Australian foreign minister visits China after breakdown in ties over Huawei ban, demand for probe into COVID origins – Firstpost

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (Sarah Friend/DFATvia AP)
In the first in four years, Australia’s foreign minister visited China in a bid to improve ties after the relationship between the two countries hit rock bottom in recent times.
Penny Wong’s visit to Beijing gains all the more significance as it comes on the anniversary of the establishment of 50 years of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Wong who held a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi said, “we all share an interest in a region that respects sovereignty, that is peaceful, that is stable and is prosperous.”
“Through a more stable relationship between Australia and China we can help ensure our people, our region, and world can enjoy peace and security,” The Australian Associated Press quoted her as saying.
Her visit has raised hopes of an end to import blockades imposed by Beijing and the possible release of two Australian citizens detained in China. Wong said she would continue to advocate for Australians held in China without giving details.
The trip also signals a thaw in relations between the two nations since Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese won an election in May, replacing the more confrontational Scott Morrison in the top role.
Albanese and Chinese president Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia’s Bali last month, in what was the first such formal meeting between the top leaders of the two nations in six years.
QUAD, trade disputes: How Australia irked China
However, shortly after being elected, Albanese attended the summit of QUAD along with Indian PM Narendra Modi, US president Joe Biden, and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida.
The QUAD which is also called ‘Asian NATO’ seeks to counter growing Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
Albanese has also said he remained committed to building a fleet of submarines powered by US nuclear technology despite the French president describing the plan as a “confrontation with China.”
Reasons, why relations between Australia and China worsened, go beyond the realms of politics.
Australia became the first country to ban Chinese state-owned telecom giant Huawei from rolling out 5G services over security concerns.
But a major factor that affected ties between the two was when Australia became the first country to demand an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus whose first case was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Without mentioning Wong’s visit, China’s official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday said Xi had exchanged greetings on the half-century of ties with Albanese and Australian Governor-General David Hurley.
Cooperation between China and Australia has “achieved fruitful results, bringing tangible benefits to the people of the two countries,” Xi was quoted as saying.
Healthy ties are “conducive to promoting peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world,” Xi said, adding that the sides should “adhere to mutual respect (and) win-win principles.”
Australia established diplomatic relations with the Republic of China in 1941, but those were severed following the Communist Party’s overthrow of the Nationalist government in 1949 and were not restored until 1972.
With inputs from agencies
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