Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on Wednesday, following messages between the country’s leaders, as the trading partners seek to stabilise their frosty diplomatic relationship.
Ties between Australia and its major trading partner China had deteriorated in recent years, with Beijing imposing sanctions on Australian exports after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wong and a small delegation of officials met with Wang in the Diaoyutai state guesthouse, images released by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade showed.
“We can grow our bilateral relationship and uphold both our national interests if both countries navigate our differences wisely,” she said at the beginning of the meeting.
She said they would discuss consular matters, trade blockages, human rights and the global rules and norms that underpin security and prosperity.
The meeting followed a message from China’s President Xi Jinping sent earlier in the day to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promising China will work to promote a comprehensive strategic partnership, state media reported.
Before meeting Wang, Wong addressed staff at the Australian embassy on a video link from Diaoyutai, where she will stay for the duration of the overnight visit as part of a so-called “closed loop” system that will isolate her and her entourage amid China’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Albanese thanked Xi for his telegram commemorating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries in which he said, “I attach great importance to the development of China-Australia relations and am willing to work with the Australian side”, according to CCTV.
Albanese told a news conference in Sydney, “It is important that we deliver better relations with our major trading partner in the future.”
The rapprochement between Australia and China ends years of frozen relations. Wong’s visit is the first by an Australian minister since 2019 and the first formal talks in Beijing since 2018.
In addition to the call for an investigation of COVID’s origins, Beijing was also angered by the previous Liberal government in Canberra effectively banning Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei from Australia’s 5G network.
A meeting between Albanese and Xi on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali last month signalled a thaw in ties, although China’s trade sanctions remain in place.
Wong’s meeting with Wang took place as part of the sixth Australia–China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. Reuters