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Wong arrives in China ahead of talks

This article was originally published via https://www.sheppnews.com.au/.


Senator Penny Wong has arrived in Beijing for diplomatic talks after leaving Australia on Tuesday. -AAP Image


Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has arrived in China on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.


Senator Wong landed in Beijing, where it was minus 4C, for a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in the early hours of Wednesday.

She was greeted by Australia's ambassador to China Graham Fletcher and a representative of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the tarmac at Beijing Capital International Airport.


The visit marks the first time in four years an Australian foreign minister has been invited to Beijing for diplomatic talks.


Trade is expected to dominate the discussions between the two foreign ministers, following China's decision in 2020 to impose sanctions on multiple Australian exports.


The detention of Australians in China - journalist Cheng Lei and academic Yang Hengjun - is also expected to be discussed.


"It is very good to be here in China after quite a long time between visits," Senator Wong said on Wednesday.


"I acknowledge and thank the government of the People's Republic of China for the invitation to be here so that we can spend the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries.


"I look forward to the meeting."


The minister confirmed she would raise issues related to consular cases, human rights and trade concerns.


"We obviously have a lot of issues to work through," she said.


The ministerial meeting follows a one-on-one discussion between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November.


Opposition foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham said Senator Wong needed to secure wins in advancing the cases of the two detained Australians Dr Yang Hengjun and Cheng Lei and progressing the removal of trade sanctions against Australia, worth $20 billion.


"Engagement from them (Beijing) is welcomed, the fact that they have ceased the counterproductive ban that they put in place on ministerial dialogue is welcome, but really to see a true stability, stabilisation of the relationship would mean that we see the unwarranted unfair trade sanctions lifted and unfairly detained Australians released," he told Sky News.


It comes as Beijing's customs department started to encourage the purchase of Australian products including lobsters.


Senator Birmingham said while the step was encouraging, Australian industry needed clarity about when their products could re-enter the market.


He said China had appeared to ease off its aggressive "wolf warrior diplomacy" against Australia and other countries.


Mr Albanese said the 50th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations, which began under the Whitlam Labor government in 1972, was a major opportunity.


"The anniversary ... provides an opportunity for both sides to reflect on the relationship and how it can be more constructive in the future," he said on Tuesday ahead of Senator Wong's departure.


"The decision to establish diplomatic relations took ambition and courage but it was the right decision and the relationship has delivered benefits to both our countries, including through our strong economic, people to people, academic and business links."

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