Top Chinese official spotted at Aussie winery

China's Premier Li Qiang Visits Australia
The visit marks the first high-level diplomatic trip made by a Chinese leader to Australia since 2017. Picture: NewsWire / Kelly Barnes

Chinese Premier Li Qiang has arrived at a top South Australian winery ahead of major bilateral talks with leaders.

China’s second-in-command toured Penfolds Magill Estate near Adelaide on Sunday, where he was greeted by SA Premier Peter Malinauskas, Trade Minister Don Farrell and Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

It came after Premier Li announced Beijing would loan Australia two new giant pandas following a visit to Adelaide Zoo.

China's Premier Li Qiang Visits Australia
Premier Li Qiang meet Agriculture and Trade Minister Murray Watt. Picture: NewsWire/Kelly Barnes

About $86m worth of new wine has been sold to China since it lifted crippling trade sanctions on Australian wine in May, with 350 predominantly South Australian winemakers re-entering the market.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said if trade continued at an upward trajectory Australia’s total wine trade with Beijing could be restored to its original export value of over $1bn.

“We’ve managed to get all of these things without kowtowing to the Chinese government,” Mr Farrell told Sky News earlier.

Premier Li met with Foreign Minister Penny Wong at the panda enclosure at Adelaide Zoo. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

Prior to his visit to Adelaide’s famed wine region, Mr Li met with officials at Adelaide zoo where he confirmed that China would send two giant pandas to Australia by the end of the year.

The pair will replace giant pandas Wang Wang and Fui Nui, who will be sent back to Beijing after being on loan since 2009.

Wang Wang and Fui Nui have failed to produce babies despite multiple breeding attempts. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
Premier Li said through a translator that China will provide a pair of ‘uniquely beautiful’ pandas to Adelaide zoo.

‘Important’: Wong’s message ahead of talks

Ahead of the meeting, Penny Wong reiterated Australia’s concerns over China’s reported involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine and increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific ahead of talks with Chinese officials.

The foreign minister spoke out China’s second most senior leader landed in South Australia on Saturday for a four-day diplomatic tour.

Appearing on ABC’s Insiders ahead of discussions, Senator Wong hailed China’s improved relationship with Australia and said stronger ties would further promote regional stability.

“This is obviously a really important visit, it is the first visit in seven years by the Chinese premier and it comes after two years of very deliberate, very patient work by this government to bring about a stabilisation of the relationship,” she said.

Mr Li will also visit Canberra and Western Australia. Picture: NewsWire / Ben Clark

“I said before the election we wanted to stabilise the relationship. What that meant was a recognition that there would be differences that have to be managed in the relationship.”

Asked about a statement issued yesterday by G7 leaders calling on China to cease the transfer of weapons components Russia in its war against Ukraine, Senator Wong said she has expressed similar views.

“We will continue to express to China our views about the importance of the war ending and Ukraine being able to secure peace on its own terms.”

Giant Pandas' Teddy Bears' Picnic
Mr Li visited a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide Zoo. Pictures/Russell Millard

Following Mr Li’s visit to Canberra next week, Senator Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles will both fly to Papua New Guinea he to attend the 30th Australia-PNG ministerial forum.

It comes after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi both made separate high-profile visits to PNG in April where each country inked new economic trade deals with the neighbouring island nation.

Signalling towards Beijing’s campaign to assert itself as dominant regional power in the Pacific, Senator Wong said Australia was locked in “a state of permanent contest” over its economic and diplomatic influence of the region.

Premier Li will host a call with Opposition Peter Dutton on Monday afternoon. Picture: NCA NewsWire.

“The reality is Mr Dutton and the Coalition abandoned the field in the Pacific and others have filled that space,” she said.

“We are now in a position where Australia is a partner of choice but the opportunity to be the only partner of choice has been lost by Mr Dutton and his colleagues and we are in a state of permanent contest in the Pacific. “

Asked to respond to US Ambassador Kevin Rudd’s comments that leaders would be “foolish” to ignore China’s ramped-up military presence near Taiwan, Senator Wong added the region was one of the “riskiest flash points in the world.”

“Our position, it is a longstanding bipartisan Australian position which we advocate very clearly is that we support the maintenance of the status quo,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned about the increased activities and the risk of miscalculation, the risk of mistake and that is a view we’ve put publicly and we have put directly to China,” she said.

Premier Li departed from Adelaide airport to Canberra on Sunday afternoon. Picture: NCA NewsWire.

In a statement issued after arriving in Adelaide on Saturday, Premier Li said that China-Australia relations were “back on track” after a series of “twists and turns, generating tangible benefits to the people of both countries”.

“History has proven that seeking common ground while shelving differences and mutually beneficial co-operation are the valuable experience in growing China-Australia relations and must be upheld and carried forward,” he said

Premier Li will travel to Canberra for official talks with Prime Minister Albanese on Monday, before flying to Perth for a business roundtable and a visit to a Chinese-owned lithium plant on Tuesday.