Chinese President Xi Jinping assured that China and Australia can become "trusted partners", by receiving Monday at Beijing with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, a meeting symbolizing the thaw in diplomatic relations after years of tensions which slowed down diplomatic relations. commercial exchanges.
The two nations “have no historical grievances or disputes or fundamental conflicts of interest. And they can truly become trusted partners and achieve success together,” Xi said, according to comments reported by state television CCTV.
The two leaders met in Beijing during Albanese's four-day visit to China. The Asian giant is Canberra's main economic partner. But bilateral ties had deteriorated significantly.
Mr. Xi told Albanese that Beijing hopes to “fully develop the potential of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and undertake cooperation in new areas including climate change and green economy.”
“As some people strive to cause unrest in the Asia Pacific region, we must first remain vigilant, and then fight them,” the Chinese leader said.
In 2018, the Chinese government Australian had excluded the private Chinese group Huawei from the country's 5G network. In 2020, he requested an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19, an initiative that Beijing deemed politically motivated because it came from a close partner of the United States.
Relations had also become strained due to disputes over alleged Chinese influence operations in Australia.
In response, China imposed high tariffs on key Australian exports, such as barley, beef and wine.
Beijing also stopped purchasing significant quantities from Australia of raw materials, including coal, depriving the country of billions of dollars in revenue.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (c), November 5, 2023 in Shanghai © AFP – Hector RETAMAL
Many trade restrictions have, however, been gradually lifted since Labor and Mr. Albanese returned to power in May 2022.
At the start of his meeting with Xi Jinping, Mr. Albanese, the first Australian leader to visit China in more than seven years, welcomed the “unquestionably very positive” development in bilateral relations, according to comments broadcast by Australian public television. ABC.
– “Strengthen cooperation” –
“Trade is freer and this benefits our two countries,” stressed Mr. Albanese.
< p>“We can obviously take the opportunity today to see how to strengthen cooperation” between China and Australia, he said.
< /p> Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang (l) and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, November 5, 2023 in Shanghai © AFP – Hector RETAMAL
Despite the thaw, the Australian Prime Minister specified last month that the two countries were not strategically aligned and had different histories and values.
“We must cooperate with China when we can” and “disagree when necessary,” he told the press on Monday.
China also strongly criticizes the pact Aukus security agreement, signed by Australia with the United States and the United Kingdom, which does not hide its desire to counter Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific.
This pact notably includes the delivery nuclear-powered submarines in Canberra. Beijing sees this as a threat to its security, but also an agreement that contravenes nuclear non-proliferation rules.
– Journalist released –
This week's meetings between Mr. Albanese and Chinese officials will allow Beijing to present itself as a “benevolent partner” welcoming a friend returning to the right path, said Courtney Fung, analyst at Asia Society Australia, a think tank dedicated to Asia.
“China will not want to dwell on criticism of its economic coercion or hostage diplomacy,” explained AFP analyst.
< /p> Photo released on October 11, 2023 by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australian journalist Cheng Lei upon her arrival at Melbourne Airport following her release from prison in China © Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Commerce – Sarah HODGES
China last month released Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who worked for Chinese English-language public television CGTN and who had been detained for more than three years on charges of “divulging state secrets abroad.”
His release has revived the hopes of the sons of Australian writer Yang Jun, imprisoned in China since 2019. They asked the Australian Prime Minister on Wednesday to discuss the fate of their father during his trip to Beijing.
China will want to present this visit by Mr. Albanese as a recognition by Australia of its past mistakes, judges Yun Sun, researcher at the Stimson Center, based in Washington. “It will present Mr Albanese as (a leader) being on the right side of history and doing the right thing for the good of the (Australian) economy, particularly for export-oriented businesses, including the wine”, she underlines.
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