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China-Australia relations 'on track,' says Chinese premier

China welcomed the restoration of ties with Australia on Monday Canberra, saying relations are “on the right track” during a visit focused on easing economic differences between the two countries.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang was given a grand welcome at Parliament House in Canberra before holding talks with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.

The most senior Chinese official to visit Australia since 2017, Mr Li said the visit is a sign that relations are “on the right track of constant improvement and development”.

The Chinese Prime Minister has extended an olive branch by granting Australian citizens a short tourist visa waiver, a provision limited to a limited number of countries.

China-Australia relations 'on track,' says Chinese premier

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (2nd l), Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao (l), Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (2nd r) and Australian Commerce Minister Don Farrell (r), during a ceremony to signatures in Parliament, June 17, 2024 in Canberra © POOL – MICK TSIKAS

Despite the good will displayed, the two parties recognized the persistence of “differences”, referring in particular to diplomatic disputes in the Pacific and the detention of a dissident writer by Beijing.

“We will not always agree, and the points on which we disagree will not simply disappear if we ignore them,” Mr. Albanese.

China-Australia relations 'on track,' says Chinese premier

Chinese Premier Li Qiang reviews the Guard of Honor during a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra on June 17, 2024 in Australia. © POOL – LUKAS COCH

Police stepped up security to prevent any problems when Mr Li arrived, as demonstrators chanted human rights slogans and pro-China groups waved banners.

Metal barriers had been erected to limit possible scuffles between the two camps.

One of the most urgent and important issues, in the eyes of Australia , is the fate of dissident writer Yang Hengjun, imprisoned in China.

– “Unacceptable” behavior –

M. Yang, who has Australian citizenship, received a suspended death sentence in February after a Beijing court found him guilty of espionage, charges many believe were politically motivated.

On the eve of Mr Li's arrival in Canberra, those close to Mr Yang published a letter in which they urged Mr Albanese to press for the writer be immediately released.

China-Australia relations 'on track,' says Chinese premier

A portrait of dissident writer Yang Hengjun during a rally for his release in front of Parliament in Canberra, on March 20, 2024 in Australia © AFP – DAVID GRAY

“In Australia, we are opposed to the death penalty and I have reiterated our position,” the Australian Prime Minister said after his meeting with Mr. Li.

In recent months, Canberra has castigated the Chinese military for “unacceptable” and “dangerous” behavior in international skies and waters, and called for restraint in the South China Sea.

Australia is also concerned about Beijing's efforts to increase its influence over Pacific island countries.

“I discussed our interests in the Pacific, as well as other issues, including human rights,” Mr. Albanese added.

“I also raised the issue of prohibiting foreign interference,” he said.

Chinese authorities have been accused of using heavy-handed methods to ensure that this visit goes off without problems.

– “Framed” journalist-

Australian journalist of Chinese origin Cheng Lei, released in early October after more than three years of detention in China on espionage charges, claimed that Chinese diplomats tried to prevent her from being in the same room as M

China-Australia relations 'on track,' says Chinese premier

Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei attends the signing ceremony between Chinese Premier Li Qiang and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese at Parliament House in Canberra on June 17, 2024. © POOL – LUKAS COCH

“They went to great lengths to keep me away from the cameras and to control me,” she told Sky News Australia. “I suppose it's to prevent me from saying something or doing something that they think would be frowned upon.”

If regional security remains a point of friction between Canberra and Beijing, relations are much better on the commercial level.

China and Australia have been at loggerheads in recent years, particularly since an Australian request for an investigation in 2020 into the origin of the Covid pandemic- 19, which Beijing considered political, and Canberra's decision to exclude equipment manufacturer Huawei from its 5G network.

China then raised its customs duties on a number of of Australian products, particularly wine, beef and barley.

Most of these surcharges have been lifted thanks to a warming of relations between Beijing and Canberra since Labor came to power in 2022.< /p>

On Sunday, the Chinese Prime Minister visited a major wine region where Chinese sanctions have been lifted, and he announced the loan of two new giant pandas.< /p>

Mr Li's visit to Canberra was the final leg of a six-day tour of Australia and New Zealand.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116