Penny Wong to fly to Beijing

“Building on the recent constructive meeting between Prime Minister Albanese and President Xi in Bali on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, tomorrow Foreign Minister Penny Wong will travel to Beijing at the invitation of the People’s Republic of China to meet China’s State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, and hold the 6th Australia–China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue. This Dialogue was last held in 2018.”

Gough Whitlam on the Great Wall of China in 1971, as leader of the opposition a year before his government formally recognised and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, through the signing of a joint communiqué by the Australian and PRC ambassadors in Paris.

Gough Whitlam on the Great Wall of China in 1971, as leader of the opposition a year before his government formally recognised and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, through the signing of a joint communiqué by the Australian and PRC ambassadors in Paris.

The Beijing encounter will be Wong’s third meeting with Wang since Labor took office in May, following previous meetings in Bali and New York.

Allan Behm, director of the international & security affairs program at the Australia Institute think tank, said: “This is a really important and significant trip.”

Behm, a former advisor to Wong, said he did not expect the trip to result in instant policy breakthroughs but believed it would lay the foundation for a return to more normal relations between China and Australia.

High-level interactions between Beijing and Canberra completely dried up during the final years of the previous Coalition government, with Chinese officials refusing to meet or even accept telephone calls from their Australian counterparts.

Beijing was infuriated by Australian moves to limit foreign interference, ban Huawei from the nation’s 5G rollout and publicly call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

In her meeting, Wong will make the case for China to begin lifting sanctions on Australian exports worth $20 billion and raise the plight of journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun, two Australians detained in China.

Wong in her statement said: “Australia seeks a stable relationship with China; we will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must and engage in the national interest.”

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported at the weekend that Cheng and Yang’s family and friends believe the detainees are in better health and more optimistic about their prospects than at any time since they were first arrested following the recent thaw in Australia-China tensions.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham noted Wong’s trip would be the first visit to China by an Australian minister since he visited the country in November 2019 in his capacity as trade and investment minister.

“It was always counterproductive for the Chinese Government to cease ministerial dialogue for a period of time and the resumption of face-to-face dialogue has been welcome,” Birmingham said.

“The ultimate test of any dialogue lies in the outcomes achieved.

“Minister Wong’s visit will be judged on progress towards the removal of unwarranted tariffs and sanctions on Australian exports; achieving fair and transparent treatment of Australians currently detained in China; advancing regional security via respect for international law; and securing greater transparency on human rights issues of concern.”

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