Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has sat down with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the first step towards resolving simmering tensions between two feuding nations.
The two leaders held private talks in Bali on Tuesday afternoon as the G20 Summit kicked off.
The bilateral meeting marked a significant moment for the relationship between the two nations which has deteriorated in the last two years and cost Australia at least $20billion.
It was the first one-on-one meeting between the leaders of the two countries in six years and lasted just 32 minutes, compared to President Xi’s three hour sit-down with US counterpart Joe Biden.
Mr Albanese and exchanged warm smiles as they shook hands in front of the cameras and posed for photos.
Afterwards, Mr Albanese described their bilateral meeting was a positive discussion and repeatedly stressed to reporters talks were constructive.
‘We have big differences to manage, but we’re always going to be better off when we have dialogue and are able to constructively and respectively,’ he said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands for the cameras following a 32 minute private meeting
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Anthony Albanese sat on opposite sides of the room during the G20 Summit before holding private talks
‘One of the things that struck me was that both of us spoke about how we have highly complementary economies. It is clearly in Australia’s interest to export some of the foreign products that we have, it’s in China’s interest to receive those foreign products.’
President Xi is reported to have said he was glad to meet Mr Albanese and that previously warm ties between the two countries were ‘worth cherishing.’
‘We should improve, maintain and develop our relationship, as it is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries’ people,’ he said.
The meeting covered a wide range of topics from China’s trade tariffs on Australian exports and climate change to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, human rights issues and several Australians currently detained in China.
‘I put forward Australia’s position when it comes to the blockages in our trading relationship, I put toward the differences that we have on human rights issues including Xinjiang,’ he said.
‘I put forward specifically as well the cases of Cheng Lei and Dr Jung.
‘I also put forward Jung and I also put forward our position on Ukraine and asked that China exercise its influence on Russia specifically about Russia’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons.’
Earlier, Mr Albanese acknowledged the nations have had their differences and told Mr Xi the Australia-China relationship was an important one.
‘We need to work towards a stable, prosperous and peaceful Indo-Pacific and an international system that is governed by international law,’ he said.
‘We have had our differences … but our bilateral relationship is an important one. Both sides have worked to stabilise the relationship based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.
‘I look forward to constructive exchange and dialogue today.’
Malcolm Turnbull was the last Australian prime minister to have a formal meeting with Mr Xi in 2016.
Since then, increasing tensions over security arrangements and trade sanctions worth $20 billion have seen relations deteriorate.
But Mr Albanese, who set no preconditions for the formal talk, considered securing the meeting a success in itself.
The meeting between Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping was the first time in six years leaders from Australia and China have met
Indonesian President Joko Widodo is keen for the two-day summit to deliver outcomes, as the world grapples with rising inflation, climate change and the effects of the pandemic.
He called for unity and said collaboration was ‘badly needed’ to save the world.
Federal treasurer Jim Chalmers said while the meeting was a welcome opportunity, it would not immediately fix the fractured relationship between the two countries or result in the removal of trade sanctions worth $20 billion.
‘I don’t think anybody pretends that some of the issues China has raised, certainly some of the issues that we have raised, will be solved overnight,’ he told ABC radio.
‘We give ourselves a much better chance where there’s engagement and dialogue, and there will be today.’
Dr Chalmers said the government remained deeply concerned over the detention of two Australians, including journalist Cheng Lei, who has been in custody for more than two years and denied contact with her family.
While Mr Albanese would not reveal what he planned to discuss with the Chinese president, he considered it a success that a meeting was taking place.
‘For six years we have not had any dialogue and it is not in Australia’s interest to not have dialogue with our major trading partners,’ the prime minister said on Monday.
‘We will have a constructive dialogue. I will put Australia’s position on a range of issues and, of course, Australia’s positions on most of those is very well known.’
Anthony Albanese (left) described his talks with the Chinese President (right) as a positive and constructive discussion
Australian Prime minister Anthony Albanese enjoyed a laugh with British Rishi Sunak counterpart at the G20 Summit in Bali
The head of Australia’s peak business group, in Bali for a meeting of industry groups, described the meeting as a ‘tremendous reset’ with China.
‘We’ve obviously had a set of difficulties in the relationship but you can’t fix those if you don’t have a dialogue,’ Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott said.
‘This creates an opportunity for businesses to come in behind that reset the prime minister has done and start building relationships.’
Australia’s relationship with its largest trading partner has been on the rocks since April 2020 when then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for an independent inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic – which first appeared in Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The Communist superpower retaliated by imposing arbitrary bans and tariffs on $20billion worth of Australian goods including barley, wine, cotton, seafood, beef, copper, and coal.
But Beijing’s attempt at economic bullying largely backfired, driving up the price of coal soaring partially triggering widespread blackouts across China.
Australia doubled-down on its criticism of the communist superpower in the months and years that followed condemning China for its appalling human rights record.
Anthony Albanese (pictured) attended the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali on Tuesday ahead of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Canberra and the UN have admonished Beijing for eroding democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as the brutal repression of Tibetans and Uyghur Muslims.
China, through its ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomats and state-run media, continued to slam the Morrison government.
