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Foreign Minister Penny Wong will take a historic step in resetting Australia’s relationship with China this week.

Senator Wong will travel to Beijing for a bilateral meeting with her Chinese counterpart – the first government minister to be invited to do so in three years – to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations.

This week marks 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s historic trip to China.

In a joint statement from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Senator Wong, it was announced she would meet with China’s State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, and hold the sixth Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue.

This dialogue was last held in 2018.

The meeting will coincide with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, on Wednesday 21 December.

It follows Mr Albanese’s November meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.

That was the first bilateral meeting President Xi had held with an Australian Prime Minister in six years.

“Australia seeks a stable relationship with China; we will co-operate where we can, disagree where we must and engage in the national interest,” Mr Albanese said.

The last time a foreign minister visited China was in 2018, when Marise Payne made the journey.

The last government minister to make a trip to China was Simon Birmingham, who was the trade, tourism and investment minister in 2019.

Mr Albanese and Senator Wong said 50 years ago, former prime minister Whitlam had made a “bold decision” in making a historic trek to China.

“(He recognised) the importance of engagement and co-operation between our two nations and peoples,” the pair said in their statement.

“In the decades since, China has grown to become one of the world’s largest economies and Australia’s largest trading partner.

“Trade between Australia and China, as well as strong people-to-people, cultural and business links, have delivered significant benefits to both our countries.”

Mr Birmingham, now the opposition spokesman for foreign affairs, said the Coalition welcomed the visit.

“It was always counter-productive for the Chinese government to cease ministerial dialogue for a period of time, and the resumption of face-to-face dialogue has been welcome,” Senator Birmingham said.

“We both have much to gain from supporting a stable, prosperous and open Indo-Pacific, in which the sovereignty of nations is respected and the international rules-based order upheld.”

Senator Birmingham said the “ultimate test” of Senator Wong’s visit would be in the outcome.

“Minister Wong’s visit will be judged on progress towards the removal of unwarranted tariffs and sanctions on Australian exports; achieving fair and transparent treatment of Australians currently detained in China; advancing regional security; and securing greater transparency on human rights issues,” he said.

“I wish Minister Wong well in her pursuit with the Chinese government, productive discussions and outcomes positive to our national interest.”

 

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