/ 17 June 2024

No time for pandering

Image source: Adelaide Zoo
Image source: Adelaide Zoo

The Squiz 

There were boos and cheers for Chinese Premier Li Qiang as he completed the first day of his Aussie trip yesterday as hundreds of supporters and critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gathered at his first public event at Adelaide Zoo. Despite the mixed reception, China’s 2IC issued a statement saying China-Australia relations are “back on track after a series of twists and turns, generating tangible benefits to the people of both countries”. 

What’s on the agenda?

Li’s first order of business was to announce a new pair of pandas, with fan-favourites Wang Wang and Fu Ni set to retire. The pair were due back in November, and there are hopes a new couple might be able to do what they couldn’t – procreate. But Li’s visit isn’t all panda diplomacy… PM Anthony Albanese will raise some difficult issues with Li, including Chinese-Australian academic Yang Hengjun’s suspended death sentence and dangerous encounters between our militaries. That could lead to broader discussions about China’s increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea and Taiwan, which Foreign Minister Penny Wong called one of the “riskiest flashpoints in the world”. The Coalition also wants Albanese to address allegations that 2 Aussies were secretly targeted by Chinese officials for speaking out against the CCP.

What are we getting out of the visit? 

To start with, some warm fuzzies after years of a ‘diplomatic freeze’… Li literally toasted to that at South Oz’s Magill Estate Winery yesterday with Wong – which was appropriate as the recent lifting of China’s wine tariff was huge news for our vintners. Our government hopes that’s a sign of things to come, with pressure mounting on China to also lift restrictions on Aussie lobsters that have been “catastrophic” for the industry. Experts say that could happen as China desperately needs Aussie resources – especially critical minerals – so dropping trade sanctions will likely be used as a “sweetener”. Those and other issues including opportunities to coordinate on climate change will be discussed today when Li meets with Albanese in Canberra. Li then heads to Perth tomorrow, where he’ll visit a lithium processing plant and meet with business leaders.

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