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An Australian Minister has held a meeting in China for the first time in 3 years

An Australian Minister has held a meeting in China for the first time in 3 years

An Australian Minister has held a meeting in China for the first time in 3 years

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong travelled to Beijing this week to discuss common issues between Australia and China. It is the first time in three years that an Australian minister has travelled to China.

It is seen as another step forward in repairing a relationship that has been strained in recent years.

Here’s what you need to know.

The context

On Monday, it was announced that Wong had accepted an invitation from the Chinese Government to meet with China’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, this week.

This would coincide with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Australia and China.

The pair met on Wednesday night, and Wong has since arrived back in Australia.

Why does it matter?

Concerns over human rights abuses in China, increased Chinese aggression on the Taiwan Strait, and China’s growing ties with Russia have all contributed to a declining relationship between the two countries.

Chinese sanctions imposed on some Australian exports in 2020 have also deteriorated relations. These are thought to have cost the Australian economy about $20 billion annually.

Keeping regular contact with Chinese officials is seen as a way to improve the tense relationship.

The meeting

Wong expressed her support for trade sanctions on Australia to be removed, and reiterated the Government’s position on human rights being “universal”.

Two Australians detained in China under secret conditions – Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun – were also discussed in the meeting. Wong said she advocated for the Australians to be reunited with their families, and for further support to be given to the pair while they’re detained.

Continued “high-level” dialogues between governments were agreed to, including on issues such as climate change, trade, and defence.

Rebuilding relations

Ahead of Wong’s visit this week, a Chinese Government-run media outlet wrote that ties between both countries were “starting to warm up from the freezing point”.

The Australia-China relationship took a major step forward last month, when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Indonesia.

This was the first time leaders from each country had met since 2016. Both affirmed their commitment to the relationship, which they agreed should include further dialogue between each country.

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