Australia sending delegation to China to ‘stabilise’ ties

Australia will send a delegation of industry, government, academic, media and arts representatives to Beijing for a dialogue with their Chinese counterparts next week to stabilise its relationship with China, Canberra’s foreign ministry said Saturday.

Trade, investment, people-to-people links as well as regional and international security are among the issues up for discussion in next Thursday’s talks, Foreign Minster Penny Wong’s office said. The high-level dialogue had been held annually from 2014 until it was stopped in 2020.

In a statement, Wong added that the talks represent “another step towards increasing bilateral engagement and stabilising our relationship with China”. Former trade minister Craig Emerson will head the Australian delegation, which also includes their former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop.

“Since it was established, the dialogue has been an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding with Chinese participants and to find common ground,” Emerson said in a statement. Li Zhaoxing, China’s former foreign affairs minister, will lead Beijing’s delegation.

The dialogue’s resumption is the latest example of ties thawing between Beijing and Canberra after years of tension.

China had been angered by Australia’s legislation against overseas influence operations, its barring Huawei from 5G contracts and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. But relations appear to have warmed since the centre-left government in Canberra adopted a less confrontational approach to China following its election last year.

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