In an extraordinary diplomatic move, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese embarked on a historic visit to Beijing, marking the first visit by an Australian leader to China since 2016. The visit symbolized a significant effort to mend the strained relations between the two nations, plagued by issues ranging from trade disputes to human rights concerns and the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, both leaders engaged in a constructive dialogue that lasted over an hour. President Xi expressed his belief in the potential for their countries to evolve into “trusting partners” with shared goals and interests, as reported by state broadcaster CCTV. He emphasized that there were no fundamental conflicts of interest between China and Australia and emphasized the potential for mutual trust and success.
The prospects of cooperation between the two nations are extensive, encompassing vital aspects such as ensuring peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region and addressing the pressing global issue of climate change. For decades, China and Australia had maintained a strong trade relationship, with China being Australia’s most significant trading partner. However, tensions escalated when the Australian government, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused China of interfering in its domestic politics. Furthermore, Australia’s national security-related ban on the Chinese tech giant Huawei and its call for an international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the strained relationship.
Earlier on Monday, during his visit, Prime Minister Albanese also paid a visit to Beijing’s iconic Temple of Heaven and posed for a photograph at the Echo Wall, where Australia’s former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam stood in 1973, a year after the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. In a symbolic gesture, he emphasized the importance of “constant engagement” and posted a series of photos from the location.
In a gesture of goodwill, President Xi acknowledged the historical significance of Australia’s support in establishing diplomatic relations and quoted a Chinese proverb, “when drinking water, we should not forget those who dug the well,” highlighting the enduring gratitude of the Chinese people towards Prime Minister Whitlam.
Prime Minister Albanese characterized the meeting as “very positive” and extended an invitation to President Xi to visit Australia. He stressed the need to acknowledge their differences while focusing on the mutual benefits that their nations could derive from a harmonious and cooperative relationship. The visit holds the promise of a new beginning and a fresh chapter in the ties between China and Australia.