Australian Prime Minister Albanese meets Xi Jinping on a long-awaited visit to China

  • Written by Hannah Ritchie
  • BBC News, Sydney

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Albanese is the first Australian leader to visit China since 2016

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping will soon sit down for talks aimed at easing years-long tensions in Beijing.

Albanese, who arrived in Shanghai on Saturday, is the first Australian leader to visit China since 2016.

The visit is considered an important moment in improving relations after a series of trade and security disputes.

Trade will be high on the agenda – Mr Albanese calls for the removal of Chinese tariffs on Australian goods.

Xi Jinping is expected to request more access to key Australian sectors.

“What I said is that we need to cooperate with China where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interest,” Albanese told reporters in Beijing on Monday ahead of the meeting.

His trip follows a deep diplomatic freeze caused, among other things, by Australia’s calls for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19, and Beijing’s economic sanctions on key Australian exports such as beef, wine and barley.

It also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s famous visit to China to visit Mao Zedong in 1973, the first trip by an Australian Prime Minister after the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Asked by reporters whether Australia could “trust” China, Albanese said his previous contacts with Xi had been “positive” and “constructive.”

“But we also realize that we come with different political systems, very different values ​​emerging from that and different histories. But we take each other at face value.”

But a list of sticking points and security concerns will cloud Monday’s talks.

Australian writer Yang Hengjun – whose health is said to be deteriorating rapidly – has been imprisoned in China on espionage charges since 2019, and Albanese is facing pressure at home to secure his release.

Analysts say the growing military ties between Canberra and Washington and a recent overhaul of its defense posture – widely seen as aimed at countering China – could make it difficult for the two sides to find common ground beyond economic interests.

Some experts expect Beijing to seek increased access to Australian resources and renewable energy sectors, but in recent years, the Australian government has taken action to block Chinese ownership of important minerals and mining projects.

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