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Anthony Albanese is in China in the first PM visit for seven years

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Anthony Albanese is in China to meet President Xi Jinping, in the first visit by an Australian Prime Minister for seven years.
Albanese China visit

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has arrived for an official visit to China. While there, he will conduct talks with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping.

It’s the first visit to China by an Australian Prime Minister since 2016.

Here’s what the leaders are expected to discuss.

Background to visit

Albanese’s visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first Australian PM visit to China, when Gough Whitlam established diplomatic ties between the two nations in 1973.

Diplomatic ties remain, but several factors relationship have strained the relationship in recent years. These include China’s negative reaction to Australian criticism on matters like the treatment of its Uyghur ethnic minority, China’s actions in the South China Sea, and its treatment of democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Albanese Govt

The Albanese Government has said it aims to “stabilise” relations between the two countries.

In an interview this week, Albanese said Australia and China would always disagree on some matters, but that it was “very clearly” in Australia’s interests to engage with its largest trading partner.

He added that, despite Australia’s strong alliance with the U.S, he wanted Australia to be a “middle power” encouraging dialogue between China and the U.S.

Concessions

Each government has made concessions in the lead-up to the visit.

China has dropped import penalties it imposed on Australian barley, and has announced a review of penalties on wine. The import penalties were widely seen as a punishment for Australia’s support for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China has also freed Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who had been imprisoned on charges of spying.

Last month, the Australian Government announced it would not cancel a Chinese company’s lease on the Port of Darwin.

The lease had been under review for several years over national security concerns.

The Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet says it is satisfied those concerns can be managed.

Yang Hengjun

A key item likely to feature on the agenda is the detention of Australian citizen Yang Hengjun. Yang, a prominent pro-democracy blogger, was arrested in 2019 and later charged with spying. His family and friends say his health is deteriorating rapidly.

Albanese said he is “very sympathetic” to Yang’s situation and added the Government “will always… make representations on behalf of Australians,” but did not indicate the likelihood of Yang’s release.

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