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Australia and China’s leaders met for the first time in six years

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The meeting went for just over 30 minutes, and comes after a difficult period of diplomacy between Australia and China in recent years.
Albanese China visit

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit this week – the first meeting between each country’s top leaders in six years.

The meeting went for just over 30 minutes, and comes after a difficult period of diplomacy between Australia and China in recent years.

Albanese said the meeting allowed both countries to take an “important step” to progressing the relationship.

Here’s what you need to know.

Background

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, which is being held in Bali, Indonesia.

The last formal meeting held between Australian and Chinese leaders was in 2016, when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Xi on the sidelines of a previous G20 Summit.

Strained tensions

Relations between Australia and China have soured in the last few years. This is partly due to Australia’s concerns over human rights abuses in China, increased Chinese aggression on the Taiwan Strait, and China’s growing ties with Russia amid their invasion of Ukraine.

Sanctions imposed on some Australian exports by China have also been a key element in deteriorating relations. This came in 2020, after the Australian Government supported calls for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

These sanctions are estimated to have cost the Australian economy about $20 billion annually.

What was discussed?

Albanese said he had a “constructive discussion” with Xi. They addressed the countries’ trade relationship, climate change, human rights issues, and positions on Taiwan and the Russia-Ukraine war.

Xi was asked to use his influence on Russia to mitigate the harm caused by the war.

There was no discussion on the ending of current sanctions on Australian exports, despite Albanese raising Australia’s hope for the sanctions to be lifted.

Xi’s view

In opening remarks for the meeting, Xi said he attached “great importance” to Albanese’s opinion, and appreciated his desire to handle relations with China in a “mature way”.

According to the Chinese Government, Xi told Albanese that deteriorating relations between Australia and China were the “last thing” his Government wanted to see. He also said there were “no fundamental conflicting interests between China and Australia”.

Xi added that both countries needed to improve and continue to develop the relationship.

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