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Through “panda diplomacy”, the Chinese Prime Minister seals the relaunch of relations with Australia

To materialize the revival of relations between China and Australia, Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited a major wine-growing region on Sunday where Chinese sanctions have been lifted. lifted, and announced the loan of two new giant pandas.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Li Qiang shared lunch at a 19th century Adelaide winery, home to the first cellar of Penfolds, one of Australia's oldest wineries. Australia.

Mr. Li is due to meet later today with South Australian wine growers affected by Chinese sanctions imposed in 2021 before being lifted from 2022.

Visiting Australia since Saturday, Mr. Li is also due to visit a lithium mine in Perth in Western Australia, before meeting on Monday with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese on several thorny subjects: human rights, influence of China in the Pacific and the behavior deemed “dangerous” of the Chinese army in the region.

“Mutual respect, seeking common ground while setting aside differences and cooperation (…) are an important step in the development of China-Australia relations,” Li Qiang said in a statement Saturday.

He will be greeted at parliament on Monday with a grand welcoming ceremony.

A new illustration of Beijing's “panda diplomacy”, which is sending its bears around the world to seal the improvement of its diplomatic relations, Mr. Li marked the first stop of his official visit to Australia on Sunday at the Adelaide Zoo, in the south of the country.

For China, panda diplomacy is a form of “soft power”, a strategy of influence in international relations.

Beijing enters into loan agreements for its pandas with foreign zoos which, if born, generally have to return the little ursids a few years later so that they join the country's breeding program.

As the loan agreement with Canberra expired this year, the two giant pandas in the care of Adelaide Zoo had still not given birth to cubs.

Through “panda diplomacy”, the Chinese Prime Minister seals the relaunch of relations with Australia

Wang Wang the panda in Adelaide Zoo on June 16, 2024 © POOL – Asanka Ratnayake

“Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been away from home for 15 years. I guess they missed their home a lot so they will return to China before the end of the year,” said the Chinese Prime Minister at Adelaide Zoo.

“But what I can tell you is that we will provide a new pair of equally beautiful pandas as soon as possible , charming and adorable,” assured Mr. Li, adding that Beijing would submit a list of candidates to Canberra.

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-19 pandemic, which Beijing considered political, and Canberra's decision to exclude the equipment manufacturer Huawei of its 5G network.

China then increased its taxes on a number of Australian products, in particular wine, beef and barley. Since Labor came to power in Australia in 2022, most of these surcharges have been lifted thanks to a warming of relations between Beijing and Canberra.

– “Symbol of goodwill” –

Lobster is today one of the few products still subject to trade sanctions, and the Australian industry hopes that Mr. Li will reopen the Chinese market to his exports.

Australia experienced “a long period of freezing, during which it was not possible to have any official discussions with China”, Melissa Conley Tyler, honorary member of the Institute, told AFP of Asia from the University of Melbourne.

Through “panda diplomacy”, the Chinese Prime Minister seals the relaunch of relations with Australia

Pro-China supporters and pro-Hong Kong counter-protesters outside the winery where Chinese Premier Li Qiang visited in Adelaide on June 16, 2024 © POOL – Kelly Barnes

Mr Li's visit should therefore send a new message that “Australia is once again seen as a friendly country rather than the hostile and unfriendly country we were during those years of tension maximum,” she told AFP.

“It's good for the economy, for jobs in South Australia, for the tourism and it is a symbol of goodwill, and we thank you for it”, rejoiced the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

China is , by far, Australia's largest trading partner, accounting for 30% of its exports.

Bilateral trade reached 327 billion Australian dollars (nearly 202 billion euros) in 2023.

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