Foreign Minister Penny Wong leaves today (20 December) to meet with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing, a visit that is seen as a breakthrough in the bilateral relationship.
With Christmas fast approaching, Australia and China also mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
A meeting to be hosted by the Chinese on Wednesday will be the first time an Australian foreign minister has been received in Beijing since 2018.
The two foreign ministers have met twice since Labor won government in May, however, in Bali and New York.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also met recently with Chinese President Xi Jinping while attending the G20 summit in Bali – the first bilateral meeting between each nation’s head of government in six years,
Relations between Australia and China soured dramatically in recent years resulting in numerous trade sanctions imposed on Australian exports.
Tensions became particularly heated during the prime ministership of Scott Morrison.
This week’s meeting, the 6th Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, is a positive step towards stabilising the relationship with China, Australia’s largest trading partner.
Mr Albanese and Senator Wong issued a statement on Monday marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
“In 1972, then prime minister Gough Whitlam took a bold decision, recognising the importance of engagement and cooperation between our two nations and peoples,” they said.
“In the decades since, China has grown to become one of the world’s largest economies and Australia’s largest trading partner.
“Trade between Australia and China, as well as strong people-to-people, cultural and business links, have delivered significant benefits to both our countries.
“Australia seeks a stable relationship with China. We will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must and engage in the national interest.”
Shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham said the test of the visit will be in its outcome.
“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,” he said.
Senator Wong is expected to discuss the welfare of Australian journalist Cheng Lei and Australian writer Yang Hengjun, both of whom are currently detained in China.