Chris Minns and Wang Yi
NSW Premier Chris Minns (left) and China's Wang Yi have discussed energy, agriculture and education. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics (general)

‘Pleasant’ Australian visit for China’s top diplomat

March 21, 2024

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has wound up a visit to Australia after meeting with NSW Premier Chris Minns and former prime minister Paul Keating, who described his encounter as “pleasant”.

Mr Wang is the most senior Chinese official to visit Australia since 2017 and the countries have been rebuilding ties after Beijing slapped trade sanctions worth $20 billion on Australian products during tensions in 2020. 

Some $2 billion in tariffs remain on wine, lobster and beef.

“The foreign minister was very positive about putting bilateral difficulties behind us as he was encouraged by the government’s efforts in restoring appropriate equilibrium between our two countries,” Mr Keating said in a statement.

Chris Minns and Wang Yi
 Wang Yi (right) has met with NSW Premier Chris Minns (left) at Parliament House in Sydney. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Sydney was the final stop of Mr Wang’s visit after he took part in high-level talks with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong and met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Canberra.

Following a meeting with Mr Wang at the NSW parliament, Mr Minns said he was committed to fostering a “productive and stable” relationship with China.

“China is NSW’s largest two-way goods trading partner, valued at $56.9 billion in 2022/23 – an increase of 13.5 per cent on the previous year,” Mr Minns said.  

The pair also discussed energy, agriculture, the Chinese economy and international students. 

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Wang met Mr Keating for an hour and five minutes – described by the former Labor prime minister as a “pleasant and engaging event”. 

Mr Keating said the meeting with Mr Wang was a “big picture discussion about the geo-strategic balances and influences in the world”.

“He said the world will still benefit from China’s ability to supply high quality, relatively low-priced goods which will help underwrite higher living standards in the west and other regions of the world.” 

Mr Keating has been scathing of the AUKUS security pact, under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines in a partnership with the US and the UK.

Wang Yi and Penny Wong
 Penny Wong discussed the plight of jailed writer Dr Yang Hengjun with China’s Wang Yi (left). Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

He has also taken swipes at Australian media outlets over what he claims has been anti-China coverage.

Last Friday, Industry Minister Ed Husic agreed to drop anti-dumping action against imported Chinese wind turbines – a move Chinese state media hailed as a “good gesture” ahead of Mr Wang’s visit.

But Senator Wong said there had been no quid pro quo.

“There’s no relationship between the wine dispute and the steel disputes,” the foreign minister said.

“Minister Husic has made a decision based on the apolitical and evidence-based recommendation from the Anti-Dumping Commission.

“Australia has made clear the independence of that commission and our trade remedy system.”

Senator Wong said she also told Mr Wang that Australians were shocked by the suspended death sentence imposed on jailed writer Dr Yang Hengjun, and that the government would continue to advocate for him.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is expected to visit Australia this year.