transparency or assurance” about its strategic intent while fast-tracking its military expansion “at a pace and scale not seen in the world for nearly a century.”

“In our China relationship specifically, the Albanese Government will be calm and consistent, and continue to do as we have since coming to office: cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, manage our differences wisely, and above all else, engage in and vigorously pursue our own national interest,” she told the National Press Club.

“We start with the reality that China is going to keep being China.”