All eyes on China’s mission to the Pacific
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to arrive in the Pacific region tonight for a 10-day trip after establishing a controversial security pact with Solomon Islands. It comes as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang – China’s #2 leader – congratulated PM Anthony Albanese for his win in Saturday’s election, breaking a years-long deterioration in relations between the 2 countries that was supercharged by the pandemic. “I have received, now, a letter of congratulations from Premier Li, as I have from other world leaders, and I welcome that,” Albanese said yesterday.
REMIND ME WHY WE WERE IN CHINA’S DEEP FREEZE…
Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, there’s been a resurgence of Chinese nationalism and an increasingly assertive approach to global affairs. Relations began to sour in 2017 when PM Malcolm Turnbull said the Australian people will “stand up” to foreign interference by authoritarian states like China, which Beijing didn’t like. Then we excluded Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from the 5G telco roll-out and lobbied our Western ‘Five Eyes’ partners to follow suit. But perhaps the most damaging episode was when former PM Scott Morrison called for an investigation into the origins of COVID after it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan. In response to that, China went after our exporters and the leaders hadn’t spoken since. So Premier Li’s message of congrats to Albanese and vow to “uphold principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit” is seen as a chance to hit the reset button.
WHAT’S THE NEW GOVERNMENT SAID ABOUT CHINA AND THE PACIFIC?
From Tokyo, PM Albanese said China should dump its tariffs on Oz exports if it was serious about mending relations with Canberra. He told the media that Oz seeks good relations with all countries, “but it’s not Australia that’s changed, China has,” he said. The new PM told the leaders of America, Japan and India that it was important to engage and push their “shared values” in the region at a time when China was trying to exert more influence. On the Pacific, Labor has pledged to increase the aid budget and overhaul of the Pacific Island work visa program. Foreign Minister Penny Wong released a video statement on Monday about her desire to build a “stronger Pacific family” – with the strong hint that China isn’t part of the extended clan. With China’s Foreign Minister about to arrive in the ‘hood, expect to hear more about it.
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