Chinese leader Xi Jinping will welcome Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to Beijing on Monday, a high-water mark in their nations’ ties following years of tensions that cut billions of dollars in trade.
Beijing is Canberra’s biggest trading partner, but relations plummeted in 2020 after Australia’s then-conservative government barred Chinese tech giant Huawei from 5G contracts and called for an inquest into the origins of Covid-19.
A furious Beijing then slapped punitive tariffs on a slew of Australian commodities ranging from coal, to barley, to wine as the relationship descended into a deep freeze.
But China has reversed course since Albanese took power in May last year, lifting most of its restrictions on Australian goods and saying it wants “healthy and stable” ties.
Ahead of the talks in Beijing on Monday, Albanese — the first Australian leader to visit China in more than seven years — said he saw “promising signs” that relations were improving and predicted a “constructive discussion” with Xi.
“We’ve already seen a number of the impediments to trade between our two nations removed,” he said.
“China is our most important trading partner,” he added.
“It represents more than 25 percent of our exports, and one in four of our jobs relies upon our trade. So it’s an important relationship.”
But the Australian prime minister has previously acknowledged the need to remain “clear-eyed” about the differences between the two countries, and has aired his view that they are not strategically aligned.