22 March 2024

Penny Wong welcomes China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Canberra

| Andrew McLaughlin
Start the conversation
Australia-China dialogue

China’s Foreign Minister and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Mr Wang Yi and Senator Penny Wong in Canberra this morning (20 March). Photo: Penny Wong Facebook.

Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong has welcomed China’s Foreign Minister and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Mr Wang Yi to Canberra for the seventh Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue.

The visit comes after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Senator Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell visited China last November.

In a statement, Senator Wong said the Australian Government continued to pursue a stable and constructive relationship with China, which was in the interests of both countries. She said Australia’s approach was consistent in that it sought to cooperate with China where it could, disagree where it must and engage in its national interest.

Following the meeting, Senator Wong said a stable relationship between Australia and China didn’t just happen, it needed ongoing work.

“This was the latest meeting in that process,” she said. “As Minister Wang reflected in that meeting, it’s in both our interests we have a mature and productive relationship.

“We discussed a range of shared interests in the progress we have made our outcomes agreed at the sixth foreign and strategic dialogue, including the recommencement of the bilateral annual leaders’ meeting.”

READ ALSO What’s really going on when a former PM trashes his own party’s policies?

One of the issues discussed between the two ministers was that of human rights in China and of Dr Yang Hengjun, the Australian academic and writer who was last month sentenced to death in China.

“I told the Foreign Minister Australians were shocked at the sentence imposed and I made clear to him the Australian Government will continue to advocate on Dr Yang’s behalf,” Senator Wong said.

“I also raised our concerns about other Australian death penalty cases – as you know, Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all peoples.

“I raised Australia’s concerns about human rights, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.”

Senator Wong also expressed her concern about continuing maritime dispute in the South China Sea after China’s refusal to recognise a ruling by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that China cannot lay claim to the region.

She said she conveyed Australia’s “serious concern about unsafe conduct at sea, our desire for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and in our region. I reflected the review of our region as outlined again and underscored again at the recent ASEAN summit about the importance of the South China Sea being governed by international law, particular UNCLOS”.

Australia-China dialogue

Following the talks, Senator Wong said: “Australia will continue to be Australia, China will continue to be China.” Photo: Penny Wong Facebook.

Trade was also on the agenda, in particular China’s ongoing punitive tariffs on Australia’s wine industry, and on restrictions of imports of Australian beef, lobster and commodities.

“I welcome the progress towards removing trade impediments and reiterated our desire for the beef and lobster,” she said. “We discussed repeat volatility on nickel markets and I made the point that predictability in business and trade is in all our economic interests.

“There’s an interim decision on wine,” she added. “We look forward to the timetable that has been outlined … by the Chinese side for the final decision on wine.

“And we continue to express our view as I have since I became Foreign Minister that we believe it’s in the interests of both nations for all trade impediments to be removed.”

Asked whether a perceived lack of trust in China by Australia was a bottleneck in relations, Senator Wong said Australia only sought a stable, productive and mature relationship with China.

READ ALSO The vote is in and Australian democracy comes out in front

“This is … consistent with what we have said,” she said. “Prime Minister Albanese and Premier Li have reiterated the importance of a stable and constructive bilateral relationship.

“We are bound by geography, by history, by our peoples, by our trade,” she added. “We know there are differences that arise out of who we are. We want to manage them wisely.

“Australia will continue to be Australia, China will continue to be China.”

Senator Wong didn’t address criticism of a planned meeting between Minister Wang and former prime minister Paul Keating which the Chinese Embassy reportedly sought, but Shadow Foreign Minister Senator Simon Birmingham yesterday questioned its purpose, particularly in the wake of recent criticism by Mr Keating over Australia’s approach to Australia-China relations.

“It is quite pointed and somewhat insulting towards Senator Wong for the Chinese embassy to have sought this meeting, given just how publicly critical Paul Keating has been of Penny Wong and of the Albanese Government and their foreign policy,” Senator Birmingham told ABC Radio.

“And I think, frankly, Paul Keating should reconsider his undertaking of this meeting,” he added.

“I note he’s dialled back some of his usually quite out there and extreme rhetoric. But in the end, all of our former prime ministers do have a responsibility to be judicious in the use of their offices.”

Original Article published by Andrew McLaughlin on PS News.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.