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Warmth marks Sino-Australian talks

By Zhang Yunbi | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-08 08:03
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An affectionate sense of reunion and a warm group photo session were among highlights on Thursday in Beijing of the seventh Meeting of the China-Australia High-level Dialogue, the first such gathering of the two delegations since a meeting in 2020 in Sydney.

It was also the first meeting in the post-COVID 19 era, gathering incumbent and retired senior officials, business leaders, scholars and media workers from both nations.

The spirit of having no time to lose in repairing bilateral ties and accelerating the resumption of collaboration dominated the semiofficial dialogue.

"There are a lot of old friends as well as a lot of new ones here today," Li Zhaoxing, head of the Chinese delegation, said at the meeting. Li, a former Chinese foreign minister, is also honorary president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.

Observers noted that the event was held as China-Australia relations have shown consistent improvement since last year, with diplomatic, defense and people-to-people exchanges between the two sides gradually resuming.

After its election victory last year, the Australian Labor Party expressed a willingness to improve ties with China, to which Beijing responded positively.

In November, President Xi Jinping met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Bali, Indonesia, "charting the strategic direction" for a turnaround in relations, Li said.

"The influence of both sides is expanding in the Asia-Pacific region, and the regional and global impact of China-Australia relations is also on the rise," he said, adding that the ties' future improvement relies on "whether the two sides have a proper perception of each other".

Li said Australia is one of the countries that enjoyed the most dividends from China's development over the past few decades.

"China has not posed any threat to Australia in the past or at present, and will not in the future," he said, adding that Australia's bonds with its allies should not be in conflict with its ties with its partners.

The two sides should "reject the ideology-based Cold War mentality", promote exchanges and dialogue at all levels and in various fields, and "properly handle differences in a constructive way", he said.

Craig Emerson, head of the Australian delegation and former Australian minister for trade, said, "I welcome the recent positive developments in the bilateral relationship, but we know that there is more work to do."

He hailed the meeting of Premier Li Qiang with Albanese on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Indonesia on Thursday.

"The timely and full resumption of normal trade is in the interests of both our countries," Emerson said. "Finding a way to address these issues will help us to take the relationship forward and to a new level."

He said there are many areas of shared interest in which both countries can collaborate, including climate change, people-to-people connections, health and science.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Australian delegation on Thursday in Beijing. He said the two countries have no unsettled disputes, Beijing upholds consistency in its Australian policy, and the two sides are expected to further boost bilateral friendship through using the high-level dialogue.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, bilateral trade volume reached $58.8 billion in the first quarter of this year, a year-on-year increase of 10.9 percent.

Chen Hong, professor and director of the Australian Studies Centre of East China Normal University in Shanghai, said, "The relations' repair and growth not only serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples, but are also conducive to advancing peace and development in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

"China is not opposed to Australia's efforts to play an important and positive role in the Asia-Pacific region," he said. "Canberra needs to act with adequate political wisdom, determination and foresight, properly perceive China and its development, and see China as a partner rather than a rival."

According to Ruan Zongze, Chinese consul general in Brisbane, "Three years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese students have finally ceased online learning and returned to Australia, as have Australian friends who came to China for work, travel and cultural exchange.

"Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations." Ruan said in a recent video speech.

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