Albanese of Australia Embarks on Trip to China, Emphasizing ‘Sustained, Stable’ Relations

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is set to visit Beijing on Saturday, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Gough Whitlam’s historic trip to China over 50 years ago. Prior to his visit to China, Albanese made sure to travel to the United States, Australia’s long-standing ally and friend. During his visit to the US, Albanese attended a state dinner at the White House, highlighting the deepening security ties between Canberra and Washington. While in the US, Albanese confirmed the dates of his China visit and announced some policy initiatives, potentially signaling a thawing of relations between Australia and China.

Albanese’s visit to China, the first by an Australian leader in seven years, comes after a bridge-building trip by Foreign Minister Penny Wong in December 2022. One of the key aspects of Albanese’s visit will be trade negotiations, with a focus on Australian wine growers. China was once the largest buyer of Australian wine, but the imposition of tariffs in 2020 led to a surplus of wine in the Australian market. Despite the potential for progress, trade negotiations between the two countries are expected to be complex, and sensitive subjects such as intellectual property and trade secrets are likely to be touchy subjects.

Albanese’s trip to China also presents an opportunity to address human rights concerns. There are several Australian citizens currently dealing with legal issues in China, including journalist Yang Hengjun and democracy activist Gordon Ng. The visit will also be an opportunity to raise concerns about the deteriorating state of freedoms in Hong Kong. With 100,000 Australians living in Hong Kong, it is in Australia’s national interest to advocate for the restoration of Hong Kong’s freedoms. Additionally, Albanese quietly raised the case of Australian journalist Julian Assange during his visit to the US.

While Australia seeks to mend ties with China, it is treading carefully in light of China’s increasing influence in the Pacific region. The Albanese government has been renewing ties with countries in the Pacific, hosting Fiji’s Prime Minister and announcing a new pathway to permanent residency for citizens of Pacific Island countries and East Timor in response to the climate crisis. Ultimately, Albanese’s visit aims to navigate the complex relationship between Australia and China and promote stability in the region.

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