Australia Says Trying to 'Stabilize' Beijing Ties as Canberra Seeks Meeting With China's FM
China has presented Australia with a list of four demands in order to “reset” strained ties: treating Beijing as a “partner rather than a rival”, seeking a “common ground” on issues, building "public support featuring positiveness & pragmatism" and rejecting “manipulation by a third party,” a likely reference to the United States.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles says that the Labor government in Canberra has been trying to “stabilize” bilateral ties with its largest trading partner Beijing, as the foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to hold talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Marles, who is also the defense minister, underlined during a press briefing in Canberra that the tone of bilateral ties under the current Australian government would be different than it was under the preceding, Liberal coalition, which had gone to the extent of calling for “war preparations” with Beijing before the federal election in May.
Marles remarked that although Canberra was open to engaging with China
constructively, the government would still continue to advocate its “national interest”.
“But advancing our national interest is done by making sure that we are engaging with the world in a professional, sober, diplomatic way, and that means stabilizing our relationship with China,” Marles stated, in a veiled swipe at the last administration.
He further noted that a likely meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the UNGA should be viewed as part of a “process of seeking to stabilize the relationship with China”.
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Wong, who is now in the US, told reporters that arrangements for a meeting between herself and Chinese state counsellor Wang were being “finalized
The meeting, if it takes place, will be their second in-person engagement since the Labor government came to power, and has been reportedly sought by Canberra.
It would also be the first high-level contact between the two countries since military tensions in the Taiwan Strait, stoked by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last month.
Wong refused to characterize Beijing as a “strategic threat,” unlike Canberra’s other partners, Japan and the UK.
“What we would say from Australia's perspective is we have an interest in working with others to ensure a strategic equilibrium. We want a region in which sovereignty is respected, where rules and norms can govern disputes, not simply power and size. We want a region which is not hegemonic,” Wong remarked.
Bilateral ties had hit a low under former PM Scott Morrison after he called for an independent probe into the origins of COVID-19 in 2020.
Last August, Australia, the UK and the US unveiled the trilateral AUKUS arrangement, which Beijing says is meant to incite an “arms race” in the Asia-Pacific region. China and the Solomon Islands, meanwhile, announced a security cooperation agreement this April, leading to security concerns in Canberra.