The Australian move hailed by China after landmark meeting

Beijing and Canberra have now given the green light for a brighter future between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has met with her Chinese counterpart in Beijing in another landmark moment for Sino-Australian relations, with China hailing one move in particular from Canberra.

The meet coincides with the 50-year anniversary for ties between the two countries and was the first official visit to China by an Australian minister since 2019 – another significant step in repairing badly-damaged relations.

Prior to Senator Wong's meeting, Chinese state media had shaped her visit as "Australia looking to correct past mistakes" – an unsurprising continuation of Beijing's stance in which it firmly believes Australia was solely responsible for the drastic downturn in relations.

Foreign Ministers Penny Wong and Wang Yi shake hands on Wednesday. Source: Penny Wong
Foreign Ministers Penny Wong and Wang Yi shake hands on Wednesday. Source: Penny Wong

Yet it has been a change of government for Australia that has been the catalyst for the Chinese Communist Party, with Beijing previously unwilling to cooperate with the Morrison government.

Beijing had repeatedly told Australia it needed concessions from Canberra, and while the Albanese government has stressed that will not happen, Labor's willingness to get the relationship back on track has been warmly welcomed.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Xi Jinping met last month, ending a six-year period without direct dialogue between the leaders of both countries. Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday hailed Senator Wong and Canberra's attitude in the wake of that meet.

"Shortly after that meeting you proposed this trip. This shows that you and the government of Australia attaches importance and is positive about upholding, improving and developing China-Australia relations, which we highly appreciate," he said, according to the ABC.

Trade and human rights take centre stage during meeting

A hot topic for Senator Wong in the 90-minute meeting was trade, after a raft of sanctions were slapped on Australian produce amid the fallout in the past two-and-a-half years. She said it was discussed how Australia could negotiate the removal of the tariffs.

They also discussed human rights, two detained Australians, as well as global rules and norms that underpin security and prosperity, Senator Wong said.

"We have different views about how our political system should operate and we have different interests but we need to seek to manage those differences," she said.

"Australia believes human rights are universal."

A joint outcomes statement released by Australia said the two sides agreed to "commence or restart dialogue" on trade and economic issues, climate change, defence and regional and international issues.

"We should enhance understanding through contact and find solutions acceptable to each other through consultation," Wang told Senator Wong.

The two nations' prime ministers used to hold annual meetings under a "comprehensive strategic partnership", before the diplomatic dispute halted even phone calls between ministers.

"China and Australia have no historical grievances and no fundamental conflicts of interest, and should and can become partners in mutual need," Wang said during the meeting, China's foreign ministry said.

- With Reuters

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