China-Australia relations ‘renewed and revitalised’

Australia’s relationship with China is on a path of “steady improvement”, Beijing’s second-most powerful leader said following talks with top Australian politicians.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang arrived at Parliament House on Monday for an annual leaders’ meeting with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and several cabinet members including Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell and Resources Minister Madeleine King.

Emerging from the high-stakes discussions, Mr Albanese said such talks were crucial for the bilateral relationship.

“My government has put dialogue at the centre of Australia’s relationship with China, because they’re always most effective when we deal directly with each other,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It is crucial for us to engage with each other, given how close we are geographically, how interconnected we are economically, and the deep and enduring bonds between our people.

“Australia and China have renewed and revitalised our engagement.”

The politicians signed four memoranda of understanding on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, climate change, education and research, strategic economic dialogue, and cultural co-operation.

The prime minister’s November trip to China followed by Mr Li’s current visit to Australia showed both countries attached “great importance” to their relationship, the premier said.

“This relationship is on the right track of steady improvement,” he said.

“Prime Minister Albanese and I have had a candid, in-depth and fruitful discussion that has reached a lot of common consensus.”

Representatives of both nations then attended a state lunch with business and community leaders where they were served wine, wagyu beef and, most notably, Australian rock lobster – which remains subject to trade restrictions.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt noted there had been “enormous progress” in restoring trade with China in the past few years after sanctions on coal, wine and barley were lifted.

The remaining trade bans are expected to be lifted within weeks but exporters could face them again, Australian National University research fellow Benjamin Herscovitch warned.

“Canberra will be trying to hold the line, not give Beijing too much but also not once again enrage Beijing and prompt Beijing to impose trade restrictions once again,” Dr Herscovitch told ABC.

The opposition, including Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, has urged the government to stand up for itself when addressing thornier issues like foreign interference and broader geopolitical issues.

“We have got to stand up for ourselves, because otherwise, people say you’re weak, and if you’re weak, you get walked over,” he told Seven’s Sunrise.

Mr Li’s visit is the first by a Chinese premier to Australia in seven years and comes after a period of turbulence for the country’s biggest trading partner, while recent military incidents in international waters have threatened the diplomatic thaw.

Both pro and anti-China protesters have congregated throughout Canberra with flags and bunting on street corners near parliament.

Red and yellow flags were emblazoned across parliament’s lawns in a sign of nationalist pride while banners accusing the Chinese government of committing genocide flanked the city’s main roads.

Australia’s economic ties with China had helped Beijing normalise “atrocious human rights abuses” in the Buddhist region, said Kyinzom Dhongue, an Australian Tibetan community spokesperson.

The Chinese Communist Party was erasing Tibetan culture by removing children from their families and sending them to government-run boarding schools, akin to Australia’s stolen generation, she said.

“China is repeating that colonial project in Tibet,” she told AAP.

“China knows they have destroyed our homes, they have destroyed our monasteries, but they know that they still haven’t managed to kill the Tibetan culture,”

“So what they’re trying to do is kill the Tibetan in that child by taking them away from their families, from their culture.”

Premier Li Qiang arrived in South Australia on Saturday where he visited China’s pandas at Adelaide Zoo before strolling around a local winery.

A trip to Australia’s resource powerhouse Western Australia will make up the latter part of his visit.


Kat Wong, Jacob Shteyman and Aaron Sheldrick
(Australian Associated Press)


Like This