SHANGHAI: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was “pleased to be in Shanghai” on Saturday at the start of a landmark state visit to China, marking a long-awaited thaw in ties between Beijing and Canberra.
It is the first such visit by an Australian leader in seven years as the two nations look to shore up their relationship after a diplomatic spat that affected billions of dollars in trade.
“Pleased to be in Shanghai, marking the first visit to China by an Australian Prime Minister since 2016,” Albanese posted on X, formerly Twitter, along with photos of his arrival late Saturday.
“I look forward to continuing the dialogue between our two countries over the coming days.” Albanese will spend four days in China, dividing his time between the eastern megacity of Shanghai and the capital Beijing.
Trip comes as Canberra seeks closer trade ties with Beijing
His administration has sought more amicable ties with Australia’s biggest trading partner while also pushing back against Beijing’s growing influence in the Pacific.
China’s foreign ministry has said that Albanese would meet Chinese leaders and “have an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral issues as well as on international and regional issues of common concern”.
“China is willing to work with Australia to take this visit as an opportunity to strengthen communication, increase mutual trust, broaden cooperation, deepen friendship and push for the continued improvement … of bilateral relations,” the ministry’s spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said at a news briefing.
The bonhomie contrasts with the picture three years ago, when bilateral ties were in a deep freeze.
China slapped punitive tariffs on a range of Australian commodities in 2020 after Canberra’s then-conservative government barred tech giant Huawei from 5G contracts and called for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
But under Albanese’s liberal administration, those tariffs have been lifted, and Beijing has also indicated it will abolish similar penalties on Australian wine.
Albanese, however, has stressed that China and Australia are not strategically aligned.
“We are two nations with very different histories, values and political systems,” he said during a visit to Washington last month.
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2023