Chinese premier urges ‘shelving differences’

Chinese Premier Li Qiang has arrived in Australia for a four-day tour.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang has arrived in Australia for a four-day tour.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang has urged for the “shelving differences” after arriving in Australia for a historic four-day tour including diplomatic talks expected to bring good news for the country’s winemakers and panda lovers.

Meanwhile, leaders and national security experts have urged Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to remain firm in condemning human rights abuses and upholding national security interests.

Mr Li, who is China’s second-in-command to Xi Jinping, flew into Adelaide on Saturday where he met with SA Premier Peter Malinauskas MP and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.

In a written arrival statement, Mr Li said “mutual respect, seeking common ground while shelving differences and mutually beneficial co-operation” was key to growing the two countries’ relations.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang arrived at Adelaide Airport on Saturday. Picture: Ben Clark / NewsWire
Mr Li met with SA Premier Peter Malinauskas MP and Penny Wong. Pictured on June 15 2024. Picture: Ben Clark / NewsWire

“I look forward to having an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest with the Australian side to explore co-operation opportunities, promote development, and renew friendship,” he said.

“A more mature, stable and fruitful comprehensive strategic partnership will be a treasure shared by the people of both countries.”

For his part, Mr Malinauskas welcomed Mr Li’s arrival to Adelaide as a “positive sign of our relationship with China – as China continues to be our largest export market and a very important trade and economic partner”.

Mr Li will meet with South Australian winemakers and attend a state lunch with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell.

People gathered at Adelaide Airport. Picture: Ben Clark / NewsWire

His visit to the famed wine region comes after China abolished crippling trade tariffs imposed on Australian wine exports between 2020 and 2021.

Mr Farrell hinted that Mr Li’s visit could see China lift its final trade restrictions on crayfish and lobster when asked by reporters earlier this week.

“I’d be very confident that the visit this week will result in a very successful outcome for lobster producers,” he responded.

Mr Li will also visit Adelaide Zoo, where he is expected to extend Australia’s loan period giant pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni which was due to expire at the end of the year.

Mr Li’s aeroplane arriving at the airport on Saturday. Picture: Ben Clark / NewsWire

He will then travel to Canberra for official talks with Prime Minister Albanese, before flying to Perth for a business roundtable and a visit to a Chinese-owned lithium plant.

ACT police have alerted local citizens over planned traffic disruptions and “protest activity” occurring outside of Parliament House ahead of his arrival on Monday.

The prime minister is expected to raise multiple serious issues during formal talks, including lifting remaining trade sanctions and the death sentence handed to Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun earlier this year.

Mr Albanese visited Beijing in November last year. Picture: Twitter
Mr Albanese visited Beijing in November last year. Picture: Twitter
Canberra security officials are preparing for protests ahead of Premier Li’s visit. Picture: Supplied.

Mr Albanese said he will also raise an “inappropriate” incident in which a Chinese fighter dropped flares near an Australian navy helicopter in May.

“It was dangerous and should not have happened. It will not happen again. So we will certainly be putting that forward,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Head of policy think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Justin Bassi said the federal government should exercise caution over indulging a focus on panda bears and winemakers as to not encourage a form of “asymmetric power” Beijing seeks to impose on Australia.

“We can’t regard the removal of remaining trade restrictions on lobsters and beef as a gift from China as part of the visit,” Mr Bassi said.

“These unfair actions should never have happened in the first place. If we express any gratitude for the end to malicious activities that should never have happened, Beijing will interpret that as a sign that its previous coercion against us has worked.”