Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wrote to congratulate Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his election victory, which some Australian media reported on Tuesday as a thaw in bilateral relations that Beijing froze more than two years ago.
Chinese ministers had refused to answer phone calls from their Australian counterparts under the conservative administration of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Albanian and Foreign Secretary Penny Wong was sworn in on Monday, then immediately flew to Tokyo for a summit with US, Japanese and Indian leaders after the centre-left Australian Labor Party narrowly won the election Saturday.
Li told Albanese: “The healthy and stable development of the China-Australia relationship is in line with the fundamental interests and common aspirations of the two peoples, and is also conducive to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,” China Daily said. reported.
“China stands ready to work with Australia to learn from the past, look to the future and push forward the solid and stable development of a bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership by adhering to the principles of mutual respect and win-win results. “, added Mr. Li.
Abanese confirmed that he had received a “congratulatory letter” from Li and other world leaders.
“I’m happy about that,” Albanese said in Tokyo. “We will respond appropriately in time.” Albanese said he expected bilateral relations to remain difficult despite the change in Australia’s government.
Albanese promised greater Australian engagement with its South Pacific island neighbors to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
Labor has described the recently announced security pact between China and the Solomon Islands as the worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific since World War II. Morrison argued that China wanted Labor to win because a Labor administration would be less likely to resist economic coercion from Beijing.
Albanese told his Quad partners on Tuesday that while the Australian government had changed, the nation’s commitment to their security alliance had not changed.
“The priorities of the new Australian government align with the Quad agenda – taking action on climate change and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region, through better economic security, better cybersecurity, better energy security and better environmental and health security,” Albanese said. .
Asked if China-Australia relations were melting after their “deep freeze”, Treasurer Jim Chalmers told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Tuesday. “We want to work with the countries of our region to ensure that it is stable and prosperous”.
Bilateral relations peaked in 2014 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited parliament a year after the administration of conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott was first elected.
But relations plummeted under Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who angered China by banning covert foreign interference in domestic politics, which continued under Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Although the two countries are free trade partners, China has created a series of official and unofficial trade barriers to a range of Australian exports worth billions of dollars.
After Tory lawmakers replaced Turnbull with Morrison as prime minister in 2018, Premier Li credited Morrison’s “can-do attitude” with helping restore relations that Turnbull had put in the diplomatic freezer.
John Blaxland, professor of international security and intelligence studies at the Australian National University, described Li’s message to Albanese as a “positive step”.
“Now it’s up to Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese, when they return to Australia, to take advantage of this and explore the opportunities for opening the freezer door,” Blaxland said.
Given that bilateral relations had deteriorated since Labour’s last term in 2013, China could be expected to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s a key inflection point. We know that on substance, political differences are hard to discern, but in this kind of area, words matter and…a change in tone is…really consequential,” said Blaxland.
The Independent Gt