China and Australia at ‘new juncture,’ Chinese envoy says
China’s ambassador to Australia has said that relations between the two countries are at a “new juncture” with the election of a new Australian government and the first minister-to-minister talks in more than two years.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian (肖千) gave an upbeat assessment of the bilateral relationship’s potential in a weekend speech to the Australia-China Friendship Society in Perth, Australia. The speech was published yesterday on the embassy’s Web site.
“The international, political and economic landscape is undergoing profound and complex changes. The China-Australia relationship is at a new juncture, facing many opportunities,” Xiao said.
Photo: Xinhua via AP
“My embassy and the Chinese consulates-general in Australia stand ready to work with the Australian federal government, state governments and friends from all walks of life to move forward the China-Australia relationship along the right track to the benefits of our two countries and two peoples,” Xiao added.
Xiao’s speech came a day before Chinese Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe’s (魏鳳和) hour-long meeting with Australian Minister for Defence Richard Marles on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
Marles described the meeting as a “critical first step” in repairing bilateral relations, but observers are wary of describing the meeting as a thawing of a diplomatic deep freeze between the countries.
Dennis Richardson — a former head of the Australian ministries for defense, foreign affairs and the spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, as well as a former Australian ambassador to the US — said that the two nations took the first opportunity to have ministerial contact since Australia’s government changed on May 21.
Bilateral relations had soured in the nine years that a conservative coalition had held power.
“The fact that they agreed to talk at the very first opportunity is noteworthy,” Richardson told Australian Broadcasting Corp yesterday.
“I don’t think we should get too far down the track on this. We have a long way to go,” he added.
Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank, warned against overstating the significance of the meeting.
“They had an hour-long meeting where they exchanged, in a frank and full manner, their respective views. That does not equate to restoring the status quo ante of the Australian relationship as it existed prior to 2015, when the relationship was reasonably good,” Davis said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) wrote to congratulate Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese days after his election victory in a gesture seen by some as China seeking to reset the relationship.
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