In one of the most ugly incidents, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao in November 2020 posted a fake image on Twitter showing a smiling Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.
It came in the wake of accusations of war crimes against elite Australian troops between 2009 and 2016.
The Australian government demanded an apology but it never came.
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra followed it up with a bizarre list of 14 grievances it demanded Australia capitulate to if it wanted the trade ban to end.
The dossier included everything from unfavourable media coverage, banning Chinese firm Huawei from the national 5G rollout in 2018 over security concerns and calling out Beijing for cyber attacks.
China’s ’14 grievances’
1. ‘Incessant wanton interference in China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs’
2. ‘Siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading misinformation’
3. ‘Thinly veiled allegations against China on cyber attacks without any evidence’
4. ‘An unfriendly or antagonistic report on China by media’
5. Providing funding to ‘anti-China think tank for spreading untrue reports’
6. ‘Foreign interference legislation’
7. ‘Foreign investment decisions’
8. ‘Banning Huawei technologies and ZTE from the 5G network’
9. ‘Politicisation and stigmatisation of the normal exchanges and coorperation between China and Australia’
10. Making statements ‘on the South China Sea to the United Nations’
11. ‘Outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs and racist attacks against Chinese or Asian people’
12. ‘The early drawn search and reckless seizure of Chinese journalists’ homes and properties’
13. Calls for an independent inquiry into Covid-19
14. ‘Legislation to scrutinise agreements with a foreign government’
Mr Albanese said he was looking forward to the ‘constructive’ talks with the Chinese president.
‘We enter this discussion with goodwill. There are no preconditions on this discussion,’ he said on arrival in Bali for the G20 summit.
‘Australia will put forward our own position.’
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China was ready to meet Australia ‘halfway’ after he held informal talks with Mr Albanese at a dinner on the weekend.
He prefaced his comments saying the two nations had enjoyed a ‘traditional friendship’ but acknowledged that relations had gone through a ‘difficult patch’.
‘Taking office as the prime minister of the new Labor government, you expressed Australia’s readiness to work with China to bring the bilateral relationship back on track,’ Mr Li said.
‘China is ready to meet Australia halfway, and work with Australia to seize the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations to promote sustained, sound and steady growth of China-Australia relations.’
Mr Albanese will also hold bilateral talks with with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, new UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who spoke with Mr Albanese at a dinner on the weekend said China was ready to meet Australia ‘halfway’
How China’s feud with Australia has escalated over the past three years
2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.
April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.
April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.
April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.
April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.
May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.
May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.
May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.
June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.
June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.
June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.
July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.
August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.
August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.
October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.
November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.
November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.
November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.
November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry.
November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers.
November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians.
December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.
December 24: China suspends imports of Australian timber from NSW and WA after local customs officers say they found pests in the cargo.
January 11, 2021: Australia blocks $300million construction deal that would have seen state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation takeover Probuild. The bid was blacked over national security concerns.
February 5, 2021: China confirms Melbourne journalist and single mother Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after being detained in August, 2020.
February 23, 2021: China accuses Australia of being in an ‘axis of white supremacy’ with the UK, USA, Canada and NZ in an editorial.
March 11, 2021: Australia is accused of genocide by a Communist Party newspaper editor.
March 15, 2021: Trade Minister Dan Tehan announced he wants the World Trade Organisation to help mediate discussions between the two countries over the trade dispute.
April 21, 2021: Foreign Minister Marise Payne announces Australia has scrapped Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China using new veto powers.
May 6, 2021: China indefinitely suspends all strategic economic talks with Australia, blaming the Morrison Government’s attitude towards the relationship. The move cuts off all diplomatic contact with Beijing under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, freezing discussions between key officials below a ministerial level.
June 22, 2021: China tries to ‘ambush’ Australia with a push to officially declare the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’
September 15, 2021: Australia, the UK and the US announce the AUKUS security pact which will give the Australian military nuclear-powered submarines to counter China growing aggression in the Indo Pacific. The move is met with seething anger in Beijing.
March 24, 2022: Details of a Memorandum of Understanding emerge which could allow Beijing to station warships on the Solomon Islands, just 1,000 miles off the coast of Australia. Canberra warns it is ‘concerned by any actions that destabilise the security of our region’.
April 25, 2022: Defence Minister Peter Dutton warns on Anzac Day that Russia and China’s resurgence means Australia must be on a war-footing. ‘The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war, and to be strong as a country,’ he said. ‘We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s.’
April 27, 2022: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrew says China is likely to send troops to the Solomon Islands, and was using the row to derail Australia’s Federal Election. She said Beijing was ‘clearly very aware we are in a federal election campaign at the moment.’
May 13, 2022: Defence Minister Peter Dutton announces Australian military are tracking a Chinese spy ship 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome in WA near the Harold E Holt naval communication station. The sighting was mostly written off as a pre-election stunt.
June 5, 2022: A Chinese fighter jet intercepts an Australian spy plane with a ‘dangerous manoeuvre’ on May 26 and the details are revealed weeks later.
November 14, 2022: Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to meet with Australian PM Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali