China has heralded a new chapter with Australia after years of strained relations.
Anthony Albanese met with China’s President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday evening for more than an hour.
At the height of diplomatic tensions between the two nations in 2020, China imposed punitive trade sanctions on Australian exports worth $20 billion, and ministerial contact was frozen.
Mr Xi told Mr Albanese the two countries had “worked” out some problems and that he wanted to continue a comprehensive strategic partnership.
“I’m heartened to see that a healthy and stable China relationship serves the common interests of our two countries and two peoples.”
“Now the China-Australia relationship has embarked on the right path of improvement and development,” the Chinese leader told the Australian delegation.
Mr Xi smiled when he shook the prime minister’s hand at the start of the meeting.
“After taking office, you’ve been working to stabilise and improve relations with China,” the president said.
“It also meets the common expectation of countries in our region.”
Mr Xi said the visit showed the great importance Mr Albanese attached to the relationship with China.
In response, the prime minister said the improvement in relations was “unquestionably very positive” for both nations.
“Trade is flowing more freely to the benefit of both countries … and the tempo of bilateral visits is increasing,” Mr Albanese said.
“I believe that we can all benefit from the greater understanding that comes from high level dialogue and people links.”
In a press conference following his meeting with Mr Xi, Mr Albanese confirmed the Chinese leader raised the issue of his nation’s bid to join a trans-Pacific trade bloc.
He said Mr Xi didn’t ask Australia to support Beijing’s application for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership but spoke about it in the context of global trade.
The member nations of the Pacific trade agreement must give unanimous support for a new entrant to join.
Japan is the bloc member most opposed to China’s application.
The prime minister described his “warm exchange” with China’s top leaders as “very positive”.
Mr Albanese said he raised the detention of writer Yang Hengjun in the meeting.
Dr Yang has been jailed for almost five years in China after he was accused of espionage.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the conflict in Israel was discussed in the context of global peace and prosperity.
The AUKUS security pact, under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines, was not discussed during the high-level talks.
But the prime minister said regional peace and security in the Indo-Pacific was discussed, and Australia’s position of supporting the status-quo on Taiwan was reaffirmed.
Mr Albanese said he would discuss the prospect of the resumption of the annual leaders’ dialogue on Tuesday, when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Qiang back at the Great Hall of the People for a ceremonial welcome.
The prime minister was invited back to China at a later date, and he extended an invitation to Mr Xi to visit Australia.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi earlier on Monday, where they spoke about trade and consular issues.
Mr Albanese also met with China’s third most powerful leader, Zhao Leji before his talks with Mr Xi.
Asked earlier if he could trust the Chinese president, the prime minister stopped short of saying he trusted him.
“He has never said anything to me that hasn’t been done,” Mr Albanese said.
Prior to the meeting the prime minister toured the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, marking the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s visit.
Retracing the footsteps of the Labor prime minister, Mr Albanese turned down an offer to lean against the Echo Wall and recreate the iconic photo of Mr Whitlam.
Mr Albanese is the first Australian prime minister in seven years to set foot in the country.