/ 07 November 2023

Hitting the reset button with China

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

The Squiz

He came, he saw, he shook hands… PM Anthony Albanese has met with China’s President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Heading in, there were smiles all around as both men recalled Gough Whitlam’s trip 50 years ago that kick-started diplomatic relations between our nations. “In China, we often say when drinking water, we should not forget those who dug the well. The Chinese people will not forget Prime Minister Whitlam for digging the well for us,” Xi said.

Enough with the fluff – what happened? 

Alright, alright… The relationship strain of the last few years left Albanese with a list of things to go through with Xi, ranging from trade to China’s territorial ambitions in our region, its human rights abuses, and the ongoing detention of Aussie citizen Dr Yang Hengjun. But things got off to a good start with Xi saying he was hopeful that “we keep moving forward the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries”. That key phrase is music to Sinophile’s ears that indicates Chinese hopes for greater agreement. On that front, reports say one of China’s main aims for the visit was to warm Australia up to it potentially joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade agreement between nations around the Pacific Rim that Australia’s been against letting China into. Albanese says Xi raised China’s bid to join “as part of a general issue about global trade” but didn’t ask for his backing.

What’s next?

Well, like any relationship that’s warming up, we’ll have to wait and see… Heading into the closed-door talks, Albanese said the point of the trip is to reestablish “high-level dialogue and people-to-people links” that will “be beneficial into the future” for both our countries. To that end, Albanese invited Xi to visit Oz – at this stage, the RSVP is pending… But for today, Premier Li Qiang (Xi’s 2IC) is hosting Albanese for more talks and an official ceremonial welcome at the Great Hall of the People. From there, Albanese jets off to the Cook Islands tonight for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting, where there will be some notable absences. Incoming Kiwi leader Chris Luxon and PMs Charlot Salwai (Vanuatu), James Marape (Papua New Guinea), and Manasseh Sogavare (Solomon Islands) will send delegations in their places. But let’s pick that up tomorrow, eh?

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